July 17, 2014

 

By Freddie Allen

 

NNPA Washington Correspondent

 

WASHINGTON — Lee Saun­ders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, has discontinued supplying scholarships to the United Negro College Fund because it accepted a $25 million donation from ultra-conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch and UNCF President Michael Lomax apparent support for the brothers’ right-wing ideology.

 

Saunders, an African American, said in a stinging letter to Lomax that he was “deeply troubled” when the UNCF accepted the donation from Koch Industries, Inc. and the Charles Koch Foundation in June, but was even more shocked when Lomax later attended the Koch brothers’ event in California.

 

“This was a betrayal of everything the UNCF stands for. The avowed purpose of this private event was to build support — financial and political — for the Koch brothers’ causes. Your appearance at the summit can only be interpreted as a sign of your personal support and the UNCF’s organizational support of the Koch brothers’ ideological program,” Saunders wrote.

 

He explained, “The Koch brothers and the organizations they fund have devoted themselves for more than a decade to attacking the voting rights of African Americans. They support voter identification laws. They seek to restrict early voting and voter registration. They support laws that threaten organizations that register voters in the African American community.”

 

For nearly a dozen years, AFSCME provided annual scholarships and aid packages worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to UNCF, according to officials with the labor group.

 

When Koch Industries acquired Georgia-Pacific in 2005, they continued a long-standing relationship between the manufacturing giant and UNCF that spanned decades. Since then, according to UNCF’s website, both Georgia-Pacific and Koch, have continued to support UNCF programs.

 

Charles and David Koch have been criticized for also supporting the American Legislative Exchange Council, the driving force behind voter identification laws in the United States. ALEC also worked with the National Rifle Association on “Stand Your Ground” legislation that gained notoriety worldwide following the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black teen in Sanford, Fla.

 

In response to Saunders letter, Lomax and UNCF issued a statement touting UNCF’s  successful efforts in sending underprivileged students to college, while recognizing the incredible need for resources that often goes unmet.

 

“This year alone, UNCF awarded $100 million in scholarships to more than 12,000 students at 900 schools across the country, yet had to deny 9 out of every 10 qualified applicants due to lack of resources,” the statement read.

 

Lomax wrote that although he was “saddened by AFSCME’s decision, it will not distract us from our mission of helping thousands of African American students achieve their dream of a college degree and the economic benefits that come with it.”

 

Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh accused AFSCME of operating similar to a plantation with UNCF as its slave.

 

Lezli Baskerville, the president and CEO of the National Asso­ciation for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO), an umbrella group that represents both public and private Black colleges, said that Lomax, as the head of UNCF, carries  a heavy burden.

 

“He has to raise scholarship money for all of these institutions and figure out how to get our kids to and through college,” said Baskerville. “I certainly stay up at night trying to figure that out as well.”

 

Black families, still reeling from housing and job losses during the Great Recession, suffered another setback when the Obama administration abruptly changed the eligibility requirements for the Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS) program, stifling college dreams for thousands of Black students. When enrollment dropped at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) across the nation, the schools were forced to cut programs and staff.

 

In a press release about the new Koch Scholars Program, UNCF said that grant will not only cover “nearly 3,000 merit-based awards to African American undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctorate students,” but the money will also be used to “offset funding shortfalls as a result of recent changes to the Parent PLUS loan program.”

 

Advocates for HBCUs and Black students defended Lomax for accepting money from the Kochs, but said that UNCF should have managed the public relations around the partnership better.

 

“For all of those people in our community who were upset with the Koch brothers or anyone else who takes a tough position against the administration and our Black president, the reality is that our schools were compromised by a decision that was made by this administration, and our Black president was leading it,” said Johnny Taylor, president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, an organization representing public HBCUs. “And if someone else came up and offered money to help offset the losses that our schools experienced I say, ‘Good for them.’”

 

Taylor said he understood why people didn’t approve of the partnership, but he wasn’t as troubled by it, until he found out that Lomax had attended the Koch summit also featured Charles Murray, co-author of The Bell Curve, a book that asserted that Blacks were intellectually inferior to other races, partly because of genetics.

