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Prologue to an 'unpredictable' presidency

By Robert Shrum


This has been the most unconventional first 100 days of any presidency in modern history. His shortfalls have actually been politically fortunate. For example, President Trump apparently doesn't know how blessed he was by his most conspicuous failure to date: health care. The Trump-Ryan proposal encountered fierce opposition, would have hurt many who voted for him, and increased public approval of Obamacare. The president also signed a now-stalled travel ban and executive orders rolling back regulations on matters ranging from the environment to reproductive rights, to worker and consumer protections. However, the current legislative stalemate blocking his major initiatives may ease the fears of those who foresaw more sweeping, unwelcome change. In a few days, he will face his next test: keeping the government open by raising the debt ceiling. 


Crises overseas recently moved to the fore. The candidate who proclaimed 'America First' suddenly has become the president who fires missiles at a Syrian airfield and confronts a nuclear North Korea while he shifts on NATO, China and Russia. Is there a coherent strategy? None has been enunciated. President Trump says he would prefer to keep hypothetical foes guessing, raising apprehension.


Finally, one shadow hangs over Trump’s first 100 Days and probably the first year of this presidency: the investigation of Russian interference in the election and possible Trump campaign ties to it.


I haven’t even mentioned the tweets, the feud with the press or infighting within the White House. The past three months seem a prologue to an unpredictable four years. To paraphrase Bette Davis in All About Eve: “Fasten your seatbelts; it’s going to be a bumpy ride." 


Robert Shrum is the director of the USC Dornsife College's Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, a political science professor, strategist and consultant who served as senior advisor to the Kerry-Edwards campaign in 2004 and to the Gore-Lieberman campaign in 2000.


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Photo by Matt Meindl, USC


Saturday, April 29 marks the 25th anniversary of the day L.A. went up in flames, after 4 LAPD officers were acquitted of severely beating unarmed black motorist Rodney King.  The videotape of King lying on the ground, as officers took turns kicking, stomping and beating him sent shockwaves around the world.  President George H.W. Bush said that watching it, made him “sick.”


The following year, all 4 officers were found not guilty of excessive force. It was a low blow, particularly within L.A.s African American community, where police brutality had been rampant for decades. 


Within minutes of the verdict, black folks took to the streets in protest. White trucker, Reginald Denny was dragged out of his big rig and viciously beaten on live TV—ironically by four black men. 


The scene at the corner of Florence and Normandie turned into an ‘Armageddon’ of violence.  Businesses were looted and burned, and a curfew was placed throughout the city.  The rioting lasted for six days, left 55 dead and more than 2,000 injured, and cost at least $1 billion in damages.  


King made a televised plea to the rioters. “Can’t we all get along?” he asked. He was eventually awarded $3.8 million after winning a civil case against the LAPD.


In 2012, King was found dead in his backyard swimming pool.   Following the riots, Denny moved hundreds of miles away from Los Angeles to Lake Havasu, Ariz., where he worked as a boat mechanic.  He has since moved out of that residence, and his whereabouts today are unknown.


Six documentaries of the L.A. uprising are airing on cable and network television to commemorate the anniversary of this critical chapter in L.A.’s history.  According to Yahoo News, each film looks at the riots through a different lens.


"Burn Motherf------, Burn" (Showtime) explores the history of the Los Angeles Police Department and its relationship with LA's black residents.


"LA 92" (National Geographic) examines the roots of 1992's civil unrest in the Watts riots and the 1991 killing of 15-year-old Latasha Harlins by shopkeeper Soon Ja Du, who was convicted of manslaughter but received no jail time. Racial tensions between blacks and Koreans are explored.


"L.A. Burning: The Riots 25 Years Later" (A&E) incorporates recent police shootings of Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Louisiana with interviews of the men who beat Denny.


"L.A. Riots: 25 Years Later" (History Channel) chronicles the history of protests against police in the black community, from the Watts riots to Black Lives Matter. It looks at the LAPDs aggressive policies, and the crisis of drugs and gang violence within the black community.  It also examines the tenuous relationship between Police Chief Daryl Gates and Mayor Tom Bradley, who both left office shortly after the riots.


"Let it Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992" (ABC) interviews insiders and witnesses to the 1992 uprising, including victims, residents, and jurors who served on the King beating trial, as well as perpetrators of violence. The film also explores the LAPD’s controversial use of the battering ram during the crack epidemic and banning of the chokehold in the '80s.


"The Lost Tapes: LA Riots" (Smithsonian Channel) uses voices and images directly from 1992 instead of interviews and narration.  Footage taken by neighborhood residents and Los Angeles Police Department cameras, along with audio from local radio station KJLH are used throughout.



