Impact of Cannabis Businesses

Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas at June 6, 2017 meeting. Bryan Chan / Board of Supervisors

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas issued the following statement regarding an ordinance prohibiting all cannabis businesses and activities in the unincorporated areas of the County. The ordinance also imposes reasonable regulations on personal cannabis cultivation while businesses are further studied for potential regulation.

Many of us here face a great task — that of implementing Prop. 64. The ban does not mean that we are reinstating the war on drugs or that we are opposing the vote of the people. We are trying to create rational, responsible, and accountable cannabis commerce. This is not a gold rush for businesses. It is the people of California calling for smart, responsible regulation of marijuana, and those who operate illegally are in direct opposition to this call for accountability, transparency, and responsibility.

This is particularly salient in the 2nd district, where both alcohol and marijuana businesses have operated irresponsibly for years, wreaking havoc on not only the quality of the neighborhoods, but the health and safety of our residents. We know this given our failed efforts to date to control the sale of cannabis in County unincorporated communities, which has been illegal since 2010. We also know this given our efforts to regulate alcohol sales with its well documented history of causing blight and increased crime in our disadvantaged communities.

The Board recognized the necessity of establishing enhanced standards of conduct for liquor stores with the recent adoption of the “Deemed Approved” Ordinance for pre-1992 liquor licenses. We can expect that the sale of cannabis will have comparable impact including increased crime, addiction and private sector disinvestment in neighborhood-serving commercial corridors.

And unlike alcohol, cannabis remains illegal under federal law, which adds to the difficulty of effectively regulating the business. There can be no doubt that businesses that operate outside the legal banking system and federal law and taxation regulations are particularly vulnerable to infiltration by organized crime and gangs.

The County needs to establish guidelines and regulations for the cannabis industry to minimize these anticipated negative impacts. We need rules focused on creating responsible and accountable cannabis commerce. Equally important, we cannot ignore the public safety and public health issues associated with cannabis. We can expect that the issues we confront as we move forward will be unique and more profound than has been the experience in other jurisdictions.

Likewise, we regulate personal cultivation, to the extent allowed by the law, because one’s right and choice to use marijuana does not negate their obligation to be a good neighbor. These are psychoactive substances with a pervasive odor that must be grown and kept in a responsible manner.

Los Angeles is not Denver or Seattle. The problems we face are far more dynamic and impactful, requiring a sustained investment of time and resources. We should look to the industry to provide the resources the County will need to address the impacts from the cultivation, distribution and sale of cannabis in those communities that allow it. The County must prepare itself, not just as it pertains to land use regulations, but in addressing the public health impacts on our youth and vulnerable populations, and with the increased resources that will be required to address the foreseeable demands places on public safety resources.

Legalization of cannabis in California will have a disproportional impact on low income communities and communities of color. We cannot let businesses profit off of these communities until we can effectively minimize these negative effects and regulate these businesses for the benefit of these neighborhoods.

Cutting-Edge Data Center Saves Millions

Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas speaks at the unveiling of DataCenter1 in El Segundo. Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

Breaking new ground in the digital age, Los Angeles County unveiled Data Center One, modernizing its information technology infrastructure while saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. 

Located in El Segundo, the privately leased facility dubbed “DC1” will replace the County’s 49 data centers and provide greater security and efficiency for millions of documents and transactions, from health assessments to online book catalogue visits to pet adoptions.

Consolidating dozens of scattered data centers into a single facility operated by T5 Data Centers frees up to 67,000 square feet of space while expanding the County’s capacity to support 603 databases, store approximately 33 million documents, and process 83 million transactions per month. DC1 also has state-of-the-art energy efficiency features and enables fast access to new technologies and sophisticated data analysis tools to empower faster resource allocation, smarter decision-making and more efficient operations.

“We are on the path to modernizing countywide information technology, and we are doing it in a cutting-edge, cost effective and energy efficient way,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas said as he cut the ribbon during the grand opening ceremony. “It’s the pinnacle of what public-private partnership should be.”

 “This facility will save the County hundreds of millions of dollars,” he added. “That means more dollars available to provide LA County residents with the goods and services they really need. Whether it is fighting homelessness, promoting child protection, or a variety of other initiatives, those resources will be put to better use.”

Chairman Ridley-Thomas co-authored the motion directing the County’s chief executive officer, chief information officer and Internal Services director to merge the County’s 49 data centers and consolidate the technology infrastructure of the County’s 37 departments into a single facility. The goal was to reduce the cost of hardware, software and operations; shift to more efficient computing platforms; use less energy and real estate; and boost cybersecurity.

