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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



Build a City, a Stadium will Come

Thursday, February 26, 2015

We’re all familiar with the statement, “Build it and they will come.”  But at the Inglewood Council meeting Tuesday night, they came before a single shovel went into the ground.  Football fans are hungry, and Inglewood is the place to play ball.


As you have no doubt heard, and as major news outlets cannot stop reporting, history was made when Mayor James Butts and the Inglewood Council signed off on an ordinance to adopt the City of Champions Revitalization Initiative without alteration.  The ordinance to add the stadium to the already-in-progress Hollywood Park Tomorrow project is a clear “go.”


If you weren’t at the Feb. 24th meeting, I encourage you to please watch the cable broadcast and see history being made.  It was truly a high point for the City and one of the best nights in Inglewood history.  Who would have thought that even 5 years ago, a city that had lost its star basketball and hockey teams to the glare of downtown Los Angeles; a city that was negatively associated with drugs and gang violence; and a place people drove through—not to—on the way to LAX, would experience this type of turnaround.


As I heard the many public comments made, comments about job creation, millions of dollars in revenue, business revitalization, better schools, etc. , the one theme that rang through each statement was civic pride.  Getting the commitment of Rams owner Stan Kroenke to have a stadium built in Inglewood without tax payer dollars is a feat that more well known cities, including our L.A. neighbors, haven’t even pulled off.  If you recall, L.A. came to the table well ahead of us.  Where are they now?


Inglewood is quickly becoming known as the place to be.  But as we all know, it did not happen overnight.  Little by little, elected officials, committed residents and business owners have been working to bring the city back.  There was lots of work to be done, and I’m sure Mayor Butts must have spent a few nights scratching his head, wondering how to put this city back together. 


But he found a way to unite people and get them behind his vision.  First the $18 million structural deficit had to be dealt with, the Residential Sound Insulation program had to restored, the police department needed to be strengthened and two members on the city council, who were more committed to arguing than moving Inglewood forward, had to be replaced.


While Inglewood lovers remained hopeful, some like the woman at the meeting on Tuesday, admitted she thought Inglewood’s best days were behind her.  But when the Fabulous Forum re-opened last year, folks from everywhere began to take notice.


The people of Inglewood reached inside their hearts, rolled up their sleeves and began showing up at community events—picnics, block club parties, the Space Shuttle Endeavour and the biggest holiday tree lighting ceremony ever held in the city. 


As a black and brown community, Inglewood has been the underdog for a long time.  No one has given us or our leadership the credit we deserve.  They said we couldn’t make it happen.  They were wrong.   No one gets all major news networks to show up and stay for hours for no good reason.  People don’t drive for more than an hour in rush hour traffic to attend a council meeting in a town they neither work nor live in just for kicks.  Inglewood is on the verge of a renaissance that goes well beyond the boundaries of our city.  And whether the new stadium will eventually house an NFL team, a soccer team, host a Super Bowl or Olympics events isn’t really the issue.  The bottom line is, Inglewood is the hottest property around for building a state-of-the-art stadium.  And although we have yet to build, the people have already come.

Anything that benefits young people, especially young people of Inglewood,
I’m for. Tuesday’s council meeting, as we all now know, was a historic day
for our community, the people voted, and the city leaders did what they
were elected to do, and that’s make wise decisions for the city on behalf
of its residents.

The City of Champions Revitalization Initiative is for obvious reasons, an
extremely attractive initiative that brings the excitement of NFL football
and a host of other entertainment opportunities to our backyard. However,
with this much excitement it’s always good to read the fine print.

After attending the public forums held at Faithful Central Bible Church,
and listening to Gerard McCallum of Hollywood Park Tomorrow and Dr.
D’Artagnan Scorza of the Social Justice Learning Institute, I began to
learn that other than the fact that the city would have to expend no
public funds in order to build the stadium, there were a number of public
benefits directly focused on our future leaders of the city, which really
piqued my interests.

Section 16.14 of the initiative states that, “In addition, as part of the
annual compliance review for this Agreement, or more frequently as the
Parties may deem necessary, Landowner and City shall meet and confer to
review when and how Landowner has satisfied or intends to satisfy the
amount of Public Art Contribution obligations accrued to date in
accordance with the provisions of the Section 16.14 and the Specific Plan.
In addition an aggregate amount of Two Million and No/100 Dollars
($2,000,000) from the Public Art Contribution shall be dedicated to
commission, acquire, and/or display public art directly from local
Inglewood artists.”

