Leaders sign Equity in Infrastructure Project Pledge launching a plan for California. CA Secretary of Transportation Toks Omishakin and Supervisor Holly Mitchell join key executives in Los Angeles for Equity in Infrastructure Pledge (photo by Lila Brown)

California Black Media Political Playback: News You Might Have Missed

Tanu Henry, Lila Brown and Joe W. Bowers Jr. | California Black Media

Infrastructure Leaders Sign Equity Pledge in Los Angeles

On Nov. 20, a group of 14 public and private sector executives in Los Angeles pledged their commitment to ensure that Black and other minority business owners receive a fairer shot at obtaining public contracting opportunities on infrastructure projects.

Called the Equity in Infrastructure Project (EIP) Pledge, the agreement is part of the EIP’s launch of its California Plan Initiative which was unveiled during a forum hosted by Engineering News-Record, a publication widely recognized as “the bible of the construction industry.”

The Forum convened hundreds of infrastructure leaders from across California and around the nation. It also marked the second anniversary of President Biden’s signing of the historic federal infrastructure law.

The leaders announced that California Secretary of Transportation Toks Omishakin will serve as Chair of the EIP’s California Plan initiative.

In his remarks before the signing, Omishakin pointed out the need to move from symbolic acts of inclusion to more material efforts for achieving equity.

“We can’t just put a policy in place as if it’s good to go. We have to take additional steps like the ones we’re taking today to say we’re committed to making sure this $1.2 trillion that’s coming in from President Biden gets to firms that are often are overlooked as a part of the process,” Omishakin told California Black Media (CBM).

“Governor Newsom has done a similar effort that also ensures the investments that we’re making across California reaches communities that have been overlooked for years,” he added. “Every single person deserves the chance to be successful. It’s an honor for us to be a part of the Equity in Infrastructure Project.”

EIP’s says its mission is to build generational wealth and reduce the racial wealth gap by improving public infrastructure contracting practices to create more prime, joint venture and equity contracting opportunities for Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUBs), according to the group’s website.

EIP’s Pledge has now been signed by 55 heads of transit authorities, airports, ports, water districts, and engineering firms from across the country, and the White House has directly called upon Bipartisan Infrastructure Law grantees to sign the Pledge.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly Mitchell introduced the unanimously approved motion that committed the County to the Pledge.

“We commit to tripling the total number of certified small businesses in LA County with a special emphasis on infrastructure servicing small minority businesses,” said Mitchell.

“We are establishing a $2M revolving loan fund to support startup costs as small businesses obtain County contracts and we will create a network of Small Business Advocates with each County department and empower them to advance small business goals and inclusive procurement practices,” Mitchell added. We must ensure that our small and minority firms have the technical assistance they need to access these career-changing government contracts.”

The Pledge was also signed by leaders from the Los Angeles Metro, Port, Airport, Department of Water & Power, and other executives from cities around the region.

In Senate Run, Rep. Barbara Lee Takes Lead in Democratic Convention Delegate Poll

In almost every poll conducted so far on the 2024 California senatorial election, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-12) has trailed her two closest opponents in the race, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA-30) and Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA-47).

However, a poll conducted at the California Democratic Party Convention in Sacramento — which began Nov. 17 and was shut down a day later due to pro-Palestinian protests — Lee’s fate changed.

On Nov. 20, Lee’s campaign issued an announcement.

“We want to make sure you heard some exciting news. At the California Democratic Party Convention this past weekend, delegates came together to vote on an endorsement in the U.S. Senate race,” the message read. “While no candidate received the endorsement (as there is now a 60% threshold), Congressmember Barbara Lee came out on top!”

In the Democratic delegate poll, Lee led with 41.47% (963 votes), bb followed by Schiff with 40.18% (933 votes) and Porter with 16.06% (373 votes).

“While other candidates used their massive fundraising war chests to influence the voting, we organized on the ground, delegate by delegate, to come out on top. And this is exactly how we are going to win this primary race in March,” said Lee.

