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.







Facing off against pollution in South LA neighborhoods

Screenshot of the Southern California area on CalEnviroScreen. The dark blue portions indicate the most polluted areas. | CalEnviroScreen

Screenshot of the Southern California area on CalEnviroScreen. The dark blue portions indicate the most polluted areas. | CalEnviroScreen

Many California residents, particularly in metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, gripe about the smog that chokes the horizon. But some communities, including several in South Los Angeles, have it worse than others.

According to a recent report from the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, ethnic minorities comprise a large proportion of residents in California’s most polluted neighborhoods despite making up a relatively small percentage of the statewide population.

An online tool called the CalEnviroScreen depicts California’s pollution levels by the state’s more than 8,000 census tracts using a color scale. It shows immediate pollution levels as well as “potential vulnerability.” Launched in 2012, the tool has been updated several times since. Recent versions include an analysis of the relationship between race and the CalEnviroScreen scores. The data indicates that Latinos and African Americans are disproportionately affected.

[Read more…]

Obesity concerns still rank high in South LA

By Daniella Segura

Moving to South Los Angeles from her home of 18 years in Los Feliz, Marie-Alise de Marco expected many changes, but the lack of healthy food options in her new community was not one of them.

De Marco, 50, a manager at the Crenshaw Farmer’s Market, said she has always been health conscious, making sure what she makes for her husband and two boys are healthy. She tries to buy organic foods to prepare for her family and avoids other foods infused with pesticides and hormones. image

De Marco recalled how she went to a Ralph’s market in South L.A. to buy groceries for her family, soon after moving to the area in the fall of 2009. There was no organic milk or blue cheese that she wanted.

“It was just mind boggling that there was no choice,” she said. “There was nothing healthy, nothing organic…if you would have taken the name Ralph’s off that store, I wouldn’t have known I was at a Ralph’s.”

De Marco isn’t the only one affected by the lack of healthy options in South L.A. The region has long suffered from a lack of diversity in dining options.

About 70 percent of the restaurants in South L.A. are fast food restaurants, far higher than areas such as West L.A., where the figure is about 40 percent, according to the Community Health Councils, a non-profit, community-based health education and policy organization.

Paul Simon, director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health’s Division of Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention, said the abundance of fast food restaurants contributes to the high obesity rates in South L.A.

In 2011, about 33 percent of adults in South L.A. were obese, which is an estimated 12 percentage points higher than Los Angeles County’s overall rate, according to reports by the L.A. County Department of Public Health.

“We think [the obesity rate] reflects the types of foods that are available in that community,” Simon said. “It’s a very low income area of the county, and it seems to be filled with foods that are prone to making people overweight.”

City officials have recently taken measures to address the problem; passing a fast food moratorium that restricts the building of stand-alone fast food restaurants in South L.A.

Since the start of the ban in 2007, obesity rates among adults in South L.A. have fallen by about 3 percentage points, according to reports by the L.A. County Department of Public Health. The decrease marked the largest fall in obesity for any area in L.A. County since 2007. Yet up until 2011, South L.A. had the highest obesity rates for L.A. County.

Antelope Valley is now marked with the unwelcome distinction as the county’s most obese area, according to a report by the L.A. County Department of Public Health.

Breanna Morrison, a health policy analyst at Community Health Councils, said a number of factors helped prompt the decrease in obesity, including the fast food ban.

“Part of the idea behind the fast food regulation was to not concede to allow McDonald’s and these other restaurants to monopolize the very little undeveloped land that we have left in South L.A.,” Morrison said. “Instead, let’s preserve it for the development of healthier alternatives.”

Since 2007, there have been six new grocery stores erected in South L.A., Morrison said. Among the newly built grocery stores are a Fresh and Easy Neighborhood Market on Adams Boulevard and a Farm Fresh Ranch Market on Vermont Avenue.

She also said that from 2007 to 2009, the percentage of adults who consumed fast food in South L.A. four to five times per week fell about two percentage points, according to surveys done by the Community Health Councils and L.A. County Department of Public Health.

