Environment, Parks, Libraries

Days of Dialogue: Reclaiming Civility & Tolerance in the Face of Violence

Amid a rise in gun violence and hate crimes that have traumatized communities across the nation, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Institute for Non-Violence in Los Angeles, and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center convened more than 100 civic, business, community and religious leaders for a Days of Dialogue session around the theme of Reclaiming Civility and Tolerance in the Face of Violence.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas speaks at the Dialogue. Photo by Dave Franco / Board of Supervisors

The gathering encouraged constructive civic engagement as a powerful rebuttal to such horrific acts of violence as the recent mass shooting at a bar in Thousand Oaks, as well as the targeting of Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and of African Americans at the Mother Emmanuel Baptist Church in Charleston.

“We have seen dark days before and there will surely be more to come but dialogue creates a bond that will help us withstand any attempts to divide us,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas told those invited to the dialogue at Cedars-Sinai’s Harvey Morse Auditorium. “As community leaders, it is our responsibility to stay focused on solutions and never waver from this commitment.”

“Dialogue is the first step in constructively dealing with the range of issues that we are bombarded with,” said Institute for Non-Violence in Los Angeles Co-Director Avis Ridley-Thomas. “We very rarely take the opportunity to just sit down, think, and discuss the various ways that we can tackle these challenges.”

“At Cedars-Sinai, part of our tradition is that we were founded by the Jewish community at time when Jewish physicians and nurses weren’t free to practice everywhere. We are proudly aware of that heritage and are dedicated to working in the service of all communities,” Cedars-Sinai Senior Vice President of Community Relations Arthur Ochoa said. “As an institution that stands counter to what that represents, it is appropriate for us to be a partner and to do what we can to host this event.”

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, LA Police Chief Michel Moore, and LA Council President Herb Wesson at the Dialogue. Photo by Dave Franco / Board of Supervisors

Patti Giggans, executive director of the nonprofit Peace Over Violence, said, “I hope today’s dialogue will inspire more conversations about how to back away from incivility. We need leadership to do this and the fact that we are holding this conversation as leaders, we are going to be able to counteract the rise of intolerance, hate and aggression.”

Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said, “LAPD has been involved with Days of Dialogue since its inception and we are pleased to continue our engagement with this vital and necessary resource. As participants, we see this as an opportunity to listen and understand various perspectives.”

At the conclusion of the dialogue, participants noted that bringing leaders together to talk about what can be done to address the epidemic of violence is as healing as it is necessary. Others said the dialogue was transformative, and would allow communities to emerge stronger and more resilient from tragedy.

For over 25 years, Days of Dialogue has provided an opportunity for leaders to discuss timely social and political issues facing communities. The sessions have included political town hall forums in large auditoriums, as well as more intimate gatherings at neighborhood libraries and churches.

An Empowering Prayer: Thank You!

Thanksgiving is a season of brotherhood and generosity providing a time for reflection and perspective. I would like to take this opportunity to say THANK YOU!  Thank you for your time, energy, caring, leadership, and focus on creating a better quality of life for communities throughout Los Angeles.  The question is often asked: What are you grateful for? It is such a simple but potentially powerful question.  I invite you to take a moment with me to consider what you are grateful for. Is it health, family, mobility, or the gift of the challenges that face us? When gratitude is present, powerlessness and poverty subside. You need not be religious or spiritual, but I hope you’ll take part in this most empowering prayer of gratitude.

With hope and gratitude,

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas

Los Angeles County Supervisor, Second District

A Show of Solidarity In the Aftermath of Hate

(Left to Right) Rabbi Zoë Klein Miles of Temple Isaiah, Pastor J. Edgar Boyd of First AME Church, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, and LA Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner stand in solidarity.  Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

In a moving and emphatic show of solidarity after the Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh, hundreds of people from across Los Angeles County gathered for an interfaith worship service at the First AME Church, and sang and prayed together for hope, healing, courage and perseverance.

Pastor J. Edgar Boyd of First AME Church and Rabbi Zoë Klein Miles of Temple Isaiah preached to the diverse crowd in the pews, while Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas issued a call to solidarity. They were joined by US Rep. Karen Bass, LA City Controller Ron Galperin, LA Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner, Rabbi Deborah Schmidt, Rev. Terry L. Brown and Rev. Hosea Collins.

Holding hands in solidarity at First AME Church. Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

“The Tree of Life Shooting was another attempt by a white supremacist to destroy what has made this country so great — our differences and our diversity. But they will not succeed,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “We are together tonight out of a sense of hope, healing and solidarity. Let us stand together and honor through our deeds the actions that will turn this tragedy at the Tree of Life synagogue into a garden of hope across the country.”

“Whenever the sinister forces of wickedness and evil rise up and threaten the human virtues of a loving society, the diverse community of the faithful must respond,” Pastor Boyd said. “We must respond in a show of love over hate; we must respond to ensure that the weak will overcome the wicked; and we must respond to empower the kindness of the victim to conquer the vile of the villain through the enduring power of human love.”

Singing during the service. Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

“Together, we have cried a river of tears. Together, we have worked to rebuild what is broken,” Rabbi Klein Miles said. “Unified in hope, unified in the belief in the ultimate triumph of good, we join our voices, our hearts, our spirits in prayer and fellowship. We join to show that our boundaries are false, but our shared dreams are what are real and achievable.”

