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LA County Board of Supervisors Weigh Options for Removing the Sheriff

Acting on a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl, the Board of Supervisors seek advice on legislative changes that would result in the sheriff being appointed rather than elected. It also inquires about ways to remove certain responsibilities from the Sheriff to mitigate damage to basic Department functions and to curtail the Sheriff’s resistance to transparency and accountability.

“We have managed to inherit the worst Sheriff in recent memory, and he has set off what is as close to a constitutional crisis at the local level that we’ve ever seen,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said, noting recent scandals over fatal deputy shootings, secret societies, the rehiring of previously fired deputies, and a department budget in turmoil.

“Under the current Sheriff, hard-fought law enforcement reforms are being undone, eroding public trust,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added. “It is painfully obvious that we need mechanisms to hold the Sheriff accountable and we are willing to consider executive, legislative, and judicial authority to restore order.”

Supervisor Kuehl, who co-authored the motion, said “The LA County Sheriff has continuously refused to cooperate with the Civilian Oversight Commission and our Inspector General, defying both subpoenas and requests for information. He has incurred tens of millions of dollars in settlement costs in excessive force litigation, re-employed deputies who were lawfully terminated, and aggressively resisted the County’s attempt to balance the department’s budget which is running unprecedented deficits.”

“True community safety means having a Sheriff’s Department that operates within the law, within budget, and works collaboratively with local officials and the public to build and maintain community trust,” Supervisor Kuehl added. “The Supervisors have taken this action to explore ways of removing or limiting a Sheriff’s authority as a last resort, because our paramount obligation is to our County residents to ensure that any County law enforcement agency is accountable and worthy of the public’s confidence and trust.”

“The community shouldn’t have to wait four years to get rid of a Sheriff who has actively undermined reforms that Black and Brown communities have won. We should explore every means of holding the sheriff accountable including rethinking whether the sheriff should be appointed,” said Mark-Anthony Clayton-Johnson, Founder of Frontline Wellness Network.

In their motion, Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Kuehl noted the Board is ultimately responsible for setting policy and supervising the official conduct of County officers and employees, ensuring they discharge their duties faithfully. The Board’s authority to supervise elected officers like the Sheriff, however, is more limited, so they have to maneuver different ways to create checks and balances.

The motion noted the ongoing issues with the Sheriff are in contrast to the state of law enforcement at the City of Los Angeles, where the Chief of Police is appointed by the Mayor, subject to the approval of the Police Commission and City Council, all of whom provide robust oversight.

Lessons from Project Roomkey

With homelessness expected to worsen as the pandemic continues, Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl are seeking to learn from Project Roomkey, which has taken more than 4,000 people off the streets and into shelter over a span of just four months – an unprecedented feat.

Acting on their motion, the Board of Supervisors approved a study to determine, among other things, whether Roomkey had a positive impact on the lives of particularly vulnerable homeless individuals – those aged 65 or older, or with pre-existing conditions – who received temporary stays in hotel and motel rooms to protect them and the general public against the spread of COVID-19.

The study would also examine whether Roomkey resulted in net cost savings for government agencies that otherwise might have contended with added pressure on healthcare and criminal justice systems in the midst of a deadly pandemic.

“It is important that we learn the lessons of Project Roomkey and determine whether such large-scale intervention should be duplicated or even ramped up, especially since COVID-19’s economic impact is exacerbating both our homelessness and housing affordability crises,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.  “The results of this study will create a foundation for long-term support of our homeless neighbors, particularly those who are seniors and/or have underlying health conditions.”

“Project Roomkey brought more than 4,000 of our most vulnerable homeless men and women indoors during the early months of the pandemic by marshaling unprecedented local, state and federal resources,” said Supervisor Kuehl. “Today’s action will help us better understand the success of Project Roomkey and how to build on this remarkable effort to rapidly rehouse people experiencing homelessness.”

Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Kuehl’s motion called for looking into the services that Roomkey clients received during their hotel stay, as well as 12 months before and 12 months afterwards, and then comparing their outcomes with those of homeless individuals who were eligible for Roomkey but did not or could not participate in it.

