How will you be celebrating Earth Day?

The beginning of the modern environmental movement, some say, can be pinpointed to one day: April 22, 1970. That’s when former Washington Sen. Gaylord Nelson called on Americans to observe a national “teach-in” to celebrate grassroots environmental education and remind Americans to tread lightly on the earth. Nelson’s idea appealed to Americans across political parties, economic classes, races and ethnicities, and millions participated in coast-to-coast demonstrations and rallies.

Forty-two years after that first Earth Day, the movement to encourage environmental stewardship has become a worldwide phenomenon. Here in Los Angeles County, residents, community organizations, private businesses and government come together to work on a variety of issues, ranging from neighborhood cleanups and restoring native habitat, to effectively advocating for the expansion of our public transit system along Crenshaw Boulevard in South Los Angeles.

Over the years new challenges have emerged, and land use strategies of the past no longer are suitable to manage our growing population. For example, cars continue to clog our roads, and despite a generation of progress, air quality does not meet acceptable levels. The scarcity of bike lanes and safe sidewalks has made exercising more challenging in many neighborhoods, and weight-related illnesses are on the rise.

Yet the County continues to move forward. In 2012, the Board of Supervisors…

  • Adopted a state-of-the-art Master Bicycle Plan that that provides a road map for expanding the County’s existing 144-mile network with 823 additional miles of new bike lanes over the next 20 years..
  • Officially banned plastic bags at supermarkets, small businesses and convenience stores in unincorporated areas as a strategy to promote the use of reusable bags.
  • Kicked off the Energy Upgrade California campaign, partnering with utility companies to provide thousands of dollars in rebates to property owners for energy efficient retrofits.

Furthermore, each of the Supervisors has worked to preserve the County’s natural resources. Supervisor Gloria Molina has led the effort to ban the use of Styrofoam in County facilities, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky has helped preserve hundreds of acres of land in the Santa Monica Mountains, Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich has drastically expanded the number of horse trails in the northern communities of the County, Supervisor Don Knabe has granted funding to 24 cities to enhance recreation and open space projects, and Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has launched the ambitious Park to Playa project, which will create the a 13-mile regional pedestrian trail and bike path from the Baldwin Hills to the Santa Monica Bay.

Below is an abbreviated list of events celebrating Earth Day throughout the month of April. Please vote on your favorite below to let us know how you will be marking Earth Day 2012.

April 14
Eat Local and Celebrate the Ground Breaking for the Lennox Community Garden.
On April 14th, join the non-profit From Lot to Spot, the Los Angeles Conservation Corps and other members of the Lennox Community from 11am – 2pm to celebrate the opening of the first community garden on Lennox at 112th Street and Inglewood Ave.

Create a Recycled Art Project at the Earth Day South LA Festival.
Join Community Services Unlimited and the Normandie Avenue Elementary School on Saturday, April 14, 2012
from 11am to 4pm and participate in service projects for all ages, cooking demos and workshops including gardening with natives, recycled art and yoga.

April 19
Get informed at the Labor, Social, and Environmental Justice Fair at California State University Dominguez Hills.
Join The Labor Studies Club and the Labor Studies Department of California State University Dominguez Hills on April 19, 2012 from 11:00AM — 4:00PM at the Loker Student Union and network with over 50 social and environmental justice organizations. For more information visit http://cah.csudh.edu/labor/events.htm.

April 22
Get Dirty Restoring Habitat at Kenneth Hahn Park.
Join the County Parks and Recreation Department, Generation Water, Mujeres de la Tierra and other community stakeholders on April 22nd from 9am – 1pm and help replace exotic pests with native plants. All ages and levels of expertise are welcome. For more info click here.

April 28/29
Ride the new Exposition Line.
Take advantage of a free ride on April 28th and 29th along the new Exposition Transit Line. Metro will be celebrating their new public transit service that runs from Downtown at the 7th and Metro Station to La Cienega Boulevard. For more info, visit metro.net/expo.

Anytime
Learn how to earn $8,000 for making energy efficiency upgrades to your home!
Visit www.energyupgradeca.org. or join experts from Energy Upgrade California at a series of workshops to get a step-by-step tutorial on the program, as well as receive tips from residents who have undergone the process themselves. For more information about a workshop, click here. While you are at it, visit the LA County Solar Map at www.solarmap.lacounty.gov to check out your homes’ solar potential.

