Featured items on homepage for top stories…

Magic Unveiled at Magic Johnson Park

Do you believe in Magic? Recently, Supervisor Mark-Ridley-Thomas, in collaboration with the LA County Department of Parks and Recreation and a number community partners, hosted a socially-distanced, sneak peek of Earvin “Magic” Johnson Park’s new building facilities and myriad of amenities followed by a back-to-school drive tour of the park.

“What you see before you represents the dreams and vision of many members of this community,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “Now more than ever, our communities deserve investments in our public spaces to make them centers for gathering, learning and respite. Magic Johnson Park has experienced a true transformation. My sincere appreciation goes out to all of the partners who have played an indispensable role in the revitalization and rebirth of this par

The $70 million project, the largest park investment by LA County in recent history, features improvements that include a 20,000 square foot event center to host conferences and other large gatherings, a dedicated outdoor wedding pavilion, a splash pad, children’s play areas, and a completely redesigned southern lake which has a half-mile walking trail, enhanced lighting, fitness equipment and other amenities.

The park also has an innovative water system to address water conservation and quality. Under the new system, water will be diverted from nearby Compton Creek, cleaned, and then used to fill the lower lake and irrigate the park—creating a wetland experience for park-goers. Overall, 30 acres of the park have been improved.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Earvin “Magic” Johnson in front of the new Magic Johnson park facility.

“Today, you can stand here and feel good for the Willow brook community, because we have our superhero, our superman, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. A lot of the time, this community gets promised a lot of things, but nobody delivers. He promised this community that he was going to change this park and take it to another level. Well, just look behind me, it’s here,” said Chairman and CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, the park’s namesake.

“This building will be a blessing to the community. Our kids will now have a place that they can go and learn, not just in school but after school. Children in this community will have a safe place to play and have a good time, said Johnson.”

In addition to the sneak peek, the Supervisor Ridley-Thomas hosted a back-to-school drive, in an effort to provide the surrounding communities with resources during this difficult moment. During the back-to-school drive, 2,500 community members were gifted with fresh, organic produce; dry food items; backpacks; school supplies; sports paraphernalia and art kits as they toured the park’s improvements.

Partners in this event included the Special Needs Network, the Southside Coalition of Community Health Centers, Let’s Be Whole and LA’s wide professional sports network—which include the LA Lakers, LA Rams, LA Dodgers Foundation, LA Football Club, and Play Equity—LACMA, Health Net, Blue Shield of CA, Molina Healthcare, Kilroy Realty Corporation, the California Community Foundation, The Olson Company, Anthem Blue Cross, LA Care Health Plan, and UCLA Health.

“While this pandemic may have forced us to showcase this park in a different way, I am thrilled that the South Los Angeles Community had the opportunity to see the transformation first-hand from the safety and comfort of their cars.” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “Magic Johnson is a leader and visionary for our community like no other – and we are so pleased that all of the sport teams that he is involved with, came together to celebrate this day with the Willowbrook community. This collaboration truly embodies the best of Los Angeles’ civic spirit.”

“Every year, Special Needs Network has an opportunity to bring thousands of kids and families together for a fun-filled day with live entertainment, outdoor activities and lots of healthy food at our annual back to school event.  Each kid has an opportunity to get a fresh haircut and go home with a backpack filled with school supplies. With the coronavirus pandemic and the restrictions on large gatherings, we had to be creative this year about how we could serve our community and comply with the CDC coronavirus safety guidelines. At a time when the needs of our community are greater than ever, we knew that we couldn’t abandon the event,” said Founder and President of the Special Needs Network Areva Martin, Founder and President, Special Needs Network.

Guests also had the opportunity to take pictures of their favorite life-size characters, such as Disney’s Princess Tiana, Marvel’s Black Panther, Universal’s Minions, as well as LAFC’s Falcon, and the LA Rams’ Rampage, and tour the new facility all from the safety and comfort of their own vehicles.

