SoCal air board restricts urban oil fields + South LA cardiologist and community activist dies

A view of the Budlong oil drilling site. | Matt Tinoco

A view of the Budlong oil drilling site. | Matt Tinoco

Southern California air board puts new restrictions on urban oil fields: Southern California oil companies have been ordered by the South Coast Air Quality Management District to improve communications with neighbors regarding odor complaints. South LA has several active oil drilling sites that have caused health and noise problems for residents. (Los Angeles Times)

James Mays dies at 77; South L.A. cardiologist and community activist: James Mays, a local activist, passed away due to complications from lung disease. Mays was a cardiologist and also started several community outreach programs to help families in South Los Angeles. (Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles midwives aim to end racial disparities at birth: African American midwives are working in underserved areas to give pregnant mothers and their children the best shot at life. A South LA birthing center is working to make pregnancy and birth more affordable. (Al Jazeera America)

Garcetti and Beck say city is working to halt rise in homicides: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Police Chief Charlie Beck held an emergency summit to address rising violence in South Los Angeles over the past month. The city is working with local community leaders and organizations to stop the sharp increase homicides. (Los Angeles Times)


Photos: Thousands take to South LA streets for CicLAvia 2014

From Leimert Park to Central Avenue last Sunday, bikers took over Martin Luther King Boulevard, enjoying the mild weather, live music and food from local businesses. Check out our snapshots of the day:

Bill Clinton endorses mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel

Bill Clinton announced Monday that he endorses Wendy Greuel for mayor of Los Angeles, according to a Clinton press release.

Clinton highlighted Greuel’s strength in making “government work for ordinary people…especially during periods of crisis.”

Click here for more of the story.

OPINION: Meet Compton’s mayoral candidate Aja Brown

By Melissa Hebert

Aja Brown is a second-generation resident of Compton who has entered the municipal elections for Mayor of the City of Compton. Brown has an extensive background in planning and has experience working for Compton’s redevelopment agency.

imageAja Brown

Please state your name and time as a resident in the City of Compton, and which district you reside in?
Aja Brown, second-generation Compton resident. I reside in District 2.

What makes you qualified to run for the seat you wish to fill?
I have over 10 years of community development and economic development experience working with the municipalities of Gardena, Inglewood, Pasadena (former Planning Commissioner) and the City of Compton’s redevelopment agency. I am an urban planner by educational training. I graduated from the University of Southern California’s Sol Price School of Public Policy, Planning and Development, and hold a B.S. in Policy, Planning and Development and a Master’s in Planning – emphasis Economic Development. [Read more…]

Closeups of the 2013 Los Angeles mayoral race candidates

As Antonio Villaraigosa bows out of his role as Los Angeles Mayor, several candidates have stepped up to the stage to snag his spot. Those looking to replace him are City Council Members Eric Garcetti and Jan Perry, entrepreneur Emanuel Pleitez, former federal prosecutor Kevin James and City Controller Wendy Greuel.

Rosalie Murphy has profile of the candidates to discover the issues they want to address for Angelenos.

Candidate Closeup: Eric Garcetti
City Councilmember Eric Garcetti leads polling in the days before LA’s mayoral primary. But is he a strong enough personality to lead the city politically? MORE…

Candidate Closeup: Wendy Greuel
In the days before March’s mayoral primary, City Controller Wendy Greuel leads the field in funds raised. She is expected to advance to the May runoff election. MORE…

Candidate Closeup: Kevin James
Kevin James is more like a watchdog than a City Hall outsider—a longtime Angeleno keeping a careful eye on its policymakers. MORE…

Candidate Closeup: Jan Perry
There are two narratives about City Councilmember Jan Perry. MORE…

Candidate Closeup: Emanuel Pleitez
Emanuel Pleitez is the Los Angeles mayoral race’s undisputed underdog. MORE…

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa endorses Curren Price for L.A. City Council

In a dramatic sign of the growing and diverse coalition behind a campaign to transform the 9th District, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has endorsed Sen. Curren Price for L.A. City Council.

The mayor cited Price’s deep roots in the 9th District, and his impressive record of achievement in the areas of immigrants’ rights, public safety, expanding healthcare coverage and providing opportunities in education.

“Curren Price was born in the 9th District, attended a school in the 9th, and then went on to serve residents and families in the 9th District in the legislature,” said Villaraigosa. “As State Senator, Curren Price helped champion the California Dream Act that expanded access to college for children of immigrants, he helped protect funding for neighborhood schools and for anti-gang programs, and he successfully expanded health care coverage for all families.”

Price welcomed the enthusiastic support from one of America’s most visible leaders, and said he looked forward to coming to City Hall and building on the progress that has been made during Villaraigosa’s time as mayor.