Morrison said the fast food ban was a good first step toward making South L.A. a healthier community, but she says more needs to be done, including building more parks and other recreation areas, which directly deal with the problem of obesity.

“What the policy has done is shown that the community is concerned about health,” Morrison said. “The community is the one that will drive the change to make South L.A. a healthier place. It’s all about them.”

Early voting in L.A. County

Listen to an audio story from Annenberg Radio News

imageLos Angeles County is the biggest and most diverse voting jurisdiction in the country with about 4.6 million registered voters. “We’re kind of an anomaly, we actually have more registered voters than close to 40 of the 50 states in the nation,” says Dean Logan, the LA County Registrar-Recorder. His office in Norwalk oversees all of the voting in LA County.

California is one of only 32 states that offer early voting and Norwalk is the only place in LA County where voters can cast their ballots early. LA County used to have about 15 sites for early voting until concerns were raised about the security of the touch-screen computer systems that voters used there.

So in the 2008 election early voting was limited to just one location. Voters who come in early no longer vote on a computer, they just fill out a paper form like they would if they were voting by mail.

Voters cast their ballots early for a variety of reasons.

“We’ll actually be out of town,” said Cindy Tamae.

“I won’t be in town,” said Gene Rice.

“Well, I had an absentee ballot and I kind of messed it up so I had to come in to get another one so I just voted while I was here,” said Richard Davis.

Logan says, of the voters who show up early to vote,”It’s a pretty broad cross-section of our electorate.”image

And even though the groups that come to vote early are diverse in terms of age, ethnicity and political opinions, there is one major trend.

“The people who would go to early voting locations are pretty consistent voters,” says Logan.

He says early voters are the kind of people who will find a way to vote no matter what the options are. And election-to-election, those options change.

“I do think we have to pay attention to changing voter behaviors. I think the public in general has higher expectations and the future generations have higher expectations of there being options for voting. So I don’t think the future holds one specific manner of voting,” Logan said.

Whichever method voters choose to get their vote out, Logan says he expects a strong turnout this year and voters have many reasons for getting to the polls.

“It’s a priority in terms of this election and making sure that the other propositions that are out, that I have a say,” said Veronica Williams.

“It’s a presidential election, you have to vote to be counted,” said Rice.

About 2,500 people have already come to Norwalk to vote early. Logan says that number will probably pick up this weekend and next weekend. The Norwalk early voting station will be open every day through November 6th.

Click here for the LA County of Registrar-Recorder’s website.

South Los Angeles citizens pledge support for Sheriff Lee Baca

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News

imageSome Los Angelenos are beginning to speak out in support of Sheriff Lee Baca. The sheriff is facing criticism after the ACLU recently revealed that they’re investigating widespread inmate abuse in LA county prisons under the supervision of Sheriff Lee Baca.

Baca responded last week by meeting with inmates, collecting their concerns and beginning an internal investigation to look into their allegations.

But Peter Eliasberg of the Southern California ACLU says Baca’s latest investigation is nothing but a “PR effort” to cover up years of verbal harassment, beatings and tazings.

“All of these things add up to not only a pattern of abuse but also a pattern of investigation that even Inspector Clusoe wouldn’t do, they were so poorly done – and designed not to get at the truth.”

On the contrary, Baca says he hasn’t looked into deputies on this scale because, for years, he simply didn’t know about physical abuse or unsanitary living conditions. He didn’t even know how badly inmates needed soap or extra blankets.

“I’m willing to learn the lessons. I’m willing to engage my department’s deputies so that they can learn the lessons. And the lessons aren’t learned just by training and policy and supervision.”

If Baca is trying to preserve political support, he’s popular in South Los Angeles, promised Dr. Sandra Moore. She chairs both Concerned Citizens for Fair Policing and the Citizens Advisory Board in South LA and hosted a press conference in Watts today.

“I just want the community to know, he’s not resigning. we won’t allow it. he’s not going anywhere. But we’re gonna work with him side by side. The ACLU can have the same opportunity.”

The ACLU has demanded Baca’s resignation, but this panel of about a dozen neighborhood organizations pledged unflinching support for the Sheriff.