Last month, the County initiated the second phase of $10 million-dollar improvements. The 16 acres, formerly known as the Ujima Village site, will be improved with a large outdoor open space, amphitheater, play mounds, a native butterfly garden, a fitness loop/walking path and off-leash dog park. The second phase of improvements are anticipated to be complete in 2021.

The new park amenities are expected to officially open in November with COVID-19 compliant community programming.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Earvin “Magic” Johnson and community partners cut the ribbon at Magic Park unveiling ceremony.

Supervisor Works to Keep Grocery Essential Workers Safe

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas distributed 10,000 free masks to grocery workers and customers at an Albertsons in the Crenshaw District, which along with neighboring Leimert Park and Baldwin Hills has seen 1,200 cases of COVID-19. The giveaway followed a recent ruling by California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) to fine other local grocery store chains for failing to take adequate precautions to protect their workers and customers from the coronavirus pandemic.

“Grocery workers risk their lives every day to make sure we us have food on the table,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “We owe it to them to make sure they have what they need to be safe against COVID-19. These 10,000 free masks will not only protect essential workers but also their families, their customers, and their communities – our communities. It also means low-income residents don’t have to worry about spending money for personal protective equipment, we’ve got them covered.”

UFCW Local 770 representative Ludmila Blanco said, “Grocery store workers continue to be on the frontlines of this long-lasting pandemic. We are grateful for Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ leadership to ensure that our workers – particularly within communities of color which have been disproportionately impacted by this virus – receive the protection they need to continue working and protecting their families.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas partnered with Mujeres de la Tierra, a nonprofit that works on community development and environmental stewardship in South and East LA, to show people how to safely dispose of used masks without littering, and to distribute masks to surrounding communities. Mujeres de la Tierra Founder and President Irma Muñoz, said, “Mujeres de la Tierra is honored to join Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas to provide local residents and families with free masks to protect themselves and others from the spread of the coronavirus.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has been working with Operation USA, Servicon and Moldex to distribute 150,000 masks, and with the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office to distribute another 50,000 masks, throughout Los Angeles County’s Second District. He has handed out the masks to firefighters, hospital staff, homeless services providers, public defenders, food distribution nonprofits, church leaders, grocery store workers and others.

Mark Ridley-Thomas Leads A Just Transition to Clean Energy

Recent heatwaves and wildfires have served as an indisputable and urgent reminder that climate change will continue to threaten the quality of life—and the lives—of residents of LA County. In the face of this challenge, the Board of Supervisors has moved in this moment to develop a “Just Transition to Clean Energy Strategy” with the twin goals of creating a more climate resilient Los Angeles County as well as investing in a qualified workforce to assist with the capping of idle and abandoned oil wells.

In a motion introduced Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, co-authored by Supervisor Janice Hahn, that was approved in a unanimous vote, the Board will specifically align policy, legislative and funding efforts to support the transition of the fossil fuel workforce to jobs cleaning up old oil wells. The remediation will be done in a manner that promotes public health and safety while combating climate change.

“It is indisputable that the impacts of climate change are profound and that the need to transition to cleaner, greener sources of energy is urgent. But as we transition, we must ensure it is a just transition,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “There are far too many idle and abandoned wells across this County and State that have not been appropriately capped—and if not addressed, can create significant public health and safety impacts. We have an opportunity here to wed our environmental goals with a meaningful workforce agenda.”

Specifically, the motion directs the County’s Acting Chief Executive Officer, in collaboration with the Directors of the Department of Public Works, Regional Planning (collectively, the County Oil and Gas Team), as well as the Acting Director of the Department of Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services (WDACS), to work collaboratively with a Taskforce comprised of the Sierra Club, United Steelworkers Local 675 and the Building Trades to work with other environmental, labor, and business stakeholders, to develop a strategy to guide this just transition.

