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Labor Protest Over Stadium is Over

Thursday, April 02, 2015

When a running back is “in the zone,” he is unstoppable—much like plans for the new Inglewood stadium. Despite critics, questions about safety and a petition that could have stopped the project altogether, the Inglewood stadium keeps gaining ground, moving toward the end zone.


Within days of the Inglewood City Council voting unanimously to push the project forward without a special election on Feb. 24, the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor took action to reverse the decision.  Arguing that there were no guarantees of local, unionized jobs at the stadium, the group began a campaign to collect signatures that would have forced a citywide vote unless their demands were met.


Shortly before the March 26 deadline for signatures the Federation reached an agreement with developers.  But it wasn’t drama-free.  There were reports that anti-stadium workers lied to residents about their true intentions.  Many non-suspecting voters were told that their signatures would push the stadium project forward when the opposite was true.  Voters who felt tricked by petitioners had to file paperwork to have their signatures removed.


“Over 9,000 voters who were tricked by paid referendum signature gatherers to sign petitions to overturn the Mayor and City Council's unanimous vote to move forward with the Stadium Initiative turned in recension cards cancelling their signatures.  The Anti-Stadium group failed to submit their petition with the required signatures to the City Clerk’s Office by close of business (5:30pm) on March 26, 2015,” Mayor James Butts said in his newsletter.  He thanked Inglewood voters for “coming together once again to stand against forces that attempt to deny our city its well-earned destiny.”


As it stands, 35 percent of stadium jobs will be unionized.  According to the Federation’s executive secretary-treasurer Rusty Hicks, the mandate will cover all job categories at the stadium except for those related to events at the smaller 6,000-seat entertainment venue.  Filling these jobs with union workers won’t be hard, according to Hicks, because 12,000 union members already live in Inglewood.


He also said the labor contract agreement simply puts into writing what stadium developers had promised all along.


The anti-stadium referendum is the latest hurdle faced by supporters.  Earlier last month, another group that tried to derail the project in Inglewood failed.


Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge issued a report questioning the safety of the stadium, suggesting Inglewood was vulnerable to terrorist attacks because of its close proximity to LAX.  The fact that Ridge was paid by AEG (a former L.A. stadium contender), and previously helped arrange financing for the Philadelphia Eagles’ stadium, also near a major airport, made his arguments suspect.  One week and millions of dollars worth of plans later, AEG announced it was pulling out of the stadium race.


Like a running back whose time has come, the stars continue to align for Inglewood’s most ambitious project.  Last week, Rams owner Stan Kroenke, who bought 60 acres in Inglewood to build the stadium, presented his plans and schematics at a meeting of NFL owners in Arizona. Although no teams will be allowed to relocate until after the 2015-16 season, it appears inevitable that the St. Louis Rams will make their new home in Inglewood.   


And while there will always be some stadium opponents, there are also some prominent true believers as well. “That stadium is going to get built. I know that,” said Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, speaking of the Inglewood project.” I don’t know about any others, but that stadium will be built.”



Forum Hosts Kids Choice Awards

Thursday, April 02, 2015

No one was off limits for being slimed on March 28th when the Forum hosted the 28th annual Kids' Choice Awards.  Hosted by Nick Jonas , Nickelodeon’s entertainment awards show brought together the best of the best in music, film and television. 


Here are some of the winners receiving the coveted orange blimp:  Angelina Jolie, “Favorite Villain,” Maleficent; Nick Jonas, “Favorite Male Singer;” Emma Stone, “Favorite Movie Actress;” Ben Stiller, “Favorite Movie Actor,” Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, “Best Book;” Spongebob Square Pants, “Favorite Cartoon;”  and Modern Family, “Favorite Family TV Show. 


If there were a category for “Most Resilient,” Jolie would have aced that one too.  Just days after revealing that she had her ovaries removed as part of her prophylactic cancer treatment, a smiling Jolie made a surprise appearance with her two daughters to accept her award.


Voting took place in six continents on 19 localized websites, along with various simulcasts across the world, either live or tape-delayed.The show received 3.6 million viewers. 

