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Supporting Firefighters and First Responders

Taipei Economic and Cultural Office Director General Louis Huang and, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas present Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl L. Osby with 35,000 surgical masks at Fire Station 58. Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors

As wildfires continue to burn, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Director General Louis Huang of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Los Angeles presented 35,000 surgical masks to the Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACoFD). A gift from Taiwan, the masks will be distributed countywide to firefighters, lifeguards and other first responders.

Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors

“Our firefighters have been essential workers – essential heroes – long before COVID-19 broke out, and many are on the front lines right now, risking their lives to protect people and property from some of the most extreme wildfires we’ve experienced in recent history,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said.

“At the same time, firefighters are in our own neighborhoods, responding to emergencies closer to home,” he added. “This donation of 35,000 masks will reinforce their safety gear, making our first responders even better equipped to continue their heroic work.”

“I am proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and LA County Fire Chief Osby as we truly exemplify the power behind the meaning of ‘Taiwan Can Help” and Stronger Together!’,” Taipei Economic and Cultural Office Director General Louis Huang said. “Taiwan will stand in solidarity with the U.S. until we resurge from this dire time, stronger than ever before.”

Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors

“We greatly appreciate Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Director General Louis Huang, and Taiwan for this generous gift of 35,000 surgical masks,” said Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl L. Osby.  “This gift provides another layer of safety for our firefighters and lifeguards who are on the front lines.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has spent the last several weeks distributing masks to essential workers and the vulnerable populations they serve. The list includes medical workers, grocery workers, homeless services providers, public defenders and more.

Photo by Aurelia Ventura/Board of Supervisors

Urban Tech: The Future of South Los Angeles’ Creative Economy

The third annual Urban Tech Connect Summit just concluded after hosting a three-day virtual conference. The focus of this year’s summit was connecting Black and Latinx tech company founders to resources scale and grow their startups in a pandemic-stricken economy and environment.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas participated in a panel entitled “The Future of South Los Angeles’ Creative Economy” to explore ways to ensure more local talent from communities of color can access high-income and high-growth career opportunities.

“In this difficult economic downturn, cultivating the Creative Economy requires supporting small businesses, start-ups, and entrepreneurs at large,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas who has led efforts to launch $100 million in grants to small businesses, micro-entrepreneurs, and non-profits through the LA COVID-19 Regional Fund.

Recognizing the severe impact of the pandemic on the creative economy, the LA COVID-19 Regional Fund has reserved $10 million in grants specifically for musicians, artists, and non-profits. Furthermore, LA County is investing $14.3 million for wifi, hotspots, and computers in efforts to bridge the digital divide and help residents gain access to virtual learning and online public services.

Though Los Angeles as a whole is considered a global epicenter of the creative economy, South Los Angeles’ contribution is significant—and there are significant opportunities, which could help provide economic stability for an uncertain future.

“When I talk about the creative economy, I view it as an opportunity to leverage our assets—intellectual, physical infrastructure, and geographic advantages,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas when discussing creative economy industry growth in South Los Angeles. “Diversity is our comparative advantage and for me, I feel a responsibility to make sure we are opening up pathways.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas discussed innovative partnerships to open these pathways, highlighting PlugIn SouthLA, TECH Leimert, and Leaders Up as key partner organizations to foster creative talent and energy locally. These partnerships in tandem with the County’s forthcoming workforce development program for a film and digital media apprenticeship program aims to harness talent and provide opportunities in minority communities, particularly oriented toward at-risk youth.

The arts have also provided much-needed healing to vulnerable communities. Homeboy Industries and the Actor’s Gang were organizations highlighted by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas in improving the quality of life for justice-involved individuals through their programming, demonstrating the arts are powerful far beyond their contributions to culture and bolstering the economy.

The panel also discussed the factors needed to support early-stage founders and startups in the South Los Angeles community, nurturing its innovators equitably as compared to other regions of Los Angeles.

