July 18, 2013

By Cora Jackson-Fossett

LAWT Religion Editor

 

Economic development and community empowerment define the city career of Valerie Lynne Shaw. During her 20+ years of service, she has garnered a distinctive list of accomplishments focused on im­proving the quality of life for the residents of Los Angeles, particularly in South L.A.

As the longest serving woman in the history of the Los Angeles Board of Public Works, Shaw was instructed to vacate her position this month.  Mayor Eric Garcetti has appointed former Assemblyman Mike Davis as her replacement.

Although her physical presence on the Board will be missed, her legacy will live on through her myriad of groundbreaking achievements as a commissioner.

Among her many successes, Shaw says she’s most pleased about her work as coordinator of the 2008-2013 South Los Angeles Initiatives where she played a lead role in organizing and implementing the economic development strategic plan. 

The Initiative, led by former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Councilmembers Bernard Parks, Jan Perry, Herb Wesson, Janice Hahn and Joe Buscaino, focused on completing projects to improve housing, retail, industrial, infrastructure, jobs and workforce development, business development and public education.

“Through the South L.A. Initiatives, we brought together the political strata, city departments and the community to collectively operate in the interest of the entire region.  The city invested $650 million in South L.A., more than 6,000 jobs were created as a result of the projects,” said Shaw.

As a commissioner, she was also instrumental in initiating and securing the city’s first Project Labor Agreement (PLA) on a major construction project with local hire and training program components.

“The PLA was applied to the $270 million East Central Interceptor Sewer project, the largest public works project in the history of the Department of Public Works.  The local hire element, based on ZIP Codes, afforded jobs to local people and associated training.  We also worked closely with the unions to ensure South L.A. residents were part of the process,” recalled Shaw.

In the area of community enhancements, Shaw has reached out to thousands of South Angelinos to explain how to access city services to develop their neighborhoods. 

“I’ve spoken with religious leaders, neighborhood councils, and professional associations, all in the interest of trying to help them to learn the power matrix inside City Hall.”

As for her motivation, Shaw declared,  “I’m just passionate about assisting all efforts that lead to the overall improvement of the South L.A. region.  I’ve worked to assist South L.A. nearly all of my entire professional life because I care so much about its people.  My next step will be to continue operating in interest of South L.A.”

Shaw credits her parents with inspiring her to public service.  Her late father, Leslie, was the first African American postmaster in Los Angeles and her retired mother, Ann, was a noted community and social activist from the 1960s through the mid-1990s.

“My parents were always involved in politics and public life. Also, my mentors included Agnes Leatherwood, Martha Brown Hicks, and my grandmother, Sarah White.  They have all passed on but during their time, they really influenced me. They were all strong women who were passionate about their families and the community.”

Embracing those same concerns, Commissioner Shaw co-founded the city’s Community Beautification Grant Program that disbursed 1,429 grants totaling $13 million in neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles since the program’s inception in 1998.

In 2005, she extended her campaign to help others by establishing the Public Work’s ‘Hurricane Katrina Assistance Program’ where city employees and labor unions raised over $75,000 to assist seven families who were relatives of Department of Public Works’ employees.

As Shaw moves towards a new chapter in life, she plans to devote more time to assisting the people of South Los Angeles.

“I know that any group can be as powerful as it wants to be,” she noted.  “The more enlightened and organized South L.A. residents become, the more powerful they will become in terms of receiving resources from city government.”

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July 11, 2013

By KENNETH MILLER

Assistant Managing Editor

 

The financially challenged 14,000 student, 18 school Ingle­wood School District is now in the hands of veteran educator and retired superintendent Don Brann, who will be charged with saving it.

African American Kent Taylor, who was the administrator in charge of the district resigned in 2012 after the state Department of Education learned of tentative agreements he made with the teachers union without the authority to do so.

Taylor’s resignation came just two months after he was appointed by state Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson to lead the school system — which had been taken over by the state in September when Gov. Jerry Brown approved legislation granting $55 million in emergency loans to the district.

After the abrupt resignation of Taylor, Torlakson issued the following statement: “This change is in the best interests of taxpayers, students and employees of the Inglewood Unified School District. I’m confident that our work to address the district’s troubled finances will proceed without interruption.”

The resignation came after the Education Department learned of a proposed collective bargaining offer between the district and the Inglewood Teachers Assn.

However, it was deemed that in his position as state administrator, Taylor did not have the authority to enter into a labor contract without prior approval by Torlakson or a designee or before the completion of a financial review and plan to bring the district back to solid fiscal health.

In a letter, the department informed the teachers union that the agreement was voided.

Taylor could not be reached for comment.

Union officials said during the time the agreement and a memorandum of understanding were negotiated in good faith they were under the impression that Taylor had the authority to enter into them.

Union officials had asked Taylor several times if he did in fact have the power to make collective bargaining deals. He assured the union that he did, Somberg said.

When Taylor was appointed, Peter Somberg, president of the Inglewood Teachers Assn., stated, there was no indication from Torlakson or other state officials indicating that Taylor did not have that power.

“There was nothing ever mentioned that he didn’t have authority to negotiate with us,” Somberg said.

The union maintains that an agreement reached by Taylor, is legitimate.

Now, months without a permanent Inglewood School District state administrator, Brann, 67, has been selected by Torlakson to fill the position.  He was appointed to the post June 28 and began working on July 1.

While Brann, who graduated from USC’s Marshall School of Business, has an abundance of experience having served as superintendent for three school districts—Wiseburn, Wilsona and San Gabriel Unified, it remains to be seen if he is the right choice to solve the crisis that plagues Inglewood.