“Mayor Villaraigosa is a good friend who loves Los Angeles and cares deeply about its future,” said Price. “He understands that it will take a record of leadership, integrity and experience to move the 9th District forward, and a champion to fight for its fair share of resources and city services. The advances in public transit and neighborhood safety that have resulted from Mayor Villaraigosa’s leadership have set the stage for the 9th District to become a model for how diverse communities can unite behind shared goals, and make their neighborhoods a better place to live for our families.”

Mayor Villaraigosa’s support is the latest development in the campaign that demonstrates mounting support for Sen. Price’s campaign. Among elected leaders, Sen. Price’s City Council candidacy is also endorsed by Gov. Jerry Brown; Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom; former State Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez; Congressman and former L.A. City Councilman Tony Cardenas; Congresswoman Karen Bass; Congresswoman Gloria Negrete McLeod; L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas; L.A. City Council President Herb Wesson Jr.; and State Sen. Kevin de Leon.

Sen. Price has also won endorsements from the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO; United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA); SEIU; AFSCME Local 685, UNITE HERE; United Farm Workers; and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Wendy Greuel And Eric Garcetti Both Shine Among Environmental Groups

Click here to read the story.

Candidate Closeup: Kevin James

Listen to an audio story from Annenberg Radio News

imagePhoto by Graham Clark/Neon Tommy.

Kevin James is more like a watchdog than a City Hall outsider—a longtime Angeleno keeping a careful eye on its policymakers. For more than six years, he hosted a talk radio show about LA politics on KRLA (AM 870).

James cancelled the show when he started his mayoral run more than a year ago. He spent much of his airtime providing conservative commentary on politics, national and local. He also aired shows about each of the city’s neighborhood councils.

James has no direct political experience—he grew up in Texas and Oklahoma, served as an assistant U.S. attorney, then practiced entertainment law in LA. He also spent two years directing AIDS Project Los Angeles. If elected, James would be LA’s first openly gay mayor.

A gay Republican leading a decidedly Democratic city. An ex-prosecutor taking out-of-state campaign funding in a scene dominated by unions and political partnerships. That resume may seem contradictory—but longtime city reporter Ron Kaye says it’s at least as valuable as one from City Hall.

“I think Kevin James has raised the most amount of issues with the best knowledge of what’s broken,” said Kaye. “Nobody, I don’t think, has an answer, and the closest to it is James, in that he would negotiate and put the unions under pressure. But he’s a Republican, and I think he would have a very hard time getting the leverage and support that he needs from City Hall.”

James talks confidently, though. Like every candidate, he says the city budget is his first priority—and he has a five-year plan that is heavy on numbers. He would balance the budget with pension reform, tax loophole closures and increased revenue.

By lowering business tax rates, James thinks he’ll drive investment during his first term—and he says new companies will bring in enough revenue to eliminate the need for tax increases on individuals. But… if it comes down to it, he says he’s willing to raise taxes.

“Because I am the fiscal conservative in the field, and because my opponents have lost whatever credibility they had on tax increases… When I come in and give an independent look to the books on these projects, if I have to tell the voters that this is a tax increase that we need for whetever the purpose is, I’ve got much more credibility with them than they my opponents do,” James said.

James comes across as straightforward. He didn’t equivocate when I asked about the controversial decision to allow Wal-Mart to put a store in Chinatown: “I supported it. The community wanted it,” James said. “I won’t say no to any private industry that wants to come here. I know Wal-Mart is controversial, but you know what? Our city needs jobs.”

That directness appeals to some voters, like Sherri Bell, a South LA native who attended a recent mayoral forum.

“Kevin James, I feel, did a good job in today’s forum… You have to have a plan in order to execute the goals you’re telling the public you’re going to reach,” Bell said.

James’s experience as a talk show host sparks his energy—especially the neighborhood council series. During our interview, he rapped his fingers fervently when he described talking directly to the public.

“The neighborhood councils, I kind of fell into, and have developed a real appreciation for,” James said. “If you want to know what is really happening in LA, you go to the neighborhoods.”

James wants to offer neighborhood council seats on city-wide commissions that will advise him personally. These people are already engaged … and James says it would be a shame not to put their energy toward actual policymaking.

“These people are volunteering their time. They’re learning city issues. And they’re doing it for free because they love their city, they love their neighborhoods, they love their kids, and they love their community. And I don’t know a city in the country that has the kind of volunteer and city engagement that we have in LA,” James said.

That really resonates with Collins Osagiede, who serves on the Silver Lake neighborhood council.

“The more you get your neighborhood councils involved, the more you get your neighborhoods involved, because for a long time it’s always felt like there was a dichotomy—the people who wear the suits and make the speeches, and the people who live real life,” Osagiede said.

