A Fair Chance at a Fresh Start

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas speaks at the launch of on the steps of the Hall of Administration. Photo by Bryan Chan / Board of Supervisors

Los Angeles County launched the Fair Chance Campaign, urging businesses to give all competent job applicants a fair chance at employment, including those seeking a fresh start after being in the justice system.

“Hiring justice-involved individuals is not only good for business, but provides an opportunity to transform lives,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “Stable employment can help individuals reenter society with the tools they need to lead healthy and productive lives, leading to greater safety in our communities.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and Hilda L. Solis coauthored motions to establish fair chance hiring policies for those seeking LA County government jobs, and to create a fair chance ordinance for businesses that contract with LA County or do business with unincorporated areas.

“Today, we challenge employers to think outside the box when making their hiring decisions,” Supervisor Solis said. “Studies clearly show that hiring rehabilitated people with past records is a smart business move: they work harder, stay longer, and promote faster than other employees. LA County also offers incentives and support to businesses that hire individuals who have been justice-involved. Everyone deserves a fair chance to get back on their feet – and when they do, everyone benefits.”

The Fair Chance Campaign does not seek to give anyone preferential treatment, nor does it call for hiring an unqualified person with an arrest or conviction record. Instead, it is intended to eliminate discriminatory obstacles for competent candidates, with the goal of boosting the economy, promoting public safety, and reducing dependence on public benefits.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and Vincent Bragg, who founded the advertising agency ConCreates. Photo by Bryan Chan / Board of Supervisors

Research shows approximately one in three working-age Americans has a felony criminal record and up to 65 percent of individuals released from incarceration are unemployed a year after release. Yet, according to the Society of Human Resource Managers, the largest human resource professional organization in the world, 82 percent of managers believe the quality of work by formerly incarcerated individual is just as high or even higher than that of the rest of their workforce.

“There is a great need for work opportunities among members of the reentry community,” said Vincent Bragg, who founded the advertising agency ConCreates after leaving prison and is one of many reentry success stories. “Too many of us have been undervalued and overlooked because of complex circumstances. It is vital to have programs like this that can help move the needle toward meaningful change.”

“We have been hiring reentry individuals for several years and can attest to the dedication, reliability and incredible work ethic of our justice-involved employees,” AMS Fulfillment chief workforce development officer Ken Wiseman said. “It is great to see the County offering incentives to businesses that hire from this pool of qualified, talented people.”

As part of the Fair Chance Campaign, business executives will be asked to sign the Fair Chance Hiring Pledge, which is a commitment to provide justice-involved individuals a fair chance to participate and to thrive in our economy by promoting fair chance hiring practices.

Companies that sign the pledge will receive guidance from County Business Services Representatives who will work with them to recruit and keep qualified candidates. The County connects businesses to tax credits, training reimbursement, and other resources when they hire qualified workers who were once incarcerated.

The Fair Chance Hiring Campaign also seeks to raise awareness of California’s Fair Chance Act, which went into effect in January 2018. The law generally prohibits businesses with more than five employees from asking about a job candidate’s criminal record before tendering a conditional job offer.

Statement By Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas on the Florence Library

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas at Florence Library. Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

“I have always valued libraries as important — not to mention beloved —  community assets. Over the last decade, I’ve spearheaded the construction or renovation of several libraries in my District, including Willowbrook, View Park, Lennox, Culver City, and A.C. Bilbrew, to name just a few. Since the original Florence Library was built almost 50 years ago, and showing its age, I envisioned replacing it with a larger, more technically advanced and more accessible facility that would address our residents’ current needs.

“Given the state of emergency around homelessness, however, we must also prioritize affordable housing. The initial plan was to incorporate a  library into the footprint of the affordable housing project. Ultimately, however, this was not viable. An alternative plan, located on Compton and Nadeau Avenues, was presented to residents at several community meetings but they turned it down.

“Community input is important to me, so we shifted gears and have hired a real estate consultant to help us search for other suitable spaces  within the Florence Firestone area while operating a temporary library facility in nearby Roosevelt Park. I hope the community will partner with me as we try to find the best way forward to build the modern library that our residents deserve.”

Florence Library Teen Advisory Board - August 22 2009

Connecting Southwest LA

Los Angeles Southwest College in West Athens – Westmont

Construction of Athens Vistas – Affordable Housing Project

In the heart of the West Athens-Westmont neighborhood, the County of Los Angeles will implement an audacious plan called Connect Southwest LA to develop the community between Los Angeles Southwest College and Metro’s Green Line Vermont/Athens Station. Unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors, this highly anticipated plan creates a vision to improve access to transit, connect the communities within the West Athens-Westmont corridor to Southwest Community College, identify locations to potentially build more than 1,000 additional multi-family housing units, increase commercial space for more retail and jobs, as well as create a healthier, safer environment for walking and biking.

Grand Reopening of Casa Honduras Restaurant – Celebrating Facade Improvements

“This plan lays the footprint for a brighter future for the West Athens-Westmont community,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “It is an exciting and thoughtful plan that is filled with opportunities to create more affordable housing sites, improve mobility connections, and foster a thriving academic environment at Los Angeles Southwest College. We are uplifting the assets of the community to benefits all who live, work, study, play and pray here. ”

Connect Southwest LA is the product of a community seeing change on the horizon and proactively embracing the opportunity to direct how it will affect them”, said regional planner Leon D. Freeman, AICP.  “In doing so, the West Athens-Westmont community showed they could preserve their best assets while still providing 1.7 million sq. ft. for new businesses as well as 1,000 new homes. These new businesses will provide economic opportunities and community benefits to the students of Los Angeles Southwest College and the local residents that they will serve.”

