Coalition Seeks to Designate South L.A. as 'Promise Zone'

The proposed Promise Zone for South L.A. shaded in light blue. The current Promise Zone is shaded in gray.
| Photo: Courtesy Los Angeles Trade-Technical College

A coalition led by Los Angeles Trade-Technical College signed and submitted an application today seeking to make South Los Angeles a "Promise Zone," a designation that would give the area an edge when applying for federal funding for anti-poverty programs.

The group's proposal would form a South Los Angeles Transit Empowerment Zone, or SLATE-Z, that would receive help under President Barack Obama's Promise Zone program, which focuses federal resources on areas struggling with poverty.

The area has an aggregate poverty rate approaching 50 percent and a 12 percent unemployment rate. The coalition hopes to focus investment into transit centers, educational programs, business assistance, and redevelopment.

L.A. Mayor Prepares for Obama's Executive Order on Immigration

Note: KCET will air Obama's speech live at 5 p.m. PST.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said today his office stands ready to help Angelenos navigate President Barack Obama's anticipated executive order on immigration, which is is likely to protect millions of people living in the country illegally from deportation.

"Common sense immigration reforms will strengthen and stabilize L.A. families and will add millions to our economy," Garcetti said.

Obama is scheduled to deliver a nationwide address on the topic at 5 p.m., then rally support for his proposal at a Friday morning event in Las Vegas.

Defendants Await Reduced Sentences Under Recently Passed Prop 47

Another large group of defendants charged with drug-related and other nonviolent violations will seek today to have the crimes they face reduced from felonies to misdemeanors under Proposition 47.

Defendants have been seeking such reductions since voters approved Proposition 47 earlier this month, and prosecutors are bracing for about 4,000 cases in Orange County alone.

Proposition 47 lowers the classification of most nonviolent property and drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors unless the defendant has prior convictions for murder, rape, some sex offenses or gun crimes. Defendants who have already been sentenced can petition the court for a do-over under the new law.

LGBT Behind Bars: Removal From General Population Causing Problems

In America's jails and prisons, LGBT inmates are often housed in separate units apart from the general population. Some inmates and advocates support the use of these prisons-within-prisons because research has shown that LGBT inmates are at a higher risk of sexual assault and violence. For example, one study showed that LGBT inmates are ten times more likely to be sexually abused than heterosexual inmates.

But advocates caution that inmates housed in LGBT units may be deprived of basic rights granted to other inmates, such as educational, vocational, medical, and rehabilitative services. This could mean longer sentences and more difficult transitions after release. Advocates also contend that LGBT inmates in these units are frequently confined to their cells for up to 22 hours a day -- far longer than other prisoners.

Though each jail or prison has its own protocol for housing LGBT inmates, advocates believe these practices are widespread in urban jails and prisons. California prisons such as Santa Ana, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Riverside all have LGBT-specific units.

A recent federal lawsuit alleges that "GBT" inmates at one of the largest county jails in California -- the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga -- were deprived of many of these basic rights. The suit, brought in late October by the American Civil Liberties Union and the law firm Kaye, McLean, Bednarski & Litt, claims inmates were confined to their cells 23 hours a day, given too little yard time and denied vital services because of their sexual orientation. The unit houses gay males, bisexual males, and transgender women.

To better understand what life behind bars is like for LGBT inmates, Agenda spoke with ACLU senior staff attorney Melissa Goodman and Jennifer Orthwein, pro bono attorney at the Transgender Law Center.

(The San Bernardino County Sherriff's Department responded to requests for comment by saying that the department had not been served with the suit.)

Effort to Boost Dismal Voter Turnout in L.A. Makes Ballot

The Los Angeles City Council gave final approval today to placing a measure on the March 3 ballot asking voters if city elections should coincide with federal and state balloting, starting in 2020.

The council's 13-1 vote solidifies the council's tentative decision last week to endorse the plan to put the issue on the ballot for the upcoming city election.

The idea to hold city elections in June and November of even years is aimed at boosting voter turnout, which has been embarrassingly low in recent years. About 20 percent of registered voters cast ballots in the 2013 city elections, while the presidential election in November 2012 drew 69.2 percent of registered voters in Los Angeles County, and the gubernatorial race in November 2010 saw a turnout of 52.5 percent countywide.

L.A. to Crack Down on Illegal Dumping

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer announced an effort today to stop illegal dumping in nine trouble spots around the city, saying he plans to prosecute scofflaws.

"Illegal dumping threatens public health and safety, erodes the quality of life in our neighborhoods, and we can do something about that," Feuer said. "Today I'm announcing a multi-jurisdictional strike force -- city, state, county leaders coming together to combat illegal dumping that is scourge in so many of our neighborhoods."

The exact locations of trouble spots in the San Fernando Valley, South Los Angeles, and the Eastside were not disclosed, but officials said they range in size from a small alley to a radius of about 4 miles.

City Councilman Jose Huizar -- whose district includes Boyle Heights and downtown -- said his office gets complaints about illegal dumping and it "often gets frustrating that as often as we do what we can with our current resources, people keep dumping illegally throughout our neighborhoods."

He said some people "keep doing it because they really haven't found any repercussions.

"They just don't want to pay for" dumping their trash at a landfill or other disposal site, Huizar said.

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