My Final Words
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
As I mark the end of my time on the Board of Supervisors, I do so with tremendous gratitude and thanksgiving. It has been the honor and privilege of a lifetime to represent the residents of the Second Supervisorial District.
I leave the County with a deep confidence that government should and must be a force for good, and can lead the way in creating more equitable and inclusive communities. The journey we have taken together has proven as much.
When I took my oath of office in 2008, the world was a much different place. The economy was in a deep recession. The nation’s first Black president had just been elected to office. And my own community of South Los Angeles was in turmoil after the closure of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Hospital—an institution ravaged by years of neglect and disinvestment.
I campaigned with a mandate to reopen that hospital, and I am proud that today it stands as a monument to our collective efforts, pride of place, and fidelity to the ideals of justice, equity and progress. We have not only established an award-winning community hospital, but transformed the entire Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus and the Willowbrook community at-large by investing over a billion dollars in state-of-the-art medical facilities, affordable housing, transportation, and in recreation and community-based amenities.
I leave here with great pride in what we have accomplished together. This year we broke ground on the SEED School of Los Angeles, the nation’s first public boarding school that will prepare at-risk youth for careers in the transportation and infrastructure industries on long-blighted land at the corner of Vermont and Manchester. We established a bioscience hub at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Campus that will spur medical innovations to benefit the globe. We have also fought for and secured more than $3.7 billion to improve parks, libraries and community centers, as well as a rail line that will open next year and finally connect the Metro system to the airport along the Crenshaw Corridor.
Throughout my tenure on the Board, I have been both awed and humbled by the tremendous work that can be achieved when we align our resolve and our ingenuity to improve the conditions for those that need us most. I believe we have shown, in countless moments, that the commitment of this County through its leadership and hundreds of thousands of public servants, remains unrivaled. And this service and perseverance has only been more apparent in the face of an unrelenting public health crisis.
I sincerely thank the incredible leadership among the County’s 39 distinct departments, special districts, and commissions. They have each made their respective mark in advancing an agenda that improves the public good – and this has become more challenging and critical over the past year. We owe each of them, and their teams of essential workers, a tremendous debt of gratitude.
Thanks to the efforts of our dedicated civil servants, along with countless non-profit and civic organizations, business groups and labor partners, we have made an impact. We have instituted long-awaited accountability and reform with the establishment of the Office of Inspector General, the Sheriff’s Citizens’ Oversight Commission, and the Probation Oversight Commission. We have built hundreds of units of affordable housing and passed Measure H to ensure more revenue is dedicated to transitioning thousands of Angelenos out of homelessness each year. And we have strategically promoted economic development and job creation opportunities by leveling the playing field for small businesses to participate and establishing project labor agreements with local hiring requirements that have now become the region’s gold standard.
Ours is work that we are blessed to own for a season, and then to pass on. I have no doubt that hope will endure, and that progress will continue because the pursuit of equity and justice is greater than any one of us.
As my successor is sworn into office, again in the midst of an economic recession and new national leadership, our communities are not faced with the public health consequences of a shuttered hospital, but with a global pandemic that has taken the lives of family and friends and still threatens the health and safety of our loved ones. Yet this crisis has done something more— it has shed light on the deep structural inequalities prevalent in so many of our socio-economic and governmental systems. In light of this complex reality, I respectfully offer the following insights and hopes for the future Board of Supervisors:
- Address Systemic Racism. Los Angeles County must continue leading the way in implementing an anti-racist framework for governance. So much of what we have done, how we have invested, the services we have provided, are a reaction to the systemic, race-based inequalities that have for far too long defined our society. The County can redefine, reinvest, and rethink its approaches – to fundamentally address race-based poverty and its devastating impacts.
- Reimagine Law Enforcement. As the County does this difficult work, the drive for full transparency, oversight and accountability over our justice system is of paramount importance. This must begin with a sweeping reform of the Probation Department so that all youth are provided the services they need to course-correct their lives instead of being marked punitively in a manner that will haunt and stigmatize them forever. And this extends to oversight over the Sheriff’s Department and investing in alternatives to incarceration. Effective community policing, and moreover, community safety, will not come until this imbalance of power is corrected, the culture of our law enforcement department shifts in a manner that creates more community trust, and we invest in the proven solutions that help our community members rehabilitate and redefine themselves, instead of languishing in a jail cell.
- Invest in the Built Environment. The impact of one’s physical environment on their sense of dignity and worth should not be underestimated. It is our responsibility, as custodians of public spaces, to ensure that we wield our capital to improve and upgrade these assets – ranging from administrative buildings to community centers – in a manner that improves and uplifts the quality of life for all occupants and the surrounding communities. The County must continue to re-invest its assets to ensure they meet the needs of a 21st Century constituency and think innovatively about how to redevelop and revitalize underutilized property for its highest and best use.
- End Homelessness. Homelessness, plain and simple, is the moral crisis of our time. No man, woman, child or veteran should ever have to resort to living on the sidewalk, in a dilapidated vehicle, or in a tent. While the County redefines its most essential responsibilities, ending homelessness must be at the top of the agenda for both the County and the City. It is my intention to strengthen the collaboration between these two governmental entities for this purpose. While Measure H was a tremendous victory that created previously unimagined resources to support this effort, we know it is simply insufficient to address the pressing need. There must be a renewed commitment to prevent the persistent onslaught of Angelenos becoming homeless, and support the development of more affordable housing, including units coupled with on-site supportive services which is critical for many who are transitioning from the streets, to enable them to thrive on a long-term basis.
No matter the turn of the electoral wheel, this work remains urgent and important. I chose to pursue a position on the Los Angeles City Council for one simple reason – I am not yet done. I want to use my insight, experience, and know-how to make more meaningful progress on these critical issues and many others. In this next chapter, I recommit to shouldering my part of our collective responsibility to fight for the common good and invest in the next generation of leaders and public servants who will pursue a fairer, more equitable, and more just Los Angeles, and I ask the same of you. We must create a better future, to forge lasting change, and push towards a brighter day. Far too much remains at stake.