Councilmember LaBonge was named “Local Legislator of the Year” on Thursday evening. The award ceremony took place at the annual UCLA Day with Local Government in City Hall Council Chambers.
“My goal has always been to bring City Hall to the people of Los Angeles and I will continue to work for the good of the community,” Councilmember LaBonge said. “I’m deeply humbled by this award and I recognize that this award belongs to the neighborhoods of Council District Four. From the UCLA’s community volunteers who helped clean up Griffith Park to the neighbors who are planting trees in Hancock Park, we’re all doing our best for Los Angeles.”
During the program, Assistant Vice Chancellor, Keith Parker, presented the Councilmember with a football jersey bearing the same number worn by the Councilmember's mentor, the late UCLA football legend, Milt Davis.
"When I was a young man, Milt inspired me to help people. I still utilize all the lessons I've learned from Milt every day," Councilmember LaBonge said.
"Councilmember LaBonge was chosen as this year’s honoree for his long-term dedication to his district [and] the leadership he has provided for the entire City," Parker said.
Council President Pro Tem Jan Perry and Councilmember Ed Reyes joined UCLA in applauding their colleague.
"Counclmember Tom LaBonge always works hard on behalf of his constituents, listening to them and acting as a strong and effective advocate for the people," Ms. Perry said. "He is truly an enthusiastic and committed public servant."
UCLA Day with Local Government is an event organized by the Government and Community Relations Department. The day’s purpose is to strengthen engagement of community members and leaders to the UCLA student and staff community.
The Councilmember is the sixth honoree of the annual event. Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and Councilmember Ed Reyes have also been honored in years prior.
The much-anticipated revitalization of the Los Angeles River took a leap forward yesterday when Councilmember LaBonge broke ground on a park expansion and creek restoration project in North Atwater. The North Atwater Park Expansion and Creek Restoration Project is the first City of Los Angeles project in the re-greening of the Los Angeles River.
"I've been working for years to bring Los Angeles back to the L.A. River," Councilmember LaBonge said at the riverside ceremony. "It's where our City was founded. There's so much history and meaning right here and nobody has a bad day at a park."
Council President Eric Garcetti and Councilmember Ed Reyes joined other government officials and community members in celebrating the plans for improved parkland. When construction is complete, the new 3-acre park will include a picnic area, demonstration garden, outdoor classroom, concrete play tunnel and sand play area. The project will also restore a creek that connects to the Los Angeles River. Native plant landscaping will be planted on the creek banks and along the streambed to prevent erosion and natuarlly clean stormwater before going out to the river, drastically improving the water quality.
The park will open in the final months of 2011.
In a landmark decision, the Metro Board of Directors, including Councilmember LaBonge, approved a subway link to West Los Angeles on Thursday's meeting. Councilmember LaBonge was appointed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to temporarily fill one of the seats for the meeting so he could vote on the historic project--a project Tom has strongly supported since 2004.
"It's the number one complaint I hear from constituents," Councilmember LaBonge said. "It's a simple solution to a major problem. We have to grow rail to cut back on traffic jams."
The 9.5-mile route will connect the downtown area to West Los Angeles. The area is normally accessed by the traffic-laden Interstate Highways 405 and 10.
Also approved is a regional light rail line through downtown. The track will allow commuters to cross the county without transfers.
Los Angeles International Airport’s (LAX's) Gateway has become one of the most recognizable landmarks in Los Angeles since it was installed 10 years ago. On Monday, Councilmembers Tom LaBonge and Bill Rosendahl joined airport officials to applaud the people who designed and built it.
“Commemorating our landmarks is part of loving Los Angeles,” Councilmember LaBonge said. “You know you’ve arrived at LAX when you see those glowing pylons and the beautiful landscape that surrounds them. Behind every great landmark is a team of people who work day and night to make it very special.”
"It's tough to make your mark as a cultural icon at one of the most iconic airports in the world, but Ted Tanaka and the LAX Gateway Enhancement Project managed to do just that,” Councilmember Rosendahl said. “I'm delighted to celebrate this great accomplishment on its 10th Anniversary."
“The Gateway Enhancement Project is a world-class iconic landmark that has come to symbolize LAX’s spirit of modernization, efficiency and service to the traveling public,” said Los Angeles World Airports Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsay.
The celebration culminated with the unveiling of a plaque honoring principal architect, Ted Tokio Tanaka, for his vision. The plaque was installed in the flag courtyard, a garden-enclosed area nestled in the center of the 15 gateway pylons that represent the 15 City Council Districts.
“I am delighted that the LAX Gateway Enhancement Project has become a landmark of our City,” Tanaka said. “Our goal was to create a beautiful airport with a sense of arrival, place and identity for the busiest public facilities in this region. I want to share this achievement with my Conceptual Design Team and the many people who have contributed to realize this achievement.”
