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The Heart of a Champion

Thursday, March 05, 2015

As I took my trash downstairs and out into the alley to place into the bins, I noticed that not only am I on a routine, Oscar Ramirez, a transient resident of Inglewood for the past 7 years is also on a tight schedule.


I stopped recycling since the hassle of hauling plastic and glass to the recycling center produces much less dividends than it costs to buy and haul, so I throw it all out in the garbage if no one will claim it. Oscar pushed his old shopping cart through the alley. I stopped him, and offered him what I had. As he approached and began making room for the handful of plastic that I gave him, he jubilantly said, “Thanks, I almost got enough for my Lamborghini.” It caught me off guard. I told him I was a few coins behind him, and we shared a laugh.


The conversation switched gears and he asked me if I thought Lebron was better than Jordan. Being that there are die-hard Jordan fans who will literally fist fight over this particular field of conversation, I took the political road and explained that the two players played in two different eras of the game. I explained if Lebron played in the 90’s with the frame and skill set he has today, he’d be the most dominant player in the league hands down and Jordan would take a back seat. He replied, “Yeah, but that’s not what this game is about, see people think it’s about the stats, it’s not about the stats, it’s about the will, it’s about the heart and soul, when the game is on the line, will you buckle under pressure, or will you rise to the occasion?”


He then began explaining to me, “A lot of people see me and think, ‘Look at this guy, he’s a bum, he took the easy way out.’  But little do they know, I’m up at the crack of dawn, fighting, working, for whatever I get, while the rest of the world sleeps. I’ll be back on my feet, if it takes me 30 years, I’ll be back, because I have it in here.”


Our conversation was brief, but not only did it provide me with insight into who’s the better player between Jordan and Lebron, but it became more and more clear that the resilience of the human spirit is one that inspires hope, transformation, and a strong feeling of privilege. He may not have the luxuries we often take for granted, and he may not be native to this city, but he’s 27 years old, homeless, attending job training seminars at El Camino College, manages to remain humble, in positive spirits, and optimistic of his future. He’s got the heart of a champion.


*(I asked him if I could photograph him, but he declined having his picture taken, but granted me permission to tell the story of our conversation.)





The NAACP, National Urban League and Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network are at the center of a lawsuit, alleging a conspiracy with cable companies Comcast and Time Warner to overlook a lack of diversity at these companies in exchange for millions of dollars in donations.


According to the Washington Post, “The complaint alleges that Comcast gave large donations to Sharpton, the NAACP and other civil rights groups to make it appear that the cable company was promoting diversity, even while it was failing to follow through on a promise to do so.”


The lawsuit was filed on Feb. 20 in a Los Angeles federal court by Entertainment Studios.  The television company was founded by black producer and comedian Byron Allen and the National Association of African-American Owned Media (NAAAOM). 


The complaint states that Comcast discriminates against black channels, and agreements to distribute content on black channels are inferior to those offered to white-owned companies.  It also states the cable giant only spends $3 million out of $15 billion on advertising and channel carriage of black-owned programs. 


Allen said in a phone interview that Comcast repeatedly refused to carry his programs and that of several other black TV executives.  He was allegedly told by a Comcast executive that the company was “not trying to create any more Bob Johnsons,” referring to the former owner of Black Entertainment Television, who sold his company to Viacom for $3 billion.


In 2010 civil rights groups signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Comcast to win approval for its merger with NBC Universal.  The agreement promised 10 new minority-owned and operated networks, 4 of which would be run by African Americans.  Six months after that merger was approved, Sharpton was given a job as the host of MSNBCs “PoliticsNation” and a $140,000 donation to his nonprofit, according to the Daily Beast.


Today, according to the complaint, Comcast only runs one minority-owned channel, Africa Network, and even that is run by a former Comcast executive.  The others, although featuring African American content, are white-owned and controlled. 


Sharpton and Comcast have dismissed the allegations as “frivolous.”  A statement by Sharpton’s network said:  “We would gladly defend our relationship with any company as well as to state on the record why we found these discriminatory accusations made by said party to be less than credible and beneath the standards that we engage in.”


Allen’s network carries 8 channels and 36 shows on Verizon, AT&T and RCN.  FCC regulators are currently mulling over a $45-billion merger deal between Comcast and TWC.  If approved, the deal would give the companies a combined 30% market share of the cable business. A decision is expected this quarter.






