Remarks by Board of Supervisors Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas

As the new Chair of the Board, I just want to share with you a few thoughts, but we begin by giving another acknowledgement and round of applause to our outgoing Chair, the Honorable Hilda Solis.

We do that with the acknowledgement of the issues that the Board has taken up over the past year while she served as Chair from wage enforcement, to environmental justice, from hiring a new head of LACOE, our education arm of the Board of Supervisors, to a new librarian. A lot has gone on and we are delighted about it, from establishing an oversight committee to deal with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and its aspirations and challenges, from Measure M to Measure A, all of that happened over the last year, while she presided as Chair. And yet, we have many things to face, so today we usher in a new chapter for the Board of Supervisors and it is indeed a very, very new chapter.

The composition of this Board is simply unprecedented. It is historic. It is meaningful. It is purposeful. It is what I would like to describe as the fulfillment of the promises of Democracy. That is to say, those who didn’t have the right to vote, and weren’t afforded that opportunity to the drafting of the constitution of the United States of America, now constitute the super majority of the largest county government and arguably the most powerful, vocal, elected officials in the entirety of the United States of America. You ought to give these new members another round of applause.

It says much about this County and if you would afford me a moment, I would just like to say that a lot has been made of the composition of the Board, but fail not to consider the diversity of this board. No caricatures ladies and gentlemen, just colleagues who signed up to do the peoples work. Persons who are serious in their own right and every single one of us who are here, earned the right to be here and will demonstrate our capacity of to do the best that we know how to do to serve the interest of the people of the County of Los Angeles. May I simply say to you, diversity maters. It is the asset that this region leverages most effectively. When you see this Board, you see individuals of varying backgrounds. You see individuals who trained in law and trained in education, trained in communications and trained in political science. So we see representation from universities across the length of breath of the nation from Boston all the way to Texas, to Ohio and even right here in Southern California. That’s what you see in terms of the diversity of the individuals who are on this board.

May I simply say they signed up to represent and that, they will do. There are a lot of differences here. Yes, there are four women, and we take note of that. Senator Feinstein called that to our attention. President Wesson yesterday called it to our attention. Someone said to me: “Mark, we hope that you grew up with a lot of sisters because you will need to have had that experience. Well, the fact of the matter is, I do have two sisters who are caring. They are older sisters, and they made sure that I made it through the journey that I’ve been on with success, so let me just simply say,  I love my sisters.

And then I met some other sisters along my way. They were the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart Community. At a formative point in my journey as an undergraduate, in the early 70’s, those sisters taught me a lot about what it meant to be more human. They were theologians. They were ethicists. They were philosophers. They were mathematicians. They were political scientists. They were constitutional law professors. Those sisters, clearly grounded in who they were, and they stepped forward and spoke power to authority as well. So, I’ve had the benefit of having been in relationships with a number of women who have shaped my life, not the least of whom my own grandmother, the towering figure in my journey. And so, I say these things to you because it wasn’t simply the course that I took at Immaculate Heart, the Intellectual History of Feminism that helped me understand how to relate to people in the fullness of who they are, as co-created equal human beings on this planet. It’s all the experiences that I’ve had up to this date, not the least in which is teaching at an all-girls high school for five years. So, if nothing else taught me how to relate, that did. So, somebody ought to give a high-five just on that and that alone.

Well, we have a lot of work ahead of us, and we invite our new colleagues to celebrate with us the work that Supervisor Kuehl has done and will do. It is to be noted. We have benefited from her incisive leadership on the range of issues including the minimum wage, affordable housing, as well as criminal justice issues, as well as foster care issues, and you can expect that and more over the next several years.

Supervisor Hahn, a former Congress person and City Council person, you have brought to your assignments experience, depth, and memory that is unique unto your own lineage biography. We have high expectations and hopes for you, and we are here to help and support you as you come into this new experience with the kind of intentionality that will make a difference.

Supervisor Barger, we take note of your almost 30 years of experience right here in this building.  Supervisor Barger has in one seat, more experience in County government than the balance of the four of us combined, and that is deeply noted and to be respected. So, we are counting on you to help us evolve on that depth of experience.

So, I’m honored to serve, with these members. It’s a time in our history that distinguishes itself when women in leadership seem to be losing ground in venues like the State Legislature and so forth. I just simply wanted to be appreciative, that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is representing, and that is worth noting.

Well, we need to practice a bit of intentional civility here. We will affirm the respect and dignity and human rights of every County resident. We are obliged to do that and we’ll do that. We recognize that the tasks before us are formidable and yet, here we are. We’re going to deal with the work of the Office of Child Protection. We will deal with the Health Agency. We will deal with the Civilian Oversight Commission, and we will deal with the issue of homelessness in the County of Los Angeles.

We are here. And finally, I want to emphasize that the County has significant unfinished business around a range of issues and yet, you will hear more about those issues today. We have special guests to address. We want to acknowledge the presence of the Chair of the Homeless Committee, the Honorable Marqueece Harris-Dawson from the City Council. Mr. Dawson, if you would stand for a moment and give him a round of applause. We take note of a good colleague and friend, the Honorable Jose Huizar, if you would stand and be acknowledged—one of our special guests today.

The clock strikes 10:30. We’re on time with our program, and we invited, couldn’t keep him from coming today, the one and only Eli Broad. Mr. Broad, if you would take this bow. He’s here to testify on the issue of homelessness with us today.

And so, may I just simply say, we will move through our proceedings, but before doing so, I would like to take the opportunity now to afford members of the Board an opportunity to be heard as this is their first meeting. We will begin with Supervisor Janice Hahn.