Excuse Me While I Brag

Thursday, March 26, 2015

All of us fantasize sometimes about what we would do if the world were our oyster.   And some people in Inglewood have given me far too much credit for the positive things that have happened here.  At Tuesday’s council meeting, for example, Inglewood Today was attacked for reporting positive news about the city.


But who could have imagined even a year ago that Inglewood would be in the position it is in today?


Last year around this time, the Forum had just reopened, ground had just been broken on the Hollywood Park Tomorrow site.  Things were starting to look up.  The community was starting to come alive and people were hopeful that in Inglewood, better days were ahead.  But that was just the tip of the iceberg.  What followed next was a series of positive events that no crystal ball could have ever predicted.  And regardless of how people carry on about the mayor running this city like a dictator, no effort of just one person is enough to make billionaires like Rams owner Stan Kroenke put up money for a new stadium in Inglewood. 


The phenomenal success Inglewood is experiencing right now is a combination of a lot of things that are, quite frankly, beyond the control of one man.  It is a combination of perfect timing, location, weather, home prices, available land, and a decline in the horse racing industry which led to a huge new opportunity.  When you look at the way things are shaping up, how all the stars are aligning, if you have any respect for fate, then you have to know, that this is simply Inglewood’s time.


Haters can get mad all they want.  They can criticize our newspaper for magnifying the positive aspects of this city and promoting civic pride.  As Inglewood’s official newspaper, we owe it to our readers to report what is happening here.  And no one can deny that this city is in the midst of a revolution, one that will forever change the lives of its residents and businesses for the better.  A big part of this change is preceded by building a positive image.


So I make no apology for spreading the good news about a city that I love.  I do not need to justify why Inglewood Today has chosen the side of progress.


As I have said many times, when Inglewood Today produced his first issue almost 21 years ago, it was in response to a series of negative, distorted reports by mainstream media.  Inglewood was portrayed as a poverty-stricken community of drug dealers and gang-bangers, with little hope for improvement.  Embarrassing video of council meetings showing a divided city council, who fought until the wee hours of the morning, only served to further keep investors from looking our way.


Yet, Inglewood stakeholders, those who really love this city, knew what they were reading in the press did not accurately reflect their lives.  They knew there were problems that needed fixing.  But they also knew they were not being fairly portrayed.  Inglewood was blamed for crimes that occurred in Los Angeles.  Reporters saw no distinction.  If you were a person of color living in Inglewood and something bad happened, it was easier for reporters to lump you together with people of color in Los Angeles, than to check their facts.


Does Inglewood Today publish too many nice stories?  Well forgive me while I brag, but I think decades of negative, inaccurate reports deserve an opposite approach.  I am proud of this city and make no apologies for it.  With the new and improved leadership in City Hall, solid development projects backed by real money—including a stadium funded by private (not tax payer) dollars, I’d say this city has hit a home run.  Not every city can be so fortunate.



Pledge To Our Future

Thursday, March 26, 2015

            Often when we talk of the future, we speak of a distant reality or a vision of something we would like to see manifest. I was fortunate to cross paths with a group of high school seniors, all residents of Inglewood, who were chosen to participate in a documentary I was asked to help produce. The title of the piece is, “Against All Odds.” This group of teenagers experienced tremendous hardships throughout their young lives, from the loss of loved ones, divorce of parents, and being victims of sexual and physical abuse.   There was one teen who stood out to me,  a bright, intriguing, and warm spirited young lady by the name of Shameka Williams.  I wondered what the future had in store for her.


I reached out to the Morningside High School alumni and arranged a 9pm interview after she got settled from a long day of Sociology courses and meetings with members of the African Black Student Alliance where she acts as an Outreach Coordinator.  


 I sat down at my computer and, in overachiever fashion, she signed into the chat ten minutes before our scheduled time.  Williams, now a senior and member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, one of the most recognized sororities in the country, who’s emphasis is on public services focusing in the African American community said, “After I did my research, I loved what it stood for.“


 Her genuine compassion for her community, and strong affection for performing arts, charged her decision to major in the study of human society, its origins, and institutions, and minor in the latter. 


