Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas participates in tele-town hall with LA Urban League

More than 950 stakeholders participated in a telephone town hall with Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who fielded and answered questions from second district residents on the progress and future of the Crenshaw-to-LAX line.

Participants asked the Supervisor about job eligibility along the Crenshaw Corridor, the impact of the 600 residents who packed the Metro Board Meeting on May 26, and what Leimert Park homeowners can do to ensure a Leimert Park station is included in the Crenshaw-to-LAX line.

During the hour-long discussion at the Los Angeles Urban League, the Supervisor reaffirmed his commitment to ensuring that the best possible rail line is built. That means pushing forward on several fronts: locating the financial resources to fund a Leimert Park Station at Vernon as part of the Crenshaw-to-LAX light rail line, advocating for the safest possible alignment through Park Mesa Heights and pushing for a Community Benefits Package that includes a local hiring policy, a small business contracting initiative, and sidewalk, landscape and storefront improvements along Crenshaw Boulevard designed to build enhance the Crenshaw Corridor communities.
[pullquote_right] “Get Ready. The push for a superior Crenshaw to LAX line is not over. Remain informed; contact the Metro Board and your elected officials. Stay on board,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.[/pullquote_right] The tele-town hall, co-hosted by the Urban League, was organized in response to the outrage and disappointment among Crenshaw community residents, businesses owners, and stakeholders along the Crenshaw Corridor at the Metro Board’s refusal in May to underground the proposed light rail line through Park Mesa Heights and its unwillingness to include funding for Leimert Park Village Station at Vernon.

On May 26, the Metro Board rejected Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ motion that directed Metro staff to look into funding alternatives to finance a Leimert Park Village Station and underground the portion of the line that runs through Park Mesa Heights using non-Measure R sources. The motion received three favorable votes and needed seven of the thirteen Metro Board votes to pass. Instead, the Metro Board rejected the Park Mesa tunnel option outright and paid lip service to the Leimert Park Village station at Vernon, agreeing to add it to the final environmental document, but failing to provide funding for it. Mayor Villaraigosa’s vote and the additional three votes of his appointees were critical to the passage of the weaker motion after unanimously opposing the tunnel.

Although the Metro Board did not deliver the outcome the community hoped for, the Supervisor reminded listeners that the community must move forward, they must “stay on board” – insisting on a Crenshaw-to-LAX line that is safe, efficient and provides economic opportunities and benefits for those who live, work and trade in the heart of South Los Angeles.

At the end of the tele-town hall, the Supervisor called on listeners to attend the Sept. 22 Metro Board meeting to support the Local Hire/Construction Careers Policy element of the Community Benefits Package, and left listeners with these final words, “Get Ready. The push for a superior Crenshaw to LAX line is not over. Remain informed; contact the Metro Board and your elected officials. Stay on board.”

Click here to view the Urban League’s poll results.

Click here to participate in the poll.

Click here to listen to the tele-town hall.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas Says Probation Dept. Not Ready for Influx of Parolees from State


On Tuesday, July 12, the Board of Supervisors will discuss proposals from the Sheriff and Probation Department regarding which agency should supervise the parole of newly-released prisoners under AB 109, a new law that will shift the overseeing of thousands of parolees from the state to counties. Los Angeles County is expected to be charged with supervising more than 13,000 parolees beginning October 1.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said the Probation Department would normally be the right agency to supervise the parolees; but due to current troubles at Probation, he proposed giving the Sheriff interim authority over the parolees.

“This year, the State of California is to release paroled felons to the supervision of counties as part of the Governor’s re-alignment program. This shift is set to occur just as Los Angeles County’s Probation Department has been found by the U.S. Justice to be dangerously troubled.

The dysfunction at Probation is so severe that I believe a majority of the Board of Supervisors would do the unusual by turning over parolees to the Sheriff’s Department. This speaks volumes.
A police officer’s job is to identify, investigate and arrest suspected criminals. A parole officer, by contrast, must prepare a person’s transition to society after incarceration. Some would argue combining the roles creates an obvious confusion of missions, if not an outright conflict of interest. A parolee’s trust and confidence in a parole officer is essential. Is it realistic to think a parolee will confide in a Sheriff’s deputy who has the authority to arrest him?