Leasing the DC1 costs $2 million a year – far less expensive than the 58,000-square foot data center that the County’s previous CEO originally recommended building for over $200 million, not including power, cooling and operational expenses. Concerned that the original proposal was too expensive, oversized, and likely to become obsolete, Chair Ridley-Thomas asked the Board to consult an independent expert. Gartner Inc.’s analysis concluded that leasing no more than 10,000 square feet of space would be more efficient, both operationally and fiscally.


Opportunity Knocks for Future EMT’s

Young Men from Los Angeles County’s Second District Attend an Orientation at Central Baptist Church in Carson

Young Men from Los Angeles County’s Second District Attend an Orientation at Central Baptist Church in Carson

For the first time, a unique pilot program to train underserved young men of color to become Emergency Medical Technicians is on its way to Los Angeles County. The program is a partnership between the Office of Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas and the Workers Education and Resource Center with funding support from the California Endowment.

“This pilot program is a win-win. Our young men of color deserve access to the best opportunities,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “And our communities deserve first rate emergency medical technicians.”

On the heels of a successful recent program in Alameda County, 21 young men from Los Angeles County’s Second District and their accountability partners, made up of parents, friends or significant others, participated in the orientation and kickoff at Central Baptist Church in Carson. Representatives from the Los Angeles County Departments of Children and Family Services, Probation, and Fire were on hand to provide words of wisdom and to participate in the launch of the program.

The five month intensive program will include technical skill development, life skill building and culminate in EMT certification. The young men selected through a rigorous application process will earn a training stipend of $1,200 per month.

This group is the first of three groups that will participate in the pilot program in Los Angeles County’s Second District over the next two years.

Candlelight Vigil
25 Years After Civil Unrest

About 300 people joined Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas in marking the 25th anniversary of the 1992 Civil Unrest in Los Angeles with a teach-in and a candlelight vigil.

Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors

Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors

“We come together to stand in solidarity, not to simply remember the events of 1992 but also to reflect on lessons learned after 25 years of recovery, revitalization and resilience,” Board Chair Ridley-Thomas said.

At the teach-in, the Academy Award-winning filmmaker of “OJ:  Made in America,”  Ezra Edelman, looked back on the turmoil. “Reliving, discussing and absorbing our history is the only way to move forward,” he said.

Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors

Ezra Edelman. Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors

Prof. Paul Ong, director of the UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, unveiled a study entitled “1992 Revisited,” which tracked socioeconomic changes between the time of the civil unrest and the present.

“Without the heroic efforts of community organizers and elected officials, conditions would be far worse; nonetheless, the unfortunate reality as evident in the empirical facts is that much more must be done to address the continued economic marginalization of South Los Angeles,” he said. “This will require a comprehensive, inclusive and coordinated effort, one that cuts across silos and institutional layers, and guided by a common vision anchored in a commitment to social justice.”

Paul Ong, Maria Elena Durazo, Marc Brown, Peter Hong and Rep. Karen Bass. Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors

Paul Ong, Maria Elena Durazo, Marc Brown, Peter Hong and Rep. Karen Bass. Photo by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors

“We have come a long way in building local organizations to address issues of education, environmental justice, and other local issues,” Unite Here General Vice President Maria Elena Durazo said. “Unfortunately, the poverty level has grown in most of the communities that were impacted by the unrest. We have to fight for jobs that truly lift people out of poverty – and we have to give equal access to those good jobs to everyone in the community.”

US Rep. Karen Bass and CalState LA Director of Strategic Initiatives Peter Hong also spoke at the teach-in, hosted by KABC-7 anchor Marc Brown at the auditorium of the historic Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Building. Mayor Eric Garcetti also addressed participants.

Afterwards, teach-in attendees and members of the community went across the street for a candlelight vigil. Each carried a flame that illuminated the corner of Western and Adams, where a gas station was razed during the civil unrest.

Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors

Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors


Lessons Learned from
LA’s 1992 Civil Unrest

“A riot is the language of the unheard,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said.On April 29, 1992, the unheard were unleashed, leading to one of the most disturbing chapters in the history of Los Angeles.
When the civil unrest over the verdict in the Rodney King case ended five days later, the toll included 54 people dead, 2,000 injured and 12,000 arrested. More than 1,000 buildings were set ablaze and 4,500 looted, resulting in over $1 billion in property damage. As a newly elected member of the City Council, I saw our recently renovated district office – a mini-City Hall – become a smoldering ruin.
Even now, 25 years later, not all of the social and economic injustices that became kindling for “the unheard” have been snuffed out. And yet, I believe quite a lot has been done – just not enough. I call it strategic dissatisfaction.
In 1992, 30 to 40 percent of the population in parts of South Central and Southeast LA lived below the poverty line. While the mean household income in the Westside approached $100,000, South Central and Southeast LA residents earned only about $25,000 and $22,000, respectively. That’s if they could find a job at all, with the unemployment rate at 13.7 percent and 17.4 percent in those neighborhoods, respectively, compared to 8.4 percent citywide.
Watts was among the communities that struggled the most, with an unemployment rate of 26 percent and a household income of just $12,000, leaving almost half of its households reliant on some form of public assistance.
Aside from crushing poverty and high unemployment, too many communities were also plagued by gang crime and a crack cocaine epidemic, along with indisputable racial and ethnic tensions. Back then, such areas were perceived as ominous. That is changing, and it’s a good thing.
In recent years, South LA and the rest of LA County’s Second District have drawn tremendous public and private investment. This urban landscape, which once seemed to have a liquor store at every corner, now includes the $2-billion Crenshaw/LAX Line set for completion in 2019 and the new $1-billion Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus in Willowbrook, poised for further expansion.
Still to come are the $2.6-billion National Football League stadium for the Rams and Chargers in Inglewood, as well as the $1-billion Lucas Museum of Narrative Art and $350-million Major League Soccer stadium for the LA Football Club, both in Exposition Park. Meanwhile, the LA Memorial Coliseum, the Forum and Metro’s Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station each set aside $270 million, $100 million and $66 million, respectively, for renovations.
These and other projects in and around commercial centers targeted for destruction in 1992 have created thousands of jobs in recent years and will continue to do so. Residents are reaping the benefits of local worker hire policies, wage theft crackdowns, and increases in the minimum wage and living wage.
All told, communities within LA County’s Second District have seen 5.5 percent employment growth over the last eight years, coinciding with a 20.13 percent increase in annual wages. If this trend continues, we should be able to chip away at the poverty rate, which, in South LA, has stubbornly refused to budge from about 33 percent since the time of the civil unrest.
Homelessness remains at crisis levels but, for the first time ever, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Just this March, voters made history by agreeing to tax themselves over a decade to provide unprecedented resources – $3.5 billion – for ending and preventing homelessness countywide. Measure H is the only revenue proposal ever attempted, much less approved, during an off-cycle election. It will go hand-in-hand with Proposition HHH, a $1.2-billion bond measure to build affordable housing in the city of LA.
Even before voters approved either ballot measure, LA’s Second District saw 2,200 affordable housing units built over the last eight years, and 800 more are in the works. Increased government investment has also led to the construction or renovation of several parks, libraries and school-based health centers, though many more amenities are still needed.
Law enforcement and policing remain problematic, though a number of reforms have been carried out over the decades. The LA Police Department has strived to increase diversity within its ranks to more closely resemble the city’s demographics, and has placed greater emphasis on community policing rather than being a militarized occupying force. The LA County Sheriff’s Department made similar changes and, for the first time, has both an Inspector General and a Civilian Oversight Commission looking over its shoulder.
Despite these changes, complaints of racial profiling, excessive use of force, and other abuses have never gone away.
These days, instead of Rodney King, we hear the names Ezell Ford and, elsewhere in the country, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner and Sandra Bland, among others. The police shooting of Michael Brown triggered violent protests in the streets of Ferguson, Mo., as recently as three years ago.
On April 29, 1992, the rage and anguish of a community that had long suffered injustice and neglect were finally laid bare. Against a fiery backdrop on primetime news, broadcast worldwide, they demanded social justice and economic progress. For a while, it seemed to have an effect – reforms were vowed, investments pledged, an uneasy truce declared.
But, 25 years later, poverty still holds a firm grip on many in South LA, which has among the highest rates of homelessness in LA County. The streets are dotted with vacant lots where planned grocery stores, retail shops and restaurants never materialized. Meanwhile, after years of steady decline, violent crime is on the rise again in South LA, straining an already tenuous relationship between police officers and the community.
We cannot afford to wait yet another quarter of a century before heeding the call of “the unheard.” On April 29, 2017, we are closer than ever to delivering on promises of jobs and community revitalization, and to ensuring that law enforcement is professional and accountable. We must seize this momentum and pick up the pace, if we are to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past as we chart a path for the future.