Non-profits get billion dollar boost

California Community Foundation Town Hall at St. Sophia Cathedral | Photo by Kevin Walker

California Community Foundation Town Hall at St. Sophia Cathedral | Photo by Kevin Walker

The California Community Foundation pledged $1-billion to Los Angeles County non-profits today during a special town hall meeting at the St. Sophia Cathedral in Mid-City. An estimated 400 civic leaders, including L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas were among the attendees.

The town hall meeting and funding announcement was part of a celebration of CCF‘s 100th anniversary.

The money will be disbursed over a ten year period and will be paid out in the form of grants, loans and scholarships. Which non-profits will get funds and how much they will get are unknown.

Jonathan Zeichner, Executive Director of the South L.A.-based A Place to Call Home, said that communication between groups like his and the Foundation is key.

“We’re on the ground representing the constituents that we serve,” he said. “[It’s] really important that it’s a two way dialogue.”

CCF President, Antonia Hernandez said she hopes to focus on low income housing, community clinics, and early childhood education. Groups trying to get a cut of the funds will have their application reviewed by the CCF staff and its 20 member board.

“We’re [non-profits] required to show what we will do with the funds,” said Zeichner. “And if we’re doing we we say we are…that’s the basis to continue the funding.”

Representatives from all of the County’s 88 cities were in attendance, signaling the importance of the funds to public officials who are grappling with increases in crime and homelessness in many of their communities. Their combined attendance was also a sign of unity among the county’s various municipalities.

Since 2013 homelessness has risen by 12% across L.A. County, a fact that many attribute to the area’s tight housing supply. A report from the LA Homeless Services Authority released earlier this year had the number of homeless people in the county at more than 40,000.

The problem has gotten so bad that this past month the L.A. City Council declared a “state of emergency” over the issue and dedicated $100 million towards homeless services like shelters and housing vouchers.

Mayor Eric Garcetti at California Community Foundation Town Hall on October 8, 2015 | Photo by Kevin Walker

Mayor Eric Garcetti at California Community Foundation Town Hall on October 8, 2015 | Photo by Kevin Walker

Mayor Garcetti, speaking at today’s event, referenced the challenges facing the county but stressed the need for civic pride.

“We’re good at privately saying what we love about L.A., but publicly bitching about what we don’t,” Garcetti said. “We need to invert that.







South LA applies for Promise Zone grant

The proposed Promise Zone for South L.A. shaded in light blue. The current Promise Zone is shaded in gray. | Photo: Courtesy Los Angeles Trade-Technical College

The proposed Promise Zone for South L.A. shaded in light blue. The current Promise Zone is shaded in gray. | Photo: Courtesy Los Angeles Trade-Technical College

A coalition led by a South Los Angeles college submitted a key application Thursday for the “Promise Zone” initiative that would give South L.A.  priority in federal funding for anti-poverty programs.

“This project brings together everybody with a very common purpose which is … the economic revitalization of this area through increased opportunities,” said Leticia Barajas, Vice President of the L.A. Trade-Technical College.

The program, created by President Obama in 2013, named five Los Angeles neighborhoods as “promise zones” in 2014. South L.A. was left out, to the disappointment of the Los Angeles City Council and community members.

The coalition hopes to become a designated area for federal help because the poverty rate in the region is close to 50 percent and the unemployment rate is 12 percent.

The college-led coalition formed a group called the South Los Angeles Transit Empowerment Zone (SLATE-Z). The SLATE-Z group would invest in transit centers, educational programs, businesses, and South L.A. redevelopment. The City Council and L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who represents the area, support the application.

Originally published on Annenberg TV News.

Metro to aid South LA businesses choked by construction

South Los Angeles residents walk pass the construction site for the Crenshaw/LAX line on Crenshaw and Exposition Boulevards. A new labor agreement between the union and contractors could lead to more jobs for residents in the coming years. | Jordyn Holman

South Los Angeles residents walk pass the construction site for the Crenshaw/LAX line on Crenshaw and Exposition Boulevards a few months ago. | Jordyn Holman

Construction and expansion are usually good things, but they can come at a steep prices.