With Project Roomkey, Los Angeles County signed occupancy agreements with almost 40 hotels to provide safe “non-congregate” shelter to over 4,000 people since starting in April 2020.  The program focused on people experiencing homelessness who did not have symptoms but were at high risk of contracting COVID-19.

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority then worked in tandem with community-based nonprofits to oversee operations and services at each hotel. County health departments provided clinical support while County staff volunteering as Disaster Service Workers provided non-clinical support.

In May 2020, the Board unanimously approved a motion authored by Supervisors Keuhl and Ridley-Thomas to fund a Recovery Rehousing Plan to connect the Project Roomkey residents  to long-term housing and stable services. In other words, in addition to COVID-19 health protections, Roomkey is also providing a pathway to permanent housing to vulnerable residents during the pandemic.

Los Angeles County is also part of the effort to scale up the nonprofit organization PATH’s Measure H-funded Lease-Up program, which will recruit more landlords and property managers to rapidly house Project Roomkey residents.

Vote!

 

Today, the decisions we make will reverberate for generations to come, through all three branches of American government and across the world. Raising the stakes even more, 2020 marks a once-in-a-generation confluence of an election cycle in which our response to a resurgent global pandemic and economic downturn hangs in the balance.

Covid-19 has not only reminded so many about the importance of having capable and effective leaders, but also the way we are able to vote. In a year where we lost two giants of the civil rights movement—C.T. Vivian and John Lewis—when we vote, we’re upholding one of our most hard-fought rights and fundamental responsibilities that we have as citizens of this democracy.

This election will be both unique and historic. But we draw encouragement from the notion that no matter the circumstance, through voting we’re staking claim for a better tomorrow.

Vote.

Artist: Derek Fordjour

Supporting Small Businesses, One Restaurant at Time

Like so many small businesses in Los Angeles, local restaurants have been some of the hardest hit businesses during this pandemic. Recently, Los Angeles County Supervisor, Mark Ridley-Thomas took a trip to Little Ethiopia to show his support for the community, and to support Rosalind’s, one of the oldest Ethiopian restaurants in the neighborhood. Known for its authentic Ethiopian cuisine, Rosalind’s has been a local staple for more than 20 years.

“In the County of Los Angeles, we literally have thousands of small businesses. But few are like those in Little Ethiopia—a cultural center of consequence, and we want to make sure we’re doing our part to bring awareness and support them,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.

Despite the unprecedented nature of this crisis, Rosalind’s has made appropriate adjustments to keep its business up and running during this time. Properly social distancing tables outside the restaurant, and moving to a primarily takeout menu.

“COVID-19 has affected us very greatly. It’s been almost 7 months since the pandemic hit. We have a 400,000 square foot restaurant and we were doing decent. But ever since the crisis began, the inside has been kept closed,’ said Fekera Gedremariam, owner of Rosalind’s Ethiopian Cuisine. “I am thankful to Supervisor Ridley-Thomas for visiting Little Ethiopia and highlighting this community.”

“Small businesses, like everyone says, is the engine of our economy. Small businesses are the mom and the pops, small businesses are where you have the majority of your employees, small businesses drive the economy. Rosalind’s is very dedicated to serving its customers, and I hope that they can survive COVID-19,” said Ethiopian Culture Center Founder, Nikki Legesse.

New and loyal customers help to keep businesses like Rosalind’s afloat during these difficult times.  First-time customers, Henry and Amanda had this to say about supporting local businesses, “During this time everyone should support small businesses and go out to eat at local restaurants. A lot of restaurants have outdoor dining and outdoor patio seating. So, as long as you follow the necessary precautions, it’s very safe to do so. Or you can order take out, shop at the smaller shops, just continue to keep the economy going and support local small businesses.”

