Councilwoman Jan Perry (CD 9) and Councilman Bernard C. Parks (CD 8) published this piece in the Daily News on April 29, the 20th anniversary of the LA riots. Jan Perry is also a candidate for Mayor of Los Angeles.
As we observe the 20-year anniversary of the 1992 riots, local media as well as those who lived through the uprising have shared stories of how far we have come since tensions from the Rodney King verdict infamously erupted at the intersection of Florence and Normandie.
Twenty years have come and gone, and there is a lot of progress of which to be proud, particularly in our two South Los Angeles districts, where the bulk of the rioting occurred. In fact, last year, a Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce report listed Council Districts 8 and 9 as the city’s leaders in job creation.
The districts have also become a model for the future of Los Angeles. In CD 9, we have nurtured multi-cultural coalitions, uniting the Japanese-American communities in the northern part of the district, the historic African-American communities of South L.A., the emerging Latino communities throughout the district, and the growing residential population downtown.
They have worked together to create affordable housing, job training, and opportunities for young people, families, seniors and the formerly homeless.
But, as they say: One step forward, two steps back.
In March, our Los Angeles City Council colleagues decided through redistricting to turn our two already-needy districts into the poorest in the city. They voted to strip South L.A. of the few economic engines it has. The council turned a blind eye to the needs of the community, separating long-term communities of interest from South L.A.
What’s important is that this redistricting plan negatively impacts the progress made in South L.A. since the riots.
People throughout L.A. were enraged by the King verdict. But not all of them rioted. The one common denominator among the rioters was that they were from the poorest parts of the city – mostly South L.A. In short, if the trials and tribulations of Rodney King were the fuse – poverty, disenfranchisement, unemployment and lack of hope acted as the spark that ignited the ’92 riots.
So after the looting, raging and torching of communities, our city got smart. Formed in the wake of the riots, the Christopher Commission pushed for the creation of an inspector general position at LAPD and recommended a first-of-its-kind officer accountability program. These moves were key in improving relationships between the community and the police.
Furthermore, the riots exposed a lack of social programs and development opportunities in the city that led to the creation of Community Redevelopment Agency regions in South L.A., establishment of empowerment zones and increase in block grant funding.
You can see the results of this focus in the building of Staples Center and L.A. Live, in the concerted $200 million plus investment in the redevelopment of historic Central Avenue, at a $100 million government building on Vermont Avenue or in the 1,000 job opportunities at the soon-to-be constructed Marlton Square Shopping Center.
The fact that South L.A. and downtown were the prized possessions in this year’s City Council free-for-all redistricting process is a testament to how our city has grown.
But success is harder to achieve nowadays.
Our city has forgotten the devastating effects of disenfranchising communities. It’s time to learn from our history, address the improprieties of the current redistricting process and do the right thing for the benefit of everyone in our city.