The people of Inglewood received a close-up look at the ugly side of the sports business this past week, when Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) raised phony safety warnings about the plan to build a new professional sports stadium at Hollywood Park.


Before the City of Champions Revitalization Plan had even been announced, AEG had hired former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to criticize the idea because LAX is located a few miles away. The truth is that sports venues all over the United States are located near airports – many of them even closer than Hollywood Park is to LAX – and operate safely every day. This is something Mr. Ridge should have been well aware of, since he helped arrange financing for a new stadium for the Philadelphia Eagles that opened in 2003 just three miles away from Philadelphia International Airport.


The fact is, the stadium at Hollywood Park will be completely safe. It will meet all aviation regulations, and will actually be lower than a stadium proposed in 1995 that received a “no hazard” determination from the FAA. The report commissioned by AEG is nothing more than a transparent ploy by AEG outsiders to benefit its competing stadium proposal for Downtown L.A. by depriving Inglewood of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Even the front-page editor of the LA Times saw through the ruse, writing sarcastically on Twitter: “Lessons in Capitalism: Hire former Homeland Sec chief to say your rival's stadium is a terrorist target. Right.”


This is not the first time AEG has tried to derail Inglewood projects that would benefit our city and our residents. When plans to renovate the Forum were announced in 2012, then-President Tim Leiweke raised questions about Inglewood’s safety in the pages of the L.A. Times and dismissed the Forum as a “class B” venue. Now, AEG has Inglewood in their crosshairs once again.


The people of Inglewood realize that this proposal will mean enormous benefits, including 22,600 full- and part-time jobs during construction, and more than 10,400 permanent full- and part-time jobs once the project is in full operation. A healthy local hiring goal, several job fairs, and local job training make the project even more of a winner for Inglewood. These are the reasons why we saw an amazingly successful signature-gathering effort in town, followed by a flood of positive testimony from citizens before the City Council’s historic vote to approve the project on Feb. 24.


AEG clearly doesn’t know who they are up against in this fight. Over the years I’ve witnessed firsthand the strength and resiliency of Inglewood and its residents, and this is not our first challenge, nor is it our last. They need to know we’re not going to back down – not with so much at stake. I suspect in the coming days and weeks we will see many more attacks against this project.  It will be our job as custodians of Inglewood’s future to be vigilant in our resolve to see this project through, and let the world know that Inglewood is called the City of Champions for a reason-- because we are winners!



Compared to last week’s council meeting, which lasted more than 4 hours, and drew sports fans and news media all over Southern California to witness the historic decision to build a sports stadium in Inglewood, Tuesday’s session drew mostly local folks centered around Inglewood business. 


Mayor James Butts opened with a special presentation honoring the Albert Monroe Middle School chapter of the National Junior Honor Society.  Forty Monroe students were recognized for maintaining a grade point average of 3.5 or better.  Besides academic recognition, the Honor Society offers scholarships and programs that build character.


“We celebrate your commitment to excellence in the areas of scholarships, leadership and service,” Butts said before posing for photos with students and members of the Inglewood City Council.  IUSD trustee Dr. Don Brann added, “I want to congratulate all of you students.  Well deserved.”


A proclamation was also presented, proclaiming March 2015 as Red Cross Month, and “recognizing the importance of volunteering time and donating blood.” 


Inglewood Chief Financial Officer David Esparza presented the City’s financial report for the first quarter (October 1 through December 31, 2014).  According to Esparza, property, sales, and user taxes are up.  Building permit fees are down and so is unemployment.  Hollywood Park revenue was stable through the first quarter.  City expenditures are below expectation.  On Oct. 1, 2014, Inglewood had $79.8 million in revenues and expenditures of $89.2—a shortfall of more than $9 million.  However, the City is expected to end the year slightly above projected revenues.  It had collected 23% of its projected revenues by December 31, 2014.


City Manager Artie Fields reported that the new senior center is scheduled to start construction this month.  The new community center on La Cienega is on track to begin construction in July 2015.  Street improvement along Century Blvd. is also scheduled to begin in July.


City Treasurer Wanda Brown reminded the public that her free income tax program for seniors filing W-2 or 1099 returns is still going.  The last day to take advantage of the program is April 3.  For an appointment, call (310) 412-5642. .