 

“There is no person in America whose work is more opposed to the fundamental mission of the UNCF than Charles Murray,” Saunders pointed out in his letter to UNCF. “For decades, he has dedicated himself to promoting the notion that the over-representation of African Americans among America’s poor and in America’s prisons is the consequence not of our history or of the types of public policies the Koch brothers promote, but rather is a consequence of our genetic inferiority.”

 

UNCF officials said that Lomax was at the Koch-sponsored event “simply to discuss the new Koch Scholars Program and the importance of a diverse and divided Nation coming together in pursuit of equity in education for all.”

 

Taylor said, “If you’re going to go into that environment and be used, then you have to ensure that when you walk away it is not unclear to anyone what your mission is or the communities you serve and why this unexpected audience should be more sensitive in making some of the decisions that it’s making. That would have been so much more compelling.”

 

Still, Taylor said that Blacks that don’t give and just sit back and criticize are part of the noise and he encouraged them to be a part of the solution.

 

The Nielsen Company predicts that Black buying power will eclipse $1 trillion in 2015, yet top 10 HBCUs, ranked by endowments, combined for less than $2 billion, compared to the top 10 majority-White institutions that combined for more than $150 billion in 2013, according to the National Association for College and University Business Officers.

 

“For all the people that are screaming bloody murder about this gift, the question is: How much have you given to an HBCU?” asked Taylor. “If you haven’t, I’m not so sure you have the right to have an opinion about this gift.”

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July 10, 2014

 

Mayor Eric Garcetti recently  joined Concilmember Paul Koretz and employer partners at Cedars Sinai Medical Center to celebrate meeting his goal of 10,000 summer jobs for youth through his Hire LA's Youth summer jobs program. Working with public and private sector partners, this year’s program doubled the number of youth jobs available to young Angelenos aged 14-24. Cedars Sinai Medical Center is employing 30 young people through the program.

 

The Hire LA’s Youth summer jobs program provides job readiness training, on the job experience, and a paycheck to more than 10,000 LA City youth in what is for many their first job. Partnering with the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and financial institution partners, the program provides job application, resume writing, and interview skills training, as well as financial literacy training to help create healthy financial habits for these first-time earners.

 

“I’m proud to announce that [July 8] was the first day of work for 10,000 young Angelenos age 14-24 through my Hire LA’s Youth summer jobs program,” said Garcetti. “Our youth are the key to the success and prosperity of our city, and Hire LA’s Youth, a part of my Summer of Success Initiative, gives our younger generation the chance to leap ahead with safe and productive ways to learn, earn and play.”

 

The positive impact of youth employment during the quiet summer months is well documented. Studies show that early work experience significantly raises adult workforce participation rates and student graduation rates, as well as combating the “Summer Melt” effect, ensuring youth are ready to return to school. Youth will work for 120 hours over 6 weeks and will earn $9 per hour.

 

Hire LA’s Youth is part of Garcetti's three-pronged Summer of Success Initiative, which, along with his Summer of Learning and nationally recognized Summer Night Lights program, provides youth safe and productive activities during the summer months when school is out. For more information on the LA Summer of Learning online learning and badge earning opportunities, visit www.summeroflearning.la. For more information on the Summer Night Lights programming and a list of the 32 parks open late, visit www.grydfoundation.org/summer-night-lights.

 

Employer and program partners present at the event included: Cedars Sinai Medical Center, the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, Bank of America, Tesoro Corporation, Cathay Bank, Kaiser Permanente, the McDonald’s Corporation, USC, and UCLA.

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July 03, 2014

 

City News Service

  

The Los Angeles City Council recently approved the expenditure of $64,500 for the purchase of three security cameras that will be used to help catch illegal trash dumpers in the act. The cameras will be used in the Ninth Council District in South Los Angeles, where trash left along public streets like Grand Avenue and near the Harbor (110) Freeway is a “real problem,” Councilman Curren Price Jr. told Video News West. The funds will come from a portion of the city’s street furniture revenue fund that is allocated for Price’s district.

 

The surveillance footage will allow law enforcement to identify and arrest perpetrators and send “a message to them and the community that we are serious,” Price said.  The use of the surveillance cameras “has been effective in other parts of the community, but we think that once folks know they are being watched, they will be more careful,” he said. Price said everything from beds to mattresses to cans of paint and oil have been left in alleyways and curbside. In one alley, stuffed cow heads and about 500 hypodermic needles were found, he said.

 

“It’s a real health and safety issue for the district,” Price said.