We’ve seen with the 2014 IGAP Project, the direct impact such a project
has on the consciousness of the community, and the impact it has on young
people awarded the opportunity to study under professional artists
and assist in creating public art exhibits in the community they call
home. Huge win.

Another huge win for young people in the community is the beneficial
impact on jobs the initiative brings forth. The initiative is estimated to generateclose to 23,000 full- and part-time jobs during construction in the City of Inglewood. Once the project is completed, the stadium is projected to directly create approximately 10,465 full- andpart-time jobs associated with project operations within the City, and a total annual economic output of $911 million within the local economy.

Lastly, what I thought was a major bonus, being that our community is
predominately made of Latinos and African Americans, the initiative
local-hire requirements specifically stated in Section 16.2 mandates a 35%
local hire goal of post-construction jobs, local hire goals of at least
15% of the apprentice positions for the construction trades, requires the
landowner/project operator to identify and solicit qualified Inglewood
residents to fill senior management positions, and requires that all
construction contractors have a goal to achieve participation by
minority/disadvantaged business enterprises of 30% and not less than 18%.

This means that over 30,000 jobs will become available over the project’s development process and opportunities for young people to begin careers in construction will be realized by this project alone. Nice bonus.

Finally, I believe that Inglewood schools will benefit probably the most, as the initiative requires that the landowner make aggregate payments of $1,000,000 over 5 years to fund after-school programs for youth in Inglewood. Hello STEM, hello art, hello multimedia, hello computer programming curriculums!

The initiative would thus provide a net benefit to schools and educational programs within the City of Inglewood. It also requires that the landowner make the stadium available to the City and non-profits to host Community Events, such as high school football, soccer games, and graduations, providing an additional new recreation resource for the community.

I urge all young people who are currently looking for work to connect with the councilman in your district.  I urge parents to ensure that the types of after school programs you want your children to be part of are explained in detail to representatives of the school board.  Bring your requests before your elected officials and allow them to work on your behalf. They have proven time and time again, they have the wherewithal to get tasks accomplished, and as of Tuesday, make Inglewood history, do yourself and your children a favor, be part of it as well.





Why Inglewood Deserves a Stadium

Thursday, February 26, 2015

It was definitely not business as usual at the Feb. 24th Inglewood Council meeting. 


For one thing, the public began to file into the council chamber about 90 minutes before the meeting began, which was scheduled to start at 7pm. Even blindfolded, one could not escape the very palpable feeling of excitement in the air. From the crowded room on the 9th floor which was crammed with news crews from major news networks, to two overflow rooms on the first floor where crowds watched via a video feed, Rams fans made their presence and purpose known.  Decked out in team jerseys, caps and helmets—some with Ram horns—scores of visitors showed their support for a new stadium in Inglewood.


About fifty people waited patiently for Mayor James Butts to call their names for their turn at the mic. The majority eager to share what football, the NFL, and Inglewood meant to them.


First up was Dan Wise, owner of Wise Tires and Brakes, Inglewood’s oldest family-owned business.  Wise, 79, said he has seen a lot of changes in Inglewood since being born at Centinela Hospital, but getting a stadium is in a category all its own.  “My vision is that Inglewood becomes the city with the most unique sports complex in the country in the next 4-5 years.  Our motto should be, ‘All roads lead to Inglewood.’”


One after one, almost without exception, each speaker gave an enthusiastic thumbs up for a stadium, which would occupy a 60-acre lot and expand into the Hollywood Park Tomorrow project, already approved by the Inglewood council.  The 20-year absence of an NFL team in Los Angeles has created a hunger which won’t likely be quenched until someone—i.e. Rams owner Stan Kroenke—moves his team from St.  Louis.  While no such deal has been inked, fans are acting like it is a foregone conclusion. 


Meanwhile, Inglewood is in the enviable position of getting Inglewood residents behind the project and at the same time not having to ask any of them for a single dime.  The 80,000-seat stadium will be privately funded and the City won’t have to fork over anything unless the developer delivers at least $25 million a year in tax revenue to Inglewood’s General Fund.  Even then, reimbursements for expenses related to public infrastructure will come in the form of tax credits.


