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Preserving Critical Healthcare Benefits Under the Affordable Care Act

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Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas marched to save Obamacare alongside Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas and healthcare professionals at this year’s Kingdom Day Parade. Photo by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors

The Board of Supervisors moved to do all it can to fight the threatened repeal of the Affordable Care Act and to preserve critical healthcare benefits that millions of people in Los Angeles County rely on.

Board Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas and Supervisor Sheila Kuehl filed a read-in motion that called for continuing to strongly oppose a repeal and any efforts to weaken the critical Medicaid health program which covers millions of County residents. The motion would also direct the County to explore and support any options that would minimize the number of people who stand to lose their health insurance, and maximize the federal funding that the County would need to keep a safety net over its residents, should a repeal occur.

“Rolling back the ACA would endanger the health and economic well-being of millions of people, not only in Los Angeles County but across the country,” Chair Ridley-Thomas said. “We must fight efforts at every step that would endanger this landmark legislation to prevent a tsunami of hurt triggered by a repeal.”

“The new administration in Washington and its threats to repeal the ACA pose a very serious challenge to the health and wellbeing of County residents,” Supervisor Kuehl said. “Should repeal or any significant diminution occur, LA needs to be at the forefront of helping to craft a way to protect those we serve because if it doesn’t work for LA County, it won’t work for California.”

The ACA enabled about 1.2 million County residents to gain health insurance through Medicaid and Covered California. Many more people benefited from other provisions, such as those that allowed children to stay on their parents’ coverage until age 26; required most employers to provide health insurance; prohibited insurers from denying coverage to persons due to pre-existing conditions and capping coverage for persons with catastrophic illnesses; mandated coverage of preventive care and family planning services; and established equity pricing for women.

“It is critical that Los Angeles County and the State of California are prepared to care for those who may lose insurance under threatened cuts to the ACA,” said Los Angeles County Health Agency Director Dr. Mitch Katz.

The ACA also provided medical assistance to newly Medicaid-eligible individuals whose care otherwise would have been funded by the County. It provided more resources for the County’s In-Home Supportive Services program that serves the elderly and persons with disabilities, as well as for public health programs.

Board Chair Ridley-Thomas and Supervisor Kuehl warned that aside from potentially stripping people of their health insurance, a repeal of the ACA could have dire consequences for the County’s economy. They cited a recent study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and UC Berkeley Labor Center, which warned a repeal could trigger a loss of 63,000 jobs in healthcare and other industries and of $5.8 billion in gross domestic product.

“As the Union representing LA County’s healthcare workers, we know we cannot afford to go back to the days where care was done in the emergency room,” said Bob Schoonover, president of SEIU Local 721. “It is Washington’s responsibility to protect or create a plan that works for everyone. Here in LA County, we are ready to defend and fight for a plan that delivers the care that our communities need.”

States have special powers and resources for creating insurance coverage – Massachusetts, for example, passed a health plan that predated the ACA. A health plan has also been considered in California, and Board Chair Ridley-Thomas and Supervisor Kuehl stressed that the County be involved in its development, considering the massive size of its uninsured population.

Their motion called for sending a five-signature letter to the County’s Congressional delegation expressing the County’s support for preserving the ACA, especially provisions that expanded health insurance coverage and public health services, and opposing a reduction in Medicaid funding for California and the County.

Their motion instructed the County’s Health Agency Director and CEO to develop options for maintaining and/or extending health insurance coverage for residents of the County and state. Their report, due in sixty days and monthly thereafter, is to include input from stakeholders, including patients, patient advocates, health care providers, organized labor, insurance groups, hospitals, public health and mental health advocates and professional associations.

Day of Remembrance

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The Board of Supervisors present a scroll commemorating the Day of Remembrance to leaders of the Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute. Photo by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors.

Saying no community should be singled out for violations of constitutional and human rights, the Board of Supervisors proclaimed February 19, 2017, as a Day of Remembrance to mark the 75th anniversary of a presidential decree that authorized the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

Executive Order 9066, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 19, 1942, forced more than 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent – including children and the elderly – from their homes and businesses and incarcerated them without charge or trial under the pretext of national security. None were ever found to have committed sabotage or espionage.

“We should never forget this dark period in our nation’s history,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, principal author of the motion, said. “The civil liberties of the County’s most vulnerable communities continue to require vigilant protection from infringement justified by national security.”

“We cannot forget the injustice that Japanese-Americans endured at the hands of our government during World War II,” the motion’s co-author, Supervisor Janice Hahn, added. “While we can never take back what victims went through in the internment camps, we can tell their stories and pledge that this will never again happen in the United States of America.”

About a month after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Board at the time adopted a resolution urging the federal government to remove Los Angeles County residents of Japanese ancestry from their homes and hold them, involuntarily, in remote areas. The motion passed on January 27, 1942, as federal and state officials were weighing the merits and legality of detaining West Coast residents without criminal charges. Executive Order 9066 was issued two weeks later.

