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Butts Nominated to MTA Board

Thursday, December 18, 2014

South Bay officials want a larger share of federal money and influence for transportation projects, and they believe Inglewood Mayor James Butts can deliver.  In fact, they voted last week for him to replace Santa Monica Mayor Pam O’Connor as the regional representative on the Metro board.


Torrance Mayor Pat Furey nominated Butts for the post.  The Southwest Corridor Cities subcommittee voted in his favor. The City Selection Committee is expected to ratify the appointment at its meeting in January.


As a Metropolitan Transportation Authority board member, Butts would represent the Southwest Corridor, which consists of 18 cities in the South Bay and Westside. 


Despite O’Connor’s 13 years on the board and support from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti,  O’Connor only won votes from Culver City, and 4 small Palos Verdes Peninsula cities.  With $1 billion of the $40 billion allocated to the Southwest Corridor over the next 30 years, Corridor cities would only get about 2.5 percent of the funds.  They are paying more than that in sales tax revenue, according to reports.   


"I'm very honored to be chosen by cities and to be chosen as the first representative from Inglewood to be nominated for the board," Butts told the Santa Monica Lookout. "I hope to provide a voice for the Westside cities on the Board as we move forward.”


With 12 votes, Inglewood represents the second largest voting population (Torrance is number one with 15 votes) in the Southwest Corridor.  With Butts as the Corridor’s representative, Inglewood would be in a strong position.


In regard to Inglewood, Butts said he would “revisit the issue of grade separation for the Florence-Centinela crossing of the Metrorail (and) develop a shuttle or turnaround solution to move passengers from the Florence-La Brea station to the Forum and the new Hollywood Park Tomorrow development site.”


Traffic in Southern California is the cause of much frustration, road rage and late night jokes. However, Butts has high hopes that even in 405-ville, the MTA Board and officials can find a clear path out of gridlock.  It begins, he said, with strong leadership. 


“I want to provide an effective collaborative voice for the Southwest Corridor Cities,” he said.  He envisions a “countywide transportation system that reduces our reliance on the automobile, resulting in cleaner air and less reliance on oil.” 


Don’t we all?


Assuming he is approved by the full City Selection Committee in January, Butts will serve a four-year term that ends in January 2019.  There are no term limits for MTA board members.



Metro Board members are selected by City Selection Committee subcommittees representing the four regions of LA County—the North County/San Fernando Valley, San Gabriel Valley, Southeast Long Beach and Southwest Corridor. 

Members include all five County Supervisors, the mayor of Los Angeles, three mayoral appointees and a non-voting gubernatorial appointee.

Unfinished Business and Holiday Cheer

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Inglewood council wrapped up 2014 by approving a number of agenda items and recapping important achievements of the year.


A public hearing was held to consider approval of a draft of the Consolidated Annual Performance Evaluation Report (CAPER) for Fiscal Year 2013-2014.  Grants Coordinator Damian Pipkins reported on Inglewood’s outreach to low-income seniors, veterans, the homeless  and those with disabilities, through federally-funded programs.  From Oct. 1, 2013 through Sept. 30, 2014, “Three summer camps were held, which helped just under100 people.  We provided senior meals, again to just under 100 people,” Pipkins said. 


In addition, services were provided to the elderly (mostly homebound), and 6 streets and 22 sidewalks were improved.  The HOME program upgraded homes to make them more accessible to those with physical disabilities.   Veterans received help with rent and other essentials, and emergency grants were used to help the homeless.  “Case management assisted 17 people to go from homelessness to self-sufficiency,” Pipkins said.


Gil Mathieu had comments about the government’s Section 8 housing subsidy program.  “Many property owners are opting out of Section 8, availability is decreasing.  What I’m concerned about is a lot of these properties have been improved with HUD funds so there should be some stipulation about bailing out,” Mathieu said.


The council also took action to approve several year-end agenda items, including the purchase of new flooring for the Veterans Center and Rogers Park, new park lighting, new traffic signs and accessories, and liquid chlorine for water treatment.  Agreements were approved for public art to be created, which includes multi-media, a bronze sculpture, and urban theatre.  The City will consolidate four of its lots and a portion of two lots into one at 3656 111th St. 


