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Mark Ridley-Thomas
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Since he was overwhelmingly elected in November 2008 to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Mark Ridley-Thomas has distinguished himself as an aggressive advocate for the Second District’s nearly 2 million residents.

He has promoted the district’s interest on a variety of fronts, including transportation, job creation and retention and local hiring. In the area of health policy, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has worked to jump start the opening of the new Martin Luther King, Jr. hospital; he has facilitated the use of technology and encouraged an integrated approach to wellness that includes mental health care and a prominent role for school-based clinics. His advocacy has helped secure an equitable share of funding for public-private partnership health clinics in underserved areas.

Prior to his election to the Board, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas served the 26th District in the California State Senate where he chaired the Senate’s Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development. He served as Chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus in 2008 and led the Caucus in unprecedented levels of cooperation and collaboration with counterparts in the Latino, and Asian-Pacific Islander Legislative Caucuses.

Mark Ridley-Thomas was first elected to public office in 1991 and served with distinction on the Los Angeles City Council for nearly a dozen years and departing as Council President pro Tempore. He later served two terms in the California State Assembly, where he chaired the Assembly Democratic Caucus. His legislative work addressed a broad range of issues with implications for economic and workforce development, health care, public safety, education, budget accountability, consumer protection and civic participation.

He is widely regarded as the foremost advocate of neighborhood participation in government decision-making. By virtue of his founding of the Empowerment Congress, arguably the region’s most successful twenty year experiment in neighborhood-based civic engagement, he is considered the founder of the Neighborhood Council movement.

Ridley-Thomas’ political career was preceded by a decade of service as executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles, which followed a brief but successful five-year stint as a high school teacher.

The Supervisor is a graduate of Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles and earned a baccalaureate degree in Social Relations (minor in Government) and a master’s degree in Religious Studies (concentration in Christian ethics) from Immaculate Heart College. Mr. Ridley-Thomas went on to receive his Ph.D. in Social Ethics from the University of Southern California focusing on Social Criticism and Social Change.

He is married to Avis Ridley-Thomas, Co-Founder and Director of the Center for Non-Violence in Los Angeles. They are the proud parents of Morehouse College graduates Sebastian and Sinclair.

Entries by Mark Ridley-Thomas

Addressing Wage Stagnation and Income Inequality in LA County

(6) Comments | Posted May 19, 2015 | 6:26 PM

With the Los Angeles City Council's recent approval to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020, it is my hope that we on the Board of Supervisors will move swiftly to address income inequality and wage stagnation in Los Angeles County. This means we must...

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Going After the Buyers in Commercial Sex Trafficking

(2) Comments | Posted May 1, 2015 | 2:20 PM

It has been called a "victimless crime" and "the world's oldest profession." But the reality is that yesterday's prostitution has morphed into a multi-billion international industry increasingly run by street gangs and cyber criminals that treat women and children as chattel. It is nothing short of modern day slavery.

This...

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Protect Our Hospitals, Doctors, Patients and Health Care Workers -- Vote No on Prop 46

(8) Comments | Posted September 22, 2014 | 9:21 PM

Proposition 46 is a November 4 ballot measure that would raise the cap on medical malpractice awards that result from lawsuits filed against doctors, nurses, hospitals and community health clinics. Trial attorneys get two-thirds of most medical malpractice judgments, while patients or their family members typically get a third of...

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A Train to the Airport? We're Poised for Progress

(1) Comments | Posted June 25, 2014 | 7:27 PM

For decades, the lack of a public transit connection to the region's major airport has haunted Los Angeles. Every major city in the world provides a convenient and affordable way for residents, tourists, workers and travelers to reach their airports. Only Los Angeles has required travelers to schlep their luggage...

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The L.A. County Sheriff's Department Needs Civilian Oversight Now

(0) Comments | Posted February 24, 2014 | 3:53 PM

Significant changes have come to the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department in recent weeks, and more are in the offing. Long-time Sheriff Lee Baca surprised many with his sudden retirement, and the board of supervisors appointed Orange County Undersheriff John L. Scott to serve as Sheriff until Baca's successor is elected....

