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Empowered to Realize the Dream

 

Martin Luther King, Jr. immortalized the words “I have a dream!” 52 years ago today in front of the Lincoln Memorial during the historic Aug. 28, 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

The great civil rights leader stirred hope then, and he still does. At the recent dedication ceremony for the community hospital that bears his name in Willowbrook, hope shone in the faces of everyone in the crowd, as evident in the new video above.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who spearheaded the construction of Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital and other facilities on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus, envisioned desperately-needed healthcare finally reaching the people of South Los Angeles. He promised at the Aug. 7, 2015 dedication ceremony, “It’s a new day at MLK, but an even better day is coming.”

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Taking Transportation Careers to the Next Level

Metro CEO Phil Washington, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, and Metro Board Chairman and LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas

Metro CEO Phil Washington, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, and Metro Board Chairman and LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas

Workers building Los Angeles County’s vast – and still growing – transportation system are getting a boost from the federal government to take their skills to the next level.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who chairs the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, joined U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on Tuesday to announce $1.1 million in federal grants for local workforce development.

“Metro needs a diverse group of well-trained and skilled employees as it embarks on one of the largest public works programs in the nation,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said during the press conference at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College (Trade Tech), a beneficiary of the grants.

“By investing in the human capital needed to redefine our transportation system, we are changing the landscape of the region,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added.

Trade-Tech and the Community Career Development Inc./LA Valley College will both receive grants allocated through the Federal Transit Administration’s Public Transportation Workforce Development program. Metro will provide matching funds.

Trade-Tech will receive $775,000 from the federal government to establish the Institute for Advanced Transportation Technology Training – the first of its kind in a community college in the country.

Community Career Development Inc./LA Valley College, meanwhile, is setting aside its $331,000 share for its Moving Employees into Transit Related Opportunities program, which will recruit and train low-income individuals, women, veterans, minorities, and others.  

“In Los Angeles and across the country, as ridership continues to trend upward and major transit projects are planned, built, and put into service, the transit industry will continue to see high demand for skilled workers,” Secretary Foxx said.

“We are committed to making careers in transit a pathway to education, financial security, and other ladders of opportunity, especially for those in disadvantaged communities,” he added.

The grants come at a crucial time in the transportation industry. The federal Departments of Transportation, Education, and Labor recently released a report, Strengthening Skills Training and Career Pathways Across the Transportation Industry, that details projected increases in future demand for skilled transportation workers.

According to the analysis, employers will need to hire and train 4.6 million new workers – 1.2 times the current transportation workforce – due to expected growth, retirements and turnover in the transportation industry from 2012 to 2022.

Also at Tuesday’s event were acting FTA Administrator Therese McMillan, LA Community College District Board of Trustees President Scott Svonkin California Community Colleges Chancellor Dr. Brice Harris, Trade-Tech Vice President of Workforce Development Leticia Barajas, and Community Career Development Inc. Executive Director Gloria Moore.

Affordable Housing Reimagined

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SCI-Arc students turning their architectural sketches into reality

With hard hats and hammers, dozens of volunteers gathered in south Los Angeles Thursday to kick off construction on a home that’s not only inexpensive but innovative.

“This is the result of an unprecedented collaboration among the public, private, philanthropic and academic sectors,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “Together, we are easing Los Angeles County’s homeless crisis and creating a prototype for affordable housing in the future.”

IMG_0113Once completed in October, the 1,150-sq. ft. home will include three bedrooms, two-and-a-half bathrooms, energy-efficient heating, low-flow plumbing, insulation with recycled materials, and a drought-tolerant yard.

The home sits on a 4,410-square foot lot at 1232 W. 101st Street in Athens donated by Los Angeles County to Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles.

Habitat, a nonprofit organization championed by former President Jimmy Carter, builds and renovates houses, often with volunteer labor, and arranges reasonable mortgages for low-income individuals and families.

To design the home in Athens, Habitat tapped the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), whose students developed blueprints during the fall 2014 semester, secured permits during the spring 2015 semester, and are participating in the construction phase this summer.

Habitat also partnered with General Motors Foundation and Bernards Builders and Management Services for volunteer labor and donated furniture. Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ office donated $95,000 toward the project, which also received funding from Habitat, SCI-Arc, and other donors.

“This project has given us the opportunity to collaborate with new and longtime partners on driving forward the standards for sustainable and cost-effective housing,” Habitat LA President and CEO Erin Rank said. “Innovation is key in building a greater Los Angeles, one project and neighborhood at a time.”

SCI-Arc Director Eric Owen Moss said the cost-effective single family home is a new area of interest for SCI-Arc. “There have been a number of such efforts over the years, typically skewed in the low cost rather than the imaginative design direction,” he said. “It’s time SCI-Arc turned its attention to the solution for both.”

IMG_0108The design chosen for the home was dubbed IVRV, short for Inverse Reverse, because it blurred the relationship between indoor and outdoor areas.

Habitat will sell the home for no more than $419,000, an amount set by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Habitat will work through its established home ownership program to find a veteran homeowner. Five potential buyers are already in the queue.

More projects are in the works. “We look forward to future groundbreakings on the dozen other properties in the Second District that have been donated to Habitat for Humanity for high quality affordable housing,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.


The Vermont Corridor is in for a Transformation

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Some of Los Angeles County’s most dilapidated government office buildings are slated for the wrecking ball, to be replaced with housing and retail spaces, as well as a modern new headquarters for the Department of Mental Health (DMH).