Two public hearings were set for January 13, 2015 at 7pm.  The first will consider an appeal to allow the installation of a roof mounted telecommunications facility at 10318 Prairie Ave. The second will consider an ordinance amendment to the Inglewood Municipal Code to establish the Regent Circle Permit Parking District.


SCE representative Marvin Jackmon presented the City with a check for $13,000 as a reward for saving energy.  Wayne Spencer of the South Bay Workforce Investment Board announced the cities of Torrance and Lomita have been added to the South Bay Cities Council of Governments and will become eligible to receive various employment-related programs and services.  Also, SBWIB has received $1.1 million in funding from the U.S. Dept.


Labor to provide academic and occupational skills training for local youth.    


City Manager Artie Fields announced that Inglewood recently received an award for its outstanding work in labor relations and labor negotiations, which has saved the City millions of dollars.   


Commenting on the financial burden of lifetime retiree medical benefits which Inglewood faced before the renegotiation, Fields said, “This (type of deal) has placed a lot of cities on the brink of bankruptcy.  The (savings) is a result of the hard work of our staff and bargaining groups.”


The City's labor negotiations team, comprised of Fields, David Esparza, Jose Cortes, Jack Hoffman, and Mike Falkow, renegotiated with the City's 6 labor groups, resulting in successful reduction of unfunded liability.


Falkow said in a statement, “By exchanging the massive, high-cost benefit with a more reasonable Retiree Health Savings Plan, the savings amounted to almost $165 million over 30 years!”


A comment that the council is too agreeable prompted responses by Councilmembers Ralph Franklin and Eloy Morales. “We agree because we meet days in advance and, we read our agendas,” Franklin said. 


Morales’ comments were poetic:


“A lot has been said about our agreeing up here.  Well, while we have been up here agreeing, the Forum was reopened and Hollywood Park is already starting on a $2 billion project.  While we were up here agreeing, the deficit was cut almost in half, crime has been reduced.  We’ve all seen what has happened when we’ve been disagreeing.  Three thousand to 4,000 residents came out for the tree lighting.  It was an amazing turnout.  Positive things are happening while we’re up here agreeing.”


“I don’t know what else I could say after that,” Mayor Butts said.  He closed out the session with a recap of recent positive events in Inglewood. “Snoop Dogg has adopted the city, and we gave away 800 turkeys to needy families.   We’ve seen the biggest tree lighting celebration in the South Bay and including L.A.  We didn’t have to pay a dime for that.  We celebrated our children, and the adults were happy. That was the culmination of this year.  It’s what we work for—a happy, safe community.” 


Councilman George Dotson wished Inglewood a blessed, happy and wonderful holiday.  Councilman Alex Padilla made similar remarks. 


Inglewood City Hall will close on Dec. 19, 2014 and reopen Jan. 5, 2015. 






There’s nothing like the holidays to stir up loving memories and best wishes.  And what better way to end the year than the Christmas tree lighting that drew thousands to the Forum last week?  It was, for Councilman Eloy Morales, the epitome of what he holds dear—family, cultural diversity, and holiday tradition.


The District 3 councilman was elected to office in 2003.  He has attended tree lightings every year, but 2014 was different, he said. 


“I took my children to the tree lighting this year for the first time.  As far as I can remember, one of them had to go to soccer practice or do something. I never had all three of them together.  So this year was very special,” Morales said.


Aside from being the largest holiday ceremony Inglewood has seen, Morales experienced the “peace on earth and good will toward men” which goes to the heart of the season.  It all begins, he said with people accepting each other and learning to live in harmony.


“As I looked around and saw the kids of so many different backgrounds, it was evident.  We are a city that has learned to work with each other.  From the time we had our first Hispanic Fiesta and Martin Luther King holiday, Inglewood has evolved as a diverse city.  The population is nearly half-Latino, half-African American, but there are also Asians and Caucasians too.”


Raised in Inglewood since 1977, Morales said he grew up as a proud Latino.  Cultural pride was instilled into him as a child.  Now, with his own children, that pride includes living in Inglewood. 


“My Christmas wish for my children is that they look around and see the beauty in this city.  I want them to see the value that community service brings.” 


He added, “My kids—they love Inglewood, they are proud of it…and I am proud of that!  Sometimes when we’re out of the city, we may be near a Yogurtland, and they want to go to the Yogurtland in Inglewood.”


