Reflections on the Civil Unrest

Media outlets throughout the nation reflect on 25 years since the 1992 civil unrest in Los Angeles. NBC News Conference’s Conan Nolan and Charter Local Edition’s Brad Pomerance sit down with Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas to discuss how far Los Angeles County has come and the work that remains.

A Tantalizing Preview of the Crenshaw/LAX Line

The $2-billion Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project is scheduled for completion in 2019 but, thanks to students at Los Angeles Trade Tech College, we can catch a glimpse right now of what’s to come.

Working with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, LATTC students created a video simulating a bird’s eye view of the 8.5-mile light rail line that will travel between South Los Angeles and Los Angeles International Airport.

Construction is more than halfway complete. The project will serve passengers in the Crenshaw District, Leimert Park, Inglewood, Westchester, El Segundo, and points in between. There will be eight stations, with the northernmost connecting to the Expo Line and the southernmost to the Green Line.

The project is expected to have a daily ridership of 13,000 to 16,000, and would be the first to serve the area since streetcars – dubbed “Yellow Cars” – stopped running in the 1950’s. It is funded through a loan from the federal government and Measure R, a half-cent transit sales tax approved by voters in 2008.

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Rolling Up Our Sleeves for American Apparel Workers

American Apparel

Just days after American Apparel factories were shuttered, hundreds of its former workers attend a seminar aimed at helping them secure new jobs, training, and other resources.

Efforts are underway to help about 3,000 American Apparel workers now facing unemployment after the company was sold in a bankruptcy auction.

Rapid response teams from the County’s Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services (WDACS), as well as the City’s Economic and Workforce Development Department (EWDD), have been deployed to guide former sewers, cutters, knitting supervisors and others in their search for new jobs and training, as well as applying for unemployment insurance and other benefits.

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An old American Apparel poster

With 80 percent of American Apparel’s workforce based at its corporate headquarters and main factory in downtown LA, within the County’s Second District, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas fought to prevent the mass layoffs from occurring in the first place. He petitioned the chief judge of the bankruptcy court to stipulate that the buyer “retain as many of the thousands of American Apparel workers as possible.” He added, “We simply cannot allow 3,000 family-supporting jobs to be eliminated.”

American Apparel, however, went on the auction block after years of financial turmoil that included two bankruptcy filings. Gildan Activewear Inc., a Canadian company, purchased what was once North America’s largest clothing manufacturer for $88 million in cash.

As soon as the pinks slips were handed out, a host of government agencies and community-based organizations came together to help.

“Regrettably, we still have situations where our local businesses experience difficulties in this economy,” said the County’s WDACS Assistant Director, Josephine Marquez. “In the advent of American Apparel’s decision to close their operations, the WDACS; Department of Public Social Services (DPSS); State Employment Development Department (EDD); the City of Los Angeles; the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) and a variety of other social service programs have come together to assist American Apparel during its transition, and to assist its employees with resources that hopefully stabilize their situations and move them to reemployment as quickly as possible.”

DPSS sent staff to determine the former employees’ eligibility for CalWORKs, CalFresh and General Relief benefits. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Division of Adult and Career Education, as well as the Los Angeles Community College District, offered a wide range of career and technical education programs along with basic and secondary education courses. English as a Second Language classes were made available as well, since American Apparel’s diverse workforce spoke 17 different languages.

The US Department of Labor, WorkSource California, America’s Job Centers of California, and dozens of community-based organizations also provided support. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Director of Workforce and Education policy, Lisa Salazar, noted, “Although this is a very distressing situation where we have thousands of workers who are now unemployed, today is a great example of how our collective systems from the City, County, state EDD, LAUSD and LA Trade Tech can bring services forward to these individuals who need them most.”

LAUSD Division of Adult and Career Education program and policy development coordinator, Laura Chardiet, expressed confidence that training and other services would help the former American Apparel workers move on to new careers. “This is what we do,” she said. “We specialize in working with people who have high barriers, and we’re also very good at accelerating their learning so people can get the training they need to get a job as soon as possible.”

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American Apparel’s now-closed corporate headquarters and main factory in downtown Los Angeles


Lucas Museum Lands in Exposition Park


Supervisor Mark RIdley-Thomas and Mayor Eric Garcetti announce the Lucas Museum will be build in Exposition Park. Photo by Henry Salazar/Board of Supervisors

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas thanked legendary filmmaker George Lucas for bringing his $1-billion Lucas Museum of Narrative Art to Exposition Park, where it is expected to create thousands of employment opportunities for people in South Los Angeles and beyond.

“It is a momentous day for the people of Los Angeles County as we celebrate the decision to build the Lucas Museum in Exposition Park,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “The Lucas Museum will bring thousands of jobs to the County, not only in the construction industry but in the art, education and hospitality industries as well.”

“Exposition Park is the ideal site for the Lucas Museum, as it is already a destination hub in the County, with ample and consistent public transportation and convenient access to multiple freeways,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added. “Its proximity to USC, along with dozens of elementary, middle and high schools, will help boost the learning experience of thousands of children each year, and provide an understanding of the science and technological skills needed for a career in the film, animation and design industries.”

