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Long Beach Mayor Plans Universal Basic Income Experiment

The debit card the city of Stockton provides for its program. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia has announced plans to give money — no strings attached — to a select group of city residents.

The idea is to study the effects of a so-called “universal basic income,” a policy favored by some economists for tackling high poverty rates and pushed heavily during the Democratic Presidential primaries by Andrew Yang.

“I’ve asked the City Council to join our efforts, hire an equity specialist to manage the program, and begin designing the pilot,” Garcia tweeted on Tuesday.

There aren’t many details yet. And Garcia said it could take until late 2021 for Long Beach to launch its pilot program. In the meantime, he said the city will seek philanthropic funding and work on outlining a framework for the program.

Once it’s up and running, Garcia said the city’s program would track how participants spend these direct, ongoing payments. Would they use the money to pay rent? To get out of debt? To buy healthier food?

Long Beach would be following in the footsteps of cities like Stockton, where 125 residents have been getting $500 per month since early 2019. Early results there indicate people are spending much of the money on basic necessities like food, household goods, clothing and utilities.

Garcia said these efforts are more important than ever, due to the widening economic inequality brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, especially for people of color.

“By the time these pilots launch, hopefully the pandemic will be over,” he said. “But certainly the economic effects won't be.”

Other California mayors have expressed interest in this idea, including L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and Compton Mayor Aja Brown. Along with Garcia, they’ve joined an initiative called Mayors For A Guaranteed Income.

Garcetti’s office said staffers are in the early phases of exploring a similar program for L.A., although it did not provide a timeline.

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Census Advocates Going Door-To-Door Say Their Work Is Urgent

Census advocates Itzel Flores Castillo Wang and Roberto Bustillo walk down Cesar Chavez Avenue in Boyle Heights distributing information about the 2020 count. (Caroline Champlin/LAist)

Since the Trump administration's sudden decision earlier this month to cut the 2020 census short, reaching out to hard-to-count communities has added urgency. Instead of ending Oct. 31 as had been planned, the counting phase of the census is now set to end Sept. 30.

Census enumerators only began going door-to-door in L.A. County a couple of weeks ago to reach those who haven't responded. L.A. County's current response rate — just under 62% — lags behind both the state and national averages.

Meanwhile, community advocates are walking local neighborhoods, leaving behind information about this year's decennial count.

Roberto Bustillo, co-director with Proyecto Pastoral, a local community group in Boyle Heights says of canvassing:

"It's like a battle. We had to speed up because we had to ensure that everybody participates."

These community canvassers are completely independent from the Census Bureau, but still feel the pressure of the time crunch. Census data determines everything from political representation to federal dollars for public services that people rely on.


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Gov. Newsom Endorses George Gascón Over Incumbent Jackie Lacey in Los Angeles DA’s Race

George Gascón speaks to supporters at Union Station. March 3, 2020. Chava Sanchez / LAist

The state’s top elected official has weighed in on who should be the top prosecutor in Los Angeles.

On Tuesday, Governor Gavin Newsom threw his support behind George Gascón in the race for District Attorney of L.A. County over incumbent Jackie Lacey.

The announcement isn’t a shocker from Newsom, who — as Mayor of San Francisco — tapped Gascón to lead the city’s police department and the District Attorney’s office. Crime and incarceration went down during Gascón’s tenure, Newsom said in a statement, calling him a “leader in the fight to reform our dated system of justice.”

Fact check: violent crime and murders did drop under Gascón. But S.F. Mayor London Breed and the police union have argued that reforms he backed were responsible for a rise in property crime.

The race is being closely watched by criminal justice reformers nationwide, who see it as the next stage in the battle between progressive prosecutors and a more moderate establishment.

The endorsement comes the same week that Gascón’s campaign sent a letter to the D.A.’s office alleging Lacey had improperly used public resources for campaign videos — a claim that was disputed by multiple election law experts.

