When I took office in 2005, I promised to be a Mayor for all the people and to lead a City government that looks like Los Angeles.
And we have.
As one who came of age during the turbulent times when Mexican Americans and African Americans marched side-by-side to win our equality and civil rights, I will always believe that LA’s greatness as a city depends on our willingness to work together across every racial, ethnic and religious divide.
I also believe that the people of Los Angeles deserve only the best from their government, and we’ve appointed the most diverse—and talented—team in City history.
I’m proud of the fact that 20 percent of the people I’ve appointed to important City positions have been African Americans, but I am even more proud of the work that they are doing.
Fire Chief Douglas Barry is reforming the culture of a department plagued by a history of harassment and hazing. Rita Robinson made our Department of Sanitation a national leader in recycling and sustainable practices, and she’s now poised to get the Department of Transportation moving. Jim Featherstone, one of the most talented young leaders in City service, is instilling an aggressive new attitude at the Emergency Preparedness Department.
All told, our nine African American Department heads control over $767 million in budget funds and manage thousands of employees. They are joined by seventy commissioners, from the Board of Public Works to the Police Commission, from Recreation and Parks to Rent Adjustment, who are guiding many of the City’s most critical decisions and departments.
While building a team that looks like Los Angeles, we have made unprecedented efforts to assure that every community in LA gets its fair share of City resources.
Last year, my office announced the investment of $15.5 million in a South Los Angeles Investment Strategy to revitalize the economy of this long neglected area of our City. Our strategy, developed in partnership with local clergy and community groups, emphasizes the creation of housing, jobs and investment opportunities.
We’re also reforming the way the City does business. When I took office the City’s Minority Business Opportunity Center (MBOC), which helps assure that minority businesses get a fair share of government contracts, was in danger of losing its funding from the federal government. Two years later, LA MBOC has received the National Outstanding Performance Leader Award for helping minority businesses receive over $138 million in business development capital and contracting opportunities last year.
Making sure that every entrepreneur in the community has open access to existing opportunities is a top priority for my office, but we are also working to improve access to good-paying jobs in the Building Trades as well as other employment sectors. More than 560 new African America construction workers have been recruited into apprenticeships with the Building Trades as a result of a partnership between my office, the religious community and the trades. We’re committed to making sure that that L.A.’s historic construction boom yields major dividends in South LA.
I’m also proud to say that my office played a key role when SEIU-SOULA Local 2006 formed in order to empower security guards in their struggle for fair wages and rights. Once Local 2006 negotiates fair contracts for pay and benefits, an estimated $50 million more will be injected into South L.A.’s economy every year.
It’s critical that we do everything we can in the present moment to enable the success of every community, but we must also lay a strong foundation for future generations.
Building bright futures for our youth by providing them with options has also been a major focus of outreach by my office. This year, the City’s Hire LA Youth program aims to employ more youth workers than ever—10,000! So far, 37.8 percent of the youth hired for these jobs have been African American.
I’ve said it many times. My election to the Mayor’s Office was made possible only by the work of a great pioneer: Mayor Tom Bradley. I’m here today because there was a Civil Rights Movement that granted us equal rights, and I stand on the shoulders of Tom Bradley, who paved the way.
Halfway through my first term in office, I’m happy to report that my office is honoring Tom Bradley’s legacy by delivering on my promise to build a City government that reflects the great diversity of our City. This team is united behind the goal of promoting access and opportunity in every community in order to build the momentum of the entire City.
At this critical juncture in City history, we face many great challenges. We must put gangs out of business and increase public safety by putting 1000 new police officers on the street; we must implement significant reforms in our school system and demand that our children get the best educations possible; we must invest in fixing inefficient transportation infrastructure to allow people and goods to keep moving through the streets of Los Angeles; and we must green our City in order to guarantee clean air and water for our children, and their children.
Tom Bradley said it best: “The only thing that can keep you from fulfilling your dreams is you.”
United, we are charting a course to a brighter future. Working together, as we have for the past two years, we can achieve each and every one of these goals—and many more—in the years to come.