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The county's 2nd Supervisorial District deserves visionary, progressive leadership and State Senator Mark- Ridley Thomas fits the bill. His integrity, intelligence and audacious courage in the face of adversity have enabled him to navigate the truculent political terrain with his principles intact. He has precisely the leadership characteristics needed to meet the 2nd District's daunting challenges.
The choice is clear. There are fundamental differences between Ridley-Thomas and his opponent, L.A. City Councilman Bernard Parks, who tends to favor business interests over residents' concerns and at times, seems oblivious to systemic factors that negatively affect communities of color.
Ridley-Thomas's world view, philosophy and political priorities differ substantially from Parks'; his group-oriented emphasis, challenges the prevailing individual/materialistic model that infuses America's values and traditional politics. (To their detriment, Blacks have internalized these values.) Ridley-Thomas's firm grounding in civil and human rights informs his politics and life's work. His strategies are designed to change the existing political and economic landscape; his proposals and legislation at both the city and state levels reflect Mark's deep concern for actual change.
Mark's accomplishments, condensed here, underscore the value of his experience and resolve to meet the challenges in the 2nd District:
He has demonstrated that leadership must strategically apply public capital to complete housing and commercial development projects and code enforcement to prevent neighborhood decay. Such efforts include re-opening Martin Luther King Hospital that anchored many local small businesses that have failed or been damaged since the hospital's closure.
Mark's commitment to community extends beyond elected office: His core belief is that we all have a responsibility to work together to create safe neighborhoods and well-functioning communities that prosper and provide jobs. He is a known consensus builder capable of bringing people together to achieve results.
Mark believes leadership requires more than courage; it means having a basic understanding of issues and taking action that produces results. He has worked on behalf of a progressive healthcare agenda focused on delivering quality patient care and comprehensive systemic changes to healthcare policy and practice and firmly believe healthcare is a right, not a privilege.
As executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference-L.A., he developed a one-of-a-kind model for treating women who were victims of domestic violence or sexual assault in South Los Angeles, and led efforts to reduce crime by establishing a violence-prevention hotline and funding gang intervention programs. He continued his agenda for delivery of health services in the State Legislature as a member of the Committee on Health and chairman of the Select Committee on the L.A. County Health Care Crisis.
His health care plan includes building upon his work in the Legislature to ensure that children in the 2nd District have access to quality school-based school clinics, implementing legislation for a Health Care Master Plan, working to reform the county's antiquated health care delivery system, fighting for universal health coverage and re-opening MLK Medical Center as a comprehensive hospital that delivers high-quality patient care as a public/private partnership.
Mark is committed to utilizing the resources of county government and the office of county supervisor to reinforce and restore a sense of community in addressing the most pressing issues confronting the 2nd District. He has pledged to work to reduce crime and violence by working directly with communities and supporting law enforcement to address gangs and violence through prevention, intervention and suppression efforts, with emphasis on prevention. He founded "Days of Dialogue," that brings together various factions to prevent divisive issues from becoming excuses for neighborhood violence or civil unrest.
As a member of the Los Angeles City Council, Mark led the effort that required LAPD to establish a policy on community-based policing to ensure that city residents have officers in their neighborhood working with them on issues of concern. He authored the policy creating the Office of Inspector-General to help ensure that LAPD Rampart- era corruption would never occur again. His public safety plan includes proposals for changes in the county jail system, as well as gang and inter-group violence policy.
Change is discernable, you can see it and feel it. It is both the actualization and antithesis of the rhetoric of change spewed in political campaigns. Mark Ridley-Thomas has affected change on an array of key issues; as the 2nd District Supervisor, he will continue to deliver tangible results.
Mark's commitment to service and principled leadership is unquestioned. And his accomplishments bode well for meeting the 2nd District's challenges. Most important, however, is his bedrock integrity, commitment to service, and ability to deliver results. In these extraordinarily troubled times these qualities will serve him and 2nd District residents well.
Larry Aubry can be contacted at e-mail