For those in the Crenshaw Corridor, a new light rail line coming through their neighborhood may eventually cost them their livelihoods. That’s why Mayor Eric Garcetti and others on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Board of Directors approved a pilot funding program on Thursday that will help small businesses in the area stay afloat during construction of the new line.

Heavy construction on the Crenshaw/LAX line started earlier this year, and businesses say they are losing customers due to the lack of sidewalks, parking and visibility. [Read more…]

St. John’s health center in South LA to raise minimum wage to $15 an hour


Councilman Curren Price with St. John’s employees | Skylar E. Myers

South L.A.’s largest health center has decided to increase the minimum wage of its workers to $15 an hour, making St. John’s Well Child & Family Center one of the nation’s first nonprofits to move from minimum wage to living-wage.

Jim Mangria, St. John’s president and CEO, made the announcement today in front of a crowd of workers and community members who chanted, “Fifteen! Fifteen! Fifteen!”

To hear sounds and perspectives from the event, click play on a radio story from Annenberg Radio News:


Photo Credit: Skylar E. Myers

[Read more…]

Christmas celebration at Martin Luther King Jr. health center

Three hundred kids received free toys during the annual tree lighting ceremony at the Martin Luther King Jr. Multi-Service Ambulatory Care Center in South L.A. on Dec. 13. Mark Ridley-Thomas, L.A. County Supervisor for District 2, talked about the joy of celebrating Christmas in one’s community. Meanwhile, attendees got a preview of the new outpatient center.

Click play to see photos and hear comments from Ridley-Thomas.

New health clinic at Washington Prep

By Lauren Jones

Listen to an audio story from Annenberg Radio News

imageSt. John’s Well Child & Family Center CEO Jim Mangia.

St. John’s Well Child & Family Center opened its school-based health clinic on Thursday at Washington Preparatory High School in South Los Angeles.

Free dental, physical and mental care is now within walking distance for many residents in South Los Angeles.

“The physical and mental services would be the most used,” said Jacqueline Zendejas, a senior at Washington Prep High School. “Students, whether they like it or not have to get things off their chest and sometimes they wouldn’t consider their friends the best option because they don’t know if one day they won’t be there anymore or they’ll go tell other people.

Zendejas is pursuing a career in the medical field and says that this clinic is inspiring.

Mark Ridley-Thomas, Los Angeles County Supervisor for the Second District, was on hand for the opening. He said it will improve health care access for South LA residents.

imageL.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas at the opening of St. John’s Well Child & Family Center clinic at Washington Prep High School.

Community member, Kenneth Jones came out to lend his support of the completed project.

“It shouldn’t be anybody suffering at home because they have lack of medical attention or transportation,” Jones said. “For many years, post-traumatic stress disorder has been overlooked and it’s only been applied to U.S. veterans, but in actuality the children who grew up in gang infested community are under post-traumatic stress.”

This center not only focuses on physical health, but has an emphasis on people’s mental state as well. It will be a place for these children and the community at large to get the help they need.

“We never had a clinic where they can go and be able to express themselves because a lot of people cannot relate to gang violence,” Jones said. “Even if they never participated, btu I grew up and live on the street with 14 boys and then one day when you get 45 you look up again and there’s only two people still left standing.”

This string of 12 clinics is only the beginning. In January 2014, ObamaCare will create many more opportunities like this in underserved communities. St. John’s Well Child & Family Center opened another wellness clinic on March 27 at Dominguez High School in Compton.

9th District Candidate Closeup: Curren Price

image Curren Price, second from the left, with County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, City Council President Herb Wesson and Los Angeles Congresswoman Karen Bass.

When Curren Price opened his campaign headquarters to kick-start his race for the Ninth District Los Angeles City Council seat, he was joined by some of the city’s most prominent elected officials.

No other candidate running has taken photos with the City Council president, a Los Angeles County supervisor and a U.S. congresswoman – at least not all at once and while holding the candidate’s campaign signs.