In a statement, the Museum’s Board of Directors said they picked Exposition Park because “South Los Angeles’ Promise Zone best positions the museum to have the greatest impact on the broader community, fulfilling our goal of inspiring, engaging and educating a broad and diverse visitorship.”

Acting on a motion by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted in November to issue a resolution declaring Exposition Park as the ideal location for the Lucas Museum. They also heard testimony from several leading proponents of the arts and the entertainment industry.

DreamWorks Animation cofounder and former CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg said in November, “This museum is a $1.5-billion philanthropic gift. For Los Angeles to become its home would be a game changer – its impact on our culture, on our children, on tourism, on commerce would be incredible.” Natural History Museum president and director Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga added, “The Lucas Museum would take Exposition Park to a new level as a local and national destination.”

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences CEO Dawn Hudson was also at the November hearing, and said Lucas has long been a passionate supporter of arts education for children. “I think this museum is an extension of that desire to communicate his love of art, his love of storytelling, to a much broader audience.” And California Science Center President and CEO Jeffrey Rudolph said a new museum by the creator of Star Wars would complement the permanent home of the space shuttle Endeavor.

Also during that November meeting, Faye Washington, representing both the YCWA of Greater Los Angeles and the Promise Zone of South Central Los Angeles, expresed hope that the museum would improve the community’s economic prospects. “It’s going to lower the unemployment rate – that 12 percent rate in South Central will go down,” she said. Meanwhile, LA Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Gary Toebben pledged support from the business community.

The Lucas Museum will exhibit paintings by Edgar Degas, Winslow Homer and Pierre-Auguste Renoir; as well as illustrations, comic art and photography by such artists as Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish and N.C. Wyeth.

It would also provide an insider’s perspective on the cinematic creative process, featuring concept art, storyboards, set design, props, costume and fashion, animation and visual effects. There would be public lectures and classes for all ages, hands-on workshops, after-school programs and camps, and a wide variety of additional educational opportunities.



Board Declares Emergency and Places Homeless Initiative on Ballot

With a unanimous vote, the Board of Supervisors declared homelessness an emergency in Los Angeles County, and asked voters to approve a March 7 ballot measure aimed at financing desperately needed solutions.

It was one of the first acts of the newly reconstituted Board. It came in response to motions by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, and after impassioned testimony from a capacity crowd in attendance at the Hall of Administration.

“All around us, we find human beings living in utter squalor – a shocking number of them families with children,” he said. “With this historic vote, we are taking a bold step towards ending this humanitarian crisis, the defining civic issue of our time.”

image11Voters will be asked to approve a ¼-cent sales tax that would raise about $355 million annually over a decade. “To put this funding in perspective, a ¼ cent sales tax would translate into an additional tax of 10 cents on the purchase of a $40 sweater, or $1 on the purchase of a $400 television,” explained Phil Ansell, director of the County’s Homeless Initiative.

If approved by 2/3 of voters, the ballot measure would fund rental assistance, subsidized healthcare, mental health and substance abuse treatments, and other services to help people get off – and stay off – the streets.

“The emergency declaration, which I co-authored with Supervisor Ridley Thomas, reinforces the County’s strong commitment to addressing – and solving – the homeless crisis in a compassionate way that will emphasize rehabilitation, mental health, alcohol/drug treatment and housing opportunities,” Supervisor Kathryn Barger said.

image6“This is the time to act to provide a dedicated revenue stream to begin to address the incredible crisis that we have with 47,000 people sleeping on our streets,” added Supervisor Janice Hahn, who co-authored Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ motion for a March 7 ballot measure.

Both motions drew support from elected officials, as well as a coalition of 75 organizations representing advocates for the homeless; leaders of business, philanthropic, academic and faith-based communities; labor unions, environmentalists, and many others.

Senator Dianne Feinstein sent a video and letter to the Board, saying, “The ballot measure you plan to put before County voters in March will fund the supportive services that – combined with housing – will help get people off the streets permanently.” LA City Councilmen Jose Huizar, Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Gil Cedillo also expressed support.

Entrepreneur and philanthropist Eli Broad added, “It’s very important that we provide the services that the homeless need, especially the 6,000 homeless children we have in Los Angeles County.”

coalition-of-75-2Alex Johnson of Children’s Defense Fund-California noted children who are homeless or at risk of being homeless are sick four times more often and four times more likely to show delayed development. “This measure would work to ensure all children have the care and stability they need to reach their full potential,” he said.

“The cost of not providing services is too high,” added Marsha Temple of Integrated Recovery Network. “The people experiencing homelessness who are severely disabled by mental incapacity are costing the county well over $1 billion a year.”

Gary Toebben of the LA Area Chamber of Commerce said, “This is not just a social issue, this is also an economic issue. To provide proper care and housing to the homeless is to dramatically reduce the cost of other social services that we need in our community.”

LA County Firefighters Union Local 1014 President Dave Gilotte pledged solidarity with the Board, saying, “LA County finally made a decision today with these five great leaders to say we’re not going to walk past another homeless person and pretend like they don’t exist.”

In an emotional testimony, Reba Stevens, a formerly homeless person, urged the Board to move forward with the March 7 ballot measure. “I’m begging you, it’s what we must do,” she said.