Ten years ago, the nearly $112-million enhancements that established the iconic landscape of LAX were in their final stages. The 100-foot-high pylons were in place and were lit with a series of colors in a lighting program created by local artist, Paul Tzanetopoulos. The 32-foot-high, illuminated letters spelling out “LAX” marked the entrance to the international airport and much of the mature vegetation had been planted, including the palm trees lining Century Blvd. from Aviation Blvd.. Other considerations by the architect included signage, walkways and lighting to increase the LAX world-renowned ease of maneuverability.
The LAX Gateway Enhancement Project was launched in August 8, 2000, and has since become a modern icon of the City of Los Angeles, welcoming millions of visitors annually to Los Angeles.
Tom introduced a motion on Friday to add one more day to libraries' days of service. The motion calls on the Library Department to restructure each library's thirty-eight open hours to a more patron-friendly schedule to include a sixth day.
"The current hours have reflected how much the Library Department is willing to work with the people," Councilmember LaBonge said about the Tuesday through Saturday schedules. "We'll have a robust discussion to see if it's possible for them to shuffle a couple of these hours so that libraries can be open a much-needed sixth day."
Since the budget cuts, library operating hours were reduced to thirty-eight hours, spread over 5-day week. The City Administrative Officer and the Chief Legislative Analyst offices will work with the Library Department to research the possibility and need for such a shift. The motion will be heard in the Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee at a later date.
Wednesday, October 20, was declared Disability Mentoring Day in the City of Los Angeles by Councilmember LaBonge. Under the program, Tom's staff was increased by two people for the day which included a celebratory luncheon in Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's office, a day in Council Chambers and a lesson in what it takes to work for the Councilmember known as "Mr. L.A."
"We need to be true to the letter of the Americans with Disabilities Act," Councilmember LaBonge said after a speech he gave at the luncheon. "By inviting young people with disabilities into our office, we broaden their horizons by making connections here while we are educated about disabilities."
Trevor J. Finneman and Jake Hytken, young members of the American Association of People with Disabilities, joined Tom for the day. Finneman is a JD candidate and a graduate of the UCLA School of Law. Hytken is a CSUN undergraduate majoring in Communications. Both "interns-for-a-day" made a lasting impact.
"It was a wonderful experience. What a pleasure to teach these two bright young people about the City," Tom said.
The American Association of People with Disabilities is supported by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy and a host of private corporations. Disability Mentoring Day is an annual event.
Nearly eight years in the making, residents of Toluca Lake are celebrating the final product of a major collaborative effort involving Councilmember Tom LaBonge’s office, city departments, community organizations and neighborhood volunteers. The much-anticipated Moorpark Street garden median, at the intersection of Moorpark Street/Moorpark Way and Strohm Avenue, was completed for its Monday afternoon dedication.
“Through the hard work and commitment of community members and the City of Los Angeles, Moorpark will be a safer, more beautiful thoroughfare,” Councilmember LaBonge said. "This new gateway to Toluca Lake shows its visitors just how much this neighborhood cares about this street and its gateway."
The Greater Toluca Lake Neighborhood Council, Toluca Lake Homeowners Association and local volunteers were honored by Tom for their strong commitment to work with the City on this beautification and safety project. Michael Espinosa from Department of Public Works and Richard Lee from the Bureau Street Services also spoke.
The major thoroughfare of Moorpark Street forks left to Moorpark Way and straight to the quiet, residential Moorpark Street. The garden median, created and cared for by neighboring resident Philip Dagort, leads drivers onto Riverside Drive, shielding residents from a possible onslaught of confused drivers.
The project was funded by donations from the Greater Toluca Lake Neighborhood Council, the Toluca Lake Homeowners Association and Los Angeles’ now-suspended Community Beautification Grant Program.
A growing number of "For Sale" signs are showing up in Los Angeles neighborhoods. It's not homes up for sale, but multiple used cars. Tom introduced a motion on Friday that aims at limiting the commercial sale of cars on City streets.
"One or two cars for sale is not the issue I'm seeing. It's when there are multiple cars parked in a row that pose a problem," Councilmember LaBonge explained. "It blocks parking for homeowners and visitors. It creates visual blight in beautiful residential neighborhoods. There have also been reports of gang involvement in these curb-side car sales."
Community groups and residents in the fourth district have called the Councilmember to complain of de facto roadway car lots. The City once prohibited car sales on public streets, but the ordinance was overturned in court based on the First Amendment free speech protection. The motion calls for the City Attorney to prepare an ordinance that bans commercial sale of vehicles on City streets without infringing on free speech.
Tom is working with county officials to gather data on crime and public safety issues around the car lots. The Los Angeles Police Department continues to cite vehicles for expired tags and incorrect registration information. Officers have also found some curb-side dealers attempting to sell stolen vehicles.