100 South LA sidewalks fixed, 400 more to go

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Video courtesy of Annenberg TV News

Councilman Bernard Parks and the Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative broke ground on the city’s 100th sidewalk repair yesterday as part of a project to improve South L.A.’s District Eight, calling on repairman to tear out the old pavement with shovels and drills.

The initiative’s executive director Veronica Hahni said the partnership had succeeded at “improving the quality of life for South Los Angeles residents by removing invasive tree roots and replacing these uplifted sidewalks.”

The repair also marked an important milestone for 84-year-old South L.A. resident Geneva James, who has lived at the corner of St. Andrews Place and 48th Street for more than 40 years, according to the L.A. Times. For many of those years, the broken-up, uneven sidewalk impeded her ability to leave the house, James’ grandson said at the event.

“I am glad I live to see it,” James said. “I will be able to come out and worry about not falling.” [Read more…]

Consistent job growth inspired re-imagined Crenshaw business district

imageCalifornia employees and entrepreneurs were heartened by last month’s revelation that December marked a fifth consecutive month of a declining unemployment rate statewide. Los Angeles’ 8th City Council District, one of the poorest in the city, met the news with guarded optimism.

More than 3,200 new jobs were created in the 8th District in 2011, which was the sixth consecutive year of job growth in the area. The 8th District includes the Crenshaw, Hyde Park, Vermont Knolls, North University Park and Baldwin Hills neighborhoods.

“We believe that we’re kind of at the forefront of a transformation here,” said Karim Webb, a local restaurant owner. When it comes to employment, “there’s definitely a positive spin on the story.”

Still, like most of the nation, employment is one of the community’s biggest concerns, said 8th District City Councilman Bernard Parks.

“We send a weekly e-newsletter to 7,000 people every Thursday evening, and the number one item is every job opportunity that we become aware of,” Parks said. “Every time we check the most-reviewed areas, it’s employment opportunities. It’s the number-one question we get asked.”

Since 2006, Parks’ district has added jobs every year. In 2011 alone, restaurants created about 300 positions. Several primary care clinics opened in Crenshaw. And a Kaiser Permanente hospital in Vermont Knolls made public health 2011’s fastest-growing industry.

But because most of the 8th District’s jobs are still in restaurants, retail and services like car repair, income levels haven’t risen in concert with the improving job market.

“We have more people working, but we still have the lowest-paid jobs in the city,” Parks said. “We have people who actually criticize the district, saying that yes, you’re creating jobs, but they’re low-paying.”

imageBut Parks sees these jobs as the gateway to better employment down the road. “Every job is not a career,” he said. “Every job is not a life-long job. You move to another job. You develop.”

Karim Webb opened a Buffalo Wild Wings in Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza last year. He hired most of the staff from the Los Angeles Urban League, which helps young minority Angelenos find education and employment. Webb also believes the restaurant addressed a community need.

“It’s a place for people to bring their families, bring their kids after a soccer game or a little league game; a place for families to meet up after work; a place for buddies to meet up after work, have a beer, watch the game. There’s a pocket,” Webb said. “If we can secure that… then people will come. And we’re finding that.”

Webb worried about the community’s crime activity, especially gang problems, before he opened the restaurant. But he said those fears haven’t been validated.

“Demographically, incomes are lower here than among the general population, so that’s somewhat of a challenge,” Webb said. “But we knew there was going to be some aggressive movement toward redevelopment here.”

Edna Boedenave recognizes the neighborhood’s limitations as well. When she opened My Sassie Boutique last month in Crenshaw Square, a plaza on Crenshaw Boulevard between Coliseum and 39th Streets, she set a $20 cap on the price of the shoes, clothing and accessories in her shop.

“It’s something I thought would work here,” Boedenave said. “I like clothes, I love shoes… I think it offers people something they find refreshing. I have items that people want and are affordable.”

What entices customers, though, is not the rack of $19 five-inch heels or the gifts Boedenave offers new guests. Instead, “people say they walk in and it’s like they’re not on Crenshaw,” she said. “They have the feeling that, this is nice, I like the feel of this.”

Webb, however, wants visitors to remember exactly where they are – in fact, he wants Crenshaw Boulevard and Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza to become citywide destinations. “Restaurants and boutiques are just the heralds of a neighborhood beginning to thrive,” he said.

“People that live in Leimert Park, View Park, Windsor Hills, Baldwin Hills are going to have every reason… to spend their dollars here. And there will be people from outside this community who want to come here just to spend time and money,” Webb said. “People who get off the freeway and travel south on Crenshaw Boulevard have a lot to look forward to.”