As of June 2020, a strike team convened by the County was deployed to assess conditions at all oil and gas facilities within unincorporated areas and found 1,046 active wells, 637 idle wells, and 2,731 abandoned wells within the unincorporated areas. In a 2017 report to the Board, the Strike Team found that many oil wells may have been improperly abandoned in the past or were continuing to be left idle for a long period of time.

The California Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) which has jurisdiction over monitoring oil drilling activities has historically not had the capacity to monitor drilling operations to ensure abandonment of all idle wells. According to CalGEM, more than 800 oil companies have dissolved over the years without scheduling wells for proper plugging and abandonment or paying enough State fees to cover the costs. This condition can lead to oil and gas pollution, with significant public health and safety consequences.

“As we transition Los Angeles County away from fossil fuels and do our part to address climate change, we need to support and train our current workforce for the green jobs of the future. We don’t have to choose between clean air and good jobs—we can and we must have both,” said Supervisor Hahn, co-author of the motion.

“This just transition motion is an important step forward for protecting workers, community wellbeing, and our environment,” added Associate Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign Monica Embrey. “By ensuring oil and gas companies are responsible for cleaning up their non-producing wells, Los Angeles will promote public health and safety and combat climate change, while at the same time creating ‘high-road,’ family-sustaining jobs for oil workers.”

“The Department of Regional Planning is pleased to participate in this effort, and to coordinate with the Board of Supervisors and our partners in the community, environmental, and business sectors. Regional Planning is actively developing stronger regulations for existing and future oil and gas operations in the unincorporated areas of the County,” said LA County Department of Regional Planning Director Amy Bodek. “We recognize the balancing act necessary to reduce environmental and community impacts from oil and gas operations with the need for economic prosperity. This action is one more step forward in eliminating the negative impacts of these operations on our most disadvantaged neighborhoods while encouraging new job development in an emerging industrial sector.”

According to Gary Gero, Los Angeles County’s Chief Sustainability Officer, “It is critical that while we work to transition our economy out of fossil fuels, we make sure to take care of workers in these polluting industries and ensure they can transition to cleaner and healthier jobs. This motion puts us on the right track to accomplish that.”

The motion also directs the County’s Oil and Gas Team to identify funding strategies to support the just transition effort and to identify priority wells in the County that should be abandoned in a timely manner.

Further Investments in Violence Prevention

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas speaks at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Public Health. Photo by Dave Franco / Board of Supverisors

Amid an unprecedented increase in local tensions surrounding the recent deaths of Andres Guardado and Dijon Kizzee, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to implement the Office of Violence Prevention’s (OVP) strategic plan and retool the Family Assistance Program—motions led by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and co-authored by Supervisor Kuehl.  The two initiatives will help to expand community investment and well-being and offer relief to families who have lost loved-ones to deputy-involved shootings.

“Confronting the epidemic of violence requires trauma-informed responses to impacted families and equipping our communities with the tools needed to disrupt the cycle,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “The County, in partnership with local communities, has made significant investments in the infrastructure needed to support and advance this critical work.”

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 the motion, to  implement a strategic plan for the Office of Violence Prevention, as well as create a community-based crisis response system, the Board is working towards establishing a coordinated community-based response to incidences of violence, such as homicides, shootings, and sexual and domestic assault to prevent and interrupt cycles of violence before they happen.

“This motion pushes the county one important step forward in building infrastructure to effectively reduce the incidence of violence in Black and Brown communities most impacted by structural, institutional, and community-level violence, oppression, and trauma.  We appreciate Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ ongoing attention to this issue and underscore the importance of allocating resources to ensure that inclusive community engagement will result in safer, healthier and more equitable neighborhood conditions,” said Manal J. Aboelata, Deputy Executive Director of Prevention Institute.

“Hospital based violence intervention is often the only opportunity we have to help victims of violent crimes and this motion is a commitment to those efforts. The timing of this motion is impeccable as public safety throughout L.A. County is very much in question,” said Paul Carillo, Co-founder and Executive Director of Southern California Crossroads.

