Civil Service Reform

Business People Sitting in an Office Building Having a Meeting

The Board of Supervisors will examine the Civil Service Commission’s hearing process to ensure the fair handling of Los Angeles County employee disciplinary matters and allegations about discrimination.

Acting on a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl, the Board called for evaluating the selection, qualifications, training and responsibilities of Commissioners, hearing officers and department advocates. Hearing officers are tasked with considering evidence and submitting recommendations to Commissioners, while department advocates represent County departments and are responsible for proving their case.

“The Commission’s actions have a significant impact on the livelihood of individual employees, and on the County’s ability to hold employees and department management accountable for their actions,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “Therefore, it is essential that Commissioners, hearing officers and department advocates all have appropriate levels of knowledge and expertise in order to be effective.”

“We must also consider whether there is value in having hearing officers and department advocates handle cases based on their subject matter expertise, such as law enforcement, child welfare, or even medical care,” he added.

The Commission is a quasi-judicial body comprised of appointed private citizens acting as the appellate body for major disciplinary actions, discharges, suspensions in excess of five days, and discrimination complaints filed by County employees within the civil service system or applicants for County employment. Supervisor Ridley-Thomas clarified the motion for reform was not prompted by any specific case.

During the Board meeting, Supervisor Kuehl said, “In addition to wanting to really look closely at the qualifications of hearing officers and of how we decide departments are going to choose their advocates, there’s also the issue of process.”

“This is a quasi-judicial body and there are very strict rules about how appeals must be taken,” she added. “This motion… (will also be) asking a consultant to really look at the overall way that these appeals go forward.”

Under the motion, which won unanimous approval, the Board would also consider the feasibility of establishing a Civil Service Division within the Office of County Counsel.

The Time for Action On
The Homeless Crisis is Now

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Los Angeles County has reached a critical moment when political will, public support and resources are all within reach to finally put an end to the spiraling epidemic of mass homelessness.

Just a couple months after the Board of Supervisors approved a historic and comprehensive plan to address the crisis, a new L.A.County sponsored poll shows that voters would overwhelmingly approve a ballot initiative this fall to combat homelessness – even if it means taking money out of their own pockets to pay for it.

According to the survey, 68 percent of likely voters would support a sales tax increase to fund programs for the homeless. An even larger number, 76 percent, would back a tax increase on incomes exceeding $1 million.

Homelessness is the defining civic issue in the County of Los Angeles, and we need to confront it.  We are facing a moral crisis.  And a moral crisis demands a moral solution.

In 2015, Los Angeles County alone accounted for 8 percent of the homeless population throughout the United States – 44,359 on any given night. Many live far beyond the boundaries of Skid Row, sleeping on sidewalks and park benches, under bridges, in cars and abandoned buildings.

With the upcoming release of the 2016 Homeless Count, the situation will seem even bleaker. It is expected to confirm what most residents are already seeing with their own eyes in their own neighborhoods: that more people than ever are living on the streets, often in tents.

The good news is that we know what works and right now, we are seeing positive results from those efforts. One of the County’s programs, Housing for Health, has already taken 1,400 people off the streets and placed them into permanent supportive housing. Another 2,500 will join them by the summer of 2017. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) – a joint County and City agency – has housed 1,500 families in just over the last year and a half.

The Homeless Initiative plan approved by the Board in February should have an even greater impact. Its sweeping strategies are intended, not only to house the homeless, but to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place. It also includes increasing affordable and subsidized housing, providing supportive services and raising incomes. The plan calls for unprecedented collaboration among County and City agencies, as well as businesses, faith-based institutions and community organizations.

The City of Los Angeles is an important ally and partner in the fight to tackle homelessness.  However, if the Homeless Initiative is to be successful, it will require the full support of all 88 cities in the County– nothing less.

Academia can also play a pivotal role in searching for ways to best address homelessness.  The University of Southern California just launched an initiative to corral the experience and knowledge on its campus and within the community to provide tangible solutions within four years.