The Lacey campaign shared a statement with LAist in response to Newsom' pick:

"I respect Governor Newsom, and I understand why he chose to endorse his former San Francisco police chief, due to their history together in San Francisco. I'm focused on winning this race and doing the job I was elected to do — reforming our criminal justice system and keeping LA County safe."

Lacey has seen her political fortunes grow more uncertain throughout the summer: her husband, David Lacey, was charged earlier this month with three misdemeanor counts of assault with a firearm. Lacey pointed a gun at three Black Lives Matter-LA activists who came to the couple’s home in the early hours of March 2 to demand a meeting with the top prosecutor.

BLM-LA and other community groups argue Lacey has not prosecuted enough police officers who have shot Blacks and Latinos, and they’ve been protesting regularly outside Lacey’s downtown office for years to demand a change in the D.A.’s office.

Top Democrats such as Los Angeles-area Congressmen Ted Lieu and Adam Schiff have pulled their endorsements of Lacey. Mayor Eric Garcetti endorsed Lacey before Gascón entered the race and has since suggested it may be time for a new county prosecutor.

This story has been updated with a statement from Jackie Lacey.

LA Inspector General Says Sheriff’s Deputies Aren’t Following COVID-19 Mask Rules

Sheriff's deputies -- some masked, some unmasked -- at a Father's Day protest of the killing of Andres Guardado. (Brian Feinzimer for LAist)

L.A. County Inspector General Max Huntsman says Sheriff’s deputies aren’t wearing masks as required.

“In numerous instances, Sheriff’s Department personnel have not complied with the state mandate requiring face coverings,” Huntsman wrote in an Aug. 21 letter to the County Board of Supervisors.

Huntsman specifically calls out what he said is a video that surfaced earlier in the month that shows deputies from the Santa Clarita station not wearing masks. “The internet is rife with other reported examples,” the letter reads.

Law enforcement officers from both the Sheriff’s Department and the LAPD have been seen not wearing masks in recent weeks.

A Sheriff’s Department memo that went out mid-April mandated that employees wear a face covering when interacting with the public or other employees. There is an exception made for “a situation where a facial covering inhibits officer’s safety,”

According to the LASD website, as of Tuesday, 826 personnel have tested positive for COVID-19.

In response to Huntsman's letter, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said in a statement: "Public safety and the safety of my personnel are of the utmost concern to me. COVID-19 Notice #51 mandates Department personnel to wear a face covering. Department executives re-brief this requirement on a regular basis in an effort to maintain compliance."


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How Club Alabam Became The Center Of LA's Jazz Scene In The 1930s And '40s

Elnora Cole (far left at table) with friends at the Club Alabam, circa 1945. (Shades of L.A. Collection/Los Angeles Public Library Collection)

At Club Alabam, the daytime was just a warmup for the night. All through the afternoon and the evening, the legendary nightclub, located at 4215 Central Avenue, was a hub of hardworking hoofers and musicians rehearsing for the nightly floor show. "[The] famed mecca ... is a veritable beehive of activity this week as dance directors put prancing chorines through their paces and band leaders urge musical aggregations to pick up on the latest organizations," the Los Angeles Sentinel, the city's most influential black newspaper, reported in 1940.

Late at night, all the hard work finally paid off. Musicians and singers such as Billie Holiday, T-Bone Walker, Josephine Baker, Herb Jeffries, Art Pepper, Anita O'Day and Dorothy Dandridge took the Alabam stage. They performed for integrated crowds who had come to dance to the sophisticated rhythms of big bands led by Marl Young, Johnny Otis, Lorenzo Flennoy and Gerald Wilson. The shows often featured a chorus line of "Club Alabam Cuties," flash dance teams such as the Nicholas Brothers, burlesque dancers, and comedians including Moms Mabley and Redd Foxx. After hours, the venue hosted jam sessions that lasted into the early morning.

An advertisement for New Club Alabam, circa 1941. It reads, "Finest Harlem Cafe in America!" and promotes two shows nightly with host Curtis Mosby. (Shades of L.A. Collection/Los Angeles Public Library Collection)

"At its most glorious, it was kind of a shining star, the premier spot on the Avenue," says Los Angeles music historian Steve Isoardi. From 1931 to around 1953, the Club Alabam and its next door neighbor, the famed Hotel Dunbar, were the cultural heart of Central Avenue, the main thoroughfare of Black Los Angeles.