“I want to develop a non-profit organization that provides clothes and school supplies to students, with free summer programs, and bridges the gap between middle school and college. It’s really important for me to give back to the generation behind me, because someone came back for me. I think the people of Inglewood have inspired me the most, I learned from both the good and the bad. I was wise enough to really analyze the older folks and learn from their mistakes. Then seeing all that my Aunt sacrificed for me, I had to challenge myself to make a good positive living for myself.” When asked how the city can improve she believes, “Inglewood can become a better city by bringing the arts back to the city. I really believe that the arts inspires the youth, gives them confidence, keeps them out of the streets, and keeps them goal oriented. 


The interesting thing about the future is that it foreshadows the inevitable decline of influence and power, and can be an alarming reality when one’s motivation is driven by that same power and influence instead of the true well being of one’s community. Our youth crave, yet lack the adequate attention and support needed to shape them into the leaders of tomorrow. That’s a responsibility that shouldn’t have a political agenda as its grounds. However, the truth about the future is that it has the ability to be fashioned into a reality that can be prosperous for everyone, not just the ones with the most money, a particular ethnicity, religious belief, or political viewpoint. It demonstrates that, like Shameka Williams, we too can reinvent ourselves and become everything we desire to be despite a rough past.




Inglewood’s stadium dreams became more real on Tuesday when HKS, an architecture firm hired by St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke, presented stunning new renderings of the project.  The inspiring presentation vividly captured the look and field of the future sports venue.


Since Kroenke purchased 60 acres in Inglewood last year, rumors surfaced that it was a ploy to make St. Louis meet his demands for a new Rams stadium.  But now, with just one season under contract at Edward Jones Dome, and armed with finished plans to NFL owners meeting in Arizona this week, it doesn’t appear that Kroenke is playing games—at least not in St. Louis.  Analysts say the billionaire sports and real estate tycoon would never invest money in Inglewood if he did not intend to relocate his team.


Fortunately, Kroenke has lots of ammunition.  The proposed 80,000-seat stadium is packed with amenities that provide football fans with fresh new experiences. It is described as “the world's most interactive and integrated football stadium, a futuristic, $1.86-billion, privately financed venue proposed for the Hollywood Park site in Inglewood.”


The NFL has the final say on whether the Rams will move to Inglewood or remain in St. Louis after the 2015-16 season.  Such a move requires at least a three quarters vote by the 32 league owners. None of that has deterred HKS or Hollywood Park Land Company—developers of the new 238-acre site which will integrate the stadium into its design—from moving forward.


The new renderings reveal several attractive design features:

·         A huge, snail-shaped clear roof that can be used "to create the world's biggest billboard,” visible to 35 million travelers flying in and out of L.A. each year.  Retractable roof design that allows the venue to adjust to accommodate events of all sizes when there is no sporting event going on.


·         Built to accommodate two teams, the stadium will have two home locker rooms, identical sets of office space, and two owners' suites.


·         Four-sided design allows the venue to be approached by the public from 360 degrees. There would be no fenced-off areas at ground level such as loading docks, mechanical yards, or dumpsters.  These functions will be performed in underground areas.


·         Built below ground level to comply with height restrictions imposed on buildings within the LAX flight path. 


Noting the firm’s commitment to building the world’s most unique sports venue, Mark Williams, HKS sports and entertainment business director, said, “We are studying the (Southern California) region from the climate to the way people experience sports and entertainment and letting that drive the design.” Concepts guiding the design will include embedded objects, regional character, layering, and sustainability.  “We don’t need to do a building that looks like every other stadium when we can take advantage of the best climate in the country.” 


Designed for multiple purposes, not just for football games, the stadium can be used for a number of other events as well.  “This will be the most successful stadium in the world,” Williams said.  “Whether it’s a 12-year-old’s birthday party or the Super Bowl, this is something they will remember the rest of their lives.”


"So many stadiums are a big building that's out in a field somewhere," Hollywood Park Land Co. senior vice president Chris Meany said. "Very few have been integrated into the community."   



The stadium is expected to be finished in 2018.  Teams moving to L.A. before then will most likely play at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

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