Community Cleanup

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Dozens of volunteers joined Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas at the Athens-Westmont Community Cleanup in the Vermont/Manchester area.

They spent a Saturday morning cleaning up illegal dumping and planting new landscaping with help from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, iHeart Media’s AM 570 LA (Dodger Radio), and the Office of Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson.

Community Clean-Up“This event is a prime example of what good can happen when a community comes together to partner with its civic institutions,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.

Officials estimate that 14,000 tons of illegally dumped items are abandoned each year in unincorporated areas of L.A. County. Volunteers removed broken appliances, old furniture, and other bulky items dumped at the 89th Street Alley, as well as in a residential area from Manchester to 92nd Street. They also planted a garden at the 96th Street Elementary School and Children’s Center, and improved the landscaping at Vermont Median Park’s Entryways at 88th and 92nd Streets. Public Works crews, meanwhile, removed graffiti.

fullsizerenderFormer Dodger Lee Lacy, who appeared in four World Series in the 1970s, participated in the cleanup. So did members of the 88th Street Temple Church of God in Chris, and representatives from the Empowerment Congress, Sheriffs’ Youth Activities League and Explorers Program.

Councilmember Harris-Dawson said, “Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and I share a passion for beautifying the Vermont Corridor. By working together and engaging residents as partners, we can truly impact our neighborhoods.”

88th Street Temple Church Senior Pastor Anthony Williams said he and his congregation were happy to partner with the Supervisor on the community cleanup. “We here at the 88th Street Temple Church are restoring souls from the inside out, and Supervisor Ridley-Thomas is helping restore our community from the outside in,” he said. “With that type of synergy working in unison, there’s nothing we can’t achieve in our families and for our city!”

cleanup-2Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said he has “big dreams about economic and community development” in the area, and noted that plans are under way for improving land uses along Vermont Avenue, and increasing public safety and social services for residents.

“Clean-ups are just the beginning,” he said. “The revitalization of the Athens-Westmont Community and surrounding areas is one of my top priorities.”

The Los Angeles Dodgers are going to bat for cleaner neighborhoods, urging everyone to put trash in its proper place.

Board Considers Special March Election

Acting on a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved looking into hosting a countywide consolidated Special Election on March 7. The ballot could include, among other things, a ¼-cent sales tax that, if approved by the Board and voters, would raise $355 million annually to address the crisis of homelessness.

At present, 36 jurisdictions – cities and districts, including the City of Los Angeles – are scheduled to hold municipal elections concurrently on March 7. Consolidating them into a single Special Election conducted by the County of Los Angeles would save millions of dollars, while also reducing voter fatigue and confusion, and encouraging voter participation.

LA City and County have been working together to raise the money needed to make a significant dent in the crisis of homelessness. This November, the City will ask voters to approve Proposition HHH, a $1.2-billion bond that could potentially finance the construction of as many as 10,000 permanent supportive housing units for the chronically homeless over the next decade. If the County places a ¼-cent sales tax on the ballot in March, it could generate a significant percentage of the funding needed to cover supportive services, rapid rehousing, street outreach teams, rental subsidies, and other programs desperately needed by its homeless population, numbering almost 47,000.

Jacqueline Waggoner, vice president of Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit that helps create affordable housing, expressed support for the motion. “A consolidated election would generate greater awareness and higher participation by the voters for passage of a potential ballot measure for much-needed funding to address homelessness, complementing the City of Los Angeles’ November 2016 Housing Bond,” Waggoner said. “A comprehensive regional funding strategy is needed to ensure the best opportunity at success.”

 

Creating Jobs and Hope for Local Workers

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas with workers during the construction of Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital, which implemented a local worker hire program.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas with workers during the construction of Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital, which implemented a local worker hire program.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a local worker hire policy expected to create thousands of jobs in communities that have long suffered from entrenched unemployment.

Authored by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Hilda Solis, the motion mandates that contractors building county-funded projects hire people living in economically depressed neighborhoods near the construction site to comprise 30 percent of their workforce.

Another 10 percent of jobs would go to veterans or their spouses, former foster youth, single parents, and other people facing barriers to employment, including being homeless, lacking a high school diploma or GED, and having a history with the criminal justice system.

“This policy makes the most of County investment by creating job opportunities for those individuals and communities who need it most,”
Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “It will also stimulate the local economy and reduce dependence on social safety net programs by delivering the most effective tool for addressing poverty: a high-paying job.”

Supervisor Solis added, “When we offer these opportunities in the construction trades to local workers and residents facing challenges finding work, we are not just keeping families from falling through the cracks, we are supporting the careers that we need as a region to build new bridges and invest in our collective future.”

Testifying before the Board in support of the policy, Ernesto Pantoja with Laborers Local 300 said, “I can’t express how much these jobs can save a person’s life. A lot of times, it’s their last hope.”