In the seminal book Central Avenue Sounds, multi-reed musician Jack Kelson recalled the magic of Central Avenue during the pre-war era:

"When the sun goes down, all the flaws, and imperfections, whatever you might perceive them to be- suddenly, there's an aura of mysterious wonderfulness...there's a new special magic that comes, a type of paintbrush that paints all of the flaws. New glamour comes to life. It's almost as if special spirits of joy and abundance bring special gifts at night that are not available in the sunshine."

The audience watches a performance at Club Alabam, located at S. Central Avenue and 42nd Street in Los Angeles, circa 1943. Identified are: actress Lillian Randolph (right of center), dancer Prince Spencer, Clarence Moore, Tillie Culison, Clehue McGee. (Shades of L.A. Collection/Los Angeles Public Library Collection)

The musical styles that wafted onto Central Avenue from clubs like the Alabam were as varied as California itself. "You weren't being judged on whether you sounded like somebody, whether you followed the latest trend, but rather, it was wide open, and you had to come up with something original," Isoardi says.

Curtis Mosby was an L.A. original, a slick character determined to make a name for himself in the music scene. "Mosby was a businessman and he called himself a drummer," alto saxophonist Marshal Royal recalled in Central Avenue Sounds. "He wasn't the greatest drummer in the world but as long as he owned a band, he was the drummer."

Mosby's ambition outstripped his musical talent so he turned his sights on becoming a nightlife impresario. Nicknamed "showman perfect," he preferred to be called "the Mayor of Central Avenue." He wasn't the only one.

Left to right: Jesse Hardaway, Grace Williams, Elouise Johnson at a table in the crowded Club Alabam on Central Avenue, circa 1953. (Shades of L.A. Collection/Los Angeles Public Library Collection)

I've heard of at least half a dozen characters who called themselves the 'Mayor of Central Avenue' including a couple of drug dealers," says writer Matthew Duersten, who's working on a book about the Los Angeles Jazz scene. "So it's basically referencing an individual with a lot of chutzpah and pomp."

During Prohibition, Mosby opened the Apex nightclub in the space that later became Club Alabam. Part jazz club and part speakeasy, the club featured a house band fronted by Lionel Hampton and performances by singer Ivie Anderson and comedian Eddie "Rochester" Anderson. In Central Avenue Sounds, musician Royal says:

"That's where the people from Hollywood and Beverly Hills came to go slumming. It was a black owned place that would have 90% white audiences. The blacks didn't have the money to spend. That was during Prohibition, and you had to hide your bottle underneath the table. The Apex would have food and set-ups. Periodically, the federals would come in, raid the whole joint and take everybody to the hoosegow."

Lional Hampton, at far left, rides in a Cadillac convertible in front of Club Alabam on Central Avenue, circa 1953. (Shades of L.A. Collection/Los Angeles Public Library Collection)

Over the course of his long career, Mosby repeatedly fell into financial trouble (he would eventually serve a stint in jail for tax evasion), and struggled to keep the club afloat. Eventually, the Apex closed for good. On September 4, 1931, Club Alabam opened, much to the delight of columnist Harry Levette of the famed black newspaper, the California Eagle, run by Charlotta Bass. "The dizzy white lights are dancing daringly again, lightsome, lilting, laughter is tinkling from lips curved merrily in happy faces... as the gay, many-colored gowns of women of all races flutter like so many tropic butterflies."

Over the next two decades, the club would go through a bewildering series of owners and managers, closings and grand re-openings, with Curtis Mosby, who would open many other businesses, frequently acting as both manager and part-owner.

According to longtime Alabam bandleader Johnny Otis's book, Upside Your Head! Rhythm and Blues on Central Avenue, the club was actually owned for a time by two Italian American brothers named Pete and Ben Rizotta. Rumors swirled that they were involved in gambling and other illegal operations, and that Mosby, along with legendary Central Avenue figure Elihu "Black Dot" McGee (who also reportedly managed the Alabam), provided them legitimacy.

