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Fast Talkers

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Mayor James Butts dropped a major bombshell during Tuesday night’s city council meeting.  From now on, public remarks made at the end of the meeting will be limited to one minute.


Groans were heard from the audience and two men walked out. The mayor was called everything but a child of God, even compared to Hitler and Mussolini.


“This is a new low for the city.  It’s a veiled attempt to silence the people,” Gil Mathieu said. 


“I am sure you have your reasons, but I’ll let you speak for yourself.  You’re men.  Other (city council) meetings give you cards so you can fill them out to make sure you have something to say. You’re not just having your own bully pulpit,” said long time resident Ray Davis. 


“You can say whatever you want but we talk too much,” Butts said to his critics.  “The public has 4 minutes now.  They have 3 minutes before and 1 minute after.  Let’s be big people and be concise.”  In regard to references of him acting like Hitler, the mayor responded:  “To say that, you don’t really know what the Jews suffered.”


Inglewood Recreation and Parks Commissioner Willie Agee joked that he didn’t know what he would do with his extra time.


Other than the change in public comments, audience members commented on various aspects of the Hollywood Park project.  There is some resistance to the massive mixed-use project being built in Inglewood. 


“Hollywood Park has been a consummate partner.  They could have bankrupted their LLC, like a lot of other companies did, when the recession hit. But they hung in there. As a result, they have built a quality project that is going to employ thousands of people,” Butts said.


“Before they even came to us, they spent about 3 years talking to the community.  It’s amazing the time they’ve put in, so no one is giving them anything,” Councilman Eloy Morales said.


Council members agreed to accept a $245,000 grant to improve traffic safety; awarded $582,267 to a contractor for a storm drain improvement project; up to $1,337,452 for an extended architectural and engineering design contract related to residential sound insulation; and a second RSI engineering and design agreement for $569,495.


The council also approved two ordinances—one related to the Hollywood Park Specific Plan guidelines, and another to expand zoning boundaries related to the relocation of Hollywood Park Casino and surrounding areas.   


City Clerk Yvonne Horton reminded everyone that October 20th is the last day to register to vote in the Nov. 4th General Election.  You need to register if you have moved, changed your name or turned 18 since the last election. The City Clerk’s Office will hold a registration drive during the District 2 Picnic this Sunday, Sept. 28th at North Park.  


City Treasurer Wanda Brown is flying high from another successful community financial workshop.  The well attended workshop covered a number of topics of interest to residents at all stages of life—banking, credit, insurance, reverse mortgages, saving for retirement, and more. 


Homeowners, Brown said, should be aware that “a new wave of foreclosures is coming.   Loan modifications are beginning to adjust and will continue for the next 4 to 5 years”


Butts introduced an initiative to lower the income threshold for seniors to receive discounts and tax refunds from public utilities.  “We had seniors (whose) cost of living made them ineligible.  Now you can make more money and still qualify,” Butts said.


“We wanted to make sure people who really need this program will qualify,” Morales added.


Speaking of money, two residents had this to say:


 “I am voting for this man,” said Ethel Austin, pointing to Butts, “because he kept us alive. You all (council) kept us above water.”


 “You took a different path.  It was painful. You annoyed people, but we have not gone into bankruptcy and I thank you for that,” Davis said.


Councilman George Dotson responded to an inquiry about the now closed Warren Lane School and trees being removed to make way for the Hollywood Park project.  “They are working on the school right now.  A lot of the trees in Hollywood Park are being saved.”  Dotson reminded the public to mark their calendars for his District 1 Document Shredding event, this Saturday, September 27th, from 9am to noon at the Police Community Center, Beat 3, 2901 W. Manchester Ave.


Councilman Ralph Franklin said more about the new public comment rule:  “As the chair, he (mayor) has the ability to grant people more time.  We ask that you address the matter that you would want addressed versus the issue of the timeline.  Also our offices are open if you want to speak more about the matters.”


Mike Benbow commented on the great time he had at the concert featuring Frankie Beverly and Maze and Patti Labelle at the Fabulous Forum.  “That music was all about love.”  He thanked the council (by way of working out a deal to bring back the Forum under new ownership) for bringing the concert to Inglewood. 


Butts commented on the concert goers, who were solidly middle-aged: “There was not a lot of standing and there was not a lot of marijuana smoking.”