Of all the candidates running to represent the Ninth District, Price has the most experience, high-profile endorsements and campaign cash, which makes him seem as the clear front-runner in the March 5 primary election. Price said he has experience making laws, something most of his opponents can not claim, and he has served a portion of the Ninth District before as a senator for the 26th District.

“I’m excited about the prospects of serving in the Ninth, of coming back home, and being a part of a process that’s going to really revitalize and rejuvenate the Ninth District,” Price said.

City redistricting in 2012 removed much of downtown from the former “Great Ninth” and added USC and L.A. Live to what Price now calls the “New Ninth.” Price said he is pleased that the redistricting “preserved the voting power of minorities.” He said making sure South L.A. gets its fair share of the city’s resources is a major priority for him.

In January, eight candidates filed their most recent finance report. Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Terry Hara leads the pack with over $220,000 in cash on hand. Price is the only other candidate with over $100,000.

Some of his opponents have called Price a carpetbagger, a man seeking office wherever he is most likely to be elected. Supporters say those attacks are false and distract voters from what really matters in the race. On campaign materials and his websites, Price says he was “born and raised” in the Ninth District, which is true.

image Photos from Curren Price headquarters.

Price, who was born at Queen of Angels Hospital, attended Normandie Avenue Elementary School then Morningside High School, in what is now Los Angeles’ Ninth District. He majored in political science at Stanford University and graduated with a law degree from Santa Clara University in 1976.

In a district where going to college is far from a guarantee for many students, Price believes his own educational background should not unnerve voters.

“I think every kid growing up in the Ninth should have those options, should have those opportunities,” Price said to a group of supporters.

Price left California in 1979 and spent the next 10 years in Washington, D.C. working for international companies specializing in communications infrastructure. He returned in 1989 to become a deputy for two members of the L.A. City Council, Robert C. Farrell and his successor, present Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Current Los Angeles Council President Herb Wesson began his political career as a council staffer as well. He said for Price and himself that experience was invaluable.

“We know how to do things hands-on and don’t have to rely solely on staff because everything we’ve asked our staffs to do we’ve already done it,” Wesson said.

Price found his first political break when he was elected to the Inglewood City Council in 1993. He was defeated for mayor of Inglewood in 1997, but then returned to his council seat in 2001. In 2006, he was elected to the State Assembly and overwhelmingly won re-election in 2008. Victorious in a special 2009 California State Senate election, Price currently serves part of the Ninth Council District in Sacramento. According to Wesson, the relationships Price has in the state capital will help him if he is elected because many residents call the city asking for things that are actually controlled by the state.

L.A. County Supervisor Ridley-Thomas described Price as a “consensus builder.”

“He’s someone who you can easily talk to,” Ridley-Thomas said. “He’s not standoffish; he’s not one who will put you off. He will listen to you and he will mobilize his staff to help you.”

At campaign events Price talks about improved public safety, more attention to public works including street cleanups and potholes and more incentives for local businesses. In 2007 and 2009, the University of California Student Association awarded Price “Legislator of the Year” for his work to increase access to Cal Grants for students, among other initiatives. For young voters, Price notes his efforts that led to laws allowing 17-year-olds to preregister to vote and dependents under 26 years old to stay on their parent’s healthcare plans before it became the national law.

With his past elected experience, Wesson believes the obvious next step for Price is a seat on the L.A. City Council.

“I think that it’s a natural progression for him to come home and back to the people that live in the area where he grew up and went to school,” Wesson said. “He is a homegrown product.”

L.A. mayoral candidates debate at Empowerment Congress

By Max Schwartz and Rosalie Murphy
Photos By Katherine Davis

The Empowerment Congress kicked off its 21st annual summit at USC on Saturday. Its opening session was a debate in which the five mayor candidates who have raised the most money discussed arts funding, gun violence, homelessness and the Leimert Park metro station.

imageMayoral candidates Emanuel Pleitez, Eric Garcetti, Jan Perry, Kevin James and Wendy Greuel answer questions at Empowerment Congress forum.