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Why We Can't Wait to Close the School Achievement Gap

(6) Comments | Posted January 19, 2014 | 11:54 AM

In 1947, while still a student at Morehouse College, a young Martin Luther King Jr. opined on the role of education in society. Writing in The Maroon Tiger, the college newspaper, King stated that "education must enable a [man or woman] to become more efficient, to achieve with increasing facility...

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Los Angeles Was With Mandela on His Long Walk to Freedom

(0) Comments | Posted December 13, 2013 | 9:13 AM

In the lobby of the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, the headquarters of Los Angeles County government, there is an altar this week to Nelson Mandela, where anyone who walks by may write a message in a bound book of condolences.

Los Angeles may be thousands of miles and...

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Enough With the Temper Tantrum, the American People Are Waiting

(4) Comments | Posted October 2, 2013 | 1:50 PM

Like an obstinate toddler who doesn't get his way, the fringe element of the Republican Party has thrown itself to the ground screaming and crying, refusing to listen to reason, intelligent discourse or calm reproof.

Tea Party extremists have tried more than 40 times to overturn the Affordable Care Act,...

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With Dr. King's Dream for Jobs Deferred, Economic Justice Is Denied

(2) Comments | Posted August 27, 2013 | 3:30 PM

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama will address the nation from the Lincoln Memorial, where he will likely remind Americans that we are commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, not merely "the March on Washington."

The next day, a nationwide strike...

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Supreme Court Rolls Back the Clock. But We Shall Overcome!

(9) Comments | Posted June 25, 2013 | 7:00 PM

Today the Supreme Court of the United States has rolled back the clock. In a majority decision striking down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, the court attacked a mechanism that has safeguarded the enfranchisement of millions of Americans.

Understand, this decision comes after the outrageous machinations undertaken...

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Alabama Says "Trust Us," I Say "No": Why the Voting Rights Act of 1965 Is More Necessary Than Ever

(300) Comments | Posted February 27, 2013 | 7:00 AM

Six months ago, a federal court ruled that electoral maps drawn by the Republican-dominated Texas legislature were nothing but optical illusions of equality. On paper, they looked as if they were Latino voting districts; in reality, they still favored candidates preferred by white voters and were struck down by the...

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The National Rifle Association Is Correct: I Do Want Your Guns

(352) Comments | Posted January 17, 2013 | 4:46 PM

Let's stop mincing words; Let progressives -- not all but certainly many -- stop feigning tolerance for a gun culture we abhor and rampant gun ownership we cannot comprehend.

Since December, when the nation was devastated by the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I have watched with dismay...

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NRA Needs to Go to School

(3) Comments | Posted December 21, 2012 | 5:17 PM

The morning of the Newtown, Conn. shooting I met with relatives of a gunshot victim and attempted to comfort a mother who has lost her child. Fourteen-year-old Unique Russell was gunned down this summer as she stood watching fireworks while celebrating the 4th of July with her family....

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Internment Resolution

(4) Comments | Posted June 6, 2012 | 7:22 PM

Actor George Takei's testimony urging repeal of Supervisors' WWII support for Japanese internment from Mark Ridley-Thomas on Vimeo.

Today the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors took a small step toward correcting a large mistake. 70 years after one of the nation's most flagrant violations of American constitutional rights, the Board voted to repeal its 1942 resolution calling for the internment of Japanese Americans, an act that helped tip the scales of justice toward injustice.

Many have asked me why such action is necessary. How can the government of today undo an act of decades past? My answer is this: it is the right thing to do, and there is no timetable, no deadline or past due date for justice. Nor is there any shame in admitting a wrong -- only in willfully leaving it uncorrected.

In the weeks following the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, U.S. officials were split over whether it was necessary -- or even legal -- to conduct a mass roundup and evacuation of Japanese Americans and people of Japanese descent.

There were voices against internment: President Franklin D. Roosevelt's advisor on the matter, Curtis Munson, concluded Japanese Americans were not "any more disloyal than any other racial group in the United States with whom we went to war." Even FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, hardly a civil libertarian, held that there was "no security justification" for a mass evacuation of Japanese Americans.

Then, in January 1942, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors weighed in the municipality that was home to the largest Japanese-American community on the continent, provided the jolt of fury that subsequently turned public hysteria into public policy.

In the days and weeks following the Board's resolution, the news media piled on. The Los Angeles Times, for example, declared on its pages "A viper is nonetheless a viper wherever the egg is hatched" so a U.S.-born Japanese American "grows up to be a Japanese, not an American."