It is clear that focused and careful spending of taxpayer dollars to combat homelessness does work when coupled with clear requirements on outcomes and accountability.

The problem is scale. LAHSA estimates the cost of meeting the needs of the homeless is about $450 million each year, not counting construction. The Board has set aside $100 million – a good start, but not nearly enough.

The crisis already exacts a steep price on taxpayers, in terms of law enforcement and social services.  Providing housing for the homeless enables taxpayer dollars to be spent more effectively.

In the past, voters have stepped up to approve ballot measures to pay for community essentials. Recent polling by the County indicates that voters now rank homelessness as their second-highest concern behind jobs and the economy. A survey by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs found that 6 in 10 County residents consider the lack of affordable housing for low-income families a very serious problem, and that many County residents are worried about going hungry or becoming homeless themselves.

Now is the time to commit resources that match the magnitude of the problem, and make a bold, concerted effort to end homelessness in Los Angeles County.

 

 

 

Homelessness Summit

IMG_0073Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas laid out his “Vision for Action” at a summit on homelessness conducted by the University of Southern California.

“I will repeat what I have said before: Homelessness is the defining civic issue in the County of Los Angeles, and we need to confront it,” he said during a panel discussion. “We are facing a moral crisis, and a moral crisis demands a moral solution.”

“Instead of averting our eyes, we must see it and know it, and then we must move to address it and overcome it,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added. “We are doing many things right, but we are not doing enough of it. The fact of the matter is we have to radically scale up all our approaches.”

In February, the Board of Supervisors approved 47 strategies to address homelessness and set aside $100 million to implement it. Supervisor Ridley-Thomas called the amount a good start, but not enough.

The County recently conducted a poll to determine whether voters would support a November ballot initiative to raise additional funds. Its results, released over the weekend, showed 76 percent of voters would approve an income tax on people making over a million dollars, while 68 percent would back a sales tax.

“What the poll results show is that voters are willing to work in coordination with the County to improve their neighborhoods and help their neighbors,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “Voters understand that stronger communities and improved lives in the future depend on investments today.”

“We at the Board of Supervisors are working diligently to scale up the County’s response but we could not do it without you,” he told the crowd at the summit. “It will take all of us – public and private sectors, and the community – equally yoked together and working together to create a Los Angeles where homelessness is rare and brief.”

USC President C.L. Max Nikias said, “We believe that solutions can only come through close cooperation between academia, government and non-profits across Los Angeles and the surrounding area. It’s an issue that concerns and affects us all, and USC will not be a bystander.”

USC launched the summit on homelessness to engage policymakers, public and private sector leaders, and its own faculty and staff in coming up with ideas to address what Provost Michael Quick calls a “wicked problem.” The summit will provide the basis for more intensive discussion at the Provost’s annual retreat in June 2016, and establish a framework for goals to be achieved by the USC Homeless Initiative over the next two to three years.

A series of panels tackled the current scope of the crisis and initiatives underway to address it; the dire need for supportive services and affordable housing; business and technology solutions; and the role that universities can play in the solution. Panelists included Los Angeles City Councilman Curren Price, and United Way of Greater of Los Angeles President and CEO Elise Buik.

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USC President Honored

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Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and USC President C.L. “Max” Nikias with USC officials

The Board of Supervisors honored University of Southern California President C.L. “Max” Nikias for his impressive list of achievements in his five years at the helm of one of the nation’s foremost universities.

“Consider the $700 million USC Village Project – the largest economic redevelopment project in the history of South Los Angeles, providing housing for 3,000 students, along with retail options for all to enjoy,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “Meanwhile, to help attract qualified students from across socio-economic strata, President Nikias boosted financial aid to $300 million a year, providing the largest overall student aid package in the country.”

