Mark Ridley-Thomas/Grace Yoo, CD10 Candidate Interview Jan-2020

Dec19markwebWe all know efforts are underway to provide affordable housing as a way to solve homelessness but that is in the future. What ideas do you have for helping the homeless in our community now?

We cannot afford to wait for new housing to be built to rapidly rehouse hundreds of people and work to dismantle encampments. By last count the 10th District has 1,581 people experiencing homelessness. My plan is to first focus on the areas with the most concentrated and dense populations of homeless people – Leimert Park, Village Green, the Venice off-ramp and Koreatown. Encampments in these areas will be the focus of intense, multidisciplinary outreach teams linking unsheltered people to the specific services they need to exit homelessness. These include physical and mental health medical treatment, employment services, criminal record expungement and assistance locating housing with appropriate supportive services. This can be done. It is my hope and expectation that CD 10 will become a model for how to do this.

Why is it so slow and difficult to get alleys, sidewalks, pot-holes fixed and our trash strewn, graffiti covered commercial corridors addressed? What would you do to address those difficulties?

In the unincorporated areas of my Supervisorial district, where the County – not the City -- provides municipal services, streets are paved, trash is picked up, potholes repaired and graffiti removed promptly. This is not just because residents' complaints are met with timely responses, it’s because of a culture that prioritizes quality of life issues. The way to address these difficulties is to instill a different culture at the City – one that’s not just responsive (which it certainly should be) but one that is proactive in maintaining the cleanliness and safety of our neighborhoods and commercial corridors. Concretely, I would “map” the district to determine, on a scale of A-F, which repairs and remedies are most urgent, and then proceed in a systematic fashion to address them. The process would be transparent, flexible and collaborative.

The previous CD10 office was notorious for its lack of returned calls and aggressive community engagement. What plans do you have for setting up a strong connection with Neighborhood Councils, block clubs and residents who reach out for help and guidance.

Community engagement is at the core of my work as a public servant. As the founder of the Empowerment Congress, an organization widely regarded as the precursor to neighborhood councils, I initiated a model of educating, engaging and empowering the communities I serve. That model thrives to this day. That said, not only will I maintain a consistent, personal presence at block clubs and other community associations, I will have dedicated staff on point to receive and resolve these concerns so residents know exactly whom to call.

Large mixed-use development is exploding in our communities. Are you aware of the problems that often arise as a result of the clash between development and neighborhood needs and concerns? If so speak about your ideas to resolve the issues.

I have always believed it is critical to involve all sectors of a community – residents, business owners, faith leaders, neighborhood associations and councils – at the inception of a development project. Establishing a relationship with developers early in the process is essential. It is the role of elected officials to do this and then maintain those channels of communications to help resolve the very real problems that arise with rapid neighborhood transformation and population shifts. Redevelopment law mandated community participation; I will work to bring this back.

Along with oil drilling, what other environmental impacts are you aware of that adversely affect our communities (noise from airplanes, helicopters, increased traffic, etc.) and what are your plans to address?

Oil drilling, and noise pollution from aviation present long-standing environmental challenges to the district. It is essential to develop – and execute --a comprehensive plan to address overlapping and interconnected environmental challenges that come with development. The first step is to enforce regulations already on the books. Los Angeles has some of the most forward-looking regulations and requirements for developers – and it also has access to federal funding to mitigate certain environmental impacts. The first order of business is to see where we have become too lax and then, where we are not utilizing our opportunities for assistance.

When I became a Supervisor, I imposed stricter community standards district regulations, dramatically reducing the amount of drilling permitted in the oil fields adjacent to Baldwin Hills to the east, and Ladera Heights to the west.

Fracking was put under such stringent scrutiny, pursuant to the new community standards district, that there has been neither fracking nor applications for fracking since that time.

The point to be made is that I have the experience necessary to help communities impose stricter guidelines in a way that is lawful -- and with lasting effects.

What is your favorite rule in Roberts Rules of Order and why?

I don’t have a favorite rule, per se, but I always enjoy hearing the call for a motion to adjourn! Here’s why: Although council meetings are important forums for the public to have its say and for elected officials to hear all sides of an issue, the real work -- the collaboration and community engagement with neighborhood councils and grassroots organizers, with businesses, developers and public safety advocates -- doesn’t happen at City Hall. And it’s that engagement which is my absolute favorite part of the job. That said, it is vital that transparency, civility and inclusion are the guiding tenets of governmental processes in matters large and small.

Development and business is exploding in CD10 and yet black men in our community continue to struggle to find work and increase income. What is your understanding of this problem and how do we combine the financial growth with sustainable jobs for our black men in CD10?

Low-income black men struggle with employment for a variety of complex reasons, but two stand out: the long-shadow cast too often by criminal records, and the inaccessibility of appropriate training and education and employment.