Candidates Eric Garcetti, Wendy Greuel, Kevin James, Jan Perry and Emanuel Pleitez spoke at the forum hosted by L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who represents the Second District that covers South LA.. Candidates Yehuda Draiman, Addie Miller and Norton Sandler were not present.

Ridley-Thomas called the Congress to order shortly after 9:10 a.m. When he was a City Council member, Ridley-Thomas helped found the Congress in 1992 “to make government more accessible to the people.” He introduced Brad Pomerance, moderator of the debate. After the introduction, Pomerace discussed this year’s theme, “election connection.” He said the questions were submitted online and then chosen by the Empowerment Congress planning committee.

Garcetti, Perry and Greuel focused on their extensive records in city politics, while James and Pleitez positioned themselves as outsiders. “We have a jobs crisis, budget crisis, education crisis, transportation crisis, public safety crisis, corruption crisis,” James said. “We have a leadership crisis.”

South LA issues take center stage

All of the forum’s six questions came from Empowerment Congress members. One participant asked candidates directly if they supported a Leimert Park station along the new Crenshaw Line metro line. All five candidates said they support the station. “The community deserves it,” Greuel said.

Perry cited her work on the Expo Line, which opened in April, as evidence of her dedication to transit projects.

imageMayoral candidate Emanuel Pleitez, right, answers a question from the moderator at the Empowerment Congress debate.

Pleitez stood out for Brian Gaines, a University Park native. “The things that he said, it jelled… Being young and coming through the trenches,” he said. “I want to see something new… all the name-dropping wasn’t impressive to me either. But really, what are you going to do moving forward?”

James and Garcetti stood out to Sherri Bell, a South LA native who works with the Los Angeles Black Workers Center. “I definitely feel like I’ve been left behind,” she said. “It’s not just a gun problem, it’s not just a violence problem, it’s not just a lack of education problem. You have to really attack the things that contribute to that. I pay attention to the candidates who actually have a strategy.”

What to do with neighborhood councils

The forum’s fifth question was about how to engage the neighborhood councils in city decisions more. Each candidate agreed to empower them, but their methods varied. Gruel, for example, believes the councils need more power. She said that they have been “part of the decision-making processes” throughout her career and she will continue to “engage councils every step of the way.”

Pleitez added in his follow-up answer that council members need to be trained to deal with “real problems… It’s not about fighting for funding but actually being inside the decision-making process,” he said.

James proposed that each neighborhood council appoint a commissioner who would work directly with him.

Garcetti remarked, “[it is] time to start treating neighborhood councils like adults.” He said he would have the Department of Public Works talk to the neighborhood councils at the beginning of every year.

Finally, Perry defended councils fiercely. “It is life-changing to be able to listen to them,” she said. “It’s most important to preserve the neighborhood council system to continue discourse… We are not a threat to each other. We are partners with each other.”

The council discussion struck the forum’s attendees, too.

“I have watched them grow, I’ve watched them change, and it does take training,” said Dorsay Dujon, chair of the arts committee on the Arroyo Secco neighborhood council. “You just don’t go from your daily job and go into sitting on a board and recognizing and understanding all of the responsibilities that you have to that.”

Despite that need, Dujon believes much of neighborhood councils’ successes are their own. “It also takes a commitment on the part of the individual who’s on the neighborhood council to recognize that it’s not just about what you want for the community,” she said. “As much as it is a growing process for the councils themselves, it’s also for the neighborhoods to understand that they’re there for them.” Dujon supports Garcetti, Perry and Greuel; “in that order,” she said.

Other issues: Arts, homes, guns

The forum’s first question was, “How will you better utilize the power of the arts to revitalize South Los Angeles?” Pleitez, the first to answer, hesitated. He attributed the city’s unmanageable budget to pensions that “drain funds,” which means there is not enough money to spend on the arts.

Garcetti declared he would go to Sacramento in attempt to prevent additional cuts to public education, promising to “restore arts as the heart and soul of Los Angeles.”

imageMayoral candidate Jan Perry, center, answers a moderator’s question.