"Mosby was the face of the Club Alabam, so even though he was from the 'sporting life,' even though he was kind of a character, the club's owners... basically picked the right guy, because he still had respect on the avenue. So even though he was kind of a shady character, it was a shadiness that people could identify with," Duersten says.

Whatever the underworld implications, by the early 1930s, according to Central Avenue Sounds, the Alabam employed approximately 100 Black Angelenos, with a payroll of $1500 a week. It was the heyday of the jazz scene on Central Avenue, and wealthy white patrons swathed in fur and evening gowns came to enjoy Club Alabam shows.

"During the period I was playing there, Stepin Fetchit came by with Mae West in his Rolls-Royce," trombonist Britt Woodman recalled in Central Avenue Sounds. "Everybody went out to the front door to see what's going on and that's when I first saw this car -- a yellow car too. An ordinary person, a working person really couldn't afford [Club Alabam] because it catered to people with money and the movie stars."

Besides nightly floor shows accompanied by dinners of fried chicken, Chinese food and wine, the Alabam hosted numerous events for both Black and white charities. On April 15, 1936, a bevvy of Hollywood stars put on a benefit at the club to aid the "Scottsboro Boys," nine black teens who had been falsely accused of raping two white women on a train in Alabama. Stars including James Cagney, Fredric March, Franchot Tone, Dorothy Parker and Florence Eldridge organized the benefit, which was headlined by arranger and musician Eddie Barefield.

Contestants fill the dance floor during a drag contest at Club Alabam, hosted by Bill Heflin, circa 1945. (Clyde Woods/Shades of L.A. Collection/Los Angeles Public Library Collection)

You never knew who you would see at the Club Alabam. One night in 1937, Duke Ellington and Ethel Waters dropped in with separate entourages. There was also an annual drag ball, hosted by "inimitable master of ceremonies" Bill Heflin. As the Los Angeles Sentinel reported in 1940: "Women impersonators come into the Halloween picture in a big way tonight at the Club Alabam, which will be the scene of a colorful drag ball. Gorgeous costumes will be displayed by models who know how to wear them."

That same year, the newspaper reported on one particularly hot night at the "ultra-swank" club:

"The torrid dance tunes played by Peppy Prince's noted orchestra... [produce] punishing music on the hot feet of the scores of jitterbug dancers. This long and tall music maestro has a knack of quickly turning his indigo tunes into the soft dulcet number that makes dancing heaven for the smooth style of fox trotters."


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According to historian and author Robert Lee Johnson, the club also benefited from its close proximity to the Dunbar Hotel, which catered to famous Black entertainers. "Being next to the Dunbar was also important. They would perform for free right there at the Club Alabam because, you know, they're staying at the Dunbar. So after-hours really became the thing," he says.

The impromptu late-night jam sessions, so different from the carefully choreographed floor shows, drew folks from all over Los Angeles, according to drummer William Douglass in Central Avenue Sounds:

"The Club Alabam was where everybody went when they left their Hollywood jobs, Beverly Hills jobs and whatnot. Around about 2 a.m., everybody came from all over everywhere and they always gathered right in the Club Alabam. The show would always run late, and then it just seemed like they did that just because everybody was coming over there, not only the musicians and whatnot, but the crowds."

Ethel Waters in a promo shot for a performance at the Carthay Circle Theatre. Photo dated February 28, 1955. (Herald Examiner Collection/Los Angeles Public Library Collection)

With the end of World War II, prosperity came to many in Los Angeles. "The clubs were grooving because money was popping. People had plenty of money," saxophonist Cecil "Big Jay" McNeely remembered in Central Avenue Sounds.