While California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) faced protests at her town hall meeting at First AME Church in L.A.—even from members of her own party—freshman Sen. Kamala Harris’ star keeps rising.  


The former California Attorney General, elected to Congress in November, was embraced with open arms by the liberal group Indivisible and hundreds of constituents at Holman United Methodist Church, also in L.A.  


“I like her,” said Stephen Carcieri of Indivisible Los Angeles. “She’s been pretty good on the votes.”  Feinstein has been criticized for not doing enough to advance the progressive agenda.


Harris is said, by some, to be on the short list of potential Democratic nominees for a White House run in 2020.  


“I come to you with bloody knuckles but I am going back (to Washington) fortified,” Harris said.


Harris is no stranger to fighting.  In 2010, she fought tooth and nail, narrowly defeating former L.A. County District Attorney Steve Cooley in the tight state attorney general’s race.   In November she won Senate race against Loretta Sanchez by nearly 25 points.


At Holman, health care was the main concern, along with Trump’s immigration policies and criminal justice.  She vowed to oppose the president’s proposed wall along the Mexican border, and called it a “stupid use of money.”


 “We are not going to buy into this administration’s fear mongering and vilifying whole communities of people,” Harris told the crowd. “I’ve personally prosecuted everything from low level offenses to homicides. I know what a crime looks like and an undocumented immigrant is not a criminal.”


She also warned that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants to reinstate some of the harmful drug policies of the past, and is pushing for harsher penalties for minor drug offenders.  This, she said, would add to mass incarceration for people of color.


 “We need to watch this [Attorney General] Jeff Sessions, who is talking about resuscitating all this. We have come too far to go back, to go backward on fundamental criminal justice issues, like whether or not this is a public health matter or a criminal justice matter,” she said. 


By contrast, Sen. Feinstein was met by a group of protestors outside AME, waving signs to pressure her into supporting Sen. Bernie Sanders single payer health care bill.  One sign read: "Support Bernie's bill or retire, Feinstein!" 


The senator admitted being heckled at a Bay Area town hall.  "We had one of these town halls last week in San Francisco and it got kind of rough," she said. "I thought, well, today I'm going home to First African Episcopal Methodist, which was one of the first L.A. churches I visited in my career in the Senate."





By Veronica Mackey


Tuesday’s council meeting began with one person being forcibly removed for shouting expletives at Mayor James Butts, over delayed investigations concerning the deaths of Kisha Michael and Marquintan Sandlin by police.  


It is two months past the time Mayor Butts estimated the investigation might be complete.  Supporters of the couple and their families returned to keep the case in the public’s eye.  


A man named Jeremy referred to an L.A. Times interview with Michael’s mother.  “Imagine being told by police that she was found dead…but they weren’t found dead. They were found alive … before being killed by police.”


Another man asked that a fund be set up for the children of Michael and Sandlin.  “Kisha was shot 13 times and she has 3 children, and Marquintan was shot 7 times and he was 4 children,” he said.


One woman referred to Butts as “unresponsive,” and one who “lacked compassion and empathy.”  


Michael’s sister expressed frustration over waiting over a year to find out what happened. James Butts re-explained, as he has for several weeks now, that the City has no control over how long the investigation takes. “It’s not good enough,” she said.


“You have to do what the law allows.  This is not to take away anything from the family. It has to go through its due process,” a man said. 


“It’s very disappointing when folks come up here and attack the mayor. You obviously don’t know the mayor.  This is a man of compassion…he’s a standup person,” said Councilman Alex Padilla.


Councilman George Dotson addressed comments that he was working to collect a paycheck. “I worked (as Planning Commissioner) for this city for 25 years and I didn’t get a dime for it.  I don’t do this job for a salary and I resent that you say that.”  


The LAPD Academy on Manchester, off Aviation, is having a classic car show at 8am on April 29, Councilman Padilla, a classic car enthusiast, said.  He also announced a Cinco de Mayo celebration on Friday, May 5 at 6pm at 8049 W. Manchester Blvd., next to the Elk’s Club.  Padilla will be cooking tacos, rice and beans.


Councilman Ralph Franklin, acknowledged the growing frustration over the deaths of Michael and Sandlin and the public’s desire for answers:  “The 2 losses are painful, my daughter knew Kisha,” he said.  


“In my neighborhood last weekend,” Franklin continued, “individuals raced down a boulevard.  One lost control of the vehicle and killed an innocent victim—a single parent trying to raise a family.  Justice—it may be slow, but it’s going to be right.  This council will take action based on the information that we receive, and we, again, give our condolences.”  