The violations inspired three generations of Japanese-American leaders and families across the nation to seek redress, which resulted in the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, providing for a government apology and reparations for over 82,000 survivors.

On June 6, 2012, the Board rescinded and revoked its previous resolution endorsing the internment of Japanese-Americans. The historic action followed testimony from those who had been held captive or their relatives.

In declaring a Day of Remembrance, the Board emphasized that “no community (should) suffer such violations of constitutional and human rights.” It also encouraged County employees to voluntarily participate in Day of Remembrance events to be held through October, as listed on the websites of the
Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute; the Japanese American National Museum; and the Japanese American Citizens League.

“Even after 75 years, we choose to remember and commemorate this event because we believe that what happened to the countless number of people during World War II – when many were Americans – is something no one should have had to go through,” said Nicole Sato, program coordinator of the Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute. “We believe by continuing to teach the next generations, we can educate those to come that something like the Japanese American incarceration cannot not be tolerated.”

“In the light of todays’ events happening around the world and in our country, we believe even stronger that what happened to the Japanese American community 75 years ago should not happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, or religion. Civil liberties should not be taken away or denied to anyone by Executive Orders or such actions,” she added. “We should be celebrating and accepting our differences, cultures, heritages, and traditions – not letting it divide us.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said, “We should take stock of our moment in time right now, with respect to others who are under the hammer of unconstitutional behavior. I did say it, I meant it, and I will not retract it.”

He presented a scroll to the Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute for its work to educate and inform the community of this dark period in the nation’s history. On February 25, the institute will host a panel of former internees who will share their experiences of life at the camp in Tule Lake. On April 15, it will host an exhibit showcasing artwork that depicts life in the internment camps.

Ensuring Collaboration and Accountability in Homeless Funding

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Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas hears testimony on his motion. All photos by Diandra Jay/Board of Supervisors

With voters weighing Measure H on March 7, the Board of Supervisors kicked off a collaborative and transparent process for budgeting prospective funds from the ballot initiative so that experts, stakeholders and members of the public have an opportunity to participate in crafting a plan to end homelessness.

The Board unanimously approved a motion by Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas and Supervisor Sheila Kuehl that establishes “an inclusive planning process which draws on the experience, expertise and wisdom of cities, homeless service providers and experts, the faith and business communities, formerly homeless individuals and County departments.”

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Chairman Ridley-Thomas said, “Our objective here is to evidence that we are serious about accountability, serious about transparency, and to be comprehensive as is committed in the ballot language.”

Supervisor Kuehl added, “We can only succeed if we have the input and support of the very civic and community leaders who are going to help us house the 47,000 people currently homeless in the County.” 

Measure H is expected to raise about $350 million every year for a decade to provide multidimensional services and housing assistance for the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless. If approved by two-thirds of the voters, Measure H would generate funds to provide the homeless with, among other services:

• mental health and substance abuse treatments
• health care
• education and job training
• rental and housing subsidies
• case management and services
• emergency and affordable housing
• transportation
• outreach, prevention and supportive services for homeless children, families, foster youth, veterans, battered women, seniors, disabled individuals and other homeless adults.

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L-R: Phil Ansell, Homeless Initiative; Joseph Altepeter, Downtown Women’s Center; Eva Williams, CSH.

The services would be consistent with the County’s Homeless Initiative which developed 47 strategies for preventing and combatting homelessness after conducting 18 policy summits that brought together more than 1,000 experts and stakeholders.

Homeless Initiative director Phil Ansell vowed the budget planning process for Measure H would also be “inclusive, collaborative and transparent,” with meetings open to the public and subject to the Brown Act. 

“To ensure the funding is allocated as fairly and effectively as possible, it is vital that key stakeholders such as service providers, housing and homeless experts, County departments and individuals with lived homeless experiences, are engaged in the process,” Joseph Altepeter, director of vocational education and social enterprise at the Downtown Women’s Center, told the Board.

“It is only through a collaborative and coordinated approach that we will realize success in housing all of our homeless neighbors living throughout Los Angeles,” agreed Eva Williams, Los Angeles director of CSH, a nonprofit organization that helps vulnerable individuals and families.

To ensure accountability, the County Auditor Controller will have an independent auditor regularly report on Measure H spending. A Citizens’ Oversight Advisory Board will also publish a complete accounting of all allocations and submit periodic evaluations.

District Attorney Jackie Lacey, United Way of Greater Los Angeles President and CEO Elise Buik, Los Angeles Business Council president Mary Leslie, New Directions for Veterans President and CEO Yvette Kelley and Children’s Defense Fund-California Executive Director Alex Johnson signed the argument in favor of Measure H. There were no arguments submitted against Measure H. 

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Pan African Film Festival Celebrates 25th Year in Los Angeles

This year, the Pan African Film Festival celebrates its 25th year with a 12-day movie marathon taking place February 9-20, at the Cinemark Baldwin Hills Crenshaw 15 Theater located within the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, at 3650 Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard near Leimert Park. The festival will screen 202 films, 124 of which are feature-length. The 78 short films screened are up for consideration for Academy Awards. The Academy approved the PAFF as a qualifying festival.