Only under the most strained of circumstances would I accept giving a police agency control over parolees. Sadly, the current crisis in the Los Angeles County Probation Dept. is such a circumstance. The Chief Probation Officer has not been able to effectively address the range of problems identified by the U.S. Dept. of Justice officials monitoring his department.
Sheriff Baca, meanwhile, has a track record of progressive leadership. I believe both society at-large and the parolees will be more reliably served under Sheriff Baca’s management while the Probation Dept. struggles to right itself.

This does not eliminate the fundamental systemic flaw of placing parolees under the supervision of a police agency. My support will be for a temporary arrangement allowing Sheriff Baca to oversee parolees, perhaps 12 months to 18 months. I propose the staff of the parole program be drawn from the approximately 200 probation officers who are currently facing layoffs. These probation officers could be assigned to the Sheriff’s department during the interim period. It is my hope that because they are not Sheriff’s deputies, and because their background and training is different, this would strike the appropriate balance.

The arrangement I propose is based on keeping a delicate balance. The Probation Department, despite being the appropriate agency to oversee parolees, is simply not up to the task at this time. Assigning parolees to the Sheriff’s Department is not an ideal choice – but at the moment, it’s the safest choice.”

LA Times Article Available here.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas Announces Summer Literacy Programs in the Second District

Freedom Schools, an exciting six-week literacy and enrichment program for children ages five to 18 years old, returns to the Second District this summer.

The program, which begins this week, will host over 200 students. These scholars will attend summer school at one of four Second District sites: First Church of God in Inglewood; First New Christian Fellowship in South L.A.; Bethel A.M.E. Church in South L.A.; and Community Coalition at Foshay Learning Center in South L.A.

Established in 1992 by Children’s Defense Fund founder and children’s advocate Marian Wright Edelman, Freedom Schools provide rigorous, quality summer and after school instruction to children in urban environments. The programming, which is both challenging and entertaining, is based on the belief that all children are capable of learning and achieving high standards.

Last summer, the Children Defense Fund Freedom School program served over 9,600 children in 84 cities and 29 states, and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, worked with Edelman to introduce the program to the Second District last July.

The Freedom School curriculum includes reading, arts, crafts, dance, music, field trips, sports, and community service, all provided in a nurturing environment that fosters growth and development. Students begin the morning with Harambee, a time of informal sharing based on the Kenyan tradition of community, in which students read aloud, sing, cheer and chant motivational songs, announcements and recognitions, closing with a moment of silence.

Throughout the afternoon, students read from a selection of books chosen by a national committee based on the literary work of the country’s best writers and illustrators.

“This program uniquely integrates reading, learning, and civic engagement,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. ”These tools are essential to life and empowerment.”

The mission of Freedom Schools is to ensure every child regardless of race or ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or geographic origin has a healthy, fair, safe, and moral start to education, combing literacy, nutritious foods and a positive learning environment.

According to an evaluation conducted by Philliber Research Associates for the Kansas City Freedom School program, students not only improve their reading skills but gain a love for learning.

The program is rooted in the work of the Civil Rights movement, specifically the work of college-age youth during the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer Project. Freedom Schools apply an intergenerational approach in which college students are trained as “Servant Leader Interns” who work as reading tutors and role models, motivating children to develop positive attitudes about themselves and their abilities.

Press Release (PDF)

Endangered Arts Internship Program Restored

A ten week endangered Arts Internship Program that has given more than 1,400 undergraduate college students the opportunity to work with a non profit organization has been restored through the action taken by the Board of Supervisors at the County Budget meeting.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas spoke to the 75 undergraduate student who received paid summer internships in the arts at the 2011 Arts Summit at City Hall in Pasadena.

“I commend the Board for designating $250,000 to the Los Angeles County Arts Internship Program and making the internship program part of the County’s annual budget,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. ”Today the Board secured an investment in our youth and our economy by supporting a program which promotes innovation, leadership, and management skills.”

Since the expiration of federal stimulus funds in 2010, the Arts Internship Program has been in jeopardy of being eliminated from the County budget. Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has championed the effort to restore funds for the program. Last year the Board of Supervisors voted in favor of the Ridley-Thomas motion which financially supported the arts program for one additional year.

The action by the Board of Supervisors today assures that the arts internship program will automatically be considered as part of the county budget each year.

“It often seems as though arts programs are considered a luxury but in reality these programs are essential to our youth and their development,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “Art is the gateway that allows many students to unlock their potential.”

The Arts Internship Program was created in 1999, by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to provide internships for nonprofit performing and literary arts organizations. Undergraduate students receive on the job training and experience working in nonprofit organizations. As part of the program students are paid to serve as staff members, board members and volunteers in non profit arts organizations. Students take on leadership roles and develop business skills in order to work on seasonal and special projects in various non profit organizations.

