Featured items on homepage for top stories…

Dinosaur Hall Opening at the Natural History Museum

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who has been a long-time advocate and supporter of the Natural History Museum, spoke at the museum’s preview for the New Dinosaur Hall.[pullquote_right]”This museum is a county gem and asset not only to the Los Angeles area, anchoring the Downtown and Exposition Park neighborhoods, but really enriching the entire region,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. [/pullquote_right]

On July 16, 2011, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County passed the halfway mark in its seven-year self-transformation when it opens its all-new, 14,000-sqaure-foot Dinosaur Hall. Twice the size of the Museum’s previous dinosaur exhibits, the Dinosaur Hall will feature more than 300 fossils, 20 full-body specimens, an array of manual and digital interactive displays, and video presentations. It is designed to allow visitors to get up close to real fossils in a way that engages visitors with the discovery and research programs of the Museum’s own Dinosaur Institute, led by world-renowned paleontologist and exhibit lead curator, Dr. Luis Chiappe.

The world’s only Tyrannosaurus rex growth series, presenting extraordinary fossils specimens of the youngest known baby, a rare juvenile, and a remarkably complete recently-discovered young adult (Thomas the T. rex), will be one of the highlights of the new hall. Other standout specimens in the exhibition include an imposing new Triceratops; a Stegosaurus, topped by kite-shaped armor plates; the predator Allosaurus; a 68-foot long-necked Mamenchisaurus; and giant marine reptiles that swam the oceans covering what is today California. Two-thirds of the full-body specimens have never been displayed before. Those specimens that were previously seen have all been re-articulated into more dynamic poses.

[pullquote_left]”Where else sparks the imagination of young and old, takes us back in time millions of years, making the events of the past and discoveries of the present so vividly alive?”[/pullquote_left]

The Dinosaur Hall will rival the world’s leading dinosaur experiences for the sheer volume of individual fossils displayed; the size and extraordinariness of the major mounts, including the world’s only Tyrannosaurus rex growth series; and the transparent treatment of the science that surrounds these creatures — not as static, definitive knowledge but as a vibrant, ongoing investigation of mysteries solved and still unsolved.

The Dinosaur Hall is the latest component of NHM Next, a $135 million campaign that is currently transforming the Museum. Now at its midpoint, this unique public-private partnership has raised over $86 million — more than 60 percent of its goal. The Dinosaur Hall follows this summer’s critically-acclaimed, campaign-supported openings of Age of Mammals and the Haaga Family Rotunda. NHM will become an indoor/outdoor experience, with a new pedestrian bridge and car park in 2011; an exhibition about Los Angeles’ natural and cultural history and the Nature Lab opening in 2012; and in 2012 and 2013, 3.5 acres of urban nature experiences in greenspace reclaimed from parking lots and paved patios set to debut. 2013 will also see the debut of the Otis Booth Pavilion, a three-story, glass-encased entryway connecting the indoor and outdoor sections of the Museum, made possible by an unprecedented $13 million gift from The Otis Booth Foundation.

“I want to underscore the excitement that the County shares about this major exhibit and its potentially huge impact on visitors,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “We are putting our efforts, our funding and significant investment and resources into supporting this institution in but it is also my hope that some young Angelenos, for whom the Natural History Museum become a favorite place to visit, will develop a life-long love of learning and science.”

About the Museum
The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is located at 900 Exposition Blvd., Los Angeles, CA, 90007, near downtown. It is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Museum was the first dedicated museum building in Los Angeles, opening its doors in 1913. It has amassed one of the world’s most extensive and valuable collections of natural and cultural history — with more than 35 million objects, some as old as 4.5 billion years. The Natural History Family of Museums includes the NHM, the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits (Hancock Park/Mid-Wilshire), and the William S. Hart Museum (Newhall, California).

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas Announces Summer Literacy Programs in the Second District

Freedom Schools, an exciting six-week literacy and enrichment program for children ages five to 18 years old, returns to the Second District this summer.

The program, which begins this week, will host over 200 students. These scholars will attend summer school at one of four Second District sites: First Church of God in Inglewood; First New Christian Fellowship in South L.A.; Bethel A.M.E. Church in South L.A.; and Community Coalition at Foshay Learning Center in South L.A.

Established in 1992 by Children’s Defense Fund founder and children’s advocate Marian Wright Edelman, Freedom Schools provide rigorous, quality summer and after school instruction to children in urban environments. The programming, which is both challenging and entertaining, is based on the belief that all children are capable of learning and achieving high standards.

