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Improving Child Safety

sad child with his head between his legs left alone at home

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved reevaluating Los Angeles County’s child risk assessment tool following the death of 11-year-old Yonatan Aguilar in Echo Park.

Supervisors Michael Antonovich and Mark Ridley-Thomas coauthored the motion directing the Office of Child Protection and the Department of Children and Family Services to report in 30 days on the strengths and weaknesses of Structured Decision Making (SDM), a tool to help social workers gauge the likelihood of child abuse.

The motion also called for exploring the effectiveness of other tools, such as predictive analytics and the Approach to Understanding Risk Assessment (AURA) project.

The Board approved a similar review of SDM back in 2009, after the death of 6-year-old Dae’von Bailey. The 2009 motion, authored by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, stressed a “critical and immediate need to address and ameliorate the situation” to prevent further tragedies. It recommended identifying any breakdown or deficiency in existing policies; reviewing and evaluating the efficacy and utilization of SDM; and comparing social workers’ caseload ratios with optimum staffing practices.

“We understand that no algorithm or software can take the place of a well-trained, observant, and conscientious professional,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “However, technology and data can refine our accuracy, enhance our decision-making, and expedite our services.”

Supervisor Antonovich said, “This motion will provide an overview of the use of the SDM tool while exploring possible enhancements and alternatives to further support risk assessment for at-risk children. Through these efforts, we anticipate continued improvements to child protection.”

Community Cleanup

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Dozens of volunteers joined Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas at the Athens-Westmont Community Cleanup in the Vermont/Manchester area.

They spent a Saturday morning cleaning up illegal dumping and planting new landscaping with help from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, iHeart Media’s AM 570 LA (Dodger Radio), and the Office of Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson.

Community Clean-Up“This event is a prime example of what good can happen when a community comes together to partner with its civic institutions,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.

Officials estimate that 14,000 tons of illegally dumped items are abandoned each year in unincorporated areas of L.A. County. Volunteers removed broken appliances, old furniture, and other bulky items dumped at the 89th Street Alley, as well as in a residential area from Manchester to 92nd Street. They also planted a garden at the 96th Street Elementary School and Children’s Center, and improved the landscaping at Vermont Median Park’s Entryways at 88th and 92nd Streets. Public Works crews, meanwhile, removed graffiti.

fullsizerenderFormer Dodger Lee Lacy, who appeared in four World Series in the 1970s, participated in the cleanup. So did members of the 88th Street Temple Church of God in Chris, and representatives from the Empowerment Congress, Sheriffs’ Youth Activities League and Explorers Program.

Councilmember Harris-Dawson said, “Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and I share a passion for beautifying the Vermont Corridor. By working together and engaging residents as partners, we can truly impact our neighborhoods.”

88th Street Temple Church Senior Pastor Anthony Williams said he and his congregation were happy to partner with the Supervisor on the community cleanup. “We here at the 88th Street Temple Church are restoring souls from the inside out, and Supervisor Ridley-Thomas is helping restore our community from the outside in,” he said. “With that type of synergy working in unison, there’s nothing we can’t achieve in our families and for our city!”

cleanup-2Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said he has “big dreams about economic and community development” in the area, and noted that plans are under way for improving land uses along Vermont Avenue, and increasing public safety and social services for residents.

“Clean-ups are just the beginning,” he said. “The revitalization of the Athens-Westmont Community and surrounding areas is one of my top priorities.”

The Los Angeles Dodgers are going to bat for cleaner neighborhoods, urging everyone to put trash in its proper place.

Butterfly Pavilion Opens at NHM

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Completing its own metamorphosis, a new and improved Butterfly Pavilion has opened at the Natural History Museum, delighting visitors of all ages.

“The Butterfly Pavilion is an important way to deliver on an idea that’s important to me and to the Museum – the idea of introducing nature and its stewardship in a fun way,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said during opening day ceremonies.

fullsizerender5Located on the south side of the museum, the permanent structure is larger and airier than the outdoor exhibits in previous years . The enclosed habitat has hundreds of butterflies, their colorful wings fluttering above flowers laden with nectar. Some butterflies even alight on visitors, usually those wearing colorful outfits and hats.

Museum staff are on hand to point out monarchs, queens, malachites, mourning cloaks, grey crackers and buckeyes, as well as caterpillars and chrysalises. They can also provide information about metamorphosis and butterfly anatomy.

“The Pavilion is an important part of the museum’s approach to city nature,”said Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga, NHM President and Director.  “It was the first living habitat we had, and as we began to shift to an indoor / outdoor museum, we used a lot of the lessons we learned.”

She added, “We wanted a place that was relaxing and fun, but that also had science at its core – science we could deliver in accessible, friendly ways, to people of all ages and backgrounds, no matter what they thought about nature.”

screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-4-43-17-pmSupervisor Ridley-Thomas said the Butterfly Pavilion is the latest landmark in a place already teeming with them.

“Exposition Park is the heart of the Second District and I am proud that it is the center of culture, science, education, sports, and economic development in our County,” he said.  “It’s an honor to be here on the opening day of the Butterfly Pavilion, which joins USC, the Coliseum, the Space Shuttle, the Rose Garden, the Rams and the new home of the LA Football Club, among Exposition Park’s iconic destinations.”
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Race + Justice Conference Confronts California Homeless Crisis

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas joined artists, activists, and academics at Atlantic Magazine’s “Race + Justice: An Atlantic Summit” at the Hudson Loft in downtown Los Angeles. The daylong Atlantic conference focused on issues of race, economics, inequality, and opportunity. The Supervisor used the opportunity to address the homeless crisis throughout California.

“The governor of this state has 115,000 reasons to declare a state of emergency,” the Supervisor said. “Why should we tolerate this human indignity that people are suffering?”

The event built upon The Atlantic’s nearly 160 year history having helped shape the national debate on the most critical and contentious issues of our times, from politics, business, and the economy, to technology, arts, and culture. The Atlantic provides the nation’s thought leaders with forward-looking, fresh perspectives that provoke and challenge, define and affect the lives we’re living today, and give shape to tomorrow.

Board Considers Special March Election

Acting on a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved looking into hosting a countywide consolidated Special Election on March 7. The ballot could include, among other things, a ¼-cent sales tax that, if approved by the Board and voters, would raise $355 million annually to address the crisis of homelessness.

At present, 36 jurisdictions – cities and districts, including the City of Los Angeles – are scheduled to hold municipal elections concurrently on March 7. Consolidating them into a single Special Election conducted by the County of Los Angeles would save millions of dollars, while also reducing voter fatigue and confusion, and encouraging voter participation.

LA City and County have been working together to raise the money needed to make a significant dent in the crisis of homelessness. This November, the City will ask voters to approve Proposition HHH, a $1.2-billion bond that could potentially finance the construction of as many as 10,000 permanent supportive housing units for the chronically homeless over the next decade. If the County places a ¼-cent sales tax on the ballot in March, it could generate a significant percentage of the funding needed to cover supportive services, rapid rehousing, street outreach teams, rental subsidies, and other programs desperately needed by its homeless population, numbering almost 47,000.

Jacqueline Waggoner, vice president of Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit that helps create affordable housing, expressed support for the motion. “A consolidated election would generate greater awareness and higher participation by the voters for passage of a potential ballot measure for much-needed funding to address homelessness, complementing the City of Los Angeles’ November 2016 Housing Bond,” Waggoner said. “A comprehensive regional funding strategy is needed to ensure the best opportunity at success.”