Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas will be the first African American man to chair the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors
In 2008, Mark Ridley-Thomas was elected the first Black man to become a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, as Supervisor of the Second District. On Friday, November 30, at 10 a.m., the Supervisor will make history when he is sworn in as the first African-American man to hold the position of Chairman of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. The ceremony will include highlights of the Supervisor’s first term in office, such as the completion of the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Public Health, more than $5.7 billion of existing or planned investments in new libraries, community centers, parks, community gardens, medical and transportation infrastructure, as well as tens of thousands of jobs created thanks to his advocacy on local worker hiring policies for major County transportation and construction projects.
The event also will note upcoming developments of significance, such as the construction of the new Crenshaw-to-LAX light rail line, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital and other Second District projects that are in the pipeline.Renata Simril, Senior Vice President of External Affairs for the Los Angeles Dodgers will be the Mistress of Ceremonies,and Dr. Robert Ross, president and CEO of the California Endowment, will officiate. Inner City Youth Orchestra, the trio Sweet Harmony, and the Latin band sensation, Hot Peppers will perform, and about 500 people are expected to attend.
Looking ahead to Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ tenure as chairman, he has already started on one of his future agenda items. Last Tuesday, he put forth a motion on a Framework for Funding Affordable Housing and Economic Development. It was unanimously approved by the Board. His focus will be to target redevelopment funds for disadvantaged communities that were severely impacted when Governor Brown discontinued the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRAs) departments statewide.
About the motion, the Supervisor said, “The work that redevelopment agencies were initially set up to do – mitigate blight, promote economic development and establish affordable housing – is far from over. Today’s action by the Board of Supervisors sets the framework for a continued investment is these significant priorities that are necessary to revitalize and empower communities.”
Looking back at Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ first term, it must be noted that his accomplishments significantly paralleled the goals that he set for the second district. His highest priority was re-opening the Martin Luther King Jr. hospital as a place where the community could get the proper medical attention that the people in the area deserve. With the Supervisor’s election, the community counted on that, and he delivered.
After his first year in office, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said, “The re-opening of the hospital has been my highest priority since my election to the Board of Supervisors. In a couple of weeks I will mark my first anniversary on the Board and I am pleased that I was able to make the announcement of the re-opening of MLK Hospital.”
As one who is always in the community among his constituents, Supervisor Ridley- Thomas is keenly aware about the Crenshaw and surrounding community’s concern about the Leimert Park Village stop along the Crenshaw LAX line, schedule to begin in the near future. To that end, he requested a funding study to examine ways to pay for the stop, and moving an 11-block section of the rail line along Crenshaw Boulevard below ground, within the existing cost estimate.
According to the Supervisor, the financial analysis shows that if there is the will, there is a way to pay for the proposal. He said, “We can and must distinguish great investments from great costs. Finding money is always a challenge, but funding challenges must not shrink our ambitions.”
He added, “The need for a Leimert Park Village Station is obvious – a Crenshaw Corridor rail line must include the most prominent cultural center on its route. The Park Mesa Heights tunnel would prevent disruptions to traffic and local businesses caused by a train running at street level.
Furthermore, the Supervisor’s vision is that the long-term investments regarding the stop at Leimert Park Village would greatly enhance the area as a cultural destination, and the underground Park Mesa Heights tunnel would speed travel times for passengers on the Crenshaw/LAX line.
Then there was a serious health problem caused by soil contamination in a residential apartment complex called Ujima Village – which the Supervisor inherited. When the matter came to his attention, he went after Exxon-Mobil, the responsible party, and publicly stated that they must also be held accountable for cleaning up the contaminated land, and making the community whole since they are responsible for causing the contamination. Back then, he emphasized that an investigation is currently being conducted by the Los Angeles Regional Board to determine the extent of the contamination.
During an interview, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said, “As of August 2010, all of the residents from Ujima Village had been relocated. In 2009, I effectively urged the Housing Authority to cease eviction efforts, and I personally met with all of the remaining residents in Ujima Village to make sure that they were receiving proper relocation support.”
Another significant issue that the Supervisor took up was re-districting: the re-shaping of the county electoral districts in accordance with the ten-year census, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the demographic shifts. After the new boundaries were re-drawn and misunderstandings arose, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas explained the process to the public: “When re-drawing the boundaries of the County, we have a constitutional obligation to follow the law, including and specifically the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Why is that particular piece of law so important for us to keep in mind? Because the Board has a record of failing to do so. We failed to be guided by its requirements in the 1990s and as a result, the courts re-drew the lines of our districts for us. That should be a sobering memory.”
Many of the community’s leaders chimed in on the historic significance of Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ ascension to be the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors.
REPRESENTATIVE KAREN BASS (CA-37):
I will look forward to the Supervisor’s tenure as Pres of the Board—he made history by being the first AA male Supervisor and I have no doubt the leadership he will provide in the region will also be history making.
COUNCIL PRESIDENT HERB WESSON (CD-10):
Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ colleagues have chosen him to be Chairman because he’s a wise leader who can bring people together. As President of the Los Angeles City Council, I’m looking forward to continuing our many collaborations on behalf of the people of our community.
SENATOR CURREN PRICE:
It’s a historic moment … I think the greatest honor is to be recognized by your colleagues and to be selected for your leadership skills and abilities … and Mark Ridley-Thomas has been a leader, not only on the Board but also in our community.
CONGRESSWOMAN DIANE WATSON (ret.):
Mark Ridley-Thomas was one of those individuals who was a quick study; he took in every change in the political arena and he worked with me to get elected. He was very, very bright. Mark is a product of our community’s efforts of good government.
REV. CECIL “CHIP” MURRAY (Professor of Religion, USC):
Mark Ridley-Thomas is been tested tried and proved. He has a portfolio that is made of progress in fields that would not have advanced if it were not for his pushing. One simple example is the Martin Luther King Hospital – the dream might have died without him. The most recent example is his insistence on the Citizens Commission for Jail Violence. There were seven of us on that commission, and we studied for a year, and brought recommendations to the Board of Supervisors to curb jail abuse of prisoners. In between, there are dozens of projects that he stood alone, advocated, brought persons on board and now they are works in progress.