Decriminalizing Youth Fare Evasion

metro-trainThe Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors voted unanimously to decriminalize fare evasion by youth boarding public buses and trains, acting on a motion by Metro Board member and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Metro Board Chairman and Duarte Councilman John Fasana, Board Member and County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, and Board Member and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti coauthored the motion.

“For many youth, riding without paying the fare due to economic hardship, or being perceived as riding without paying the fare, has tainted the experience of using the Metro system,” Metro Board Member and Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said in the motion. “Youth of color in particular have been disproportionately cited for fare evasion – black youth represented 24% of Metro riders under age 18 years, but receive more than half of all youth citations for fare evasion.”

Often out of necessity, many youth rely heavily on the Metro system to travel to and from home, school, work and elsewhere. Paying the fare can be difficult, with about 23 percent of Los Angeles youth living below the poverty level. About 13 percent of Los Angeles youth are in a household without access to a car, and many more live in a household with only one car.

The motion seeks to ensure that youth are not punished for fare evasion with fines they are unable to pay, or be required to interact with law enforcement agencies or county probation.

“Policies must be put in place that meaningfully decriminalize and minimize rates of youth fare evasion in order to better focus law enforcement and transit security services, support school attendance, reduce youth contact with the justice system, and further encourage youth to become lifelong transit users,” Metro Board member and Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.

Rams Break Ground on Inglewood Stadium

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Rams owner Stan Kroenke and Inglewood Mayor James Butts

Amid cheering fans, the Los Angeles Rams broke ground on its $2.66-billion stadium in Inglewood. The largest stadium of any team in the National Football League, it is slated for completion in August 2019 and will host SuperBowl LV in 2021.

“We came to Inglewood to build the most fan-friendly stadium in the world,” Rams owner Stan Kroenke said during the groundbreaking ceremony near the site of the old Hollywood Park racetrack. “We will create lots of local jobs.”

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said, “The return of the Rams and the NFL will bring tremendous economic opportunity and civic pride to Los Angeles County and beyond.”

NFL owners voted overwhelmingly in January to allow the Rams to return to Los Angeles after 21 years in St. Louis. At the groundbreaking ceremony, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, “We did it for the fans.”

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L-R: Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, Rams owner Stan Kroenke, Inglewood Mayor James Butts, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas

The stadium will be sunk 100 feet into the ground and covered with a sweeping, translucent roof. The development will include a large, covered plaza, a 6,000-seat performance venue and eventually an extensive collection of commercial, retail and residential space.

Currently, the Rams play at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Exposition Park, home of the USC Trojans. When the Rams kick off in their new home, there is a chance the team might share the facility with the San Diego Chargers, who may decide to move after San Diego residents voted against using taxpayer money to build a new NFL stadium in downtown San Diego. 

The stadium is only the latest of several projects expected to spur economic development in the area. The list includes the renovation of The Forum as an internationally recognized entertainment venue; the redevelopment of Hollywood Park into a mixed-use development with housing, open space and more than 600,000 square feet of shopping and entertainment; construction of the $2 billion Crenshaw/LAX Transit line with three stations in Inglewood; and market rate housing developments that will revitalize the City’s Market Street area to rival the Third Street Promenade.

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Interfaith Summit on Homelessness

image9-1 Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas urged more than 100 faith leaders and their respective congregations to coalesce around efforts to address homelessness – including at the ballot box.

Describing homelessness as “a crisis of historic proportions that demands a moral solution,” he urged Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders gathered at the LA Voice Faith Leaders’ Summit on Housing and Homelessness to vote for Proposition HHH on November 8, as well as a possible ballot measure on March 7 that could raise $355 million a year to pay for services to the homeless.

“Los Angeles County has put forward $100 million in new, one-time funding to implement its strategies for addressing homelessness – but sustaining these strategies in the years to come will require additional, ongoing funds,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “That’s why we’re looking at placing a ¼-cent general sales tax on the March ballot, which would not only put a roof over people’s heads but provide the services they need to remain stably housed.”

image6He said the potential March ballot measure would go hand-in-hand with the City of Los Angeles’ Proposition HHH, which is intended to fund the construction of affordable housing.

Rev. Zachary Hoover, executive director of LA Voice, said the interfaith community, working together, could play a role in alleviating the crisis. “There’s an amazing amount of service that happens in congregations all across LA County, the state and the country,” he said. “Sometimes we just need some help figuring out how we’re going to make systemic change, how we can raise our voices for things like Prop HHH and other measures that can make a much bigger dent on the problem.”

Rev. Kevin Sauls, senior pastor of Holman Methodist Church, which hosted the summit, pledged his support. “We’re signed up for the long haul,” he said.

During the summit, Rabbi Ronit Tsadok of IKAR LA, asked participants to envision what they would like to accomplish on homelessness. The answers included: restore human dignity, and equal opportunities and resources to all people.

Imam Ameen Omar, resident Imam of Masjid Al-Shareef of Long Beach, stressed the need to help the homeless, saying, “Members of this universal body are hurting and we feel their pain.”

“We’re stepping up to the plate, and doing the work,” he said, adding, “May God bless us, continue to bestow upon us the courage and the tenacity so that we will not give in nor give up because there’s much more ahead for us to do.”

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Tech Extravaganza Inspires Youngsters

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas welcomed more than 100 middle and high schoolers from across Los Angeles County to the Microsoft YouthSpark DigiCamp Extravaganza, to encourage them to consider careers in technology.

img_2699“You are the next generation of inventors, scientists, and developers,” he told the enthusiastic youngsters, including students of Lou Dantzler Preparatory Charter High School. “I look forward to seeing how your ideas and your creativity will contribute to bettering the communities and the world in which we live.”

Microsoft organized the two-day bootcamp, held in Microsoft Square at L.A. Live, as part of a series of programs to benefit the community. The event featured hands-on breakout sessions and a hackathon in which students were given the opportunity to code.

img_2696“I’m hoping these kids can learn about technology and be young spark plugs for the future!” said Forest Riley, assistant teen development coordinator for the Watts/Willowbrook Boys and Girls Club, who said opportunities for applying new technology abound at the neighboring Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital.

Microsoft organized the event in partnership with the Brotherhood Crusade, Center for Digital Inclusion, Challengers Boys & Girls Club, Sunburst Youth Academy National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program, Titus Single Parent Mentoring, and Watts/Willowbrook Boys & Girls Club.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has previously reached out to young boys and girls of color to bridge the digital divide, encouraging them to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math. In October 2015, he hosted the County’s first hack day at Lennox Library, in which technology giants Microsoft, IDEO, CGI and NeoGov led workshops for about 100 youth ages 16-25 on such topics as turning an idea into a product, developing software applications, and launching a career in Information Technology. Students were able to create their own apps and share their innovations with one another.

In March 2016, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas spoke at a DigiGirlz Day event, co-sponsored with Girls Build LA, that urged middle and high school girls to identify a problem in their communities and engineer a plan to solve it. Students from Grace Hopper STEM Academy in Inglewood and Orville Wright Middle School STEAM Magnet in Westchester were among those who participated.