Last summer, the Children Defense Fund Freedom School program served over 9,600 children in 84 cities and 29 states, and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, worked with Edelman to introduce the program to the Second District last July.

The Freedom School curriculum includes reading, arts, crafts, dance, music, field trips, sports, and community service, all provided in a nurturing environment that fosters growth and development. Students begin the morning with Harambee, a time of informal sharing based on the Kenyan tradition of community, in which students read aloud, sing, cheer and chant motivational songs, announcements and recognitions, closing with a moment of silence.

Throughout the afternoon, students read from a selection of books chosen by a national committee based on the literary work of the country’s best writers and illustrators.

“This program uniquely integrates reading, learning, and civic engagement,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. ”These tools are essential to life and empowerment.”

The mission of Freedom Schools is to ensure every child regardless of race or ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or geographic origin has a healthy, fair, safe, and moral start to education, combing literacy, nutritious foods and a positive learning environment.

According to an evaluation conducted by Philliber Research Associates for the Kansas City Freedom School program, students not only improve their reading skills but gain a love for learning.

The program is rooted in the work of the Civil Rights movement, specifically the work of college-age youth during the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer Project. Freedom Schools apply an intergenerational approach in which college students are trained as “Servant Leader Interns” who work as reading tutors and role models, motivating children to develop positive attitudes about themselves and their abilities.

Press Release (PDF)

Innovative Second District Construction will House and Support Homeless Families, Mentally Ill, and Foster Youths


An innovative housing complex in the Second District will soon take on the challenge of providing a supportive home to some of society’s most vulnerable, including youths aging out of foster care, the mentally ill and formerly homeless.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas joined the Koreatown Youth and Community Center and the Little Tokyo Service Center on June 29 to break ground for the Menlo Family Housing project on Menlo Avenue, near the intersection of Pico Boulevard and Vermont Avenue.

The 60-unit apartment complex will serve low-income residents, those with mental illnesses, transition aged foster youths and homeless families. On-site services will include case management, counseling, after-school programs and family literacy classes.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas noted the project is special for its combination of social services and affordable housing in a single location, which he identified early in his term as a top priority. The project, located in one of the hotspots of the 1992 civil unrest, also represents an inspired collaboration among organizations and elected officials with diverse constituencies.

“This project shows what happens when inspiration, cooperation and determination come together,” Ridley-Thomas said.

“Shortly after I was elected in 2008, I convened a transition team of knowledgeable community leaders. Among their key recommendations to me was to pursue novel approaches to combine the overlapping challenges of mental health care, transition-age youths and homelessness. This project makes that vision a reality,” Ridley-Thomas said.

Along with Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, Congressman Xavier Becerra and Los Angeles City Councilman Ed Reyes were present to celebrate the start of construction.

Also present were Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health Director Marvin Southard and Sean Rogan, executive director of the County Community Development Commission/Housing Authority.

Endangered Arts Internship Program Restored

A ten week endangered Arts Internship Program that has given more than 1,400 undergraduate college students the opportunity to work with a non profit organization has been restored through the action taken by the Board of Supervisors at the County Budget meeting.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas spoke to the 75 undergraduate student who received paid summer internships in the arts at the 2011 Arts Summit at City Hall in Pasadena.

“I commend the Board for designating $250,000 to the Los Angeles County Arts Internship Program and making the internship program part of the County’s annual budget,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. ”Today the Board secured an investment in our youth and our economy by supporting a program which promotes innovation, leadership, and management skills.”

Since the expiration of federal stimulus funds in 2010, the Arts Internship Program has been in jeopardy of being eliminated from the County budget. Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has championed the effort to restore funds for the program. Last year the Board of Supervisors voted in favor of the Ridley-Thomas motion which financially supported the arts program for one additional year.

The action by the Board of Supervisors today assures that the arts internship program will automatically be considered as part of the county budget each year.

“It often seems as though arts programs are considered a luxury but in reality these programs are essential to our youth and their development,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “Art is the gateway that allows many students to unlock their potential.”

The Arts Internship Program was created in 1999, by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to provide internships for nonprofit performing and literary arts organizations. Undergraduate students receive on the job training and experience working in nonprofit organizations. As part of the program students are paid to serve as staff members, board members and volunteers in non profit arts organizations. Students take on leadership roles and develop business skills in order to work on seasonal and special projects in various non profit organizations.