With such a sweet deal, none of the arguments about noise or traffic holds a candle to the growing movement for a stadium in Inglewood.


Sporting his “Bring Back the Rams” tee-shirt, Andre Greenbart, who drove an hour to get to Inglewood, said traffic is no big deal.  “This is L.A. There is traffic everywhere.  It’s part of our life, traffic should not stop us.  Think about super bowls, Olympics, hotels, shopping, concerts full of people generating revenue. You’re writing history today.  Make it happen.”


Adriene Sears, a member of Inglewood’s Citizen Police Oversight Commission, called for a decision by the council, without delay:  “It cost over $200,000 for a citywide special election, and I don’t want to pay for that when the people have already spoken with our signatures. 


Opponents of the stadium were few.  One Inglewood homeowner said at first she did not see any benefit from having a stadium but once the project was explained in detail, she changed her mind.  “After attending meetings and getting the facts, I am totally convinced it’s a good idea.  I never believed this would happen in the City of Inglewood in my lifetime,” she said.


Steve Johnson, of Faithful Central Bible Church, said the stadium will bring about economic revitalization.  “I hope you’ll join me in seizing this once in a lifetime opportunity.  It’s the start of a renaissance unlike any we’ve seen before.”


Arguments in favor of the stadium were given from every angle:  diversity, family bonding, Rams history, community development, jobs, and most important, no taxpayer financing.


Randy Troy, a native Los Angeleno and 17-year South Bay resident, told the council, “We have a generation of children who have gone without football for 20 years.”



Andrew Hogan founder of Bring Back the Los Angeles Rams, was 5 when his team left.  “We have the opportunity to bring the rams back where they belong.”  


“Football left when I was a kid going with my dad.  Now I’m old enough and it has been too damn long. I want to take my kids to the stadium.    Build it and we will come.  Build it and we will spend.  Make it happen, we’ll show up,” Greenbart said.


 “In Brooklyn, where the Barclay Center was built, it is one of the places with the most expensive real estate in the United States now. The Lakers and Kings moved to downtown Los Angeles.   What was Los Angeles like then and what is it like now?” Troy said.


It is a point that deeply concerns one Inglewood woman who fears renters will be moved out of the Inglewood market as the new stadium boosts home prices.  She asked for the council’s help to insure there will be rent controls and livable wages. 


“I hope you have gone over everything line by line.  I would really like to hear what could go wrong.  With that, I say make history,” said long time Inglewood resident Ray Davis.  Another man wants assurances that smaller companies can get the lead on projects as contractors, not just subcontractors.


Kroenke’s purchase of Inglewood property aside, the Rams remain the sentimental favorite of the two teams that left Los Angeles in 1994.  The team’s 50-year history in the NFL, along with its 20-year absence in L.A., made fans long for the good old days when the Rams played at the Los Angeles Coliseum. 


It was the first major pro team to integrate NFL football, the first to win a major championship, and first to represent Los Angeles in the Super Bowl—a fitting history to make history again in Inglewood.


There is another reason L.A. deserves to get their old team back.  As Anne La Rose, pointed out, “The Chinese New Year began last Thursday. It is the year of the ram!” 




Not since the days of former Inglewood council members Mike Stevens and Judy Dunlap have the lights in Inglewood City Council Chambers burned past 10pm.  But on Tuesday night, few seemed bothered by the meeting that occupied a packed 9th floor and two overflow rooms downstairs, and went well past 11.  After all, residents and out-of-towners were on a mission—to close the deal that has been promising to bring a professional sports team to Inglewood. 


Mayor James Butts and council members listened to public comments and a presentation of reports to decide whether to adopt an ordinance as-is for a proposed sports stadium at the meeting, or return within ten days.  Another option was to adopt a resolution for a Special Municipal Election on June 2, 2015.


In 18 days 22,000 signatures were collected in support of the proposed City of Champions Initiative for the 80,000-seat stadium adjacent to Hollywood Park.  With more than enough signatures, the public eagerly called for a vote by the council to approve the ordinance “now!”