There was some discussion about misinformation and negative reaction to last week’s stadium approval.  Stuart Bailey addressed a news report in which an AEG stakeholder warned that building a stadium in Inglewood would make the city a target for a terrorist attack similar to 9/11 due to the city’s close proximity to LAX.  “I want to talk about the AEG findings that we should not build a stadium, and that they (terrorists) will steal an airplane at LAX…They (critics) say we’re just a minority town and they think we don’t know anything.  Well, this whole United States was built on minorities.  So go ahead and build it, and I will deal with L.A. for you guys.”   


“Well, there you go,” Butts said.


Ethel Austin came to Mayor Butts’ defense against a man who accused him of pushing the Rams down the throats of Inglewood voters.  “He (Butts) never said the Rams are coming.  The Rams people (fans) did that on their own.  All you guys (council) agreed to was a stadium.”  


Councilman Alex Padilla commented, “People are saying they didn’t hear about any (stadium initiative meetings). I held a meeting, everyone (council members) had a meeting, it was in the local newspaper, Inglewood Today.  We did stuff on our end.  As far as approving the stadium, everywhere I go, people are stopping me and thanking us for moving the stadium forward and not wasting tax payer money (on an election).


In other matters, the council approved the addition of the artistic mural “Inglewood Stories” to the public art collection at the Inglewood Public Library lobby.  A budget amendment was approved to purchase dispatch and records management equipment for the Inglewood Police Department.  Public Works got the green light to hire a street contractor for the La Cienega Blvd. and Fairview Blvd. Improvement Project.    A second contract was approved for work on the La Brea Ave. Traffic Light Synchronization Project.


In closing remarks, Councilman George Dotson thanked those who attended his shredding event, and reminded constituents to register for the upcoming Relay for Life event.  “(It) is coming up on June 6 and 7.  I am asking people in District 1 to join Team Dotson and help us raise money for the Cancer Society.  Call my office at (310) 412-8602.


Padilla thanked fellow Councilman Ralph Franklin for organizing the presentation for Albert Monroe Middle School’s honor society students.  His District 2 shredding event will take place on April 18 at 10am at the District 2 I-COP Center, at La Brea and Centinela.  Street resurfacing in District 2 will begin in the next 4 to 6 weeks and should be completed around July 1.


Councilman Eloy Morales had more to say about the stadium initiative:  “We could have just left it on the table and put it on the ballot.  In Carson, if they had this on the table, what would they have done? They would have taken it in a heartbeat.  And if we don’t make those decisions, they leave us…I am proud to be part of that council that made that decision.”


“Why did we vote to move the initiative forward?  Understand there is nothing guaranteed in life.  There is no guarantee there won’t be a massive recession and they’ll have to hold off on the stadium…But to have 22,000 signatures—more people who have ever voted for anything in this city—and say, ‘Now, we need to have an election too,’ and slow ourselves down, to me, is just crazy. If we would have to vote (in an election) on everything, you wouldn’t need a council.  You hire people to look after your interest, and have the common sense to know when it’s time to take action.”



One of America’s most revered poets is getting her own postage stamp.  The U.S. Postal Service announced last month it would begin issuing the Maya Angelou Forever Stamp on April 7.  A public First-Day-of-Issue stamp dedication ceremony will be held at the Warner Theater in Washington, D.C.  The rendering of the stamp was unveiled on March 4. 


Angelou, best known for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, her autobiographical account of life in the segregated South, died May 28, 2014, at age 86.


Stamps can be pre-ordered for delivery shortly after April 7, the Postal Service said.


The stamp uses Ross Rossin's 2013 portrait of Angelou, which is in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery's collection where it will be on display through Nov. 1. It features this quote from her book: "A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song."


A national treasure, Angelou inspired people from all walks of life through her many talents as a poet, best-selling author, playwright,  memoirist, educator, and civil rights advocate.  She delivered a poem at President Clinton's first inauguration in 1993. In 2010, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama, the country's highest civilian honor.


Angelou was a friend to both Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and mentor to Oprah Winfrey, Tavis Smiley and other prominent leaders.  On March 31, Random House will publish Angelou's The Complete Poetry. And on April 7, Tavis Smiley's book My Journey with Maya, about his friendship with the late author, will arrive from Little, Brown



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