Peace in Inglewood, and good will toward men of all colors.  Yes, we like the sound of that.






Holiday Season in Upward Swing

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Despite the backdrop of racial, social and political unrest defying Christmas spirit, there is positive news in America.   The jobless rate is steady at 5.8 percent, the housing market and the stock market are showing nice gains.  In some places, according to the American Automobile Assn., you can even buy a gallon of gas for $2.70. 


Holiday sales are up online as well.  According to, “Based on early numbers from comScore, it looks like online sales got off to a good start in the U.S., with Thanksgiving topping $1 billion and Black Friday passing $1.5 billion, respective growth of 32% and 26% over 2013.”


With more of us working, hanging onto our homes and spending less on fuel, the holidays are shaping up nicely.  It has taken President Barack Obama 6 grueling years to bring unemployment levels down from where they were in 2009.


“So far this year, over the first 11 months of 2014, our economy has created 2.65 million jobs,” the president said this week.


“That’s more than in any entire year since the 1990s. Our businesses have now created 10.9 million jobs over the past 57 months in a row. And that’s the longest streak of private sector job growth on record.” 


Compare that to the 700,000 jobs-a-month that were being lost when Obama took office. New Labor Department figures show the biggest hiring spree in three years occurred last month.


But don’t expect him to get any of the thanks, nor be offered any of the credit from the GOP.


Republican House Speaker John Boehner on Friday, said families in his home state of Ohio are struggling to make livable wages, and blamed the president for imposing business regulations, which he says burdens the economy.  


Democrats say the GOP has blocked every one of the Administration’s job creation plans and supports companies who ship good manufacturing jobs overseas.  .


While having the ability to buy an extra gift or splurge on a latte doesn’t assuage the very real threats of abusive police, ISIS, and Ebola, they do offer some moments of joy.  And isn’t that what this season is supposed to be about?


My advice:  Take your blessings where you find them.


Just Say No to Solicitors

Thursday, December 11, 2014

One thing you learn in business pretty fast is “there is a scam artist born every minute.”  While there are legitimate charities and programs that offer financial help to the needy, there are also unscrupulous individuals who are more than happy to separate you from your money. 


Unfortunately, during the holidays, thieves and crooks play upon the emotions and needs of people who need help the most.


Just minutes ago, I received a phone call from a scammer claiming to represent a legitimate government grant organization in Washington, DC.  The caller ID display on my phone showed a DC area code, so the call seemed legit. 


The caller said I had just been selected to receive a $10,000 grant that I could use for any reason, as long as it is not for anything illegal.  It sounded great, but having been around the block a few times, I could smell the rip-off a mile away.  Amused, I continued to listen.


“How would you like us to send you the grant money?” he asked.


“Just send me a check,” I said.


That’s when things became problematic—at least for him.  He explained that the organization does not issue checks.  Instead, I would need to provide my debit card info for direct deposit, or they could wire the money to my account via Money Gram.  I was given another phone number to call to speak with a representative, who would then verify my information.


And, of course, once they have my banking information, that’s all they need to wipe my account clean.


Just for fun, I asked the man what name he had for me (He didn’t address me by my name when I answered).  He could not provide it.  And neither would I provide my banking information.


Rip-offs can occur in a matter of seconds, and with today’s technology, more crooks are getting away with it.  A person can pretend to be calling from one place and actually be somewhere else.  Con artists are playing all sorts of telephone games to conceal their identity.  I’ve returned calls that showed up on my caller ID within minutes of receiving them, and have gotten a recording saying the number is “disconnected.”


I recognize the game because of my experiences, but what if I were a vulnerable senior citizen, or a desperate single parent?  The promise of easy money might tempt me to let my guard down.


Please be smart and protect yourself against scammers.  Remember if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  If an offer sounds good, please take your time, listen carefully, take notes and ask lots of questions.  Better yet, just say no to any unsolicited phone calls until you have a chance to verify whether the company is legitimate.  Get their information first and tell them you will think about it.  Then hang up and do your research.


A popular saying among crooks is “There’s a sucker born every minute.”  Unfortunately, this is true, but you don’t have to be the one to fall for the con games.  Be safe and be smart, so you can have a happy holiday.






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