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The Week's Cultural News: Obama Boulevard, Deputy Gangs, Dodgers' Ride, LACMA's Loss
L.A. Weekly

The Week's Cultural News: Obama Boulevard, Deputy Gangs, Dodgers' Ride, LACMA's Loss

BRINGING CHANGE TO L.A.
One can imagine a future where all sorts of iconic structures will be named after the 44th president, Barack Obama. The city of Los Angeles is once again taking the cultural vanguard, unveiling Obama Boulevard in a star studded ceremony and music festival this Saturday, May 4. Formerly known as Rodeo Road, Obama Boulevard will stretch across 3.5 miles though Baldwin Hills and South Los Angeles, crisscrossing with Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, establishing an important geographical centerpiece of African American history. Doug E. Fresh, Yo-Yo, BJ The Chicago Kid, Battlecat, Kurupt, Alex Isley, Gavlyn, T-Lyons, Baby S, DJ Tee, Verbs, DJ QwessCoast, and more TBA are scheduled to appear. A number of political muckety-mucks will also pay their respects, including Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson, Los Angeles Urban League President Michael Lawson, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Congresswoman Karen Bass and more. No word on whether the president will be joining us. He’s most certainly invited. Get tickets here.

DEPUTY GANGBANGERS
When Alex Villanueva took over the embattled Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department in 2018, he promised that many changes were coming to an organization that had its share of severe, deep-rooted issues, among them charges of violence, racism, sexual assault and obstruction of justice. The Men's Central Jail and the Twin Towers Correctional Facility were considered among the most dangerous and unruly prisons in the United States. Prior Sheriff Lee Baca and his undersheriff Paul Tanaka reigned over a house of horrors that culminated in both of them receiving federal prison sentences. Much of that horror was carried out by a department that had fractured itself into cliques that rejected supervision and essentially became a protection racket.

Well, it looks as though Villanueva wasn’t able to clean house after all, as Wednesday saw the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors vote to calculate the total cost of allegations against the sheriff deputy “gangs” or "cliques" over the last three decades. Supervisor Sheila Kuehl stated, "Deputy gangs have cost the county many millions of dollars in claims and settlements, and have fostered a climate of inhumane treatment of inmates and civilians. This motion will give us a much-needed assessment of the county's past liability, and assess the effectiveness of previous corrective action plans, so that we can sharpen our focus as we strive to eliminate dangerous cliques from the Sheriff's Department." Villanueva has another ugly issue to deal with, as the board isn’t seeing eye to eye with his reinstatement of several deputies who were previously terminated for misconduct. Time will tell if anything can be done to change the culture of an organization that seems to be running afoul of the very laws they are supposed to be enforcing.

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The Week's Cultural News: Obama Boulevard, Deputy Gangs, Dodgers' Ride, LACMA's Loss
Courtesy Aerial Rapid Transit Technologies

GONDOLA BLUE
Catching a Dodgers game might bring an exciting new experience in the near future. Fans may be treated a spectacular view of downtown via a Dodgers Aerial Tram Ride between Union Station and Dodger Stadium. This week saw an important roadblock removed for the idea, as the Metro's Board of Directors voted to move forward with the environmental review process. The fact that Frank McCourt is involved may carry an ick factor among Dodgers faithful. Aerial Rapid Transit Technologies, founded by McCourt’s son Drew McCourt, looks to be the favorite to build the privately funded system. After a rocky and embarrassing stewardship, McCourt sold the Dodgers in 2011, but he still shares an interest the stadium's vast parking lots. Taking only five minutes of travel time, it is estimated that the gondolas will convey 5,000 fans an hour. Projected at $125 million, whether this will be an expensive folly or a useful mass transit option remains to be seen. Should the i’s get dotted and the t’s get crossed, the aerial transit system could begin operations as early as 2022. More details at Dodgerblue.

The Week's Cultural News: Obama Boulevard, Deputy Gangs, Dodgers' Ride, LACMA's Loss
Courtesy Building LACMA

A LESSER LACMA
The latest renderings for the new $650 million redesign of LACMA have come in and, well, there is more bickering. The new design calls for a 350,000-square-foot, two-story edifice that will stretch across Wilshire Boulevard. As Joseph Giovanni correctly points out in his excellent in-depth piece, LACMA: Suicide by Architecture, this design will cost millions to build a museum 105,108 square feet smaller than the original, with  53,000 square feet less on which to display pretty pictures. While Swiss architect Peter Zumthor is renowned for his beautiful minimalism, this time he’s taken his art literally. Meanwhile Michael Govan, director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, is enthusiastically explaining that less is more. Of course, in some respect downsizing can be a responsible measure, but one wouldn’t consider kicking out the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s cellists for lack of seating space now, would you? It wouldn’t sound quite the same. You can’t get through the Louvre in a day for a reason, and that reason is perfectly spectacular. Groundbreaking is scheduled for later this year. Perhaps they can just add a third story and call it even. Urbanize has more coverage.

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