Metro Vermont/Athens Green Line Station Platform

The Connect Southwest LA plan is part of a larger vision to create a town center around Southwest College, and it combines the most important elements of the best Transit Oriented Developments.  It highlights the multiple forms of public transit that already serve the area, such as Metro’s Green Line Vermont/Athens Station which currently connects to buses, as well as the Link, which provides shuttle service to the local schools, parks, and community centers for just 25 cents a ride. Connect Southwest LA will also ensure that new development complements the area and supports a healthier and safer environment for walking and biking. Additionally, it ensures the neighborhoods’ historically significant single family residential areas, busy commercial corridors, and multi-family housing are within close range of job centers, amenities and attractions in the region.

“We are appreciative that the boundaries of this Plan were expanded to  incorporate Southwest College, what residents view as one of the major epicenters of this community,” said Henry Porter from the Southwest Community Association. “This effort will provide opportunities for better circulation and transportation access for students and community members alike, which in turn leads to a better quality of life for us all.”

Metro Approves Funding for Destination Crenshaw

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Councilmember Marqueece Harris Dawson (center) with supporters after the Metro Board votes to grant $15 million to fund Destination Crenshaw. Photo by Leroy Hamilton.

Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Agency (Metro) Board unanimously voted to approve $15 million in funding to support construction for Destination Crenshaw.

At 1.3 miles long, Destination Crenshaw will celebrate South Los Angeles, enhancing each Metro-owned property along the Crenshaw corridor. The outdoor museum intends to combat gentrification and the removal of cultural history while promoting economic development and pride for the surrounding community along the Crenshaw Corridor. Destination Crenshaw aims to ensure economic vitality for present and future residents of the community.

The action to award the Destination Crenshaw project funds came in response to a motion by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, co-authored by Metro Directors Eric Garcetti, James Butts, Sheila Kuehl and Jacqueline Dupont-Walker asking Metro to explore a potential partnership and financial investment in the project.

“With Destination Crenshaw, Metro can be a partner in building an iconic transit-oriented community that celebrates South LA’s rich cultural heritage,” Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro Board member Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “It’s a strategic investment that shows Metro is not only intent on improving mobility, boosting transit ridership, and spurring the local economy, but also about reinvigorating the communities it serves.”

“Destination Crenshaw is an opportunity to reimagine what development looks like in our communities”, said LA City Councilmember Marqueece Harris Dawson. “From the art and design to the intention behind the community outreach and hiring process, this project will help transform a community. Destination Crenshaw is a testament to Metro’s commitment to community driven efforts and what can be accomplished through true public private partnerships. We hope that Destination Crenshaw will inspire more projects that support the cultural heritage and economic vitality of neighborhoods typically negatively affected by investments in transportation.”

Destination Crenshaw will run alongside Metro’s Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project (C/LAX), a new 8.5-mile light rail line currently under construction between the existing Metro Expo Line at Crenshaw and Exposition Boulevards in Los Angeles and LAX. C/LAX is one of 12 transit projects funded by Measure R, with a projected opening in 2020. A total of $2.058 billion in funds have been allocated for the C/LAX project and the vote secures $15 million to support construction of Sankofa Park, just south of Leimert Park, which is anticipated to be the largest of ten platforms and pocket parks included in the Destination Crenshaw project.

Sankofa Park – a 49,000 square foot outdoor space walking distance from the new Leimert Park station – was conceived as an amphitheater for performances, festivals, and community gatherings. The gathering space and pedestrian-friendly enhancements further Metro’s goal of transit-supportive projects that help make streets safer for active modes of transportation and encourage more healthy activities such as walking and biking.

Tapping Counties’ Potential for Economic Development

Determined to unlock the potential of counties nationwide to facilitate sustainable business expansion and job creation in the bioscience industry, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas hosted a “County Talk” on economic development at this year’s National Association of Counties Conference and Exposition (NACo).

Entitled “Retooling for Job Creation: Case Study on the Bioscience Sector,” the presentation  featured Los Angeles County Economic Development Manager Julia Orozco, LA County Chief Medical Officer and Bioscience Medical Director Brad Spellberg, and LA BioMed Vice President of Business Development and Technology Transfer Keith Hoffman.

In his opening remarks, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said, “Right now, for Los Angeles County, the future is in bioscience. In its nascent form, it generates nearly $40 billion in economic activity and supports almost 70,000 direct jobs and 160,000 indirect jobs.”

The common thread throughout the day’s discussion was LA County’s asset-based approach: taking inventory of assets – whether real estate, intellectual property, or geography – and leveraging them for economic development and strong regional job growth.

“The Board of Supervisors of Los Angeles County, and Mark Ridley-Thomas in particular, have conceived of and implemented numerous programs that are having a significant impact on the bioscience sector in our County,” said Dr. Hoffman of LABioMed, a groundbreaking research facility on the campus of the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

“These initiatives are directly paving the way for not only more high quality jobs in the County, but they are also directly setting up Los Angeles to take a key leadership position in global bioscience,” Dr. Hoffman added. “While  these efforts are focused on bioscience, I see them as a model for other counties to implement for their own industry strengths.”

The LA County region is currently home to more than 2,600 bio and life science companies. LA County has put forth a number of initiatives to support its bioscience industry to grow into a global powerhouse. This includes the creation of BioLA, a nonprofit that will serve as a coordinating hub for bioscience throughout the region; the creation of a bioscience incubator at LA BioMed; and a $15-million investment to support burgeoning startups in the region.

Founded in 1935, NACo represents 3,069 county governments, bringing together county officials to advocate with a collective voice on national policy.  This year’s NaCo conference and exposition was held in Clark County, Las Vegas, Nevada.