By contrast, the overall earnings advantage of working-class white men comes largely from their access to high-wage, blue-collar work.

That’s why I’ve worked cooperatively with unions to recruit a diverse workforce that is genuinely representative of the community for solid, working class jobs on a variety of projects. I have done this with MTA construction jobs through local hiring programs, and a variety of others by promoting Project Labor Agreements and community benefit assessments. I have also consistently supported the mission and the work of the Los Angeles Black Worker Center.

That's why it is important for us to ensure the continued use of local hiring requirements and project labor agreement that lead to high-paying jobs and careers for Black men.   

At the same time, we must continue to put government resources into criminal record expungement – a process already underway with the L.A. Public Defender – removing a significant barrier to employment for some otherwise educated, well-trained and qualified men.

Then we give our youth early training and education in fields with high-paying jobs. In collaboration with Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, I am developing California’s first public urban boarding school. The SEED School Los Angeles will not only have a STEM program, it will prepare students (boys and girls) for the high-paying trades and union jobs immediately available to them upon graduation, should they not choose to pursue a college degree.

I have also championed the LA County Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) pilot program, which is designed to introduce young adults to sustainable career pathways in the public safety and health sectors. I have also done a great deal of work with the Black Workers Center.

This problem is not unsolvable. Where there is a will – and resources – there's a way!

WWW.MARKRIDLEY-THOMAS.COM


GRACE YOO CD 10 CANDIDATE REVIEW

APR20Grace2We all know efforts are underway to provide affordable housing as a way to solve homelessness but that is in the future. What ideas do you have for helping the homeless in our community now?

I would seek a declaration of a state of emergency from the Governor, so that we can receive additional help and resources from the State. Additionally, we need to start with a baseline understanding of where we are in terms of the people who are in need. From the very beginning, evaluations should be made by properly licensed individuals who know what to look for to determine mental health needs,  possible drug addiction, and any other special needs. We need to categorize how much assistance a person/family needs to be housed.  It would be quicker to help people who are displaced due to a major health setback or loss of job than those with mental health issues and/or drug addictions.  We need to have lists of services and service providers that can help folks in each of our communities.

In regards to quickly housing folks, I believe it would be most practical to convert motels and existing structures that are empty into housing for people. Doing so would not only cut back on the cost, but also reduce the time frame in which to get these units renovated and available for the homeless individual/ family.

Designating more safe parking locations within the district to accommodate those who need safe overnight parking can be easily made by having all City owned parking lots be available between the hours of 8PM - 7AM.  The rules must be kept, so that if rules are not followed, then parking privileges will no longer apply at that location for the rule breaker. These individuals will not be welcome to spend any additional nights.  This may seem harsh but the rules must be followed, otherwise chaos will ensue and the safe parking privileges will disappear because of a few people breaking the rules.

I am keen on developing on City property, which would help bring down the cost of building new housing, as land cost is usually one of the greatest factors on the overall cost of building apartments.

The City needs to prioritize affordable housing because it is essential and we can do this by creating a policy that incentivises developers to build affordably priced housing units. I am proud of my fellow Angelenos who overwhelmingly agreed to raise our taxes (Prop HHH) to support the building of permanent supportive housing, it is because we wanted to house and provide for those who need a little extra help. The $1.2 billion is being wasted on expensive consultants, where 40 % of the $1.2 billion has been spent on consultant fees- which is why there are so few units that will ultimately be built.

Why is it so slow and difficult to get alleys, sidewalks,  pot-holes fixed and our trash strewn, graffiti covered commercial corridors addressed? What would you do to address those difficulties?

These issues stem from the pay-to-play model of getting business done in City Hall. It has created an unfair system of allowing special interests to take priority over the good and needs of the community. We must set a policy to eliminate this system entirely, finding our voice from within our communities and working to create a fair and equal system that benefits the people of Los Angeles. There seems to be no rhyme or reason as to how and why some parts of the City receive more City services than others.  I would want CD10 residents to understand how/why in order to ensure that all CD10 residents receive their fair share of City services.

There are a number of other factors that have made it harder for Angelenos to have a high quality of life. We need to create affordable transportation options that provide individuals with the ability to get from Point A to Point B. We also need to work with companies and business owners to provide good paying jobs with benefits that allow employees to maintain a standard of living that does not see them become housing insecure. I want to ensure that the young generation of Angelenos are also provided a high quality education that prepares them for their futures.

The previous CD10 office was notorious for its lack of returned calls and aggressive community engagement. What plans do you have for setting up a strong connection with Neighborhood Councils, block clubs and residents who reach out for help and guidance?

I want to establish bidirectional channels of communication with Neighborhood Councils (NC), Block Clubs (BC), and Homeowners Associations (HoA). These channels will be critical because each of these organizations keep the pulse of the communities they represent and provide a valuable forum for members to voice their concerns and interests with community leaders.

