Culver City Observer -

Rams Return To Los Angeles - Part 3

Education, business partnership, self esteem....

 

August 4, 2016

City of Inglewood Official Seal

Without a doubt the City of Inglewood defied the odds that enabled the city to become the ultimate choice of the Los Angeles Rams when they relocated back to Southern California this past January 2016.

Having guided Inglewood back from financial desperation to solvency, the City Council has effectively proven itself over the past five consecutive years. Highlights include every budget balanced with a surplus in 2015. The city's reserves more than tripled from $11 million in 2011 to $38 million in 2015.

The crime rate has been cut to its lowest recorded level in history. Property values increased 85% from 2012 to 2015. Ground was broken on a new $20 million senior center that will open in November 2017. Moody's upgraded the city's bond rating in 2015. Unfunded liability has dropped 52%.

These investments paved the way in preparing to host the Rams, who have already had a positive impact upon Inglewood in numerous ways. Education is one of the early benefactors. Mayor James Butts noticed the immediate effect the team had on the city's students who were especially impressed.

"Let's talk about the impact on the self-esteem of the school students in Inglewood. The Rams held a fitness day at Inglewood High and they had the Rams' players there interacting with the kids," said Butts.

"For those kids to know that one of the iconic professional football teams in L.A.'s history, that their players took time to come to their school to interact with them, it had a dramatic impact upon their psyches.

"Let's talk about the psychological benefits from having a professional sports team in town interacting with your children. It's hard to measure."

The Inglewood Unified School District also expects to benefit in the near future with added revenue and planned improvements on the city's agenda.

"Now we have organizations that have the capacity to donate to educational foundations to invite ancillary funding to our schools, that's where the rubber meets the road.

"To be an equalizer in this district so that we can bring in more resources here to improve the educational experience in Inglewood, that is the big thing."

Butts and the City Council members have engaged in public-private partnerships to address Inglewood's municipal obligations and challenges. In conjunction, there is a progressive effort to promote the business and retail sectors while supporting community infrastructure and services.

"Century Blvd. has been a mess for decades. Now it's underway. It'll be finished by probably the summer of 2018. There are so many stories like that," proclaimed Butts.

"There used to be a Thrifty gas station at the corner of Fairview and La Cienega. It had been abandoned and out of service for about 17 years. The neighbors in Ladera and Inglewood always complained about it.

"We engaged in a public-private partnership for us allowing them to put up the digital signage facing La Cienega that they would build us a $500,000 structure. Now it's a community center of use to the residents costing us nothing.

"The same thing with the playhouse in Centinela Park: it used to be a playhouse for children plays. It had been out of service for 15 years and no one ever thought about remodeling it.

"Well, we entered into an agreement with the major contractor for the Forum that as a community service they would provide the labor to renovate the playhouse. It opened... and it's beautiful.

"So we've done a number of these things that are public-private partnerships and have been more financially responsible. And now we're on stable financial footing."

Despite the progress the city has made in the past five years there were citizen objections to the mayor and the city council concerning the process of initiation to build the stadium and entertainment complex, due to be competed in 2019.

"Anyone that would choose the path we were on as opposed to the path that we have set ourselves on... no one had a legitimate beef," countered Butts.

"I heard things like: "We should have let the citizens vote on the initiative because the 21,000 people didn't represent 115,000." The reality is that we have 54,000 registered voters in the City of Inglewood and 20-21,000 that regularly vote in the elections.

"So it looks like we have about everyone that voted, so that was a ridiculous complaint. We had more people sign this petition for the initiative than voted for me for mayor. So I'm pretty clear it was a popular thing. To say we needed any more demonstration than that was ludicrous.

"The other thing we heard about was traffic. If we don't have traffic and we don't have people then we don't have the debit cards, credit cards and cash that they spend in our city.

"Cities that to depend on their indigenous sales taxes and property taxes to make it get by in the best of times and they struggle through every recession. The cities that prosper regardless are cities that have an entertainment component. Period.

"If you want to struggle then don't seek entertainment. If you don't want traffic then I don't know what to tell you, because traffic brings prosperity.

"Actually, we are programming Market Street to ending up being more like Old Town Pasadena: second floor residential, first floor retail and entertainment.

"We expect jazz clubs and smaller venues right across from the Metro station at Market and Florence. A different grade of dining that doesn't compete with the hyper-expensive entertainment district.

"Since we'll have our own population of people that live here in the area it's like a hometown place. People, before they go home on the Metrolink they can stop on Market Street and get entertainment or eat. That's what we see for Market Street."

Butts summed it up: "I can tell of the difference I've seen since I started doing the tough things and rode up the elevator with staff. They were quiet, kind of sullen. They didn't know if we'd escape bankruptcy.

"Now we ride the elevator: "Hey Mayor, how's it going?" I had someone who never talked to me before in the elevator and he said: "Mayor, I just want to thank you very much for being our champion and our leader." He said: "I never knew I'd feel that way about working in this city.

Fred Altieri

City of Inglewood City Hall

"We're a team now and a happy team. And the employees are proud. They're proud when they go to places and say: "Well, I work for the City of Inglewood." They're proud to say it.

"In the end aren't we all responsible for our destiny? If you feel good about yourself, if you feel as good as anyone else then you live up to it. When you're stigmatized... before if you said you lived in Inglewood, people kind of stared at you.

"If you say you live or work in Inglewood now people stop and say: "You're getting a stadium. Boy, you guys are doing this. You guys are going to have a Super Bowl.

"This has had an immeasurable impact for me on the psyche and self-respect of people in the community, how they feel about themselves and living in the City of Inglewood. And when you feel better, you do better."

 

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