Bandleader Johnny Otis, whose band was often compared to Count Basie, served long stints as the head of the Alabam's house band. At the bar, beautiful women like Miss Bronze America Selena Rudd played hostess, pulling in "as many customers as the television machine on fight night." Vivacious dancer Marie Bryant (also a choreographer and dance coach who worked with Gene Kelly and Ava Gardner) performed frequently, and many of the shows were choreographed by legendary lindy-hopper Norma Miller, who also graced the "floor board with... fit, vit and enthusiasm," according to the Los Angeles Sentinel.

The club's all-female band, International Sweethearts of Rhythm, was "the hottest attraction to hit the coast since the Frisco fire," according to California Eagle columnist J.T. Gipson. "Speaking purely from a serious point of view, the girls, without a doubt, have one of the finest musical aggregations to come out of the swing kingdom in many a moon."

One member of the group, trumpeter and Central Avenue legend Clora Bryant, recalled the perils of working for Curtis Mosby: "He was a little crooked. He owed a lot of people money. They'd pay you under the table. Finally, the union got after him, so you'd have to go to the union to collect your money. He'd pay you the right money on the union check. But then you'd have to come back down there and kick back some money. They finally caught him and put him in jail for taxes, I think it was. He still owed me," she said in Central Avenue Sounds.

Bryant continued:

"Once we were playing behind Al Hibbler, the blind singer... and pay night came. Mosby was farting around and wasn't showing up or was behind the bar fiddling around again. And Al Hibbler said, 'You dirty MF. You'd better give me my money or I'll shoot you,' he says. 'Say something so I'll know where you are.' I mean Al Hibbler was serious. He couldn't see but he didn't take no shit... We got our money that week."

Bryant, a legendary singer, trumpeter and educator, passed away in September 2019, at the age of 92.

Leon Heflin Sr. (third from left) and famed bandleader Lionel Hampton (fourth from left) at Club Alabam, circa 1940s. (Courtesy of Deborah Swan)

After a series of disputes over management and ownership, the space was christened the New Club Alabam around 1947. It was then taken over by the kindly Bill Heflin and his handsome brother, Leon, who put on momentous dance and theater productions as well as L.A.'s famous Cavalcade of Jazz, the first large-scale, African-American produced outdoor music festival in the United States. It ran from 1945 to 1958 and featured Sam Cooke, Dinah Washington and Count Basie, among many other performers.

Handbill drawn by Bill Alexander for Club Congo, a popular spot on Central Avenue. Circa 1944. (Shades of L.A. Collection/Los Angeles Public Library Collection)

The Heflin brothers renamed the space the Club Congo and attempted to run the business fairly. "He paid the artists very well," Leon's granddaughter Deborah Heflin Swan says. "You know, when you read about that time period about the artists, they always feel like they were getting cheated for their payments, but my grandfather always paid them good."

Signed publicity portrait of singer Billie Holiday addressed to Walter Gordon, Jr.; it reads, "For the best lawyer, and I do mean just that, Walter Gordon." Circa 1950. (Friedman Engeler/Shades of L.A. Collection/Los Angeles Public Library Collection)

By 1949, the showplace was, once again, being called the Club Alabam. In 1952, it hosted Billie Holiday for a series of shows. Clora Bryant recalled the singer babysitting Bryant's young daughter backstage, her long gloves covering the track marks from heroin use.

By then, Central Avenue's glory days were already waning, although the reasons for that depend on who you ask.

According to Johnson, the police began to crack down after the 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short, aka the Black Dahlia. Authorities believed she had been on Central Avenue shortly before her murder. "Now you're getting the raids. Instead of the police just taking the payoff and going about their business, now they're raiding the clubs," Johnson says.

According to Duersten, various photos of race-mixing celebrities in local nightlife and gossip rags -- including one taken at the Alabam of white movie star Lana Turner ogling Black singer Billy Eckstine -- infuriated the local powers-that-be and contributed to the LAPD's crackdown on the club.

In 1950, William Parker became chief of the LAPD and the crackdown on Central Avenue's nightlife continued. A strong opponent of "race mixing," Parker, according to KCET, made it his mission to shut down musical venues and bars that welcomed both Black and white Angelenos. On Central Avenue, that meant LAPD officers would harass nightclubs, stripping them of their licenses.

