LA County Office of Education forced Kedren Head Start closure, says Waters

Maxine Waters speaking outside the LACOE meeting on Tuesday. | Stephanie Monte

Maxine Waters speaking outside the LACOE meeting on Tuesday. | Stephanie Monte

Congresswoman Maxine Waters demanded a federal investigation of the L.A. County Office of Education on Tuesday, saying the office strong-armed the CEO of Kedren Head Start to give up its contract and close about 30 centers.

Kedren serves roughly 2,200 children at Head Start facilities located in South Los Angeles communities including Watts.

Waters told families and press gathered outside the Board of Education meeting in Downey that LACOE forced the President of Kedren, John Griffith, to make a decision in less than two hours.

“What they do is intimate the directors of these delegate agencies,” said Waters. “They tell them if they don’t give up their contract, that somehow it’s going to be even worse off for the program.”

See also on Intersections: Children’s Institute to take over Kedren Head Start centers in South LA 

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Demolition begins on Marlton Square in South LA

imageA smiling Bernard Parks watched as an excavator dug its claws into a dilapidated building at Marlton Square, marking what everyone hopes will be a real beginning of a new shopping center. The 8th District city councilman has been assuring Crenshaw residents for years that this day would come. But you could forgive residents if they were skeptical.

The 20-acre property has been eyesore for decades. Its sorry odyssey dates back to 1984 when Mayor Tom Bradley called for redevelopment of what was then known as Santa Barbara Plaza.

The development stalled right from the start and ran into a brick wall in 2004 when the development group awarded the contract, Chris Hammond and Capital Vision Equities, defaulted on the project. CVE’s bank then went bankrupt and the property was tied up in bankruptcy court.
Since then, Parks and other officials worked to gather funds for the Community Redevelopment Authority of Los Angeles (CRA/LA) to buy the remaining properties.

“If there’s one lesson to take away from the past decade, it’s the importance of attaining site control before undertaking a project of this magnitude,” Parks said. “This project will have high, high job creation and significant commercial retail development.”

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) called this step a “little miracle” and she praised residents for their patience in putting up with the vacant and rundown condition of the area. From the ground and the air it looks like a bombed out section of city neighborhood.

Several officials, such as Crenshaw Community Advisory Council Chair Joyce Perkins and Kenneth Fearn, Chair of the CRA/LA Board of Commissioners, spoke about shopping at Santa Barbara Plaza when it was a thriving and vibrant neighborhood hub. Sitting next to the Crenshaw Maill with its soon-to-be-renovated food court and the newly refurbished Rave Motion Pictures theatres, it’s in a prime location to again become a gathering spot.

But what happens from here is still a question mark. Parks said that he hopes within the next two months to have some idea of what the project will look like. In the meantime, senior citizen housing at the Buckingham Place Senior Apartments is due to be finished and occupied by February, according to Parks. That project was taken over by Meta Housing from developer Hammond.

Last year and Intersections South LA teamed up last year to produce a comprehensive story on the Marlton Square project. See for more background on the series of stories we produced and see the stories below.

Watch video of the demolition by Walter Melton of LeimertParkBeat.

Ken Beavers, community resident, gives his reaction to the project.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters hosts community meeting on federal budget cuts

Hundreds of South LA residents gathered at Jesse Owens Park today to attend a community meeting on federal budget cuts hosted by Congresswoman Maxine Waters.

Many in attendance work with community organizations that are at risk of losing funding because of federal budget cuts. Signs demanded everything from more jobs to more money for early childhood education or senior care.

Sunny skies and upbeat music lightened the mood, but there was no mistaking the serious subject matter—people were concerned about what these cuts will mean for them.

When Waters took the stage, she addressed the fiscal frustration in her opening statements: “We’re sick and tired of the mess that’s going on…we are not going to take these cuts sitting down.”

She saw the large and vocal crowd as a clear counter to the accusation that her district is quiet and complacent. “Nobody is going to do more for us than we do for ourselves,” Waters said.

Later, addressing the near shut down of the federal government the night before, Waters initially had good news. “The government is not going to shut down now. I don’t know if we deserve any applause for that, but we didn’t want the government to shut down. People are depending on their paychecks and services.”

But she cautioned that the stability would not last long. “We’re going to have to vote on Wednesday for the deal that was cut on the permanent continuant resolution through the end of the year.”

Waters encouraged her constituents to seek out information through the news and the internet so they would know exactly what was on the chopping block in the latest round of proposed cuts.

In addition to State Assemblymen Isadore Hall and LA City Council members Bernard Parks and Jan Perry, local government leaders from the surrounding cities of Carson, Lawndale, and Gardena also spoke.

Waters introduced local religious leaders as well as the heads of dozens of community organizations. Many encouraged residents to continue to band together as a community. Several stressed the importance of writing to senators and the president. There was also mention of the recent protests in Wisconsin and Ohio and the suggestion that California could be next.

Latisha Edwards works for the Training and Research Foundation Head Start Program in Inglewood. When asked why she came to the meeting, she pointed to her bright purple sign that read, “Head Start is the foundation of education.”

“My sign says it all,” she said. “Without education there is no future, and without a future, there’s nothing.”

House Republicans introduced a bill this month to reduce Head Start funding by $2 billion—nearly a quarter of President Obama’s 2011 budget request.

“We need funds for our kids because without those funds and education, how do you have doctors, lawyers, senators, governors, presidents?” Edwards continued. “How can our country be a leading country?”

Read more on this topic:
Advocates, citizens, leaders celebrate first birthday of health care bill
South LA officials and community members push to save libraries

Crowds gather in Leimert Park for Kingdom Day Parade

Leimert Park Village leapt to life this Martin Luther King Jr. Day as families filled the sidewalks surrounding the intersection of Crenshaw and West Martin Luther King Jr. boulevards to watch the Kingdom Day Parade and join in festivities honoring the holiday’s namesake.

Marching bands and drill teams from Beckman, Crenshaw, and Inglewood High Schools, among others, filled the streets with bold, brassy music as Los Angeles City Council members waved to their constituents from slow-moving convertibles.

At the end of the parade route, booths had been set up selling everything from food to tote bags to King-inspired T-shirts.

Crenshaw High School freshman and marching band member Tierney Shellmyer relaxed in the shade under the awning of the Vision Theater. He said it was hot marching and playing in a heavy uniform, but he was glad to be able to be a part of the day’s events.

“It’s good to be in the band. We have fun,” Shellmyer added. “And once we got down here towards Crenshaw, that’s when we really started playing. There were a whole bunch of people and we thought, OK, now we gotta really play.”

Radio station KJLH set up a stage in Leimert Park where local singers performed gospel songs or music that reminded them of King.

During a break in the music, 8th District Councilmember Bernard Parks took the stage and introduced Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who had flown in from Washington for the weekend.

Waters noted that while there is plenty of cause for celebration, today’s holiday does have a more serious side.

“We don’t simply come out just to have a good time,” Waters said. “We come out to give recognition to the fact that he lived, and he died for us. He sacrificed for justice and peace, and so we’ve got to be about some serious business.”

For Waters, that first order of serious business back in Washington is making sure the health care reform bill is not repealed.

On the sidewalks, however, kids eating snow cones, clowns crafting balloon animals, and high school friends hugging after a successful parade performance made it hard to stay too serious for too long.

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