Supervisors act to examine and improve realignment services

[pullquote_left] “The matter is urgent,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. [/pullquote_left]The Board of Supervisors today imposed greater oversight on the County Probation Department, which has been struggling to provide services to the inmates recently released from state facilities who now must rely on local agencies for help. Last October, the state shifted responsibility for certain inmates to the counties. Since then, the state has released to local supervision more than 5,000 offenders who were convicted of non-serious, non-violent, and non-sexual crimes. The Probation Department, which is charged with providing released inmates with rehabilitative services such as mental health and substance abuse counseling, housing and job training, has had little success in fulfilling that obligation. Since February, the department has referred only 60% of former inmates to services, of which only 15% actually have received treatment.

The Supervisors today called for more accountability from the department. Acting on a motion sponsored by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Board unanimously called for staff to develop a feasibility plan to ascertain how best to expeditiously increase the number of released prisoners who receive rehabilitative services.

To ensure that this target is reached, as part of the motion, staff is directed to examine clear performance goals for both referring departments and agencies, locate referring County service providers, and ensure participation of community- and faith-based organizations.

Officials from the Probation Department told the Supervisors that significant progress already has been made. For example, 48% of those who need mental health services are now receiving treatment. Implementing AB 109, the state’s realignment program, has been a challenge, said Cal Remington, the department’s chief deputy, but Probation increasingly is mandating that the former inmates comply with orders to receive therapeutic and other services.

“Early on we found that many of these coming out with problems did not have a condition that allowed us to, in essence, mandatorily refer them,” Remington said. Now, he said, the department is implementing the use of low-level violations and sanctions on a case-by-case basis.

Representatives from several community-based organizations spoke in favor of the motion; however, some urged the County to resist creating a structure of mandates and resulting violations that could lead to the re-incarceration of returning prisoners.

“We think it’s a positive step,” said Kim McGill of the Youth Justice Coalition. She added that those returning often are hindered in their efforts to comply. The lack of a valid or government-issued identification card, without which they often cannot access educational, housing and health care services, presents an enormous hurdle for many attempting to comply with Probation’s orders.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas emphasized that having the department clearly spell out its guidelines is essential for a successful reentry scenario.

“The matter is urgent,” the Supervisor said. “If we do not see substantially more people receiving the treatment and services they need, no one will be well served; public safety will be undermined and the cycle of recidivism will continue unabated.

It is imperative, the Supervisor continued, that the County not duplicate the State’s abysmal recidivism rate; about 65% of former inmates return to prison within three years.

Women’s health care services available at Martin Luther King Jr. Multi-Ambulatory Care Center


Did you know that a wide range of quality women’s health services are available at Martin Luther King Jr. Multi-Ambulatory Care Center (MLK-MACC)? The Women’s Health Clinic is staffed by highly trained physicians and mid-level practitioners who provide both preventive and therapeutic obstetrics and gynecology services. Preventive services include the following: well woman check ups, pap smear testing, bone density screening, vaccinations, mammograms, family planning services, nutritional counseling, genetic counseling, and access to social services.

Therapeutic services include treatment of both high and low risk pregnancies with support from the perinatal diagnostic center. MLK-MACC medical staff perform amniocentesis, genetic counseling, fetal surveillance ultrasonography, and treatment of expectant mothers with chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. Gynecologic services are extensive and include routine gynecology, gynecology-oncology and urology-gynecologic services.

The MLK-MACC medical staff also performs outpatient surgery on women requiring surgical intervention for their gynecologic issues. In some instances, patients are treated in the Martin Luther King Jr. Ambulatory Surgery Center located on the MLK-MACC campus and return home the same day.

MLK-MACC is committed to providing quality healthcare services to women throughout South Los Angeles and surrounding communities. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday 8:00am to 4:30 pm. To schedule an appointment, call (310) 668 – 5011.

Metro staff directed to source revenue streams for underfunded transit projects


The Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board (Metro) is seeking innovative ways to finance underfunded transit projects in Los Angeles County. In a motion sponsored by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the 13-member Metro board agreed to launch a world-wide search to identify best financing practices used by transit agencies around the globe. Metro staff will now begin to look for ways to raise additional funds to finance approved Metro projects such as a station stop in Leimert Park Village. The Supervisor’s motion, which passed on consent, is based on the “value capture” concept, whereby a portion of the financial benefits gained by property owners near transit projects is returned to local transit agencies and used to offset the costs of infrastructure development.

Commercial, retail, and industrial property owners near public transit projects often acquire long-term benefits, including greater tenant demand, higher rental rates and higher property value, despite the short term inconvenience and disruption associated with construction.

As part of the motion, Metro staff will report to the board in June with a written document that identifies practices for value capture in transit agencies around the world; the estimated value to property owners near existing Measure R-financed projects, a list of value capture options, and current transit projects that could financially benefit from such programs.

