Seeking bonds between South LA and LAPD

By Arielle Samuelson 

Rep. Karen Bass meet with Angelenos in South L.A. after asking for suggestions to improve police-community relations. |  Arielle Samuelson/Neon Tommy

Rep. Karen Bass meet with Angelenos in South L.A. after asking for suggestions to improve police-community relations. | Arielle Samuelson/Neon Tommy

Congresswoman Karen Bass, from California’s 37th District, flew from Capitol Hill to Ferguson, Mo. to a South Los Angeles church last Saturday to gather a flock of concerned citizens in a town hall meeting to discuss new policing reforms for better relations between community members and the Los Angeles Police Department.

Two lines stretched down both sides of the church and Bass was kept an hour over schedule in order to hear every person who wanted to offer suggestions to improve police department behavior in the community. [Read more…]

Allenco to pay for upgrades at South LA oil drilling site

Allenco | Emmanuel Martinez

A gate barricades the AllenCo oil drill site from the street. | Emmanuel Martinez

The Environmental Protection Agency announced an agreement with the Allenco Energy Inc. Friday that will cost the South L.A. oil production facility $700,000 for site improvements after it was found to be in violation of industry standards and receiving hundreds of residential complaints.

This deal is a result of an EPA investigation that uncovered several health and safety violations.

“When a company is operating in extremely close proximity to a neighboring community, it is essential that steps are taken to ensure the safety of the residents,” said Jared Blumenfeld, the EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest division, in a statement. “Today’s order requires Allenco make the investments necessary to comply with the federal Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.”

Also see: City Council votes to halt oil drilling in South LA and throughout city, West Adams neighbors seek to oust oil productionAllenco addresses South LA oil field complaints [Read more…]

South LA could get Promise Zone funding in Obama’s 2015 budget plan

Obama | The White House

Obama discussed the 2015 budget at an elementary school in Washington D.C. | The White House

President Barack Obama released his 2015 budget proposal on Tuesday, revealing a plan to create 40 new “Promise Zones” nationwide — a major bump from last year’s designation of just five. As a low-income neighborhood, South Los Angeles stands to benefit, said Rep. Karen Bass.

“I’m thrilled by the resources he’s putting in,” she said. “In regards to South L.A., he’s calling for the establishment of 40 more Promise Zones, so that could really increase the possibility that an application from South L.A. would be successful.”

Last year, Obama passed over South L.A. in selecting neighborhoods eligible for funding that could improve education, housing and public safety. Instead, he picked L.A.’s Pico-Union, Westlake, Koreatown, East Hollywood and Hollywood neighborhoods. The move left some L.A. leaders and activists feeling that South L.A. had been neglected. [Read more…]

Congresswoman Karen Bass: A Women’s History Month salute

By Francisco Garcia
Dorsey High School Culinary Arts Student

imageThe day I met Congresswoman Karen Bass was an interesting occasion. She visited the Dorsey High School Culinary Arts students for a special breakfast in her honor. I made one of my specialty items, Breakfast Egg Spread, made with hard boiled eggs mixed with black pepper, ranch dressing and green onions. The ingredients are spread on top of a toasted baguette and topped off with sprinkles of chopped turkey bacon. Cooking the Breakfast Egg Spread wasn’t the best part; it was watching everyone eat and enjoy what I cooked.

Meeting the Congresswoman, who represents South Los Angeles, was an honor because she took time out of her busy schedule to support our Let’s Move! project, “Cooking Live with Dorsey High.” We sat down at the table with Ms. Bass and ate French toast, turkey sausage with sugar-free syrup, omelettes stuffed with vegetables and apple pastries. This was a very educational experience as it taught me that I can really cook and that there are so many diverse foods for me to learn how to cook. I’m not used to cooking food from different cultures and now I know more about different foods and will test my cooking skills with preparing Soul Food in the Dorsey kitchen.

imageFrancisco Garcia preparing his Breakfast Egg Spread at Dorsey High School.

Breakfast with Congresswoman Karen Bass gave everyone the opportunity to have an close and personal talk with her. Our sponsor, Ms. Daphne Bradford, introduced her and the congresswoman accepted the invitation to come up to podium and tell us about her history-making accomplishments in the political world. I didn’t know Karen Bass was the first African American woman to serve as the Speaker of the California Assembly. Not many of my friends can say they made breakfast for a history-making member of Congress. After Representative Bass finished speaking, we took a big group picture and she was off to her next meeting with a full stomach compliments of “Cooking Live with Dorsey High.”

imageThe finished Breakfast Egg Spread prepared by Dorsey culinary student Francisco Garcia.

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 or call 213-346-3246. You may also reach Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas at 213-974-2222.

Karen Bass speaks about her new role in Washington

Listen to the audio story:


Read the audio script:

LeTania Kirkland: Now that election day has passed, what are your objectives in this new role?