Another headline in the Times took at face-value a declaration by Los Angeles Mayor Fletcher Bowron: "Lincoln Would Intern Japs."

The flood of political and media support, combined with widespread public prejudice, gave Roosevelt the mandate he sought to issue Executive Order 9066. Subsequently, more than 120,000 people of Japanese descent -- nearly one-third of who were from Los Angeles -- were held in camps for up to three years.

The federal government has since apologized for the internment. The Board of Supervisors has also made some amends; in 1982, the Board, led by my predecessor Kenneth Hahn, voted to compensate 35 County employees who were fired in 1942 solely due to their Japanese heritage. But the original Board resolution, the declaration that Japanese American residents of Los Angeles County posed a national security threat, has remained on the books - until today.

There is now broad public consensus that Internment was a travesty of justice and frankly, all we are doing as supervisors is swimming with the current. Yet by correcting a long-ago injustice, we can remind ourselves that there are plenty of civil rights questions today that must be handled justly -- and courageously.

Today, it is my hope that the notion of singling out any class of Americans as deserving of singularly harsh treatment is repugnant, but even after World War II, as a nation we have struggled with this ideal.

We saw this kind of mass suspicion in 1960, when John Kennedy's Catholic faith was an issue in his campaign for president. We see it in the rise of hate crimes against American Muslims. We see it again today every time an elected official or media figure legitimizes the absurd questioning of President Obama's birthplace.

The Board's action today must reminds us to vigilantly hold firm to our nation's principles -- even when it may be costly to do so. In America, we have no "strangers from a different shore," as President Roosevelt mistakenly asserted.

The greater threat to our country comes not from those who speak a language or hold a faith other than our own; it surfaces instead when citizens and leaders forget or ignore our nation's founding principles. So today, we reaffirm our commitment to those founding principles. We shall remember how they were breached in 1942, when good people gave-in to bad impulses.

Ultimately, our liberty is secured by steadfastly adhering to our Constitution, and we are at our best as Americans when we have the courage to do so - even when our own urges and the tide of public opinion provoke us to do...

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No More Time Outs for the Coliseum Commission

(6) Comments | Posted December 15, 2011 | 6:35 PM

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum's future now hangs in a kind of sudden-death overtime.

The nine-member Coliseum Commission is in breach of its contract with the University of Southern California. Despite struggling mightily to do so, the commission can't find a way to pay for more than $60 million...

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Fair Representation for Latinos Ensures Civil Rights for All

(1) Comments | Posted September 26, 2011 | 10:08 AM

On Tuesday, September 27, when the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors votes to redraw county lines, we will show California and the nation whether we have learned from past mistakes or are determined to repeat them. At issue is whether the Supervisors will make voting-age Latinos the majority in...

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Agreement to Reduce Oil Drilling in LA Is a Win for Public Health

(1) Comments | Posted September 6, 2011 | 11:19 AM

Oil is at the center of our daily lives; it fuels our cars, powers our airplanes and is embedded in the plastics and other products we use day in and out. Its excavation is the stuff of tall tales, with "gushers" and boomtowns shaping our imagination. But many residents probably...

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Metro Can Afford to Build the Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail Corridor Right

(9) Comments | Posted May 26, 2011 | 10:38 AM

On Thursday, The Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board will decide whether to build a light rail station at Leimert Park Village, the cultural heart of the Los Angeles African American community. The board will also decide if the future Crenshaw/LAX light rail line will be moved below ground for a mile-long...

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Today's Civil Rights Struggle: Saving Health Care Reform

(55) Comments | Posted January 27, 2011 | 1:48 PM

Don't be fooled. The superficial display of civility during the State of the Union speech Tuesday night was just that. President Barack Obama's annual address to Congress may have been received without blatant hostility from Republicans -- we were thankfully spared another apoplectic outburst from South Carolina Republican Joe "You...

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A Chance to Restore Honesty and Integrity to Taxes and Spending

(62) Comments | Posted October 27, 2010 | 9:14 PM

In the past 30 years, California has slipped from being a world leader in education, health care and public policy innovation to our current status as a case study in broken government.

On Tuesday, we have a chance to put California back on track. Proposition 25, the...

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