[pullquote_left] “Leimert Park would be a top contender for value capture funds.” [/pullquote_left]“The ability to capture a portion of the enhanced value associated with these public transportation investments has the potential to secure funding for infrastructure projects currently experiencing financing shortfalls,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “Leimert Park would be a top contender for value capture funds.”  The Supervisor continued, “I remain committed to secure funding for a Leimert Park Station and believe this avenue has great potential to fund the station. It is my hope that the Metro staff will reveal funding sources that will transform this and other important but underfunded transit projects into a reality.”

Celebrating landmark federal health reform law with Labor Secretary Hilda Solis

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas joined Labor Secretary Hilda Solis Friday for an event to commemorate the second year anniversary of the landmark federal health reform law, the Affordable Care Act. Secretary Solis spoke of the powerful impact the Obama Administration’s historic legislation is already having on the health care system and outlined its many benefits to working families across the nation. Supervisor Ridley-Thomas defended the right of all Americans to quality health care. He noted the many ways the ACA will help Californians have better access to health care services. Below are his remarks commemorating the occasion:

The Affordable Care Act
Today we celebrate the two-year anniversary of the landmark health reform legislation that is already bringing relief to millions of Americans and Los Angeles County residents. The legislation is already helping millions of Americans, and here’s how: young Americans, the most likely to be uninsured, can now stay on their parents’ plan until age 26. Consumers can now get vital preventive services like cancer screenings, vaccinations, wellness visits, blood pressure and cholesterol tests and contraception without paying out of pocket costs. Importantly, this legislation makes insurance companies play by the rules. Insurers can no longer refuse to cover children with medical conditions or retroactively cancel coverage if families make a paperwork mistake. Insurance companies can no longer pass on administrative costs. Furthermore, the Affordable Care Act expands access to doctors and services. Millions of small businesses will be eligible for billions of dollars in health care premiums and tax credits. Hard working families will be eligible for subsidies that enable them to buy coverage.

Local Benefits
Here in California, about 3.4 million people who would otherwise be without health insurance will have coverage by 2016. Reform will have a $12.6B positive impact on California households alone through increased wages, higher subsidies and reduce outpatient costs. Closer to home, families living in L.A. County have more at stake than other California residents. Roughly half of California’s uninsured residents who would gain health coverage under the Affordable Care Act live in LA County.

Prevention
The benefits of federal health reform extend beyond health benefit coverage. They include dollars for prevention and construction of health care facilities. LA County also received the second largest Federal Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant in the nation under ARRA for obesity prevention. This investment is known as the RENEW program in LA County. This last fall, LA County received the second largest Community Transformation Grant in the nation to build upon RENEW’s successes. These RENEW investments have helped LA County communities like South LA improve nutrition programs, promote physical activity, enact polices which promote healthy food options, and educate the public about healthy foods and living.

Health Facility Construction
President Obama’s health care reform law provided for major construction and renovation projects at community health centers in South LA and nationwide so they can deliver more preventive and primary care services. St. John’s is one of these competitive grant winners. The Obama administration awarded a $20M grant to the County which made the completion of the MLK Center for Public Health possible. The new center provides important public health services and is a locus of community engagement around healthy living.

MLK Construction
You are all sitting in the heart of a community buoyed and lifted by health reform’s promise. The federal legislation is fueling our steady progress to transform the Martin Luther King Jr. Medical Center campus into a center of hope and excellence for health care delivery, a medical home for the underserved, urban health promotion, health workforce development research and teaching and economic development. The grand opening of the federally funded MLK Center for Public Health last October marked the first major milestone of a renaissance occurring on that campus. The expanded benefits through health reform will ensure the financial viability of the next two phases – a new inpatient tower and a new ambulatory care center. The public investment of nearly $800 million in health-related construction projects in the Second District has created approximately 8,370 new jobs—4,600 of them at MLK alone. Inspired by the Secretary’s leadership, we are making sure these jobs go to our communities. Nearly 4 out of every 10 of the constructions jobs are going to residents who live within 5 miles of MLK.

No surrender
The Congressional budget office estimated the repeal of federal health reform would increase the federal deficit by another $230 Billion dollars over ten years. Health reform saves lives, it saves money and it saves hope. To all who would repeal health reform and say it is not needed, I challenge you to come to the campus of MLK. Come shake the hands of the young men and women who are working on build a new vision for this campus. Come tell them that insurance companies should be able to take away their health benefits even if they work hard and play by the rules. Come tell the patients who will be seeking care under the MLK roofs raised by these workers that affordable coverage is not needed to keep them healthy and working and strong. Come tell the doctors and nurses working there that nothing needs to change to keep their patients healthier. President Obama’s federal health reform law has brought the promise of better health to real people. We must not go backwards and surrender any ground.