“The resilience that these restaurants have demonstrated is not to be ignored. It is to be celebrated and supported. Come and support your local restaurants. They make a difference, they hire people who need these jobs and it’s the best way for us to show that we will not give up, that we will push forward and make the best out of all of these circumstances. Support your local business and start right here,” concluded Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.

 

 

 

Building a Bridge from Baldwin Hills to the Beach: 13-Mile Trail Now Open

After months of Los Angeles residents having limited options for recreation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Park to Playa Trail is complete just in time to offer Angelenos a long-awaited and safe opportunity to explore the outdoors.  

The 13-mile trail connects the Baldwin Hills Parklands to the Pacific Ocean via the Stocker Corridor, Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area, Stoneview Nature Center, the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, and Ballona Creek Bike Path. It represents the first regional trail in South Los Angeles, and the entire Second Supervisorial District of the County of Los Angeles.   

To celebrate the trail’s completion and grand opening, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas hosted a socially-distanced ribbon cutting with partnering public agencies and community members, followed by an inaugural hike across the brandnew pedestrian bridge that crosses La Cienega Blvd and connects Hahn Park to the Stoneview Nature Center.  

“When we broke ground on this trail 8 months ago—the world looked entirely different. Despite this, some things remain the same, or perhaps have become even more important,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “The value of human connection and opportunities to experience the beauty of our natural environment has become paramount to our wellbeingToday we celebrate the Park to Playa Trail, which represents the best of what public agencies can do, when they come together, to create special spaces and experiences for our community.” 

The trail was built in seven different segments over the past ten years, with the connection between Hahn Park and the Stoneview Nature Center representing the final segment—and previous missing link—to the now seamless trail.  

“Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas understands that trails connect people not only to the outdoors but to each other–and this bridge stands as a testament to his unwavering commitment to community engagement and empowerment,” said the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation Director, Norma E. García-González. “The Park to Playa Bridge and Trail will become a destination for hikers and nature lovers; a recreational route for the community that will join together Hahn Park and Stoneview Nature Center, onto the Ballona Creek and finally to the Pacific Ocean, forming a 13-mile trail. It even includes a wildlife corridor, a landscaped path for small animals to cross La Cienega Blvd.” 

Baldwin Hills Conservancy Executive Officer David McNeill added, “Not only will this connection provide a safe elevated crossing for pedestrians and bicycles, it creates an opportunity for wildlife to visit both ridgelines which increases the region’s biodiversity. While the ongoing expansion of Baldwin Hills Parklands has brought a lot of openings, the anticipation from the public for this bridge has been higher than I have seen in years. The Conservancy has been getting emails and calls for months leading up to this day. We’re just grateful the final piece of Park to Playa has come to fruition.” 

In its entirety, the trail amounts to a $23 million investment in outdoor recreation for the Baldwin Hills and surrounding communities. An additional $20.5 million was invested in new amenities along the trail, including in the creation of the Stoneview Nature CenterMilton Street Park, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Tree Grove, as well as the transformation of the community center at Hahn Park into a state-of-the-art Interpretive Center in addition to a variety of other accessibility, habitat restoration, and recreational improvements within the parklands.  

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas worked in partnership with the County Departments of Parks and Recreation and Public Works, the Baldwin Hills Conservancy, the Baldwin Hills Regional Conservation Authority, and the Mountains Recreation Conservation Authority to complete the trail, which spans multiple jurisdictions, including the cities of Culver City and Los Angeles, and State Parks property. 

As the County’s builder, LA County Public Works is constantly looking for ways to improve a community’s quality of life through investments in public infrastructure,” Los Angeles County Public Works Director Mark Pestrella said. “Nearly 60 percent of workers on this project are from the community—which means the bridge has both connected communities and created local jobs.” 

“Today we take stock of what we have accomplished. This bridge and trail have more than just a practical use—they have a symbolic one. The Park to Playa Trail connects us, not just to nature, but to each other,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.  

With the trail complete and ready for visitors, the only question that remains is: how will you Park to Playa? 

For more information visit: trails.lacounty.gov/Trail/237/park-to-playa-trail.