Statement on Departure of Maria Elena Durazo from the LA County Federation of Labor

It would be hard to overstate Maria Elena Durazo’s importance to Los Angeles County.

Just over eight years ago, she became Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO. During that time, Maria Elena, turned a powerful labor union into a mighty labor movement. In no other city in the United States do advocates for working people – often the working poor – have the voice they do here, and that is in large part to her tireless leadership.

We have worked together for more than 30 years and whether it was pushing for local hiring policies on government construction projects, securing project labor agreements or advocating for a livable wage, I have been honored to stand by her side. I wish her well in her future endeavors and know she will always be an advocate for the rights of working men and women and their families.
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Two Elementary Schools in Compton Make History

Jefferson Elementary School sixth grade teacher Karina Osuna assisting students

At Thomas Jefferson Elementary in Compton students learn to play the piano, take an animation classes after school — where they illustrate their own stories –  and attend math academy on Saturdays to reinforce concepts they learned during the week.  Attending College is their goal.  At nearby Ardella B. Tibby Elementary School, students also are pushed to achieve — every student reads at or above grade level.

The exceptional efforts of the schools and achievements of their students is why both schools recently received a National Blue Ribbon School Award, the most prestigious award in education from the U.S. Department of Education.  In doing so, they made history, becoming the first schools in the Compton Unified School District to receive national acknowledgment of their overall academic excellence.

Mario Marcos, principal of Jefferson Elementary, recalls walking into every classroom at the school last month to make the announcement.

“I saw tears from some of teachers because of the emotion,” Marcos said.  “The students knew that it was big news. Their hands went up and they were cheering.  There was a lot of pride to belong to a successful school.”

Similarly, two miles away students and faculty at Tibby Elementary School were overjoyed as they watched the announcement live stream as U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan named their school among the 337 other elementary, middle, and high schools across the nation.

“We were extremely proud of our students and their extraordinary accomplishment,” Ontrece Ellerbe, principal of Tibby Elementary School said. “This award demonstrates that when students, whatever their background are exposed to high quality instruction from a committed staff on a consistent basis, there is no limit to what they can achieve.”

Tibby and Jefferson Elementary were among 26 schools in California to receive the 2014 National Blue Ribbon Schools Award. In recognition of the honor, both schools will receive a plaque and flag to display their National Blue Ribbon School status as a symbol of the exemplary teaching and learning that takes place daily at the school.

Tibby Elementary School fourth-graders participating in a group discussion

Since 1982, the U.S. Department of Education has bestowed the National Blue Ribbon School award to more than 7,500 of schools across the country. Every year, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes public and private elementary, middle, and high schools based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among students.

The National Blue Ribbon School Award is the latest title to be added to the list of honors for both Tibby and Jefferson Elementary.  Earlier this year, both schools were named a California Distinguished School, based on their students’ high test scores on the California Standards Test; they also received the Title 1 Academic Achievement Award, which is given to schools with  high numbers of children from low-income families. (Title 1, is a federal program that provides funds to schools with a high percentage of children from low-income families to help ensure that all children have an equal opportunity to obtain high quality instruction and meet the state’s academic standards.)

As part of the award, the principal and a teacher from each school will attend the National Blue Ribbon Schools Award reception in Washington DC in November.

Principal Marcos hopes his students will take this experience and apply it to their life and future careers.

“Neither geography nor socioeconomics should determine how successful you can be,” Marcos said.  “It’s all about effort and determination.  If students put their mind towards achieving goals every day, they will find a way to achieve their dreams –it’s possible.”

Los Angeles County Supports City of LA in Supreme Court Case

Los Angeles County is backing the City of Los Angeles in its effort to crack down on motels and hotels that are magnets for criminal activity, including child sex trafficking.

Recently, the Board of Supervisors agreed to join in an amicus brief in support of the city in a case that will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. Los Angeles v Patel will determine if the Los Angeles Police Department can check motel registries on demand or penalize motel owners for refusing to cooperate without allowing the motel owner a chance contest the inspection before a judge. In December, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, ruled against the city, saying the ordinance violated the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches.

Law enforcement agencies throughout the county have witnessed the use of these motels to facilitate the sale of children for sex along prostitution tracks. At least 70 cities across the nation, including Atlanta, Denver, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, St. Louis, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle, have similar laws. Courts in other parts of the country have upheld similar laws.

With ordinances like this, traffickers, predators and drug dealers are less likely to use these motels if they know guest information can be made available to police on a moment’s notice. The prevalence of the internet is pushing the sale of commercial sex from the streets, behind the doors of motels and hotels.

The buying and selling of women and children for sex is a multi-billion industry increasingly run by gangs. These women and children are subjected to extremely violent and traumatic acts that too often result in death at a young age.

“While we recognize the need to respect the 4th amendment and we must keep a vigilant eye on potential abuse, these surprise guest-register inspections play an important role in cleaning up neighborhoods that have been living under the threat of violence, drug dealing and blight that many of these motels perpetuate,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who co-authored the motion with Supervisor Don Knabe. “We are in solidarity with the City of Los Angeles in their efforts to keep blight out of our communities.”

Days of Dialogue: Community Relations in the Aftermath of Michael Brown and Ezell Ford

Days of Dialogue and Councilman Curren Price invite you to participate in an important community dialogue about police community relations in the aftermath of Michael Brown and Ezell Ford on November 1.


Metro Moves Forward to Help Small Businesses During Crenshaw Construction

In an unprecedented move forward, the Metro Board of Directors recently awarded a two year contract to help small businesses impacted by Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project construction.

“Rail construction is always challenging and it’s particularly difficult for nearby businesses,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “That’s why we are committed to standing with these merchants during the whole construction process.”

The Metro pilot Business Solution Center will provide hands-on case management services for small businesses along the Crenshaw corridor between 48th and 60th streets and other areas impacted by construction activities. Services will include marketing help, business plan development, financial planning, small business operations advice and legal assistance counseling. In addition, the center will help small businesses apply for capital via existing loan programs. It also will help them gain certification as small, disadvantaged, disabled, veteran-owned, minority-owned and/or woman-owned businesses.

This contract is the newest addition to a comprehensive initiative to support small businesses along the Crenshaw Line. Under the newly established $10 million business interruption fund, some businesses will be eligible to receive a maximum of $50,000 annually, not to exceed 60 percent of their business revenue loss. To qualify, owners must have no more than 25 employees; have been in operation for two years, are in good standing with local, state and federal tax requirements and are able to produce financial record demonstrating the loss of business revenue directly related to the construction are eligible for assistance. Also, at the 9th Annual Taste of Soul festival Metro kicked off its Eat, Shop, Play Crenshaw campaign. So far more than 1,000 people have pledged to buy local and visit area businesses.

“This Business Solution Center – while not solving all problems – is an important first step toward helping the local business community survive and thrive during the difficult days. We are happy that we could make this happen,” said the Supervisor.

The Business Solution Center is expected to open in late November, 2014 and will be located at the Los Angeles Urban League, 3450 Mount Vernon Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90008.