Leadership in Los Angeles has been my life’s work over the past 30 years.
Three decades ago I was serving as the executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles while completing my Ph.D. in Social Ethics and Policy Analysis from the University of Southern California.
Just a few years later, after being elected to the Los Angeles City Council, it became clear to me that my success as a leader was inextricably tied to empowering those whom I was charged with leading. And so began a quarter century experiment in participatory democracy and civic engagement now known as the Empowerment Congress.
Since 1992, The Empowerment Congress has grown to become a national model for leadership through community organizing. It has endured because city and county residents have invested their time, talent, intelligence, concern and energy to make it work for their neighborhoods and communities.
This year, our country has faced increased division, conflict, and unrest. And locally, the number of homeless individuals and families are at a record high. The most recent 2017 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count found Los Angeles County’s homeless population increased 23 percent over the past year to 57,794 —underscoring the urgency of the crisis and the need for action.
But just this March, voters made history by agreeing to tax themselves over a decade to provide unprecedented resources — $3.5 billion — for ending and preventing homelessness countywide. Measure H is the only revenue proposal ever attempted, much less approved, during an off-cycle election. It will go hand-in-hand with Proposition HHH, a $1.2-billion bond measure to build affordable housing in the city of LA.
Now, arguably more than any time in recent history, we need to continue to strengthen civic and community leadership to secure the future of our country and our county. And the Southern California Leadership Network is poised to play a pivotal role in the conversation.
Congratulations to the Southern California Leadership Network on enduring 30 years, and thank you for all you do.