I-405 Closure

Plan Ahead, Avoid The Area, Or Stay Home. That’s the message public safety officials are sending to the public in anticipation of a planned 10-mile, 53-hour closure of the I-405 freeway between the U.S. 101 and I-10 on the weekend of July 16-17, 2011 for planned demolition work on the Mulholland Bridge, part of a major I-405 improvement project.

The Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles Fire Department, California Highway Patrol, Los Angeles Department of Transportation, Metro and Caltrans are informing the public in advance that if they do not have a critical need to be in or near the vicinity of the closure, they are being asked to avoid the area.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) has produced a new I-405 closure Public Service Announcement featuring actor Erik Estrada that is available for public use.

Available in English and Spanish, the video PSA reminds the public to Plan Ahead, Avoid the Area or Stay Home during the closure weekend July 16-17, 2011.

Estrada, who played “Poncherello, a California Highway Patrol officer in the popular 1970s-1980s TV show CHiP’s, volunteered to do the PSA to Metro for free in recognition of the importance this freeway improvement project will have in adding carpool lane capacity to the I-405 between the I-10 and U.S. 101 freeways.

PSA in English:

PSA in Spanish:

The specific freeway closure boundaries are as follows:

Northbound I-405: 10-mile closure between I-10 and U.S. 101
Southbound I-405: 4-mile closure between U.S. 101 and Getty Center Drive Ramps
Motorists who must travel through the Los Angeles metropolitan area are advised to use alternate freeways within the region, including the 5, 15, 23, 55, 57, 101, 118, 126, 210, 605 and 710 freeways to bypass the impacted area. In addition, public transportation options are available such as the Metro Rail service within L.A. County and Metrolink servicing the five county Southern California region. Additional alternate route information will be made available on the project web site at www.metro.net/405.

On Friday, July 15, ramps along the 10 mile closure will begin to be shut down as early as 7 p.m., and closure of freeway lanes will begin at 10 p.m. to ensure full freeway closure by midnight. The closure will continue until 5 a.m. Monday morning, July 18. Ramps and connectors will be reopened by 6 a.m. During this closure, the Mulholland Bridge, I-405 freeway and access ramps will be closed.

Sepulveda Boulevard is intended as an alternate route for local resident access only. Sepulveda Boulevard will not have the capacity to accommodate both local and diverted freeway traffic. Those using Sepulveda Boulevard should expect extreme congestion and lengthy delays. Motorists should instead use alternate regional freeway routes to completely bypass the Sepulveda Pass.

Traffic conditions on local streets and freeways within the region of Los Angeles County and beyond are expected to be severe, with significant, multi-hour delays. Motorists who must travel during this weekend are advised to plan ahead, monitor real-time traffic conditions prior to beginning their trips, and follow alternate routes that are provided. Motorists will be informed of the closure in advance by Caltrans-operated freeway message signs with coverage extending into neighboring counties and other metropolitan regions in the state.
Construction crews for the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project plan to demolish half the Mulholland Bridge in the Sepulveda Pass of Los Angeles in order to build a new, widened bridge, and a major carpool lane. The construction activity is part of a $1 billion capacity improvement project for the I-405 freeway.

To reduce the work’s effects on local traffic flow, the Mulholland Bridge demolition and reconstruction will be conducted in two phases. The southern side of the bridge will be demolished first, followed by approximately 11 months of south-side bridge reconstruction. Upon completion of the south side, the northern side of the bridge will be demolished and rebuilt in the same manner. Another extended freeway closure period will be required for the second phase of work approximately one year later.

The Mulholland Bridge, like the Sunset and Skirball Center bridges, must be removed and rebuilt to accommodate the widening of the I-405 freeway as part of the 10-mile northbound carpool lane construction project. The project will officially complete the northbound carpool lane network between Orange County and the San Fernando Valley. Additional project benefits include improved freeway safety through standardized lane and shoulder widths, greater ramp capacities at key locations, new sound and retaining walls, widened overpasses, widened and seismically updated bridges and new landscaping within the project corridor.

The $1 billion project is a joint effort between Metro and Caltrans, and is being constructed by Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. It is scheduled for completion in 2013. For latest updates visit the project web site at www.metro.net/405 or follow the project on twitter: twitter.com/I_405 and Facebook at facebook.com/405project.