America on Tech CEO Jessica Santana and Thinkwatts Founder Brandon (STIX) Salaam-Bailey joined Supervisor Ridley-Thomas in the discussion moderated by dot.LA Reporter Rachel Uranga.

“Understand what entrepreneurship is and how to set yourself up to be a legitimate company,” said Thinkwatts Founder Brandon (STIX) Salaam-Bailey speaking to new entrepreneurs. “And own your intellectual property.”

“In order for young people to believe that there is space for them in innovation, they need to see people in their communities engaged in innovation,” said America on Tech CEO Jessica Santana. “We need to give young people the tools and champion these tools so they know there is a pathway for them.”

Attendees for this virtual event ranged from startups, founders, and funders to students and entrepreneurs. The event provided these attendees with timely strategies and solutions from some of the industry’s leaders including Baron Davis Enterprises Founder Baron Davis and Share Ventures CEO Hamet Watt.

Board Makes Further Investments in Violence Prevention and Resources to Support Communities Impacted by Trauma

Recently, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas read in two comprehensive motions, for action at the September 29th Board meeting, that will further disrupt violence by implementing the Office of Violence Prevention’s (OVP) strategic plan as well as reinforce the Family Assistance Program (FAP) for families who have lost loved-ones to deputy-involved shootings. These two actions of community investment and well-being come amid an unprecedented increase in local tensions in the recent deaths of Andres Guardado and Dijon Kizzee.

“Violence begets violence. If we want to break the cycle, we must provide a compassionate response to families impacted by violence and equip our communities with the tools needed to recognize and deescalate violence before it occurs,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “The residents of Los Angeles County deserve a coordinated and community-led response to incidences of violence that too frequently take place. I am proud that we are continuing the diligent hard work that is necessary to make an impact in this important area of incredible consequence.”

Implementing the Office of Violence Prevention’s Strategic Plan and Creating a Coordinated Community-Based Crisis Response System

Recently, there has been a growing public demand for an equitable response to violence prevention and interventions that address the systematic biases and inequities that cause disproportionate health, economic and socio-cultural impacts. In this motion, authored by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, the Board is working toward implementation of a coordinated and community-led response to incidences of violence or crisis, such as homicides, shootings, and sexual and domestic assault.

• Ensuring the Long-term Viability of the Family Assistance Program

The FAP was created by the Board of Supervisors upon the recommendation of the Civilian Oversight Commission in response to community concerns about the treatment of families who have lost loved-ones at the hands of the Sheriff’s Department. This program works to counteract the trauma of loss that is compounded by a lack of clear communication. Among the key elements of the FAP is the employment of “advocates” to be present during next-of-kin notifications to provide crisis intervention and grief counseling, as well as to serve as liaisons between the Sheriff’s Department and other County departments as needed. This motion seeks to reinforce this valuable community resource so that it is available in the future for impacted families in their critical moment of need.

Targeting Venues Where Human Trafficking Persists

Acting on a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Janice Hahn, the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted  to develop a new ordinance that would help victims break free of their bondage, encourage witnesses to intervene, and crack down on perpetrators.

Leaving no stone unturned, the motion also mandated sports and entertainment venues, as well as motels, hotels, inns, massage parlors, and other establishments to post notices with a hotline for reporting human trafficking. Current State law requires such notices only at locations where trafficking is known to occur, such as adult businesses, and at locations where trafficking victims seek assistance, such as hospitals and urgent care centers. However, the law has been inconsistently applied across jurisdictions.

“Organized criminal enterprises have been known to transport victims – many of them underage – to large-scale athletic competitions in order to sell them for sex,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “With Los Angeles destined to host the Super Bowl in 2022 and the Summer Olympics in 2028, it is not too early to prevent the depraved and often clandestine crime of human trafficking.”