With the exception of some old-souled young artists like Alicia Keys, finding grown folks music is pretty much limited to old CDs and old school radio stations. They just don’t make a lot of good soul music anymore.


So it was a real treat Sunday night when the Forum held a concert with Frankie Beverly and Maze, Patti Labelle and Reuben Studdard.  Not a teeny bopper in sight.


Studdard, who won “American Idol” back in 2003, was probably the youngest person in the room.  But even he has that old-school vibe, expressed through a medley of Luther Vandross and Earth, Wind and Fire covers.


Labelle has still got it.  Her voice still sends chills down my spine every she sings “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”  And she still loves to kick her shoes off.  A pair of heels went flying off the stage during one of her songs.  Luckily, she had a pair of back-ups.


Now 70 years young, she told the crowd, “Ms. Patti is back!”  But I say she never left. 


Maze was A-MAZING!  Each song brought back memories of what the 40-and-older set loves so much—love itself.  Songs like “Happy Feelings” and “Golden Time of Day” are a welcome antithesis to the gun toting, woman demeaning, drug, sex and money worshipping anthems by some young artists today.    


Grown folks lyrics are generally easy to follow, which makes for a lot of sing-alongs. At one point, Maze turned his mic on the audience and listened while we sang.   Most stayed seated, but by the time Maze finished the show with their anthem, “Joy & Pain,” followed by “Before I Let Go,” everyone who could stand was up on their feet.


Mayor James Butts presented Beverly with a proclamation from the City of Inglewood, declaring Sept. 21, 2014 as “Frankie Beverly and Maze Day.”  He took the opportunity to remind Beverly and the audience that the Fabulous Forum is located in his city.


“One of your guys said this was the L.A. Forum.  The Forum is in Inglewood, California…That’s Inglewood with a capital ‘I’.”  


Butts told Beverly that Inglewood had been waiting to see him for a long time:  “(Los Angeles) Councilman Bernard Parks is here and he never comes to Inglewood. He never goes south of Slauson.”


“He’s funny,” Beverly said.


Have Voters Lost Their Passion?

Thursday, September 18, 2014


Four million voters in Scotland are expected to go to the polls on September 18 to decide whether to forge independence from the rest of the United Kingdom.  Scotland has been part of the UK for more than 300 years.


It is the only ballot decision Scottish voters will have to make.  Those on the “Yes” side want to be free of English—i.e. Tory Party—control.  The Scottish have fared worse economically among UK citizens because they are more reliant on public assistance.  London officials have made several public spending cuts to balance the Treasury’s finances.  To summarize what is happening in Scotland, think of the political left-wing separating itself from the U.S. 


 The latest polls place the “No” vote at a slight advantage, at 52%.  However, that could quickly change.  Both sides are pushing for a win after several months of campaigning, but the race is still too close to call.


 Women, who make up more than half of voters, dominate the pool of the undecided.  Most voters over the age of 65 are on the “No” side, fearing a separation would break up their families.


 Turnout may reach as high as 90%, based on recent projections, a significant increase compared to recent UK elections.  This historic election has drawn global interest and the voting age has been changed to include citizens as young as 16.  Voter registration is at an all-time high.  It’s just that important! 


 It leads me to ask, “What would be important enough to solicit a similar turnout out in Inglewood?”    Congresswoman Maxine Waters expressed her desire at Mayor Butts’ Town Hall meeting to have Inglewood lead the way in voter turnout.  The question is, how do we get there?


 Who would have to run?  What would have to be on the ballot?


 Voter apathy is an unfortunate side effect of free nations.  Just as citizens have the right to vote, they also have the right not to vote.  People take their freedoms for granted.  In countries ruled by dictators, voter turnout is (not surprisingly) high.  After all, who is going to buck the current when a break with the status quo could end in a public execution?


 It is fear—not allegiance—that decides the winners in dictatorships.


 In Scotland’s case, tempers have been high, with reports of citizens destroying literature of their opponents and getting into yelling matches.  Of course people debate all the time in Inglewood—especially at council meetings.  But somehow all that passion doesn’t quite play out at the polls. 