I-405 Closure

Plan Ahead, Avoid The Area, Or Stay Home. That’s the message public safety officials are sending to the public in anticipation of a planned 10-mile, 53-hour closure of the I-405 freeway between the U.S. 101 and I-10 on the weekend of July 16-17, 2011 for planned demolition work on the Mulholland Bridge, part of a major I-405 improvement project.

The Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles Fire Department, California Highway Patrol, Los Angeles Department of Transportation, Metro and Caltrans are informing the public in advance that if they do not have a critical need to be in or near the vicinity of the closure, they are being asked to avoid the area.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) has produced a new I-405 closure Public Service Announcement featuring actor Erik Estrada that is available for public use.

Available in English and Spanish, the video PSA reminds the public to Plan Ahead, Avoid the Area or Stay Home during the closure weekend July 16-17, 2011.

Estrada, who played “Poncherello, a California Highway Patrol officer in the popular 1970s-1980s TV show CHiP’s, volunteered to do the PSA to Metro for free in recognition of the importance this freeway improvement project will have in adding carpool lane capacity to the I-405 between the I-10 and U.S. 101 freeways.

PSA in English:

PSA in Spanish:

The specific freeway closure boundaries are as follows:

Northbound I-405: 10-mile closure between I-10 and U.S. 101
Southbound I-405: 4-mile closure between U.S. 101 and Getty Center Drive Ramps
Motorists who must travel through the Los Angeles metropolitan area are advised to use alternate freeways within the region, including the 5, 15, 23, 55, 57, 101, 118, 126, 210, 605 and 710 freeways to bypass the impacted area. In addition, public transportation options are available such as the Metro Rail service within L.A. County and Metrolink servicing the five county Southern California region. Additional alternate route information will be made available on the project web site at www.metro.net/405.

On Friday, July 15, ramps along the 10 mile closure will begin to be shut down as early as 7 p.m., and closure of freeway lanes will begin at 10 p.m. to ensure full freeway closure by midnight. The closure will continue until 5 a.m. Monday morning, July 18. Ramps and connectors will be reopened by 6 a.m. During this closure, the Mulholland Bridge, I-405 freeway and access ramps will be closed.

Sepulveda Boulevard is intended as an alternate route for local resident access only. Sepulveda Boulevard will not have the capacity to accommodate both local and diverted freeway traffic. Those using Sepulveda Boulevard should expect extreme congestion and lengthy delays. Motorists should instead use alternate regional freeway routes to completely bypass the Sepulveda Pass.

Traffic conditions on local streets and freeways within the region of Los Angeles County and beyond are expected to be severe, with significant, multi-hour delays. Motorists who must travel during this weekend are advised to plan ahead, monitor real-time traffic conditions prior to beginning their trips, and follow alternate routes that are provided. Motorists will be informed of the closure in advance by Caltrans-operated freeway message signs with coverage extending into neighboring counties and other metropolitan regions in the state.
Construction crews for the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project plan to demolish half the Mulholland Bridge in the Sepulveda Pass of Los Angeles in order to build a new, widened bridge, and a major carpool lane. The construction activity is part of a $1 billion capacity improvement project for the I-405 freeway.

To reduce the work’s effects on local traffic flow, the Mulholland Bridge demolition and reconstruction will be conducted in two phases. The southern side of the bridge will be demolished first, followed by approximately 11 months of south-side bridge reconstruction. Upon completion of the south side, the northern side of the bridge will be demolished and rebuilt in the same manner. Another extended freeway closure period will be required for the second phase of work approximately one year later.

The Mulholland Bridge, like the Sunset and Skirball Center bridges, must be removed and rebuilt to accommodate the widening of the I-405 freeway as part of the 10-mile northbound carpool lane construction project. The project will officially complete the northbound carpool lane network between Orange County and the San Fernando Valley. Additional project benefits include improved freeway safety through standardized lane and shoulder widths, greater ramp capacities at key locations, new sound and retaining walls, widened overpasses, widened and seismically updated bridges and new landscaping within the project corridor.

The $1 billion project is a joint effort between Metro and Caltrans, and is being constructed by Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. It is scheduled for completion in 2013. For latest updates visit the project web site at www.metro.net/405 or follow the project on twitter: twitter.com/I_405 and Facebook at facebook.com/405project.