The interfaith ceremony was held in the wake of a gunman murdering 11 Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. This latest attack on a house of worship recalled the 2015 shooting of nine African Americans at the Mother Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

“The alarming increase on attacks of houses of worship cannot escape us, whether in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina, or others that are thankfully less fatal, but still are devastating to the faithful,” Rep. Bass said. “Here in Los Angeles, our diversity can lull us into forgetting that anti-Semitism, bigotry and hate can still erupt into vicious violence, but I firmly believe that our determination to heal the world will prevail if we stand together as we did tonight, in love and as one.”

Grand Opening of Largest Housing Site for Chronically Homeless in LA County

Cutting the ribbon for 160 supportive housing apartments. Photo by David Franco / Board of Supervisors

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles Councilmember Joe Buscaino, Meta Housing and other project partners, led a grand opening ceremony inaugurating the largest housing site built for chronically homeless individuals in the County of Los Angeles.

Developed by Meta Housing, the residential buildings will have a combined total of 160 supportive housing apartments. Photo by David Franco / Board of Supervisors

Developed by Meta Housing, the residential buildings will have a combined total of 160 supportive housing apartments. Located in the Harbor Gateway area of Los Angeles, this development includes 108 apartments for chronically homeless patients of the County healthcare system, 28 apartments for chronically homeless veterans, and 22 affordable apartments for low-income residents.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas noted “dynamic and forward thinking projects such as this one are necessary, they are essential, and they are vital.” Further stating, “Our goal is not to simply do just enough to maintain the status quo—no, that is not it. Our goal is to end homelessness as we know it and I believe that today brings us a step closer to that day.”

“Today marks a new chapter in the Harbor Community as we accelerate our drive to get homeless Angelenos off the streets and into homes,” shared Mayor Garcetti. Also noting, “With these 160 new beds, we are giving our most vulnerable community members the safe housing that everyone in Los Angeles deserves.”

This project was a collaborative effort between LA County, LA City, and a number of private sector partners and service providers including Measure H funded non-profits —taking 21-months from ground breaking for opening to come to fruition.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas meets with a new resident. Photo by David Franco / Board of Supervisors

“The 127th Street Apartments and El Segundo Boulevard Apartments are 100% affordable housing communities serving formerly homeless individuals and veterans as well as low-income families. Meta Housing is proud to sponsor with the City and the County on another important project that has helped move our most vulnerable residents off the streets and into permanent housing with robust supportive services” said Kasey Burke of affordable housing development partner, Meta Housing who was instrumental in their efforts to push this project forward.

“Everyone here is working on the side of right. And I am thankful for so many people who were instrumental in getting this project done.” stated Toni White, Peer Case Manager, from Homeless Outreach Program Integrated Care System (HOPICS).

Through a well-coordinated and comprehensive outreach effort facilitated by the Department of Mental Health, Department of Health Services’ Housing for Health program, LAHSA and HOPICS, 80 homeless individuals were able to move directly from their encampments and vehicles into their new apartments. Resident Horace Lackey said “This project means a lot for me. On a practical level it means that I’m not homeless anymore and in the larger scheme it represents a step toward to a better life.”

Consistent with the promises of Prop HHH and Measure H, this project exemplifies the importance of combining affordable housing with warp-around onsite support services. In addition to the 160 homes, this site will also offer intensive case management services and specialized mental health services which will be delivered by measure H-funded non-profit, The People Concern. LifeSTEPS will provide all other resident and case management services.

Los Angeles County Prepares to Take Over Sativa Water District

The Board of Supervisors will vote next week on a motion that would authorize the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works (DPW) to enter into an agreement with the California Water Resources Control Board to serve as interim administrator of the Sativa Water District, which has struggled over the years to provide clean water to its customers in Willowbrook and Compton.

Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Janice Hahn filed the motion days after the Governor signed county-sponsored legislation allowing the Water Board to appoint an interim administrator for Sativa until a replacement water service provider can be identified for the long-term.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said DPW is well suited for the role of interim administrator, given its extensive experience operating systems across the County. It currently operates 68,000 service connections, serving approximately 245,000 people.

“Residents of Willowbrook and Compton have had to endure brown water coming out of their taps for years, because of Sativa’s mismanagement,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “With DPW in charge, these customers will finally have the competent water service provider they deserve.”

“This is a victory for the people,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “By putting the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works in charge, residents will finally have a capable, trustworthy water provider they can count on. There is a lot more work that needs to be done, but we are in it for the long-haul for the customers of Sativa.”

As interim administrator, DPW would assess the condition of the existing water facilities and identify any necessary and timely improvements to ensure safe drinking water is available to Sativa customers. It will also work closely with the Water Board to ensure that water quality meets all regulatory standards.

When Sativa customers reported brown water running through their taps in April, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas filed an urgency motion to investigate, to prevent public health risks, and to determine whether Sativa leaders are able to properly maintain the system’s 70-year-old pipes. At his direction, the County also distributed about 20,000 gallons of bottled water to Sativa customers.

Acting on a motion by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas in June, the Board endorsed AB 1577, authored by Assemblymember Mike Gipson, which would empower the Water Board to order Sativa to accept administrative and managerial services. In July, the Local Agency Formation Commission of Los Angeles County formally initiated dissolution proceedings over Sativa.

In August, the Board approved a motion reiterating its support for AB1577, but also sought amendments that would allow the interim administrator to have appropriate state funding and as well as appropriate immunities from liability. Governor Jerry Brown signed AB1577 on September 28.