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USC President C.L. “Max” Nikias, flanked by his wife, Niki and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas

“In addition, USC enrolls 1,000 service members, veterans or military dependents, boasting one of the largest student veteran populations of any private research university,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added. “President Nikias is also leading an effort to establish a Biomed Technology Park next to USC’s Health Sciences, expected to create thousands of jobs and spur economic development.”

Under Dr. Nikias’ leadership, USC took on a 98-year master lease for the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, pledging to restore that iconic and historic sporting venue. It also launched two charter schools serving first-generation college-going students with hopes that all of them graduate and attend a selective four-year university.

“The list goes on and on, which is why take time today to honor President Nikias for all he has done for USC and the community,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said after handing the scroll to President Nikias and his wife, Niki.
President Nikias was inaugurated on October 2010, succeeding Steven Sample, who led USC for 19 years.

President Nikias has been at USC since 1991, as a professor, director of national research centers, dean, provost, and now president. He is recognized internationally for his pioneering research on digital signal processing, digital media systems, and biomedicine. The U.S. Department of Defense has adopted a number of his innovations and patents in sonar, radar, and communication systems.

USC students, alumni and officials with President Nikias and Supervisor Ridley-Thomas

USC students, alumni and officials with President Nikias and Supervisor Ridley-Thomas – Fight On!

Metro Invites Public Input on $120-B Transportation Plan

Platform at downtown Inglewood Station near Florence and La Brea

Crenshaw/LAX Line’s Inglewood Station platform

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors is soliciting public input on $120 billion worth of transit and highway projects it envisions building with funds from a possible ballot measure in November. With the list of projects extending from Lancaster to Long Beach, the expenditure plan is aimed at fully building out Los Angeles County’s transportation system and reducing congestion.

“This expenditure plan brings us a step closer to defining what projects are needed and where the funding could come from,” Metro CEO Phillip Washington said. “As Metro plans for future growth and transportation needs, it is imperative that we look at all mechanisms at our disposal to ensure the region’s mobility needs are met.”

Those wanting to comment on the expenditure plan can go to Metro’s website, Facebook or Twitter; send an email to theplan@metro.net; or attend community meetings and town halls in April and May.

Metro’s Board of Directors will decide in June whether to ask voters to increase the countywide sales tax by a half-cent through 2057, and to extend an existing half-cent sales tax called Measure R to 2057. If approved, the ballot measure would raise $120 billion over 40 years.

“We want to continue on the path of making this a transparent and inclusive process, and public review begins with the release of this expenditure plan,” Supervisor and Metro Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas said.

The foundation of the plan consists of 36 major highway and transit projects, as well as projects designed to improve and enhance mobility and system connectivity. Several are in the Second District, including a train station/transit center on the Crenshaw/LAX Line where passengers can take a people mover directly to to LAX. Other projects include:

  • Purple Line Extension subway to Westwood, a decade earlier than currently planned
  • Vermont Transit Corridor improvements between the Expo Line and Red/Purple Lines;
  • LA River Bike Path connecting downtown Los Angeles to the San Fernando Valley;
  • ExpressLanes on the 405 Freeway over the Sepulveda Pass, where a rail line could later be added to connect the Orange and Purple Lines and, eventually, LAX;
  • ExpressLanes on the 105 Freeway between the 405 and 605;
  • Bus Rapid Transit between the Orange Line and Red Line in North Hollywood, and the Gold Line in Pasadena.

The complete list is posted at www.metro.net/theplan.

Aside from transit and highway projects, the expenditure plan invests in pedestrian and bike paths, commuter rail and transit operations. There are also projects intended to keep buses, trains, bridges, tunnels and other facilities in good repair; reduce congestion; hasten the movement of goods on highways; and keep fares low for seniors and students.

Metro projected the expenditure plan’s benefits include increasing the overall number of transit riders by 3.2 billion over 40 years, cutting the number of miles traveled in vehicles by 5 million a day, and four percent reduction in greenhouse gases.

Aviation:Century Station

Crenshaw/LAX Line’s Aviation/Century Station