Journalist Ron Kaye sees that, too. He thinks James is genuinely interested in the good of all Angelenos because he’s been so curious for so many years.

“Kevin paid a lot of dues… I was on his radio show,” Kaye said. “I think he knows what people are upset about throughout the entire city better than any of the other candidates, because he’s been out there talking to people and looking for news.”

James was endorsed by Former Republican mayor Richard Riordan. He’s also taken money from big-name out-of-state donors—among them, Harold Simmons, a Texas industrialist who’s bankrolled conservative campaigns for decades. Another donor is Republican advertiser Fred Davis, who managed media strategy for John McCain in 2008. His campaign office in Studio City is staffed by a small, spry strategy team.

But the numbers aren’t in his favor—only sixteen percent of voting Angelenos are Republicans.

“The question is, has he been able to convince other constituencies that he’s the right man for the job? I don’t know that I see evidence of that,” Kaye said.

James may not be able to win the March fifth primary, but he could pull enough votes to influence who advances to May’s runoff election. And a strong showing for moderate James in solidly Democratic LA could galvanize the Republican Party nationwide.

Voter apathy threatens Inglewood’s special election

What if there were an election and no one voted? That’s what happened in Inglewood, or nearly so. In the November 3, 2009 countywide election, only 86 Inglewood voters cast ballots– less than one twentieth of one percent of the city’s electorate.

Inglewood’s 0.18 percent turnout took place during L.A. County’s consolidated elections. By comparison, turnout rates in other cities for the same election included 8 percent in Compton, 10 percent in Pasadena, and 11 percent in Lancaster, according to the Los Angeles County Registrar’s Statement of Votes Cast. Ballots consisted mainly of city council and school board races.

The specter of low voter turnout concerns Inglewood leaders and community activists, especially in light of an upcoming special municipal election slated for June 8 to fill the mayoral seat vacated by Roosevelt F. Dorn, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor conflict of interest charge in January.

“Nobody believes in government anymore because there are so many crooks, and people don’t care. There is no care in the government anymore,” said Stacie Williams, a community activist and advocate for youth facilities and housing. “It’s just a lack of professionalism and a lack of care in the city of Inglewood and that needs to stop.”

But the publicity surrounding Dorn’s departure may have the opposite effect, actually increasing voter turnout, said Michael McDonald, a voting expert at George Mason University. “It raises the profile of the election,” he said. “People are talking about it and anything that helps communicate to people that there’s an election will improve the turnout.”

A recent election that was strictly municipal fared somewhat better, by comparison. On June 12, 2007 about 18 percent of the city’s registered voters cast ballots in a runoff for council district 1. The victor, Daniel Tabor, won by 200 votes.

“It [was] a local special election,” McDonald said. “Those are the kind of races that tend to draw the lowest level of turnout.”

Yvonne Horton, Inglewood’s city clerk, said the city’s voter turnout is “no more poor than others.” She said she does plan to do her part to raise awareness about the upcoming election.

“I am going to keep on asking them, every Tuesday [during council meetings] and every time I go out,” Horton said. “We can always try, [but] we can’t make people vote.”

Inglewood voters, like voters everywhere, are far more likely to turn out for a presidential race, said Michael Falkow, Inglewood’s chief information officer. About 84 percent of Inglewood voters cast their ballots in the last presidential race. It was a voting rate that reflected the enthusiasm generated by Barack Obama’s candidacy, which helped push voter turnout nationwide to a 40-year high, according to the Associated Press.

But within the context of national and statewide turnout rates, Inglewood’s voting rate in that election was about average. “The president is the most visible political symbol of America,” said Curtis Gans, an expert in citizen political participation in the U.S at the American University in Washington. “We have an eroded community; therefore fewer and fewer people are participating in local government and the people that do participate tend to be the same people.”

Falkow said that city leaders are hopeful that increased community attendance at city council meetings in the wake of Dorn’s departure will translate into ballots cast in June. But he is skeptical.

“I highly doubt that they’re all coming out just because the Mayor resigned,” Falkow said. “I would think that they’re coming out because they are finding out a lot of things about what’s going on that maybe they didn’t know.”

In the case of Inglewood resident Raynald Davis, that is exactly what happened.

“I want the city council to be transparent and let us know what is happening,” Davis said. “Tell us what we need to know, not what we want to hear.”

According to Gans, it is up to the city to restore the confidence of its residents in local government and inform them of what they stand to lose if they don’t cast their votes.

“They need to improve education, promote civic values, reduce the negative impact of media, strengthen unions, and change the way candidates conduct their campaign,” Gans said.