“This isn’t just about creating new jobs,” he added, “it’s about bringing people back to life, giving them hope.”

LA County Endorses LA City’s Prop. HHH to Build Housing for the Homeless

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors threw its support behind the City of Los Angeles’ $1.2-billion bond measure to build housing for the homeless.

If approved by voters on November 8, Proposition HHH would finance the construction of 8,000 to 10,000 permanent supportive housing units for the chronically homeless over the next decade. It would also fund affordable housing, temporary shelters and other amenities needed by the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless.

IMG_1188“Let’s get on with the business of making a significant dent in homelessness,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “We cannot afford to allow the status quo to persist – our fellow Angelenos are depending on us.”

Testifying before the Board, Mayor Eric Garcetti explained that Proposition HHH stands for homelessness, housing and hope. He added it goes hand in hand with the County’s own efforts to address the crisis of homelessness.

“A year ago, we didn’t have a strategy. A year ago, we weren’t working together. Today, it’s a very different picture,” the mayor said. “We’re now aligned in a comprehensive homelessness strategy to make sure that we can address the immediate needs of unsheltered residents.”

IMG_1192Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson said Proposition HHH would house women, children, veterans, seniors, foster youth and the disabled, among others. “Without this bond, we would be stuck at about 3,000 units of permanent supportive housing,” he said. “With Proposition HHH, we can more than triple that number.”

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said, “The plan addresses not just the immediate needs of the homeless, but the long-term needs.” He added a civilian oversight committee would be among those ensuring the funds would be spent appropriately.

Ruben Gonzales with the LA Area Chamber of Commerce and United Way’s Christine Margiotta also testified in support of the motion. Both represent key stakeholders in mobilizing the business sector and community organizations to support city and county efforts to address homelessness.

Step Up to Fight Homelessness

From Compton to Coronado, Long Beach to Lompoc, Santa Fe Springs to San Francisco, 115,000 people are homeless throughout California, many of them living in utter squalor in what’s supposed to be the Golden State.

That’s enough men, women and children to fill every seat at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, at Petco Park in San Diego and the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento—combined. And unless our leaders step up and take immediate and extraordinary action, this humanitarian crisis will only get worse.

To date, more than 25,000 people have petitioned Governor Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency on homelessness. Many city and county officials in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and throughout California have urged the same, as have legislators in the state Assembly.

It is time for the state Senate to step up and make the same call to Governor Brown. And it is time for the governor to listen and then act. After all, if he can declare a state of emergency over a fruit fly infestation, doing the same for homelessness should be a no-brainer.

It would be a bold move, but not without precedent. Hawaii did it last year and again this year, with a homeless population of 7,000—less than one-tenth of those in California.

Indeed, California accounts for one in five of the entire nation’s homeless population, prompting U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein to send Governor Brown a letter last week, telling him, “It is clear that more must be done.”

Declaring a statewide emergency on homelessness could trigger the release of significant funding for rapid rehousing, rental subsidies and other desperately needed forms of assistance. That declaration would also provide immediate relief with the deployment of state personnel to help those in tent cities, and to establish command posts and triage sites for coordinating services.

This is a vital short-term fix which will help to address the most pressing concerns, while continuing to search for ongoing revenue sources that would build the housing and services infrastructure recommended by Los Angeles County’s sweeping Homeless Initiative.

I believe addressing homelessness is both a moral obligation and a practical necessity. Many caught in the grip of this humanitarian crisis are families with children, veterans and the working poor. Many struggle with stagnant wages, grossly inadequate housing stock, and skyrocketing rent – as much as $3,520 month for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco, when the national median is only $1,120. In San Jose, the corresponding monthly rent is $2,180; Los Angeles, $1,940; and San Diego, $1,530.

It baffles me that a state of emergency can be declared for people temporarily displaced by an earthquake, wildfire or natural gas leak, but not for 115,000 people who are already homeless, living in unspeakable conditions and under peril of illness, violence and death. Leaving people unsheltered is costly to taxpayers, impacting law enforcement, health services, property values, and more.

The people have spoken, both by petitioning the governor and by responding in almost a dozen recent surveys that addressing homelessness is a top priority. They have even gone so far as to express an unprecedented willingness to tax themselves, if that’s what it would take to solve the problem.

Leaving no stone unturned in the search for funds to combat homelessness, Los Angeles city officials will ask voters in November to approve a $1.2-billion bond measure to build housing specifically for people who don’t have a decent place to live. Los Angeles county officials are considering imposing new taxes and selling advertising space on county buildings to close the homeless funding gap. These measures, however, will take time to generate revenue.

If the governor refuses to declare a state of emergency because he believes cities and counties should take the lead, it would be like withholding medicine from a desperately ill patient because the hospital hasn’t been built yet. Governor Brown must bring the state’s considerable resources to bear on this crisis– and now – in order to ease the suffering and despair of so many Californians and the communities of which they are a part.