“We listen, we are affected, we’re human beings,” Councilman Eloy Morales said about Michael and Sandlin.  “A month ago, the mayor took time to meet with a small group of family members. I can tell you there are attorneys who would advise ‘that’s probably not a good idea.’  That took a certain amount of courage.”


“We heard a number of different facets of this case…But it wasn’t a murder, it was use-of-force, resulting in two people being killed. I spent 37 years in law enforcement, and I am used to being held ultimately responsible. That means you have to insure the right thing is done. No one in this country is every charged with anything without due process,” the mayor said.


He continued:


“The city councils don’t prosecute people; the district attorney’s office does that.  If an officer is terminated and wishes to have his case heard, that’s when we become the judge and jury.  That is the only time everything would be made public. 


“The biggest mistake I made was trying to approximate when I thought the process would be over. We can’t give you what we don’t have to give.  We have no input or knowledge of how long the district attorney will take.”


A public hearing was set for May 16 at 2pm. Council members will consider adopting an ordinance to change sections of the Municipal Code related to the dumping of bulky items within the City. Council members must approve new rates reflected in an agreement with Consolidated Disposal Service, LLC to pick up excessive bulky item set outs.  


Authorization was given to the mayor to execute an amendment to an agreement with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to extend the ITS Phase IV-A funding lapse date to June 30, 2017.


A public hearing was set for May 9 at 2pm to consider amending various sections of the Inglewood Municipal Code. The ordinance regulates the use and discharge of fireworks and imposes administrative fines for the unlawful use or possession of illegal fireworks.  Changes would also be made to the monetary amount the City may impose as a criminal penalty and administrative fine for any violations. 


Adriana Grimes announced that the City’s Environmental Services Dept. is offering a free composting workshop.  The date will be set once at least 20 people sign up. Those interested can call (310) 412-5333 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


City Treasurer Wanda Brown reported that the City’s investment portfolio is now around $173 million. “That’s 10 times the amount I started with,” she said.  Brown added that the treasurer’s report used to be “roughly about a 3-page document, it’s now a 12-page document.”


It has been 25 years since Los Angeles literally went up in flames. It was a horrific scene—buildings on fire, sounds of windows breaking and sirens from emergency vehicles, and people shouting “No Justice, No Peace.”


The all-white  jury in the Rodney King case returned with a verdict of not guilty, acquitting four white LAPD officers of excessive force.  The date was April 29, 1992.  By now, the videotape of King, lying on the ground while cops beat him until he was nearly unrecognizable, had been played so many times on television that the wedge between cops and L.A.s black community had grown even wider. The relationship was never ideal.


Today, it is a painful reminder that so much work still needs to be done to improve relations between police and communities of color.


The Rodney King verdict, which set off 6 days of rioting, was the epicenter of racial tension, ignited by years of frustration.  It was the public demonstration of subtler forms of racism that had been brewing below the surface.   There was rampant racial discrimination and inequality in lending, employment, education and business.   And the dismissal of the officers, whose rage was undeniable in the video, was a metaphor for how White America so often dismisses black folks.  


I remember one young lady saying, “We don’t exist for them. They want me to pretend I didn’t see what I saw.”


In the early 1990s, my company published an advertising supplement for Inglewood businesses.  But the focus soon shifted after the riots.  The undeniable injustice of the verdict underscored injustice everywhere. And one of the most glaring examples was the way the black community was presented by mainstream media.  As I began to wake up to the need for reporting that was fair, balanced and positive, I was encouraged to start a city magazine that would help change the narrative.


 Contrary to what mainstream media would have you believe, Inglewood was not the headquarters for thugs.  I was not content to have folks define the city as a dark, impoverished, gang infested place that people had to pass on their way to the airport.  It had been named the “City of Champions,” and in my mind, that slogan had as much to do with the hard working, law abiding citizens of Inglewood, as the Showtime Lakers.


In June 1994, the first edition of Inglewood Today magazine hit the streets. The cover featured then-Mayor Edward Vincent trying his luck at the Hollywood Park Casino.  In 2003, the monthly magazine became a weekly newspaper, and soon followed.  


Fast forwarding until today, we find the progress experienced by Inglewood Today over the last 23 years just as amazing as the city whose praises we sing.  We take pride in the role we have played in bringing accurate, balanced news about those who live and work here, being a voice for the Inglewood community, providing a platform for those who would not otherwise have one.  


From the ashes of the 1992 L.A. Riots, to becoming the “official newspaper” of a minority-led city with multi- billion dollar investments, Inglewood Today is both proud and humbled to have played in part in changing the media landscape.





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