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Los Angeles County Prepares to Take Over Sativa Water District

The Board of Supervisors will vote next week on a motion that would authorize the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works (DPW) to enter into an agreement with the California Water Resources Control Board to serve as interim administrator of the Sativa Water District, which has struggled over the years to provide clean water to its customers in Willowbrook and Compton.

Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Janice Hahn filed the motion days after the Governor signed county-sponsored legislation allowing the Water Board to appoint an interim administrator for Sativa until a replacement water service provider can be identified for the long-term.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said DPW is well suited for the role of interim administrator, given its extensive experience operating systems across the County. It currently operates 68,000 service connections, serving approximately 245,000 people.

“Residents of Willowbrook and Compton have had to endure brown water coming out of their taps for years, because of Sativa’s mismanagement,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “With DPW in charge, these customers will finally have the competent water service provider they deserve.”

“This is a victory for the people,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “By putting the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works in charge, residents will finally have a capable, trustworthy water provider they can count on. There is a lot more work that needs to be done, but we are in it for the long-haul for the customers of Sativa.”

As interim administrator, DPW would assess the condition of the existing water facilities and identify any necessary and timely improvements to ensure safe drinking water is available to Sativa customers. It will also work closely with the Water Board to ensure that water quality meets all regulatory standards.

When Sativa customers reported brown water running through their taps in April, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas filed an urgency motion to investigate, to prevent public health risks, and to determine whether Sativa leaders are able to properly maintain the system’s 70-year-old pipes. At his direction, the County also distributed about 20,000 gallons of bottled water to Sativa customers.

Acting on a motion by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas in June, the Board endorsed AB 1577, authored by Assemblymember Mike Gipson, which would empower the Water Board to order Sativa to accept administrative and managerial services. In July, the Local Agency Formation Commission of Los Angeles County formally initiated dissolution proceedings over Sativa.

In August, the Board approved a motion reiterating its support for AB1577, but also sought amendments that would allow the interim administrator to have appropriate state funding and as well as appropriate immunities from liability. Governor Jerry Brown signed AB1577 on September 28.

The Community Gets Serious about Probation Reform

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas delivers welcome remarks at a community meeting organized by the Probation Reform and Implementation Team. All photos by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors

The Probation Reform and Implementation Team (PRIT) hosted the second in a series of meetings to develop a comprehensive roadmap for reform and to craft a structure for a permanent and independent civilian Probation Oversight Commission.

The PRIT’s overall mission is to transform the nation’s largest Probation Department and make it more transparent, accountable to the public, and in line with the Board of Supervisors’ far-reaching commitment to justice reform. This particular meeting was intended to allow PRIT members to engage community members in defining the mission of the Probation Oversight Commission, and how it should engage communities.

Probation Reform and Implementation Team

Community groups from across the county filled Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’ Exposition Park field office to dialogue with PRIT members. In his welcome remarks, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas told them, “The current Board of Supervisors has demonstrated – repeatedly – that the business of Probation reform must be addressed, and addressed with a sense of urgency and care. We now have handed the baton over to you to carry forward for your leg of the journey.”

Dozens of community members participated in a dialogue on Probation reform.

PRIT appointee Cyn Yamashiro noted the process already feels different from past reform efforts. “I have been on working on probation reform for six years, and community engagement has never looked as strong as this,” he said. “I am optimistic this effort is going to change things once and for all.”

Probation Chief Terri McDonald speaks with a community member at a meeting of the Probation Reform and Implementation Team.

Marcus McKinney, Director or Policy and Advocacy for A New Way of Life, a community reentry non-profit, remarked similarly about the value of community engagement. “When the community is involved, not only do they feel a sense of ownership, but decision makers are also afforded a chance to hear firsthand from those with the life experience being directly impacted , which is key to any successful reform process,” he said. “Given Probation’s sheer size and the importance of its charge, reform must include sustainable change that helps transition folks back into society, transparency and public accountability.”

Community members were asked to submit comment cards that explored their views on public accountability, transparency and better outcomes for adults and youth, as well as on engagement between the Probation Oversight Commission and the community.

The PRIT will be holding more meetings over the coming months to cover such important topics as the powers of the Probation Oversight Commission, ways to reform juvenile facilities, and issues such as the use of pepper spray, and staff hiring and training. Final recommendations will be submitted to the Board of Supervisors in the first half of 2019.

Celebrate LA!

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas speaks during the launch of Celebrate LA! All photos by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

Massive crowds celebrated as the  Los Angeles Philharmonic marked its 100th anniversary with an eight-mile long street festival connecting both of its venues, the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Hollywood Bowl.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas marches with the Centennial High School Marching Band from Compton.

Dubbed Celebrate LA!, the unprecedented community event featured 1,800 musicians, dancers and visual artists — mostly from L.A. – as well as live shows, food, and family activities. Presented in partnership with CicLAvia and Community Arts Resources, the festival kicked off with a performance by a marching band from Centennial High School in Compton.

“I couldn’t be more pleased to see how the LA Phil has chosen this gift for Los Angeles that celebrates community and creativity as reflected in the myriad performances all day and into the evening,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “Arts are a vital part of the engagement, education, and empowerment that builds community every day here in Los Angeles County.”