Mayor Butts began the session with a brief presentation, proclaiming March 2, 2015 as Read Across America Day, and noting that “children who read do better in school.” Several Inglewood students were recognized for their participation in the program and councilmembers were invited to the Read Across America presentation at Inglewood High School next month.  


With 50 people from the audience requesting to speak about the stadium, time for public comments was reduced from 3 to 2 minutes in the crowded room.


Inglewood businesswoman Glenda Brass was all smiles as she approached the podium.  “We should do this tonight.  Why prolong the inevitable? Let’s spare the city any additional expense (to hold an election).  I’m excited and I know everyone in here is excited.’’ 


The founder of One For All, an Inglewood nonprofit, is excited because the project “will funnel hundreds of millions into the community (and provide) over 25 acres of beautiful landscaped parks.”


Sports reporter Eric Geller reminded the audience that the Showtime Lakers, the Kings’ Wayne Gretzky and horse racing at Hollywood Park are all sports dynasties that existed in Inglewood. 


By the time the council took a brief recess around 10pm, the normally matter-of-fact meeting had turned into a huge hug fest. Pro-stadium advocates greeted each other warmly, took pictures and shared high-fives.  Many commented they had never experienced such fervor in all their years in Inglewood.  But the agenda was more than a chance to express public comments, it offered a teachable moment on the finer points of building a stadium.


Chris Jackson, Inglewood Sr. Planner, presented a glimpse of how the expanded Specific Plan for Hollywood Park (which will now include the sports venue) would alter the original design, as well as important physical, environmental and traffic-related matters.  The addition of a stadium to the Hollywood Park project will reduce the number of housing units from 2,995 to 2,500.  The 298 acre-site will have a signing overlay similar to the Forum and allow banner signs in the public right of way.  The 25 acres of open space would not be impacted.  Tailgating will not be permitted in residential areas. 



Traffic consultant David Shender reported that a traffic study was done as part of the environmental impact report for the Hollywood Park Tomorrow Project in 2006.  It was updated in 2014.  The study which identified traffic patterns in 49 Inglewood streets between 2006 and 2014 found that traffic congestion has actually gone down.  “We are seeing similar patterns throughout Los Angeles County,” Shender said.  “Compared to the previous Hollywood Park Specific Plan, there would be less traffic to the stadium during regular peak hours (non-game days).”  There would be 9,000 parking spaces set aside on stadium days, in addition to shuttles running from the current Greenline station and the future Crenshaw/LAX line, which will have two stops in Inglewood.  Shender’s recommendations include widening Century Blvd to include a dedicated right turn lane, going north on Prairie and synchronized signals on Crenshaw, Manchester and Century.


Inglewood Public Works Director Louis Atwell said “Now we have more alternatives than we did when the Lakers played at the Forum,” such as more taxicabs, Uber service and Metrolink trains. 



Gerard McCallum, Project Manager, Hollywood Park Land Company, said developers are contracted to maintain a local hiring policy that equals at least 35%.  He described hiring outreach efforts as “aggressive,” and noted that local hiring is currently at 43%.  The project will create thousands of new construction and permanent jobs in Inglewood.



Debbie Kern, senior principal, Keyser-Marston Associates (stadium consultants) gave a snapshot of how the project will generate revenue for the City of Inglewood.  “The City will retain $25 million in revenue for the General Fund (paid for by developers), which currently has about $89 million. That amount of revenue exceeds 25% of the current amount,” Kern said. 


She added that the city will receive “$17.7 million net surplus per year upon build out.  That amount will escalate over time with inflation. . .The stadium and music venue (are) not reliant on the rest of the project, whether the retail happens or doesn’t happen or if the hotel happens or doesn’t happen. It’s based on the admission tax from the ticket sales.”  When asked about the financial risks of building the stadium, Kern replied, “We don’t know of any risks because 100% of construction is being privately financed.  We do not find any red flags.”


McCallum said construction is anticipated to generate about $55 million in tax revenue and the City could receive payments as early as the 2016-17 fiscal year. 


Obvious overwhelming public support, and documented reports by experts that there are no negative impacts to traffic, and no public funding going toward the stadium, Mayor Butts concluded with the words most everyone had waited to hear:


“I move that we adopt the ordinance without alteration!”


Cheers all around and meeting adjourned.



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