Perry promised to redirect the city’s public arts fee to private nonprofits. James agreed that the arts should be one of LA’s economic priorities, and Greuel argued for better supporting the entertainment industry.

Garcetti responded first to the second question: “Is the development of housing for the mentally ill homeless in your top three housing priorities?” He cited examples from his record as councilman for the 13th district. Perry also cited her record as councilwoman from the 9th district. “They need to have housing and a safety net,” she said.

James emphasized that this would be a priority for him, too. He said, “This crisis is not new…and has not [gotten] attention and priority it deserves.” Greuel added that also she wants to bring back the housing trust.

Pleitez agreed that this is one of his priorities if elected. However, he brought up the pension problem again and said pensions are his first short-term priority. He also discussed including mental health in public heath programs.

The forum also considered a timely national issue: “What will you do…that will actually reduce gun homicides?” Every candidate supports a comprehensive ban on assault weapons and background checks for concealed carry permits.

James added that he wants to “close the mental health records gap.” He also brought up an original idea, that of a “school marshal program,” which “provides anonymity and security” without actually stationing armed guards at schools.
Pleitez called gangs the city’s biggest purveyor of gun violence: he lost a friend in middle school to a gang shooting. As mayor, he wants to find a way to reintegrate gang members into non-violent life.

Greuel supports the plans put forward by President Obama and California Senator Dianne Feinstein. In addition, Greuel called for, “…prevention, intervention, and enforcement.”

Perry and Garcetti proposed regulations elsewhere: Garcetti plans to regulate ammunition sales, and Perry “introduced…divestment from companies that manufacture guns” as a councilmember.

New vision of Slauson Avenue in South Los Angeles

Residents in South Los Angeles gathered together Monday evening to share their fondest memories of being on Slauson Avenue, while proposing a vision of what they see Slauson becoming, at Junior Blind of America’s center.

The meeting, held in partnership with LA Commons and the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, was to help shape the development of the Slauson Corridor Revitalization Project, spearheaded by the Office of Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. image

“I don’t want to go to Culver City to get a nice sandwich. I want to go right here, where we are and have a sense of pride in it,” said resident Roy Wheatle.

Everyone at the meeting agreed that they wanted the new Slauson Corridor, between Overhill Drive and Angeles Vista Boulevard, to offer more shopping and outdoor dining experiences, along with a pedestrian friendly atmosphere.

Karly Katona, deputy for sustainability for the office of Mark Ridley-Thomas, said making a livable, walkable community requires the input of its residents.

She said it was essential for those involved in the planning process to receive feedback from residents and local business owners to understand their needs and wants.

Erin Stennis, deputy to Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, added that it would have been impossible for the district to implement changes without feedback from the community. image

“This is a community that has traditionally been engaged,” said Stennis.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said the revitalization is also an effort to “bring value to the land use and space.”

“My role is essentially one to catalyze the process, to attract attention to it and make investments into it with the resources of Los Angeles County,” said Ridley-Thomas.

He added that the project was not a publicly funded project, but one that uses the public’s input to help attract private investors.

“We are teeing this up in a way that is worthy of this environment…I don’t see that to be a pipe dream,” said Ridley-Thomas. “This is going to be an emerging market that will not be ignored.”

A portion of the meeting was dedicated to hearing development plans from student-led teams at USC and UCLA, as part of a real estate challenge organized by the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP) and sponsored by Ridley-Thomas.

The challenge is a 6-week case competition where students from both schools are tasked with solving a development issue, such as the Slauson Corridor.

This is the 15th year the challenge has taken place between UCLA and USC tied with 7 wins each, which makes the Slauson project a tie-breaker competition, according to Ridley-Thomas.

The winning team has not been announced, but residents applauded both schools for the research put into their presentation.

Both teams proposed a space that would seamlessly mix dining and retail shops with senior independent living.

USC proposed a two-story parking structure with multiple entrances for residents and visitors.

UCLA had surface level parking citing that many grocery stores preferred it to structured parking due to safety and its ease of access. image

For residents, the most anticipated portion of both presentations was hearing the possibility of specialty retail grocery store, Trader Joe’s, making its home inside the renovated corridor.