"There was a notorious incident [in 1952] where the blues singer Jimmy Witherspoon had played the Alabam, walked out of the club and the cops nailed him right there," Duersten says. "They brought him to the Newton Street Station and they beat him and kept him overnight."

Changing demographics may have also played a role in the Alabam's decline. After the Supreme Court ruled in 1948 that racially restrictive covenants were unconstitutional, many Black middle and working class people began to move away from Central Avenue and into neighborhoods previously forbidden to them. Black bands increasingly began to play in clubs around the city and Black musicians found more work in recording studios and on film scores.

It's not clear exactly when or why the Club Alabam closed, but by 1953 all mentions of it in local papers had ceased. However, its legend lives on through the countless performers who graced its stage and, in doing so, helped create modern jazz, swing, bebop and rhythm and blues.

Members of the Westview Hospital Women's Guild stand in front of the stage at Club Alabam, circa 1938. The racially integrated hospital, planned for 54th and Main Streets, was never built due to a lack of money; the land was paid for and a basement was put in but there wasn't enough for the building. (Shades of L.A. Collection/Los Angeles Public Library Collection)

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Morning Briefing: No Exit For Nursing Home Residents

A visitors gate at an East L.A. retirement community. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

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As many of us were sheltering in place, not only for our own health but for the health of our most vulnerable neighbors — including senior citizens — it turns out that some such neighbors were suffering in other ways. Jackie Fortiér reports that in most nursing homes across L.A., residents haven’t been allowed to leave their buildings for the past five months.

L.A. County health officials estimate that between 25 and 35 complaints are filed from nursing home residents every week, some saying that the doors to their facilities are literally locked behind them if they venture out.

"It puts them in a terribly dangerous situation, without a place to stay during a pandemic," said Mike Dark, an attorney with the watchdog group California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform. "Many of those people, especially ones without families, will become homeless."

Keep reading for more on what’s happening in L.A. today, and stay safe out there.

Jessica P. Ogilvie

Coming Up Today, August 25

Club Alabam was the center of the jazz world in Los Angeles in the 1930s and '40s. Opened by the fascinating, slippery Curtis Mosby, known as "the father of Central Avenue," it featured greats such as Billie Holiday, Johnny Otis, Clora Bryant and Gerald Wilson. Unearthing stories from the performers themselves and local historians including Robert Lee Johnson, Hadley Meares explores the club’s history, its influence on jazz and R&B, and its impact on Los Angeles.

Census advocates have been going door-to-door to encourage residents to fill out their forms. Caroline Champlin went along on such an outing, to a tract in Boyle Heights that has a current 39% response level. She reports on the enormity of the task at hand, and what happens when a community is severely undercounted.

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The Past 24 Hours In LA

Coronavirus Updates: COVID-19 infection rates, hospitalizations and deaths are down to levels not seen since early June – but we must remain vigilant.

Human Rights In L.A.: Some nursing home residents say they haven’t been allowed to leave their buildings for the past five months. At the first four sites opened under L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti's "A Bridge Home" program, which is supposed to be an interim solution, only about one in four individuals who depart do so for permanent housing. An All Black Lives Matter mural on Hollywood Boulevard will become permanent this week.

College Life: Administrators at colleges across Southern California are seeing a new enrollment trend: an increasing number of students waiting until the last minute to sign up for classes. For the second time in recent years, a large water main broke on Sunset Blvd, flooding an underground parking structure at nearby UCLA.

The National Stage: Last week, we heard from a parade of Californians at the Democratic National Convention – don’t expect the same at the Republican Party gatherings in Jacksonville, FL. and Charlotte, N.C.

Here’s What To Do: Remember Kobe Bryant, celebrate a decade of the Hollywood Babble-On podcast, commemorate the Chicano Moratorium's 50th Anniversary, and more in this week’s best online and IRL events. Order takeout directly from your favorite local restaurant, or try an app other than the Big Four.

Photo Of The Day

A resident of an East L.A. nursing home looks out the window onto the street.

(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

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