Karen Bass: Well, you know, first order of business is really getting organized and hiring staff and the nuts and bolts of getting ready to take office and move across country. That’s the beginning, and then after that is really looking at where things are going to be. Considering there was such a dramatic change in Congress, it’s really going to take a couple of weeks before it’s even clear what direction I can proceed.

Kirkland: Now that Republicans have taken control of the House, what challenges do you anticipate, and how do you think you might work together or compromise to meet your own objectives?

Bass: I’m used to working with Republicans. I just finished serving six years in the state Legislature and two years as speaker. In those two years as speaker, I had to work with the legislative leaders on the other side of the aisle. I’m used to that. I do anticipate, though, that it’s going to be quite chaotic. I do believe January, I’m going to find a certain level of chaos. The Republicans coming in are coming from a couple of different perspectives. The Republicans who are in office now, and then you have ones that are coming in that are going to be much stronger in terms of being conservative, and so how they are going to act with the existing Republican caucus I think is going to be one area of challenge and then the change in leadership, so the Democrats stepping down from chairmanships and Republicans taking over, I think January and February is going to be pretty chaotic.

Kirkland: After Diane Watson’s long run in Congress, what is it like following that legacy?

Bass: I feel wonderful about it and extremely honored that number one, she felt I could follow in her footsteps. I’ve certainly been in contact with her very closely over these last two years, and I feel that she has done a tremendous amount to prepare me. I feel ready to serve, and with the challenges we’ve had in California over the last couple of years, I think it has served as good preparation for me.

Kirkland: In today’s political climate, a lot of the focus has been driven to everyday middle America. How might you bring the focus back to cities and inner-cities in particular?

Bass: Everyday middle America is Los Angeles. What we’re facing here is being experienced around the country, and that’s record unemployment. And of course the unemployment in the district is high in certain areas. The overall district is relatively affluent compared to the rest of Los Angeles, but there are very serious pockets of poverty. And so many of the issues related to that, I’ve had a long history working on and plan to continue in Congress. What I would be able to do, though, is truly remained to be seen.

Kirkland: You were a community organizer for years. How has that work influenced your work in politics thus far, and how do you imagine it will in the future?

Bass: Being a community organizer has been extremely helpful to me. I use the same principles of organizing in the six years when I was in Sacramento. It helped me obtain the speakership, it helped me get legislation passed. Community organizing, very simply said, is about building, maintaining and connecting relationships. That’s what it’s about. And so, you know, the skills and the art that you learn as an organizer is applicable, as far as I’m concerned, to many different areas of life, but it’s extremely applicable to the legislative process.

Kirkland: Given that it may take through the month of January for things to settle, is there still any hope that you have for this time that you’re stepping into?

Bass: Oh, sure. I mean, I have plenty of hope. Believe me, I wouldn’t be going if I didn’t. I think that we’re in a situation that has happened historically, where any time you’re in the mid-year, two years into a new presidency, you see this type of change. I think this type of change is something that happens and it’s a question of regrouping and moving forward. I do believe that once things settle down, I will be able to accomplish things. The issues that I’ve worked on, foster care, education reform, health care, criminal justice issues, it’ll take me a month or two before I can determine what I can start working on. The good thing about Congress is that I won’t be term limited. Naturally, I have to run for re-election, but I can actually have a long-term plan, and I will begin to establish that after January is over.

Contact Karen Bass:
Capitol Office
State Capitol
P.O. Box 942849
Sacramento, CA 94249-0047
(916) 319-2047
(916) 319-2147 fax

District Office
5750 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 565
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 937-4747
(323) 937-3466 fax

Email: [email protected]

Candidates compete for 33rd District seat

On June 8, voters will decide who will win Congresswoman Diane Watson’s 33rd District seat when she leaves office. On February 17, Watson announced she did not want to seek re-election this year because she wanted to spend time with her 100-year-old mother.

Whoever replaces Watson will work in one of the most diverse districts in California, Watson, who represented the district since 2001, said. There is a large population of South Koreans, the largest outside of South Korea, as well as a large number of Hispanics. The 33rd District is also home to Armenians, Pacific Islanders and African Americans.

Democrats in the upcoming race include Karen Bass, Morris F. Griffin, Nick Juan Mostert and Felton Newell. James L. Andion, David C. Crowley II and Phil Jennerjahn are the republican candidates.

Though Watson highly endorsed Bass, Bass said she will not take any part of this election for granted. The speaker emeritus of the California State Assembly said she has continued to walk neighborhoods, attended house meetings and sought endorsements.

“I feel that it is important for me to work at this level right now in terms of going to Congress,” Bass said, referring to Republican Scott Brown’s January victory over Martha Coakley for the late Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat. “Also, I think it is a question of respect. Respect for voters.”