“Cinematic stories matter,” said Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas. “And this film festival taking place just blocks from Leimert Park has become an international cultural resource to showcase new narratives over the last quarter of a century. We are indeed privileged to have it in our backyard.”

During Black History Month and representing 56 countries on six continents, the festival will screen the largest selection of black films ever screened at one event. The PAFF screened the first films of such prominent black filmmakers as Gina Prince Bythewood (“Beyond the Lights”), Malcolm D. Lee (“Best Man”), Michael Jennings (“Moonlight”), Ava DuVernay (“Selma” &“13th”) and Academy Award winner Gavin Hood (“Tsotsi”). The PAFF also screened films by Raul Peck (“I Am Not Your Negro”), Oscar nominated Mahamat Saleh Haroun (“Gris Gris”) and many others.

“It’s been an incredible experience to witness the growth of this PAFF and at the same time witness the tremendous development of the Pan African film Industry,” says Ayuko Babu, PAFF Executive Director. “Both have allowed me the pleasure of working with thousands of filmmakers and honoring the artistry from South Africa to Atlanta – all of whom tell their own stories and present their images to the world so beautifully. So now in our 25th year, PAFF will again present the largest selection of Black films ever to be screened at one event and honor the best storytellers and artists for their work.”

Watch an exclusive interview with Executive Director and co-founder Ayuko Babu below:

This year, the festival will celebrate the work of actress Alfre Woodard with The Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by PAFF Co-Founder Ja’net Dubois during the Opening Night Gala, Thursday February 9th held at the DGA Headquarters in Los Angeles. The Lifetime Achievement Award will honor Woodard’s’ extraordinary career, having captured the hearts of theater-goers, moviegoers and TV watchers. Woodard has been able to transcend both genre and medium with work that scans over 30 years– all reflecting strong yet flawed black women. Alfre will share her journey with the PAFF audience in a hosted, one-on-one “Conversation With Alfre Woodard,” on Sunday February 10th at 3pm, narrated by Director Neema Barnett held at the Cinemark Baldwin Hills Theater.

“I get excited every year right about this time because I know the Pan African Film Festival is coming. This means that I have felt this exhilaration 25 times!,” says honoree Alfre Woodard. “PAFF always delivers artfully curated entertainment and information in diverse genres. This year I’m particularly thrilled that they have invited me to represent their legacy of bringing engaging stories from filmmakers of the African diaspora to Los Angeles, the birthplace of American Cinema. As always, Feb 9-20th promises stimulating conversations and lively celebrations. You won’t want to miss it!”

The complete Screenings, Special Screenings & Events Lineup are available here: www.paff.org.

Fighting to Stop Human Trafficking

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Displaying a poster with the hotline to report human trafficking. (All Photos by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors)

Both the County and City of Los Angeles will strengthen enforcement of a state law intended to help victims of modern day slavery, under efforts announced by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Councilwoman Nury Martinez on the last day of Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

Under Senate Bill 1193, authored by then state Senator and now Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, certain establishments are required to display a poster listing a telephone hotline such as (888) 539-2373 and other information that would enable victims and members of the public to report human trafficking. Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and Councilwoman Martinez each plan to look into how more establishments can be brought into compliance.

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Supervisor with Councilwoman Nury Martinez

“The County targets certain locations for intensified awareness-raising, such as emergency rooms, urgent care centers, transit centers and motels, which provide prime opportunities for trafficked persons to seek help in escaping from their traffickers,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.

“SB 1193 must be enforced, because having access to that hotline information can be the one thing that saves her from the bondage of sex trafficking,” Councilwoman Martinez said. “When a young girl is being trafficked by a gang member pimp, she rarely knows whom she can turn to for help.”

Back in 2014, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas filed a motion calling on the County’s Chief Executive and District Attorney to check compliance with SB 1193. Shortly afterwards, he joined the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) in launching the Human Trafficking Outreach Project (HTOP), which trains volunteers to reach out to establishments mandated to comply with SB 1193.

More than two years after its launch, HTOP reported that more than 50 percent of the establishments visited by its volunteers remain out of compliance. Supervisor Ridley-Thomas will request a compliance update from the Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) Integrated Leadership Team, a multi-department entity  charged with coordinating the County’s response to CSEC, which he established by motion in 2015.

“It is imperative upon all of us to do whatever we can to stem the tide and stop the worldwide business of human trafficking,” NCJW/LA executive director Hillary Selvin said, adding, “Human trafficking is slavery.”

Kay Buck, president and chief executive of the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), said SB 1193 would help connect more victims to community support services such as those provided by her organization. “Since SB 1193 went into effect, CAST has seen a significant increase in the number of calls to our hotline, including calls from victims themselves seeking help,” she said.

A study funded by the National Institute of Justice has found that requiring the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) hotline to be posted in public areas was the most effective way to increase the number of human trafficking arrests. From 2007 to 2015, the NHTRC provided more than 6,500 tips to law enforcement.

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