In their motion, Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Hahn noted that state law allows the County to establish an ordinance that would allow routine inspections of establishments where human trafficking is suspected, and provide outreach and education for victims and witnesses. Such an ordinance could also include fines and penalties for violations, with the revenue going towards supporting victims.

The County has been working with the City of Los Angeles to align legal remedies. Earlier this year, the City approved an ordinance based on a motion by City Council President Nury Martinez to add hotels, motels, and bed and breakfast inns to the list of locations required to post notices informing their patrons about human trafficking hotlines.

Human trafficking, which includes both sex and labor trafficking, remains a significant problem worldwide. Traffickers create a climate of fear to control their victims and lure or coerce people into various forms of work, including domestic, factory, farm, restaurant, and commercial sex. Due to under-reporting, under-identification, and the tactics of violence, stigmatization, and shame utilized by traffickers and predators, accurate and uniform statistics are difficult to compile, and many instances of victimization go undetected.

Over the last several years, Los Angeles County has taken various measures to help victims and survivors, providing them with a range of services. It also created a First Responder Protocol aimed at preventing them from being re-traumatized when they come into contact with law enforcement. Instead of arresting them for crimes committed by pimps and johns, the Protocol diverts them from incarceration and connects them to safety, stability and hope.

The County has also moved to strengthen enforcement against the perpetrators of modern-day slavery, not only pimps and johns but also unscrupulous businesses and individuals who seek to profit from forced labor.

Restoring the Right to Vote for Formerly Incarcerated Individuals

With the November 3rd election quickly approaching, ensuring the right to vote for Americans is of utmost concern. Recognizing the burden felony disenfranchisement places on communities, particularly on African Americans and communities of color, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas authored a motion with Supervisor Janice Hahn to take an official position in support of Proposition 17, the “Voting Rights Restoration for Persons on Parole Amendment.”

This motion, approved in a 4-1 vote, calls for granting voting rights to parolees in California who are United States citizens and calls for recognizing September 22, 2020 as National Voter Registration Day throughout Los Angeles County. This will enable the Free the Vote Task Force initiative to encourage the County’s residents to register to vote and promote civic engagement widely across the County. Under Proposition 17, the voting rights to upwards of 50,000 California parolees who are working, paying taxes, and earnestly contributing to the overall welfare of their communities will be restored.

The introduction of this motion follows efforts led by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas over the past few years to expand voter and civic engagement as well as establish a voter engagement task force, oriented toward justice-involved populations. Research has shown that increasing civic empowerment among justice-involved populations reduces recidivism, in turn further empowering these individuals, their families, and their communities.

“Mass incarceration has devastated many communities, in particular communities of color. Taking away the fundamental right to vote is one example of how mass incarceration is designed to perpetuate racial inequities. Restoring parolees voting rights will give them not only a chance at redemption but also add their valued voice back to our communities,” said Los Angeles County Public Defender Ricardo Garcia.

In 2018, a motion authored by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and co-authored Supervisor Sheila Kuehl established the LA Free the Vote Task Force and a civic engagement plan for justice-involved voters. As a result, the LA Free the Vote Task Force launched a campaign to register 1,000 justice-involved individuals by this upcoming November election.

In 2019, the Board of Supervisors also approved a motion by Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Kuehl that supported the ACA 6 “Free the Vote Act” legislation, which initially placed Proposition 17 on the ballot. A New Way of Life Reentry Project’s Founder and President Susan Burton has since been a leading advocate for the amendment.

“A New Way of Life has housed thousands of women recently released from California prisons over the last two decades. They obey all laws, work, and pay taxes—but cannot vote,” said Burton. “We applaud Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and the motion to support Proposition 17. Voting demonstrates positive citizenship. We want all residents of California to vote in this important election and elections to come.”

“As we prepare to celebrate September 22nd as National Voter Registration Day, it is my hope that in the near future who we define as a voter will include the 50,000 parolees who are legally barred from voting,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.

This recent motion is another effort to ensure voter rights and engagement as time until the election is quickly running out.