In this week’s Slush column, we take an aggregated, informative, link-filled look at L.A. news and culture — what people are talking about, balking about, posting on social media and IRL (in real L.A. life).
In a major victory for criminal justice reform, the McCarthy jail construction contract was cancelled by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors on August 13. The $1.7 billion proposal to build a new “mental health jail” was opposed by prison reform groups such as Reform L.A. Jails (helmed by Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, pictured). They charged that the proposed mental health facility was in fact just another jail and sought instead to advocate for multiple small and localized facilities. “It’s time to do the right thing.” said Supervisor Hilda Solis after the vote was taken on the motion she co-wrote with Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. The vote was 4-1 in favor of abandoning the project, with Supervisor Kathryn Barger the lone voice of dissent. Barger said while she supported prison reform, the need for a modern large facility to replace the 1960s-era men’s central facility is dire. Embattled L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villenueva stated that he supported diversion methods, but stood against the cancelation of the project, explaining the greater need to house violent offenders. The decision to cancel the project is the latest in a nationwide effort to close down existing jails, instead spending money on rehabilitation and mental health programs.
Trump Taking Away Even More
The increase in ICE raids on undocumented Latinos is apparently not good enough for the president, so he’s found another way to make things hard for brown people in this country, even legal ones. In the latest attempt to shift immigration from Latin Americans and Asians to Europeans, the Trump Administration is targeting poor legal immigrants who seek to use public benefits. August 12 saw the government reveal its intent seeking to disqualify immigrants from receiving green cards should they apply for Medicaid, EBT, Section 8 housing, and other public assistance.
The “Public Charge” rule will do little to repel immigrants from coming, but it will make their lives a whole lot worse once they get here. Immigrant advocates point out that such a policy will have a chilling effect, as they will put themselves in peril rather than apply for public assistance programs. These programs are an important stepping stone toward economic and cultural integration, as they provide short-term stability enabling immigrants to eventually become economic contributors. Also affected will be the state’s economy. As federal dollars disappear, California will have no choice but to make up for that shortfall. There is a multi-state legal challenge being put forward, joined by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. The rule will take effect on October 15.
START Program to Stop Gun Violence This School Year
In the wake of an epidemic of mass shootings across the nation, confrontational crowds chanting “Do something!” have been pointed at many a politician. L.A. County Board of Supervisors chair Janice Hahn and supervisor Kathryn Barger are taking steps in an attempt to answer that demand. START (School Threat Assessment Response Team) is a decade old program designed to intervene before gun violence happens. On August 12 in front of Torrance High School (Best known as 90210’s West Beverly High), Hahn and Rogers made the announcement that with the 2019-20 school year, START will be expanding from 10 staff members to 42. Dozens of weekly threat reports were simply too much for the previous staff to handle. The START Program provides direct support to learning institutions throughout L.A. County. Training sessions are given in order to spot warning signs of a potential threat. Response teams are comprised of mental health professionals and local law enforcement. More info on the program here.
We Don’t Need Another Hero
By and large, the entertainment community has been unsupportive of Trump and his administration. Still, for the mega-corporations paying actors’ and entertainers’ ballooned salaries, the Trump administration has been a boon to their bottom line. It wasn’t bad enough that SoulCycle and Equinox, two brands loved by progressives, were bought by a supporter of the president. But now its seems the home of our beloved superheroes, Marvel Entertainment, has a liberal foe in power as well — former CEO Isaac Perlmutter is in fact, one of Trump’s biggest financial donors. The Marvel man was outed on Twitter by actor Armie Hammer (one can assume he won’t be getting any calls to wear a cape anytime soon), leaving those of us who love superheroes (and/or looking like them via hard work at the gym) with some choices about where to spend our money.
Re-do’s, Re-boots, Re-openings
It is unfortunate how one bad incident can sully a place, but given the current cultural/political mood, it is not that surprising. The Eastside watering hole known as the Griffin will be the Griffin no more. Last year’s punch up involving far-right idiots the “Proud Boys” led to an avalanche of accusations that the bar didn’t do enough to keep out the vermin. The bar went so far as to close and re-open with a charity event to benefit the Southern Poverty Law Center. Sadly, those efforts weren’t enough to salvage their reputation, so the owners sold the venue to a local bar and restaurant group who plan on turning it into a live music venue under the rebrand, “The Moon Room.” However, for the immediate future, the Griffin will remain intact.
In other local venue news, Cypress Park fave Café Nela is undergoing a complete transformation. Permanent Records is moving in on October 1, at which time the space will undergo a metamorphosis into a one of a kind bar-live venue-record store. A slew of great live music shows are scheduled throughout September to say adios to Nela.
East Los Angeles is often criminally ignored when people discuss L.A.’s cultural highlights. The re-opening of a Boyle Heights’ Paramount Ballroom hopes to remedy that. The ballroom is the latest project delivered by the Boyle Heights Arts Conservatory. On Thursday, August 22, a panel moderated by Rubén Funkahuatl Guevara, featuring Little Wille G., Tony Valdez, Ofelia Esparza, and The Sisters — Ersi Arvizu and Rosella Arvizu will celebrate its arrival, as insights on cultural impact, music history and shared journeys will be discussed. The refurbished state-of-the-art stage will feature live sets from Robert Abalos, Thee Sinseers, and Tropa Magica. Formed in 2011, the conservatory works to create career opportunities in film, television and media for local youth. It also hosts the nonprofit radio station 101.5 FM KQBH. Built almost a century ago, the building began as a community resource center. By mid-century, it was hosting concerts by Latin and African American artists. It also lived a previous life as the punk club The Vex in the ‘80s.