I promise to hold monthly CD10 Town Hall meetings to promote better communication and community engagement so that the residents of CD 10 have a direct line of communication with their elected representative. I want to further encourage greater participation by rotating meetings held on Saturday mornings and week nights, so more people can attend the CD10 Town Hall.

Additionally, I will ensure that my staff will be trained to promptly and effectively respond to all constituent concerns and issues.

Large mixed use development is exploding in our communities. Are you aware of the problems that often arise as a result of the clash between development and neighborhood needs and concerns? If so, speak about your ideas to resolve the issues.

Historic Preservation Overlay Zones (HPOZ) exist throughout the City of Los Angeles.  Neighbors and neighborhoods got together to create the HPOZ which took years of documentation and community engagement to do so. If at all possible, I would like to respect the HPOZs and preserve HPOZ designations, thereby keeping the charm and character of HPOZs.  The mixed use developments should be situated along commercial corridors to help maintain HPOZ character and allow for additional growth in the City.

Along with oil drilling, what other environmental impacts are adversely affecting our communities (noise, traffic, helicopters and coming drones and air taxis) and what are your plans to address?

The NextGen Airline Highway that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has rolled out is causing disturbances to the residents throughout the Mid- City, Jefferson Park, Kinney Heights and West Adams areas. The FAA set altitude of 6,000 ft is being violated because too many flights are coming in at under the set guidelines, sometimes flying in as low as 3,200 ft. This low altitude causes several problems to these neighborhoods: the noise of the plane engines and the shadows of passing planes are a routine disturbance to the residents, while the vibrations caused by these planes also induce a raucous reaction from the pets in these neighborhoods inducing another round of noise and disturbance throughout the neighborhoods.

There is also a significant lack of green space and funding set aside to protect the environment throughout District 10. We need to ensure enough funding for inner city clean ups and to provide underserved communities with  information that will help them with all types of pro-environmental efforts, such as recycling, protecting and creating green space and pocket parks, and ensuring shade trees remain.

The City talks a great game about how green and environmentally friendly we are, but the reality is far from it. It is heartbreaking to hear that the City’s green trash containers, blue trash containers and black containers all end up in the same landfill. As Councilwoman, I would like to encourage policies that actually protect the environment through conservation and genuine recycling.

Over the course of my environmental community involvement, I have found that the poorest areas of our City have the least amount of trees. I would like to address this disparity and ensure that each community, regardless of the socioeconomic status of its residents, receives its fair share of city services.

I will create an incentive program for those with low income to purchase electric vehicles. I would also like to see large parking structures and apartment owners provide charging stations through this incentive program as well.

Lastly, transportation is costly for people with limited means. I would like for us to implement FREE Public transportation for the elderly as a pilot program and perhaps eventually implement FREE Public transportation for all.

What is your favorite rule in Roberts Rules of Order and why?

My favorite rule in Robert's Rules of Order is “move to table the motion.” If the situation becomes too heated and/or not enough information has been brought to the meeting, we can postpone the motion until some later time until more information can be distributed.  It takes a second to make the motion, there is no discussion and a simple majority is required to Table the motion.  It gives people an opportunity to withhold the voting until enough information has been brought to light. This allows the motion to be reconsidered or paused without killing the motion. The motion may be reconsidered and taken off the table after 1 item of business has been conducted or wait until the next meeting.

Development and business is exploding in CD 10 and yet black men in our community continue to struggle to find work and increase income. What is your understanding of this problem and how do we combine the financial growth with sustainable jobs for our black men in CD10?

CD10 has a tremendous development and business opportunities coming into the district, but most of our residents lack access to funding, financial networks, and experience to do business. This prevents those who have lived and worked in CD 10 for years from being able to open and/or expand their businesses.

For many reasons, including a lack of educational opportunities, job training, and available well-paid jobs, it has been very difficult for many people, especially black men, to build and grow businesses in CD 10. Institutional racism, especially by lending institutions and business groups, is but one factor that keeps black men from thriving.  Moving forward, these issues need to be addressed and redressed, along with affordable housing and transportation, to ensure that all who live and work in CD 10 are given equitable opportunities to grow and thrive.

We also need to look to our elected officials for their leadership. City Councilmembers can support and help local businesses grow. They can encourage, and in some cases, offer financial incentives to individuals who have lived and/or worked in the district. For example, the City can require a certain percentage of employees of a new business to reside within CD 10. The City can also set requirements for prevailing wages, living wages, work hours, healthcare, and other benefits that will positively impact workers and the families that depend on them.

We may not be able to stop gentrification, but there are ways to harness the money that it brings into a new area to help those who call CD 10 home.

WWW.GRACEYOOCD10.COM
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Established in August of 2008 by writerartist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.

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