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July 10, 2014

 

LAWT News Service

 

Retired superintendent and decorated educator George McKenna’s campaign for the vacant LAUSD District 1 school board seat got a huge boost July 8, with the endorsement of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party.

 

“I am proud to be the only candidate in the August 12th election endorsed by the L.A. County Democratic Party,” said McKenna. “This is a powerful endorsement of my candidacy and a real affirmation of the community-centered campaign that I am running.”

 

McKenna nearly won the District 1 seat outright on June 3 by garnering about 45% of the vote.  Because McKenna just missed the 50% + 1 threshold, a special runoff election will be held on August 12 between McKenna and the second-place finisher, who finished 20 points behind McKenna.

 

McKenna far exceeded the tough 60% threshold necessary to earn the party’s endorsement. Two-thirds of the delegates voted for the esteemed educator, more than twice as many as his opponent. “It wasn’t even close,” said McKenna campaign manager Jewett Walker.

 

The L.A. County Democratic Party endorsement is the latest big endorsement secured by McKenna in the past four weeks. The streak started by earning the overwhelming support of a very powerful voice in education, the LAUSD teacher’s union United Teachers Los Angeles. “We don’t need a politician. We need an educator,” said Marco Flores, chair of UTLA political action committee.

 

Recently, the campaign announced the endorsement of 4 of the 5 candidates in the June 3 election, including third-place finisher Sherlett Hendy-Newbill – a Dorsey HS educator, former LAUSD Board Member Genethia Hudley-Hayes, Gardena Councilmember and teacher Rachel Johnson and long-time LAUSD educator Hattie McFrazier. All recognize that McKenna will be an independent voice, is unquestionably more qualified, and has demonstrated track record of putting children first.

 

“These recent big endorsements, matched with the endorsement of the LA Times, La Opinión and LA Sentinel and the over 100 leaders in the education, ecumenical, political, and civic community leaders should make clear to District 1 voters that George McKenna is the community’s choice,” said Walker.

 

LAUSD Board District 1 spans from Windsor Hills to the southwest, Cheviot Hills to the northwest, Hancock Park to the north, University Park to the northeast and parts of Gardena to the southeast and has been represented by an African-American since districts were first established in 1979. At 41 percent, it is the only LAUSD district with a plurality of African-American voters.

 

The vacancy in LAUSD Board District 1 was caused by the unexpected death of Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte on December 5, 2013.

 

For more information about the George McKenna for School Board campaign, visit the campaign website www.electmckenna.com or follow the campaign on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram@ElectMcKenna.

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June 26, 2014 

LAWT News Service

 

Over 2,500 business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs attended the fifth-annual Connecting Women to Power Business Conference, hosted recently by Jerome E. Horton, Chairman of the California Board of Equalization, at California State University, Dominguez Hills.

 

“This event continues to grow each year and I am very pleased with the educational opportunities provided to California businesses,” said Chairman Horton. “The strategies and techniques they learned will help them revitalize California’s economy.”

 

One of the primary goals of the conference was to assemble entrepreneurs and leaders from major corporations, government agencies, and key partner organizations to share ways of positioning business owners to better compete in today’s global economy. The conference elements included motivational keynote and guest speakers, strategies on successful leadership and management skills, information on capitalizing on tax credits, and a host of other topics.

 

Jana Coke, an entrepreneur who established her fashion consulting business in 2006 and provides a broad range of fashion-related services for male and female clients, said, “I decided to come to the conference for the motivation and stimulation that comes from hundreds of productive women in the same room.”

 

“I believe we met and even exceeded our goals, objectives, and expectations,” said Horton. “I am especially enthusiastic about the potential international business opportunities that may result from this year’s conference, stemming from the foreign trade representatives that participated this year.”

 

Jessica von Bluecher, co-owner of The Oxford Trunk, a women’s retail fashion boutique, attended the conference with her business partner and said, “Our aim is to network with other women business owners and possibly expand our customer base.”

 

“This conference would not be possible were it not for the impressive list of partners, volunteers, and sponsors who gave their time and resources to make this event possible,”  Horton concluded. “From the administrators at California State University, Dominguez Hills, to the dozens of local organizations who partnered with us, it is because of their efforts that this event continues to be among the most popular and productive conferences of its type in Southern California.”

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