“This Centennial is a chance to rededicate ourselves to the transformative power of music and to the magnificent City of Angels, where we will continue to make magic happen,” said LA Phil Music and Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel.

“Our Centennial is as diverse as the communities the LA Phil serves,” LA Phil Chief Executive Officer Simon Woods added. “It’s a big embrace of Los Angeles, its people and its amazing creative identity, and it’s as international as the artists who perform on our stages.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas with Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles.

The eight-mile route was transformed into an auto-free zone, with people walking, running, skating, scooting and biking on the streets instead. Major hubs along the route included Walt Disney Concert Hall, Koreatown, Melrose, and the Hollywood Bowl. Each featured performance stages, art installations, food trucks, screen-printing, kid-friendly activities, dancing, and live music from LA’s best musicians.

The festivities culminated in LA Phil 100 at the Bowl, a free community concert featuring Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Phil, and special guests Kali Uchis, Herbie Hancock, and Youth Orchestra Los Angeles.

Statement by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas on the Signing of AB 1577

“For years, Sativa mismanaged the delivery of a basic necessity to our communities. With the signing of AB 1577, Los Angeles County is ready, willing and able to step in as interim administrator of Sativa, and ensure that residents of Compton and Willowbrook receive the clean and safe water they deserve.

“The County’s Department of Public Works has extensive experience operating water systems countywide and currently serves 245,000 customers. It is well suited to take on the role of interim administrator, and to lead the search for a competent replacement water service provider for the long term.”

Mobilizing in Men’s Central Jail to “Unlock the Vote”

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and rapper, activist, and Selma cast member “Common” enter Men’s Central Jail to register voters.  Photo by Bryan Chan / Board of Supervisors

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas stood on the steps of Men’s Central Jail with rapper and activist “Common” and representatives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, Office of Diversion and Reentry, American Civil Liberties Union, and Los Angeles Regional Reentry Partnership to promote voter registration for justice-involved individuals. In honor of National Voter Registration Day, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas promoted the recent launch of a campaign to bring voter awareness to incarcerated individuals called “L.A. Free the Vote”, followed by a voter registration drive inside the jail.

The motion to officially dedicate Tuesday, September 25, 2018 to voter registration in Los Angeles County was authored by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. Together, he and Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, created the Voter Engagement Taskforce for Justice-Involved Populations, directed at increasing voter education and registration to justice-involved communities. Their L.A. Free the Vote work aims to register as many justice involved individuals as possible by the November 2018 election.

“The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy, yet more than one million eligible citizens in Los Angeles County have not registered to vote,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

“I think the vote is one of the first steps that we can do as people in this country to show that we care and people have made mistakes, but we’re still reaching out for them. That’s what America is supposed to be about,” said rapper, activist and Selma cast member.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas stands with LASD Commander Roosevelt Johnson, Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan, Director of the LA County Office of Diversion and Reentry Judge Peter Espinoza, Director of the American Civil Liberties (ACLU) SoCal Jails Project Esther Lim, rapper and activist “Common” and others on the steps of Men’s Central Jail. Photo by Bryan Chan / Board of Supervisors

Commander Roosevelt Johnson, who oversees the Men’s Central Jail, stood with the facility unit commander, Captain Ruthie Daily, and Chief Joanne Sharp, who oversees Custody Services Division-General Population, and stated, “We are excited to partner with the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Registrar Recorders Office and ACLU’s SoCal Jails Project to ensure eligible inmates in the county jail system are afforded an opportunity to register to vote. While we realize this is not an easy task, we are committed to assisting our partners in this effort.”

Dean Logan, Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, Los Angeles County, said, “When we don’t use our vote, we unwittingly give up our voice either to others or to deafening silence. By exercising our right to vote we are claiming power, influence and significance.”

Judge Peter Espinoza, Director of the Office of Diversion and Reentry and co-convener of the County’s Taskforce, said, “The Office of Diversion and Reentry is excited to help lead the L.A. Free the Vote taskforce and campaign to support the reentry population in exercising their civic right to vote. We see this as an important part of ODR’s strategy for supporting this population holistically through job training, mental health services, housing and more.”

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Common help a Men’s Central Jail inmate register to vote. Photo by Bryan Chan / Board of Supervisors

Esther Lim, Director of the American Civil Liberties SoCal Jails Project, announced participation in today’s event, as part of the “Unlock the Vote” project, designed to bring voter registration to eligible individuals incarcerated within the Los Angeles County jail system. “All because someone is behind bars DOES NOT preclude them from participating in our most important right, the right to vote. We are proud to be a partner in this countywide effort that we hope will be a shining example across the state and country to show that every voice matters and every vote matters.”

Troy Vaughn, Executive Director of Los Angeles Regional Reentry Partnership (LAARP) states, “LAARP is thrilled to be a community partner in the LA Free the Vote campaign, engaging thousands of people in Reentry who don’t know they are eligible to vote, because research tells us that after a job, civic engagement is one of the best protective factors that can drastically reduce recidivism.”

After the news conference, volunteers and representatives went inside Men’s Central Jail to register incarcerated voters. They walked the rows, providing inmates with information on the voting registration process and giving them the opportunity to register for November’s election.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added, “From where I stand — informed by the civil rights movement — every day is an opportunity to celebrate voter registration. Voting is how we are heard, and every vote counts.”