Write-in candidate Armenak Nouridjanian discusses taxes, jobs and drugs

This story is a part of our series of interviews with the candidates for Los Angeles City Council Districts 8 and 10.

Listen to an audio story from Annenberg Radio News:


In the race for Los Angeles City Council seats, there are four candidates in District 8. One is a write-in: Armenak Nouridjanian.

Nouridjanian is used to people hearing and watching him talk. He has had his own YouTube channel, Liberal Agenda, for four years now. There, he posts political videos almost everyday. A far left democrat, Nouridjanian describes himself as an American patriot who upholds human and civil rights in his broadcasting. Now he finds himself in mainstream politics, with a spot on the ballot for Los Angeles City Council, District 8.

“I’m running because I want to take political power as a liberal,” Nouridjanian said. “I want to help political power in order to redistribute wealth. I want to take from the rich and give to the poor.”

Nouridjanian has been a security guard, graphics artist and animator. But it is clear to anyone watching his videos that his passion is politics. And he has strong opinions about pretty much every issue and specific solutions to problems he sees.

“I’m committed to changing, first of all, tax structure,” Nouridjanian said. “I want to raise taxes against oil producers in Los Angeles areas.”

This is just one of his many plans. Nouridjanian also feels strongly about Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed budget cuts.

“It would mean less social programs, it would mean less subsidies for heating and cooling, and less opportunities for poor people to get jobs,” Nouridjanian said.

This hits close to home. Nouridjanian describes his District 8 as a mainly low-income, African American and Latino immigrant population.

“There are not problems in my neighborhood but there are certain problems with street dope dealing,” Nouridjanian said. “Sometimes you can go up stairs and you smell the unpleasant stench of narcotics.”

Dealing with drugs is high on Nouridjanian’s liberal agenda and platform, as well as regulating taxes and addressing rental subsidies.

“Also I want to expedite distribution of our section 8 rental housing subsidies to poor working class people,” Nourdjanian said. “So people would live better, and have more consumer power and gain consumer power to boost retail sales. So businesses could thrive.”

Nouridjanian is up against Jabari Jumaane, Forecsee Hogan-Rowles and Bernard Parks, the current City Council member. The election is Tuesday, March 8, 2011.

Listen to more interviews with City Council candidates.

City Council candidate Jabari Jumaane calls for more community involvement

This story is a part of our series of interviews with the candidates for Los Angeles City Council Districts 8 and 10.

On March 8th, voters in Council District 8 will vote for city council. Incumbent Bernard Parks is facing challenges from Forescee Hogan-Rowles, Community Development CEO and Jabari S. Jumaane, Los Angeles City Firefighter. Armenak H. Nouridjanian is a write-in candidate.

Listen to an audio interview from Annenberg Radio News:


Jabari Jumaane: I’m running, first of all, because it is my belief truly that all of us who want to affect social change need to give whatever talents we have to make a difference. I was taught as a youngster that there are three types of people in this world: those that make things happen, those that watch things happen and those that wonder what the heck happened. So, in an effort to stay out of category three, and get in and stay in category one, I had to get in this race. I watched this city grow in some areas, and I watched it stagnate in some others.

Albert Sabate: Tell us about your district and your experiences in it.

Jumaane: My history in the 8th district goes back almost 40 years. I started high school in the 8th district, I finished college here at USC in the 8th district. I’m a member of the Los Angeles City Fire Department and have been so now for 25 years. I founded the AFIBA organization back in 1992. AFIBA is an acronym for the African Firefighters in Benevolent Association. For the last decade, we’ve run some upward of 300 programs a year out of that building.

Sabate:What are you committed to changing or improving?

Jumaane: Well, it starts with the people. The masses really don’t feel that they have a say-so in how their communities develop. People feel side-lined in the process, don’t feel that they get a voice. What we want to do is engage people. Our plan is to have quarterly meetings throughout the year, in different parts of the district. Sometimes the furthest south-east portion gets neglected. We don’t want to neglect anybody. We want to encourage people to get in the process that develops a 20-year plan for themselves. Often times, we don’t have a 20-minute plan. One concern people have is Marlton Square. It’s been a ghost town for the last 20 years. We’ve been getting feed-back from individuals on what kind of businesses they want there. They want that place to come alive again. That’s 22 acres where nothing has been done in th e last almost 20 years.