The Board of Supervisors voted to start the process of accepting bids for the development of three sites on what has been dubbed the “Vermont Corridor” in the County’s Second District.

“It’s an innovative approach that transforms once-neglected County resources into modern facilities that would serve the public in a variety of ways, including creating jobs, revitalizing communities, generating new revenue streams for the County, and addressing urban blight,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “Bringing new development and replacing dilapidated County facilities is a cornerstone of my economic development agenda.”

He stressed the need for open and transparent real property leasing and acquisition procedures, especially after a 2014 proposal to purchase the Saturn Building in Monterey Park raised serious questions about the County’s policies and practices. At Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ urging, that project was ultimately abandoned. “Extraordinary care and diligence must be taken to preserve fairness, ensure efficiency, provide equal opportunity, and reinforce public trust,” he said.

The County has more than 1 million square feet of office space along a quarter-mile stretch of South Vermont Avenue between 4th and 6th Streets in Los Angeles. It either owns or leases office buildings and parking structures for staff of the Departments of Mental Health; Children and Family Services; Parks and Recreation; and Community and Senior Services.

Sean Rogan, executive director of the County’s Community Development Commission, described the facilities as a “blight” on the surrounding community, noting they have “experienced a high level of deterioration and offer few operating efficiencies for County employees.”

Under the plan approved Tuesday, the County would tap a single developer to transform:

  • 510, 526 and 532 South Vermont Avenue into a state-of-the-art, 400,000-sq. ft. headquarters for the DMH, with groundbreaking expected in 2018;
  • 550 South Vermont Avenue and 3175 West 6th Street into a mixed-use high-rise with street-level commercial, service and retail spaces designed to benefit the local neighborhood; and
  • 433 South Vermont Street into either a “project with the highest economic benefit to the County” or affordable housing for seniors with a community center at street level.

The developer must plan, design, entitle, finance and construct new structures on all three sites, and also upgrade an adjacent parking lot for County staff at 523 Shatto Place. The old DMH facility will be demolished and replaced with a high-density, mixed-use development that would generate new tax revenues and ground lease payments for the County.

According to the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation’s Institute for Applied Economics, construction of LA County offices and two residential towers at an estimated combined cost of $453 million could generate about 1,355 construction jobs.

The Vermont Corridor is a bustling socioeconomically and culturally diverse neighborhood that includes bus and subway stations; retail and service establishments; markets; restaurants; schools; and the Korean American National Museum and Islamic Center of Southern California.

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Honoring the Man who Broke Golf’s Color Barrier

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Charlie Sifford Drive leads right into Chester Washington Golf Course

The man who broke golf’s color barrier now has a street named after him in South Los Angeles – aptly, one that leads right into the Chester Washington Golf Course.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas unveiled the new street sign over the road previously known as West 120th Street between Western and Van Ness avenues. It is now called “Charlie Sifford Drive,” in honor of the first African American to earn a Professional Golfers Association (PGA) Tour card, in 1961.

“It’s important that we honor Mr. Sifford’s tremendous accomplishments so that all may be inspired by his courage and perseverance,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said at the ceremony, which marked the culmination of the Advocates Pro Golf Tour.

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Charlie Sifford, 1961

Sifford, who passed away in February at age 92, has often been called the “Jackie Robinson of golf. For him, the hazards on the course included not only sand traps and water holes. With his trademark cigar, Sifford endured racist slurs from the gallery, segregation in clubhouses – even death threats. At a tournament in Arizona, someone left human waste for him to find in the hole at the first green.

“He was a strong-willed, tough individual with a stubborn streak,” Charles Sifford, Jr. said fondly of his father. “He was determined to succeed and he wasn’t going to let anybody or anything stand in his way.”

By breaking the color barrier, Sifford teed it up for other minority players like Tiger Woods to compete.

“He’s had a tremendous impact on the sport,” said Kenneth Bentley, executive director of the Advocates Pro Golf Tour. “But what I really admire about Charlie is that he went through all that discrimination, and he did it with class and dignity.”

Born in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1922, Sifford learned to play while trying to make a living as a caddy in the Jim Crow South. After serving in the Army, he honed his swing in the United Golf Association, which allowed golfers of all races to play. Sifford won the UGA’s most important event – the National Negro Open – half a dozen times, including five years in a row during the 1950’s.

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Charles Sifford, Jr. displays the new street sign that bears his late father’s name. Charlie Sifford’s caddy, Jimmy Green, stands next to him.

By the time the PGA did away with its “Caucasian-only” membership clause in 1961, under legal pressure, Sifford was past his prime. Still, he won PGA Tour events in 1967 and 1969, as well as its Seniors’ Championship in 1975.

In 2004, Sifford became the first African American inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, which quoted him saying, “If you try hard enough, anything can happen.”

President Barack Obama awarded Sifford the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in a ceremony at the White House in 2014. Other recipients that year included Meryl Streep, Stevie Wonder, Tom Brokaw, Isabel Allende and Stephen Sondheim.

On Sifford’s death, the president issued a statement calling him a golf legend who often faced “indignity and injustice even as he faced the competition… altering the course of the sport and the country he loved.”

“(Sifford) proved that he belonged,” the president added, “blazing a trail for future generations of athletes in America.”

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Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas in front of the new street sign for Charles Sifford Drive, with former Assembley Member Steven Bradford and members of the Advocates Pro Tour board and athletes.