Over the span of 15 months, more than 14 victims have died at the hands of Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) deputies. To lessen the burden of tragedy that families face in the difficult moments after the death of a loved-one in a deputy involved shooting the Board is taking steps to secure and enhance the Family Assistance Program (FAP). Created by the Board of Supervisors based upon the recommendation of the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission, the FAP works to counteract the trauma of loss that is compounded by a lack of clear communication.

“When a family loses a loved one as a result of the fatal use of force by law enforcement, it always devastates friends and family members, and has a deeply destructive impact on community relationships with law enforcement,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl.” The Family Assistance Program, an innovative idea that emerged from discussions at the Civilian Oversight Commission, provides compassionate communication and trauma-informed support to those families. With this motion, we are asking for an assessment of its effectiveness, improvements that may be needed, and the identification of funding to sustain it.”

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. The 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.

“The Family Assistance program supports families suffering from traumatic grief through losing a loved-one from interactions with law enforcement. The COC continues to endorse the trauma-informed, no-fault, compassionate approach which came out of deep listening to the suffering of family members including children,” said Commissioner of Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission and Executive Director of Peace Over Violence, Patti Giggans.

“When a person dies in government custody, or is actually killed by the government, we have a responsibility to treat their family with compassion. But common decency doesn’t always happen without a little help, and that is what the Family Assistance Program was designed for.”

“Every year families suffer the loss of loved-ones from law enforcement violence. They are then left to endure not only the relentless grief, trauma, and economic impact but the painful process of seeking answers and demanding justice. The county should work to remove as many obstacles as possible and provide families with immediate access to support during these devastating times. This motion makes that possible,” said Mark-Anthony Johnson, Founder of Frontline Wellness Network.

A New Day in LA County: A Budget Based on Equity

Just two months after the establishment of an Antiracist Policy Agenda for the County of Los Angeles—and despite the unprecedented loss in anticipated revenues—the Board of Supervisors continued to drive toward a more equitable County with the approval of the 2020-21 Supplemental Budget. Instilled with racial and economic justice principals to reduce disparities and elevate the quality of life for underserved communities, this is an equity-based budget. It represents a new day and a new way to improve the lives of the most vulnerable residents in the County.

Largely through the CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund, this budget includes funding for the County’s emergency response to COVID-19, including testing, contact tracing, rent relief, eviction defense, food distribution, and small businesses grants and loans to help families and businesses stay afloat.

As the County enters the ninth month of the pandemic, the danger COVID-19 represents to persons experiencing homeless remains significant. This budget funds complementary emergency short term solutions. Since the onset of the pandemic more than 4,000 of the most vulnerable, elderly persons experiencing homeless have been brought indoors—protecting their lives and safeguarding the public health. And concrete steps are being taken to place them on a path to safe and stable, long-term housing.

The budget further de-emphasizes the punitive, and reemphasizes health, rehabilitation, and prevention. It adds $30M to the Office of Diversion and Re-Entry (ODR), bringing the total 2020-2021 budget to $150M. A significant program that is proven effective in reducing recidivism, and breaking the cycle between jail and homelessness by connecting people to community based clinical care and supportive housing with wrap around services. The budget also includes $72.3M to launch the Alternatives to Incarceration and make a cohesive vision of a system of care that promotes health and safety a reality. The budget will further establish the Probation Oversight Commission along with a dedicated investigative unit within in the Inspector General’s Office to shine more light through robust oversight and achieve greater accountability.

As the County enters this new day, antiracism is becoming the new normal, putting care first and jail last, remaining steadfast in the unrelenting commitment to fight homelessness, and investing in thriving arts and cultural communities.

As the largest and most diverse county in the nation, the County must ensure that budgetary investments of more than $37 billion offer the best returns for its communities. We are putting the values of equity to work and they will lead the way.