For about 30 years, Bass has been involved in foreign and domestic issues. She founded Community Coalition, a community-based social justice organization. She started the organization about 20 years ago to deal with issues like drugs and crack cocaine addiction, which Bass said led directly to the “explosion” in foster care. Other issues Bass has addressed include criminal justice reform, health care and affordable housing. Bass also became the first African-American woman to be elected Speaker of the California State Assembly.

When Bass was first elected to the Assembly, she organized People’s Council, a group of volunteer community leaders who attempted to involve constituents in the public policy process. If she is elected June 8, she said she will possibly use a similar strategy to address issues in the 33rd District.

“I don’t know what I will create this time, but what I plan to do is bring together the leaders who are in the People’s Council and do a half-day retreat and say, ‘Now it is a congressional district. What do you think we should do, how do you think it should be organized?’” Bass said.

One current focus is policy issues, Bass told the Los Angeles Watts Times. Though her main focus is not on campaign promises, health care, jobs and advancement of green technology remain areas of interest for Bass. Her main focus, however, is on June 8.

“From June 8 on, if I am successful, I will have six months” to work on policy matters, Bass said. “I need to learn the federal process. So I could make up stuff, but I do’t want to do that. After June 8, that’s when I want to spend the time learning the federal system and trying to see what is realistic.”

Karen Bass frontrunner for House seat

The upcoming June 8 elections may only be primaries. But in the 33rd District, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by 6 to 1, the winner of the Democratic primary is a shoo-in to be elected.

Other primary races throughout the state have gotten heated. But retiring Rep. Diane Watson, 76, seems to have a clear successor in current State Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, whom Watson endorsed.

Bass also received endorsements from a host of other politicians, including Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Rep. Maxine Waters, and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas – not to mention Magic Johnson.

Several factors prevented the race from turning into a more contentious campaign, like the one Watson won after the death of Rep. Julian Dixon, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Among them:

-Watson’s last-minute announcement came as a surprise to would-be candidates

-Bass entered quickly, and was a high-profile candidate

-By obtaining the support of both Watson and many other political figures, she scared away potential competitors

“It’s not a race, because [Bass] is pretty much the consensus choice,” Cal State Fullerton political scientist Raphael Sonenshein, told the Times. “And it’s not all that surprising, given her standing.”

But several candidates are still hoping to challenge her.  Her Democratic opponents include management consultant Mervin L. Evans; maintenance technician Morris F. Griffin; Howie Mandel; Nick Juan Mostert, an attorney and legislative analyst; criminal prosecutor Felton Newell. and postal worker Sheldon J. Tobias, the LA Wave reports.

Newell, who studied law under now-President Obama at the University of Chicago, took time off from his job to run.

He criticized Bass’s ties to special interest and said she didn’t do enough to oppose budget cuts, while Bass said she helped to save important programs.

BLOG: Community Coalition turns 20

The 1980s were a turning point in South Los Angeles. It was a time of Reaganomics which brought the disappearance of jobs in urban communities like South LA. And while residents were sinking deeper into poverty, the crack cocaine epidemic was further devastating the neighborhood. Enter the Community Coalition, which was founded in 1990 by a group of community activitists, including Karen Bass who recently stepped down as the California Assembly Speaker.

Twenty years later, CoCo, as it’s affectionately known, is still going strong and beginning a year-long celebration of its anniversary. The kick-off event is scheduled for Saturday, March 20, 2010 at 10 am. Founder Karen Bass will be on hand to help celebrate.

Community Coalition organizes among African American and Latino residents “to build a prosperous and healthy South LA with safe neighborhoods, quality schools, a strong social safety net and positive economic development in order to reduce crime, poverty and substance abuse in our community.”

The organization has grown over the years to a staff of some 25 people with dozens of members and community residents that work on its campaigns. CoCo receives funding from major foundations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation and the Sterling Foundation, to name a few. image

One of CoCo’s campaigns has centered on improving neighborhoods by cracking down on so-called nuisance businesses, such as liquor stores, hourly motels and recycling centers. CoCo has spearheaded protests against Governor Schwarzenegger’s budget cuts, and it’s also organizing among young people with its South Central Youth Empowered through Action and its High School Organizing Committees.

CoCo is urging people who worked on its campaigns over the last 20 years to share their stories. The organization is putting together a list of its top 20 victories and contributions to the South L.A. community. You can email your story about your participation or most memorable experience, or share it on CoCo’s website.

To RSVP to the March 20th event, visit their website and RSVP online or contact Kusema Thomas at [email protected].

Bill to help homeowners avoid foreclosure

California Assembly Speaker Karen Bass and other assembly leaders joined Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in Los Angeles on Tuesday to push a bill that would help homeowners avoid foreclosure. The Monitored Mortgage Workout Program would force banks to meet with borrowers and a state-appointed mediator before foreclosing homes. Hear an audio report by Ariel Edwards Levy of Annenberg Radio News.

Around the Capitol Report on AB 1588