Sabate: I was down in the 8th district yesterday, and I was surprised at how many businesses were closed. Is it really a good idea to open more businesses when the establishments that are there are struggling or no longer there anymore?

Jumaane: I think it’s always a good idea to start businesses. With business creation comes jobs. The 8th district of all the 15 districts has the lowest level of jobs per person.

Sabate: What do you see as your number one priority?

Jumaane: The most important thing to do for me would be to get the community involved. We can talk about public safety, job creation, quality of life issues. All that is true. But what we really need to attack is the level of apathy. People think of themselves as powerless. We need to change that. Once we change that particular process in someone’s mind, these other things will follow.

To contact Jumaane, email him at [email protected]

Photo courtesy of KPCC

Read more interviews with City Council candidates.

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South L.A. gets Empowered to Realize the Dream

By LaMonica Peters, executive Producer of “The Hutchinson Report” on KPFK 90.7 FM

imageThe 2nd Supervisorial District’s annual summit, “Empowered to Realize the Dream,” brought local politicians and residents together on Saturday to reflect upon the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and inspire those in attendance to continue his work here in Los Angeles.

Hosted by Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas at USC, this community event highlighted the State of the 2nd District. The Empowerment Congress, a community-based non-profit, was founded in 1992 for the purpose of involving constituents in the governmental decision-making process with their elected officials. For nearly two decades, it has been responsible for bringing hundreds of millions of dollars in economic development and 2,800 new jobs to the 8th Council District, which includes many communities in South Los Angeles.

Mark Ridley-Thomas is the first African-American man to be elected to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. He represents the 2.3 million people of the Second District, spanning Carson, Compton, Culver City, Gardena, Hawthorne, Inglewood, Lynwood, Alondra Park, Athens, Del Aire, Dominguez, East Compton, El Camino Village, Florence, Ladera Heights, Lennox, View Park, West Athens, West Carson, West Compton, Willowbrook, Wiseburn and portions of all 10 Los Angeles City Council Districts. Prior to becoming the Second District’s Supervisor, Ridley-Thomas represented the 26th District in the California State Senate.

During his address at the 2011 Annual Summit, Ridley-Thomas focused on the 2nd District’s plans and accomplishments, including:

• The new partnership with the University of California that is restoring in-patient hospital care at a new Martin Luther King, Jr. hospital;
• The adoption of Construction Career and Local Worker Hire policies at the Exposition Light Rail Construction Authority to ensure 2nd District residents receive their fair share of job opportunities and economic benefits associated with public works projects;
• The adoption of the Light Rail Transit option as the locally preferred alternative for addressing the public transit needs in the Crenshaw to LAX corridor;
• The re-opening of settlement negotiations with parties to the litigation surrounding the Baldwin Hills Community Standards District in an effort to better address the sight, smell, sound and safety issues presented by this large urban oil field; and
• The pursuit of establishing Environmental Service Centers as a means of creatively building environmentally sensitive and sustainable communities.

Although Ridley-Thomas’s presentation was the featured segment of the morning and very informative, he was followed by two of the most accomplished women in California’s history. Congresswoman Karen Bass, the first African American woman in the United States to be elected as Speaker of the Assembly, was on hand to introduce the keynote speaker. The keynote speaker was Kamala Harris, the newly elected Attorney General. Harris is the first African American, the first South Asian American, and the first woman to hold this office in California.

Harris spoke of moving away from divisive ideologies and focusing on the work the people want done: equality, safe communities, protection from corporate abuse and sound leadership from elected officials. She spoke of prison reform that would find alternatives to the mass incarceration of people of color, prosecuting those who target the elderly for fraudulent activities and the tackling the gang problem in California. Harris also encouraged the audience to not allow this generation to be complacent, accepting the ills of society as the status quo, but to be willing to unite, sacrifice and ultimately, meet the challenges that we face today.

The event culminated with breakout sessions on a range of issues affecting the Los Angeles community: the child welfare system, economic development, youth empowerment, green technology, mental illness, non-profit organizations, social justice through arts, incarceration, redistricting and emergency preparedness. The workshops were facilitated by Los Angeles County officials, including Dr. Lori Glasgow, Deputy Chief of Staff for Supervisor Michael Antonovich and Richard Fajardo, Senior Deputy for Justice and Public Safety.

Next year will mark the 20th Anniversary Celebration of this community Summit. Since 2012 will also be an election year, the 2nd District Annual Summit will undoubtedly be an unmissable event. For more information about the Empowerment Congress, go to www.empowermentcongress.org or call 213-346-3246. You may also reach Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas at 213-974-2222.