Brann is credited with turning around the Wiseburn School District in Hawthorne.  He increased the declining enrollment and was instrumental in securing a bond measure approval to rebuild schools. Subsequently the students test scores improved.

The El Segundo resident may find the minority dominated Inglewood School District to be his most difficult challenge.

The district has depleted its reserves, and almost half of the emergency funds and is operating at a $17.7-million deficit. Budget wounds were opened more by the loss of funding for students who left the district for other schools.

Brann himself was guilty of luring away students from the floundering Inglewood school district, but now is responsible for keeping them.

The agenda meeting scheduled for July 17 for the district has been canceled according to its website, presumably so that Brann may begin focusing on leading the district from the hole.

The district, which was taken over by the state in October 2012 due to the serious financial shortcomings, and loaned $55 million by the state, is again in trouble.  According to reports, at least half the $55 million has already been spent this past school year.

Brann has been instrumental in influencing other communities to work together in a partnership with businesses and other organizations.

In Inglewood, among the multiple concerns is the state board penchant for shrinking the number of Blacks in prominent positions and involving minority business in bidding for projects that empower and sustain the local community.

Because of all of the turmoil and mistakes by the state which preceded Brann, the district students, parents, educators and community leaders are pessimistic, and carefully watching to see what happens.

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July 11, 2013

City News Service

 

Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a $1.7 million infusion of cash this week, into the city’s annual summer jobs program that he said will provide more than 5,000 jobs to Los Angeles youth. The Hire L.A. Youth Summer Employment Program received $1 million in tax money collected in Council District 13, the area Garcetti previously represented as a councilman. Just before he became mayor, he transferred the money from the district’s discretionary funds that were left over after the city's redevelopment agency was dissolved.

Two banks, JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, donated the rest of the money. The summer jobs pay $8 an hour, last 120 hours over six weeks and are available to city residents aged 14 to 21. Eligible youth must also be receiving public assistance, be a foster child or homeless or have families considered low-income.

Garcetti, speaking at the Dunbar Hotel in South Los Angeles, said youth who earn job experience will have an edge with future employers. He also called on more private groups to donate to the summer jobs program and thanked the two banks that have already donated.

“It’s tremendous to see Wall Street understand the importance of Main Street,” Garcetti said.

“None of us can do this on our own. Working together, we can prepare our young people for the future while strengthening L.A.'s workforce and economy.”

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July 11, 2013

LAWT News Service

 

Ninth District City Councilman Curren D. Price, Jr. will hold his Community Swearing-In Ceremony Saturday, July 13 at Los Angeles Trade Technical College(North Tent Area),  400 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90015.

 Beginning at 10:00 a.m., local radio personality Josefa Salinas will serve as mistress of ceremonies. Remarks will be provided by Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson, Los Angeles County Supervisor Chairman Mark Ridley Thomas, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor Executive Secretary-Treasurer Maria Elena Durazo, President of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce Gary Toebban, and former 9th District City Councilwoman Jan Perry. The Ceremony will also feature special performances by Grupo Folklorico Guish-Bac and Lula Washington Dance Theatre.

 Price was first elected to the California Legislature in 2006 to represent the 51st Assembly District and was re-elected by an overwhelming margin to a second term in 2008. In May 2009, he won a special election, and in November 2010 in the general election he won with 83% of the vote in the 26th Senate District. That district included Culver City and portions of Los Angeles including, Beverlywood, Larch­mont, Hollywood, Little Ethiopia, Koreatown, Ladera Heights, Leimert Park, Vermont Hills and parts of the 9th Council District.

Various public, private and non-profit agencies will have resource tables at the event to share with the general public. Agencies include: Department of Public Works, Department of Social Services, St. Johns Wellness Center, and the Small Business Development Center.

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July 04, 2013

By Jennifer Bihm

Editor

 

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has ap­pointed former Los Angeles City Council­woman Jan Perry as interim general manager to the renamed Eco­nomic Development Department, a department being created to replace the now de­funct Community Re­devel­opment agency.

Perry will oversee the creation of the city’s new Economic De­velopment Depart­ment.

“The job entails bringing under one roof all economic activities and adding in innovative strategies in not only bringing in new businesses but retaining businesses we have in our city,” Perry explained to the Sentinel during a recent interview.

Garcetti cited Perry’s accomplishments with the revitalization of downtown as the catalyst for his decision.  Her work, he told reporters Tuesday, exemplifies the “kind of leadership and expertise” he wants to make the department “into a true economic engine” for Los Angeles.

“I’m excited that Jan Perry and I will be working closely together on getting people back to work and helping businesses open and grow,” he said.

“Mayor Garcetti and I share a passion for revitalizing neighborhoods and improving the quality of life for all Angelenos,” said Perry. “I am excited to support the mayor's vision to put Angelenos to work and to make it clear that Los Angeles is open for business.”

Perry’s appointment comes just one day after she officially termed out her ninth district council seat, now occupied by Curren Price. After her unsuccessful bid for mayor, she endorsed Garcetti who was engaged in a run off with Controller Wendy Greuel. Perry said she is looking forward to her pending duties.

“I’m looking forward to being very innovative in leveraging the access that we have to the programs that have worked and going beyond where we are already,” said Perry, who implied that she is up for the new challenge, armed with a keen understanding of “the complexities involved in bringing together development and people looking for job opportunities.”

Other appointments to the mayoral administration include Doane Liu as deputy mayor of City Services, overseeing Water and Power, Parks and Recreation, Transportation and Public Works. Also, Garcetti’s transition director, Rich Llewellyn, will be the Counsel to the Mayor, a role in which he will serve as the mayor's senior adviser and give legal advice, according to news reports.

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