Retired Assemblymember Cheryl Brown Re-Elected for Second Term as Chair of California Commission on Aging

Cheryl Brown, Chair Commission on Aging

Last week, the California Commission on Aging (CCoA) announced that it has re-elected Cheryl Brown as its Chair at its Nov. 9, general meeting in Sacramento.

“Chair Brown will guide the Commission with Vice-Chair David Lindeman, who was also re-elected for the 2024 term,” read the press statement from the CCoA.

Brown, who served two terms in the Assembly representing the 47th district from 2012 to 2016, brings a diverse personal, professional and public experience, as well as range of skills, to her role on the Commission, including working as a family caregiver. Brown has served as a county urban planner and she is the former co-publisher of the Black Voice News in Riverside, along with her husband Hardy Brown.

After winning re-election, Brown thanked the CCoA.

“I believe in the “California for All” message. To that effort, I want to make multi-generational activities key. We will celebrate 50 Years as a Commission next year and I’m looking forward to leading that effort,” said Brown, who served as a founding member of the Stakeholder Advisory Committee for the California Master Plan on Aging (MPA), in a statement.

The CCoA praised Brown for her accomplishments during her first term.

“Chair Brown led the advancement of CCoA policy priorities, and legislation, and raised the visibility of the Commission,” the statement read.

Law Enforcement Leaders Share Plan to Fight Smash-and-Grab Retail Theft During Holiday Season

A video recently went viral online showing a brazen flash mob of about 17 young people robbing a Nike store in Watts, a neighborhood in Los Angeles. The culprits got away with an estimated $12,000 worth of goods.

This incident along with many others like it capturing the growing incidents of violent store heists in the Golden State prompted State and Local Law Enforcement to highlight new and intensified efforts to combat theft during the holiday shopping season.

On Nov. 20, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the California Highway Patrol (CHP) is increasing statewide efforts to combat organized retail crime.

“When criminals run out of stores with stolen goods, they need to be arrested and escorted directly into jail cells,” Newsom said in a statement. “Leveraging hundreds of millions of dollars in law enforcement investments, the California Highway Patrol — working with allied agencies — is increasing enforcement efforts and conducting and supporting covert and confidential takedowns to stop these criminals in their tracks during the holiday season, and year-round.”

As part of the Governor’s Real Public Safety Plan, the CHP is increasing its law enforcement presence in key retail districts across California and its Organized Retail Crime Task Force (ORCTF) is increasing enforcement efforts through proactive and confidential law enforcement operations with allied agencies and retail store security outfits through the holidays — keeping more shoppers, merchants, and retail districts safe.

The Governor’s office hosted a news briefing featuring California Highway Patrol (CHP) Commissioner Sean Duryee, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Assistant Sheriff Holly Francisco and District Attorney Brooke Jenkins.

“The men and women of the California Highway Patrol are working around the clock to keep shoppers, merchants, and retail districts safe this holiday season– and year-round,” said Duryee. “Much of our task force’s success can be attributed to the strong working relationships we have with our law enforcement partners throughout the state and the rapport we have cultivated with the retail industry.”

“My office takes these cases seriously and will continue to do our part to hold those who engage in this behavior accountable,” said Jenkins. “These crimes are deeply impactful and will not be tolerated. Law enforcement agencies are working together to identify, arrest, and prosecute the thieves and those who traffic in stolen merchandise.”

Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney John McKinney has been a vocal critic of current DA George Gascón because the Sheriff’s Department will no longer detain suspects over crimes like theft and shoplifting since new zero-bail policy went into effect on Oct. 1.

“These robberies aren’t borne out of desperation. They’re the result of having a district attorney who won’t enforce the law,” McKinney told California Black Media. “As long as criminals know there won’t be any accountability for their actions, then retail businesses of all sizes will continue to operate in constant fear and eventually depart for safer cities. Beefing up law enforcement may provide some deterrence, but, ultimately, we need a district attorney that understands accountability is a necessary part of a safe and functioning society.”


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