 Last year, voter turnout in Inglewood’s councilmanic election was a low 15%.  L.A. saw a similar low turnout in their mayoral election, with 23% percent casting votes.  L.A. City Council President Herb Wesson said he’s even looking into incentives, which include paying people to vote.


 What would it take to get Inglewood fired up enough to break records at the polls?  It’s a question I don’t have the answers to, but I am enjoying the process of democracy unfolding in Scotland.


 Last week one of Inglewood’s oldest living residents celebrated her 105th birthday. Ms. Hattie Quinan was in high spirits as Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts Jr visited her, along with her long time friend Hazel Culpepper.


 Ms. Hattie is a resident of the Westchester Villa Senior Living Community and has been for the past 4 years. According to staff, “She’s very much there, in her mental awareness. She loves to read, she enjoys playing games, where she names the things that are around her. She’s still an active member in her church, Miracle Baptist Church in Los Angeles, and she has a way of providing comfort to others. One of her famous lines is, “Don’t worry, the Lord will make a way somehow.”


 Westchester Villa honored its beloved Ms. Hattie with a birthday cake accompanied by a candle that displayed 105, and a barbecue lunch.


 Mayor Butts spoke briefly and presented Ms. Quinan with a plaque of acknowledgement from the City of Inglewood before sitting beside her to enjoy lunch together.


 The senior living community also welcomed Inglewood Today Publisher Willie Brown and commended the paper for providing the community with quality material every week. To showcase their appreciation, the staff provided Brown with a specially made tee-shirt.


 Matthew Chinichian of the Westchester Villa said, “We’d like to thank the family of Ms. Hattie Quinan for allowing us to care for her. We’re honored to serve her and all the seniors of the community.”


 It’s not often you get to meet a living legend, and to see Ms. Hattie in full swing, full of peace and love in her heart, brought joy to mine. The residents of the Westchester Villa joined together to sing Ms. Hattie a loud and proud rendition of Happy Birthday, and we all wish her many more!




Hispanic Heritage Month

Thursday, September 18, 2014


Hispanic Political Power Rising


 In March of this year, Hispanics officially became America’s most populous group.  Making up 39% of the of the U.S. population, they have edged past non-Hispanic whites (the next most populous group) who comprise 38.8%.


 Politically, Hispanics represent the fastest growing ethnic voting bloc nationwide, according to The Latino electorate is expected to double within a generation.


As Hispanic American voters have grown, so have those elected to represent them. 


 Today, there are 37 Hispanics or Latinos serving in Congress and 4 serving in the Senate—a record number. 


 The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) was founded in December 1976 as a legislative service organization of the United States House of Representatives to support the advocacy of issues affecting Hispanic communities.  Congressman Xavier Becerra (34th District) and Congresswoman Amanda Renteria (21st District) are two of California’s finest.


 Xavier Becerra


First elected into the U.S. House of Representatives in 1992, Congressman Xavier Becerra has used his leadership to advocate for working families and small business owners, combat poverty, improve the Social Security program for women and minorities, and strengthen Medicare. He was the first Latino to serve on the Committee on Ways and Means, serves as the Ranking Member of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security, and was elected the fourth ranking Democrat in the House as the Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.


As the first university graduate in his family, Congressman Becerra understands the importance of working-class families and their impact within our communities. He has committed himself to the establishment of the National Museum of the American Latino to ensure that people remember and celebrate the history of America’s diverse communities.


 Amanda Renteria


Amanda is the daughter of farmworkers -- her dad is an immigrant from Zacatecas, Mexico, and her mom is from Lindsay, California. As the first Latina in history to serve as Chief of Staff in the United States Senate, Amanda Renteria has dedicated herself to public service. With a motivation to help others and serve her community, Amanda serves on the Advisory Board of Stanford University’s Haas Center for Public Service. She is also a frequent speaker and panelist for young professionals’ groups and other community-based organizations.


 In 2010, Amanda was named Outstanding Chief of Staff by the Tri-Caucus Staff Association. She was also chosen by her peers to serve on the steering committee of the Bipartisan Chiefs of Staff group. In 2009, she received the Imagen Foundation’s Latina Leaders Award, and in 2011, she received MANA’s Primera Award for being the first Latina Chief of Staff in the US Senate. Her hard work and perseverance for the betterment of her community has been well displayed through her projects, involvement, and legislature.


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