Angela Davis speaks to a full house at Urban Issues Breakfast Forum

Line outside the California African American Museum

Line outside the California African American Museum

Standing in line, some speculated that Friday April 19 attracted the largest Urban Issues Breakfast Forum crowd they had ever seen. Three lines wrapped around the California African American Museum: one for VIPs, another for reservations, and a last line filled with hopefuls crossing their fingers for the chance to hear Angela Davis speak.

“We want an end to all wars of oppression,” Davis said to a cheering crowd. “We want freedom for all black and oppressed people now held in U.S. federal and state prison and jails.”

Davis, prominent black scholar, activist and feminist, referred to the prison-industrial complex, the idea that the prison system thrives due to its profitability. This was the topic of her talk as well as a central theme in her newest book, “The Meaning of Freedom and Other Difficult Dialogues.” [Read more…]

Greuel addresses government waste at Urban Issues Forum

imageLos Angeles City Controller and mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel was the guest speaker of the first Urban Issues Breakfast Forum of 2012 held this morning, hosted by Dr. Anthony Asadullah Samad. Titled “Moving toward accountable Government. Who are the real watchdogs,” Greuel was invited to address issues of wasteful spending in the L.A. City government.

Speaking in front of a full house at the West Angeles Church on Crenshaw Blvd., Greuel, who has been City Controller since July of 2009, said she found several instances of waste after conducting audits.

“For example, I found out the City owns 12,000 cell phones and no one knew where they all were,” she told the crowd. “I found that LAPD had 500 cell phones in a cabinet that were not being used and we were paying for them… I identified over $1 million dollars that were being wasted.”

imageGreuel listened attentively as community members lined up to ask her a variety of questions. When one woman told her she had seen a parking lot full of unused police cars collecting dust, the controller promised to look into it. Among the questions askes: what has shocked her most as controller, why she was running for mayor, what she would do about the Crenshaw metro line if she were elected, and if she thought the City Council should have more members to adequately represent constituents.

“What has shocked me the most is that a majority of elected officials didn’t understand the financial side of running a city,” Greuel told the crowd, particularly referring to her 2010 audit of L.A. Department of Water & Power, the municipal utility that tried to hold the City Council hostage by threatening to not transfer millions of dollars to the City if it didn’t approve controversial rate hikes.

imageAs to why she’s running for mayor, she replied: “Nothing comes easy and if you believe, it’s worth taking a risk…. I’m doing it because I think I have the experience to get the job done. In the meantime, I’m going to be the best controller ever.”

Damien Goodmon, of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, asked Greuel how she would deal with people’s concerns over the impact of an above ground light-rail line on South LA businesses. “We can’t negatively impact businesses…. As mayor, I will work with the community to address the issue and resolve it to best fit the community’s needs,” she assured.

With regards to adding more people to the City Council, she pointed out it was tough enough governing with the current number of members and didn’t think adding more would help better represent constituents. “What you need is a strong mayor that can effectively lead,” she said. “I can be that mayor.”