More on Inglewood’s political struggle:

The rise and fall of former Inglewood Mayor Roosevelt Dorn


To the left of the front door at Inglewood City Hall hangs an illuminated blue and white sign featuring the names of the five city council members and the districts they represent. But one name is obscured by a fresh coat of royal blue paint, that of former Mayor Roosevelt Dorn. In the lobby, a frame that until a few weeks ago held his portrait is now empty, as if someone removed Dorn’s image but left the frame as a subtle reminder of his recent fall from grace.

On January 18, Roosevelt Dorn resigned after pleading guilty to the misuse of public funds. Dorn was the second black mayor in the history of Inglewood, a city that is half African American, and his departure left residents divided between those who decried his betrayal of the public trust and those who defended one of their own.

“I don’t think he’s been very good for the city,” said Erin Aubry Kaplan, who has written extensively about the black community in Los Angeles—including articles critical of Dorn — and who grew up in Inglewood. In an interview she affirmed the view she has expressed in the Los Angeles Times and the LA Weekly that Dorn is an authoritarian, autocratic, ego-driven leader who kept the city from growing. Aubry Kaplan said that the damage done by Dorn as mayor far outweighed his accomplishments.

“He did some questionable stuff and didn’t care what people thought,” Aubry Kaplan said. “He got in the way of what could have happened in Inglewood.”

Erin Kaplan’s husband, Alan Kaplan, who teaches American history at Alexander Hamilton High School and serves on the Inglewood Police Commission, said Dorn’s actions damaged the credibility of black leadership in Los Angeles. “[There is a] stereotype that black people can’t handle freedom,” he said.

But Earl Ofari Hutchinson, author of “The Assassination of the Black Male Image”, said Dorn has become a scapegoat for intractable problems within Inglewood city government. Problems which have led the city to stagnate and falter in recent years. He disagreed with the notion that Dorn’s departure diminishes the perception in the larger community of the ability of African Americans to govern their own communities.

“I don’t think this was really a case of denigration or even a mud sling at the African American male image,” Hutchinson said. “The charges came from African Americans in the community, not outside of the community.”

Whatever their origin, Michael Falkow, the deputy city administrator said the departure of Dorn, who did not respond to repeated requests for an interview, altered alliances on the city council and in the community. “Today’s buddies are tomorrow’s enemies,” he said.

Known as Mayor to his community, Reverend to his congregation and Judge to the youth who came before him in his 18 years with the LA County Superior Court, Roosevelt Dorn was a fixture in Inglewood civic life.

He rose from an impoverished childhood in rural Oklahoma to a life of prominence and stature, both in judicial circles and within the African American community. He served as president of One Hundred Black Men, a philanthropic organization where he worked to improve the quality of life for African Americans and other minorities. He promoted Project Hope, a program dedicated to reducing high school dropout rates. He helped lead an effort to pass a $131 million bond initiative to fund programs and services for children. And during his 13-year tenure as mayor, Dorn was credited with welcoming developers, entrepreneurs, and business owners to the city, bringing so-called “big box” retail to Century Boulevard between Crenshaw and Prairie.

But Dorn could also be a polarizing figure, both in the council chambers and in the courtroom, where he routinely stretched the bounds of his judicial authority.

Author Edward Humes deascribed Dorn’s courtroom demeanor in “No Matter How Loud I Shout”: “Dorn once revoked a boy’s probation and sent him to boot camp for six months for refusing his mother’s order to take out the trash. ‘I’m putting you back in control, Mother,’ Dorn said eyes locked on the stunned teenager before him. ‘Next time, if you tell him to take out the garbage, he had better jump.” Humes characterized Dorn’s courtroom speeches “as appropriate for a Sunday sermon as for a courtroom lecture.”

In the end it wasn’t Dorn’s demeanor that did him in, but his financial dealings with the city.

Howard Eley, an Inglewood resident who attended a recent post-Dorn city council meeting, was harsh in his assessment of his former mayor.

“He’s a crook,” Eley said.

Raynald Davis, a longtime Inglewood resident and city hall observer, was more measured in his critique. For him, Dorn’s fall brought to mind a biblical verse from Romans 1:22, “although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.”

In Davis’ estimation, Dorn was too smart for his own good –his extensive knowledge of the law and politics led him to abuse his post.

“He lost his good name for $500,000,” Davis said. “[He has] himself to blame. The man did good things, and that’s what makes it a tragedy. He did not have to do what he did.”

Inglewood City Hall photo courtesy of Flickr user bigmikelakers

Read more about Roosevelt Dorn on the South LA Report:
Former Inglewood mayor charged with misusing public funds will receive retirement benefits
DORN RESIGNS: Jury selection continues for Inglewood mayor