USC believed the area had the potential to attract Trader Joe’s.

While UCLA said based on their meetings with the company, it would be difficult and proposed building a Lazy Acres Market, an upscale grocery store chain operated by Bristol Farms, which caused some in the crowd to become upset.

Ridley-Thomas pointed out that it was important for residents to have not one but several choices in where they would like to shop.

The next meeting, discussing the environmental impact report for the Slauson Avenue streetscape, is scheduled to take place on Monday, Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. at Junior Blind of America.

New MLK Health Center opens in Willowbrook

imageMembers of the group Mariachis Ellas Son provided music and a festive spirit to the grand opening of the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Public Health.

Hundreds of community leaders and health advocates from Compton, Inglewood, Watts and Lynwood gathered at the grand opening of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Public Health in Willowbrook on Friday morning.

The new health center represents part of the gradual re-opening of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Multi-Service Ambulatory Care Center.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors elected to shut down the hospital, formerly known as the Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center, in August 2007 due to its poor record of patient care and several failed federal health inspections.

Despite the dark past of the medical center, the mood this morning was decidedly sunny and forward-looking. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas took on the tone of a preacher–“Somebody say ‘Phase one!’”

“Phase one!” the crowd shouted back.

Referring to the first the three phases for the federally funded medical complex, the health center officially opened today addresses three major needs of the South LA community: immunizations for children, testing and treatment for tuberculosis, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.

The MLK center has been seeing patients in September on a walk-in basis and most services are available for free or at a very low cost.

imageThe public health center also puts an emphasis on healthy living and prevention of chronic diseases like obesity and diabetes.

There’s a community kitchen that offers lessons on healthy cooking and a fitness garden with walking trails and installations for doing exercises like modified pushups.

Ridley-Thomas acknowledged the center’s bumpy past, reflecting on how the hospital was hailed as a national success when it opened in 1972 and the local heartbreak that came with its closure four years ago.

“This new public health center represents a covenant with the community, a fulfillment of the promise to rebuild the medical center,” he said.

Phase two of the project includes plans to reopen a smaller hospital under a partnership between L.A. County and the University of California, as a nonprofit organization governed by an independent board of directors. Ridley-Thomas said he hopes for this phase to be done by the first quarter of 2013.

Before stepping down from the podium, Ridley-Thomas thanked the Obama administration for the health center, which was funded by a $20 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Herb Schultz, the regional director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said the new health center showed that South LA can be a leader in a national movement to “reduce and eliminate racial and ethnic disparity in healthcare.” He also pointed out that the center is expected to bring 5,000 jobs to the community.

One of those jobs belongs to Laura Gazdziak, a community liaison and public health nurse who works in the new health center. Giving a tour of the energy efficient, LEED certified building, Gazdziak smiled. “Everyone’s in a happier mood working here,” she said.

imageThe lobby of the building is filled with natural light and original artwork by Cliff Garten. Waiting rooms are clean and feature bright colors. A computer in every exam room will help keep digital records on all the 17,000 patients the center expects to serve this year.

Stephanie Burton, a clinic nurse who works in the tuberculosis testing and care center said patients start to arrive around 7:30 in the morning to register, and appointments begin at 8:00 a.m. She encouraged people wanting to visit the clinic to arrive as early as they can to avoid waiting too long.

On average, nurses see 15 patients per session, Burton said. There are two sessions in a day – one in the morning, and one after lunch. On Wednesdays, the clinic stays open later, offering appointment times into the evening. The tuberculosis unit also employs seven community workers who take medication directly to patients’ homes—no small job when there are over one million residents in MLK’s service area.

Back outside, Gazdziak said the new building has made a direct impact on the surrounding community. “It’s amazing how much safer people feel when things are clean and well lit.”

Still, she said, the absence of a high-volume emergency room in the area continues to be problematic to those who need serious care right away.

“This new center is wonderful. It does so much,” Gazdziak said. “But every night, I pray for more. It’s needed.”