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LAUSD Promises To Reverse Policy To Test Only Asymptomatic People For COVID-19

A sign outside Harry Bridges Span School in Wilmington on Monday, Sept. 14, 2020, directs employees to an L.A. Unified School District COVID-19 testing site. (Kyle Stokes/LAist)

Los Angeles Unified School District officials have been ramping up an ambitious effort to periodically test all district students and staff for COVID-19.

In a press release announcing the program's launch in mid-September, Superintendent Austin Beutner said the district "will be testing both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals."

But some LAUSD staffers and parents have reached out to KPCC/LAist to report the district was turning away individuals who showed possible symptoms of COVID-19, or who had reason to believe they were exposed. As one parent put it:

"It didn't feel transparent … Don't tell me [testing] is available for everyone, and then say, 'But not your child,' because he potentially has the disease we're trying to count and track."

In an interview earlier this month, Beutner confirmed these reports. He said the district intended to open up its testing sites to symptomatic individuals in the near future.

After we followed up, spokeswoman Shannon Haber said today that, starting sometime next week, LAUSD hopes to open up "a few" district-run testing sites where symptomatic individuals can make appointments.

"We're growing into this," Beutner said on Oct. 1. "What we did not want to do is bring in highly symptomatic people in the first week or ten days of testing operations until we figured out a way to do that in the safest way possible."

"We are doing something," Beutner added, "no other district in the nation has done."



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State Republicans Defend Unauthorized Ballot Drop Boxes

2020 Elections Ballot Box in Boyle Heights Los Angeles. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

The California Republican Party says it won’t comply with an order from state officials to shut down unauthorized ballot drop boxes in Southern California.

Volunteers and operatives for the state GOP installed the boxes at churches, political offices and retail locations in Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange and Fresno counties.

Earlier this week, Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Attorney General Xavier Becerra sent cease and desist letters to the party. On Wednesday, attorneys for the California Republican Party responded with a letter saying the operation was legal and they were keeping the boxes in place.

“It’s pretty clear that Democrats only care about ballot harvesting when someone else is doing it,” Party Chair Jessica Patterson said during a conference call with reporters.

“Ballot harvesting,” or third-party ballot collection, has been legal in California since 2016. But Padilla says voters are supposed to designate an individual to collect their ballot. He says the GOP’s ballot boxes have none of the security measures or accountability of official drop boxes operated by counties.

Padilla’s office said in an email he’s exploring all options, including legal action.


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LASD Says Call From Oversight Commission For Sheriff Villanueva To Resign Is 'Meritless'

L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva on Jan. 4, 2019. (Kyle Grillot for LAist)

Two years after Sheriff Alex Villanueva was elected, the L.A. County Sheriff's Civilian Oversight Commission today called on him to resign.

The vote was unanimous — with even staunch law enforcement supporters on the commission saying it’s time for Villanueva to go.

Commissioner Priscilla Ocen said it’s not just that the sheriff blocks oversight of his department by the panel, inspector general, and journalists, but that he has:

“Engaged in lies and coverups with regard to deputy gangs, with regard to deputy discipline starting from the very first month.”

That’s when he re-hired a deputy fired over domestic violence allegations. That deputy had served as a political aid to Villanueva.

A tweet from sheriff’s headquarters called the resolution a "meritless politically motivated attack."

Earlier this week, Villanueva called the commissioners anti-law enforcement.

“Their political philosophies are they really really hate cops, or they slightly hate cops or they’re not too sure.”

The commission resolution is advisory only — only the voters can remove the sheriff.


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This Is Your Last Chance To Be Counted In The 2020 Census, Which Ends Tonight

The U.S. Census logo appears on census materials received in the mail with an invitation to fill out census information online on March 19, 2020 in San Anselmo, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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Counting for the 2020 Census ends tonight.

If you’re in Los Angeles, you have until 2:59 a.m. early tomorrow morning to complete the form online. If you prefer to mail in a form, that needs to be postmarked by today. English and Spanish phone lines will close at 11 p.m. Pacific Time.

So far, 64.9% of all households in L.A. County have responded to the census on their own.

In the city of L.A., only 58% of households completed the census without help from census workers. Both the city and the county, which is considered one of the most difficult regions to count in the United States, are behind their response rates from the 2010 census.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, census takers have followed up in-person with almost everyone who didn’t respond. The government has claimed a “99.9%” completion rate.

But former Census Director John Thompson suspects that census workers may have relied on shortcuts to get there, such as asking neighbors for information about residents of a non-responsive household, or estimating how many residents live in a certain unit. Those work-arounds, while accepted by the government agency, can create errors in the data.

Normally, the bureau officials would spend six months after the counting is done going over their work and fixing mistakes. This year, the government is rushing to finish that work in only two months -- by the end of December.

“To me, that’s scary," Thompson said. “That could have really serious implications.”

Census advocates, along with some Census Bureau officials, have warned that a rushed census will likely result in an undercount, but overcounts are also a potential problem. Poorer communities of color are the most likely to be left out, while more affluent white communities have a higher risk of being overrepresented in the census data, Thompson warns.

The response period was open for much longer than usual this year due to the pandemic. During that time, some people may have lived in two different households. If they turned in questionnaires from multiple locations, those extra responses must be removed from the total count.

“In this census there could be a bigger problem of overcounts,” Thompson said. “That’s why it’s really important for them to take the time to get the duplicates out of the census.”

The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for the Census Bureau to end the count earlier than planned after a legal back-and forth. Plaintiffs including the City of Los Angeles sued the government in August, shortly after the Trump administration moved the end date up from Oct. 31 to Sept. 30. A federal judge recently ordered the count to continue to Oct. 31, but the Supreme Court’s decision undid that.

The Federal District Court of Northern California and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals are both still considering whether to extend the data processing part of the 2020 Census.


What's at stake for Southern California in the 2020 Census? Billions of dollars in federal funding for services like health care, public education, even disaster planning. Political representation in Sacramento and D.C. A census undercount could cut critical resources in L.A. County, home to the largest hard-to-count population in the nation.

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‘What Do You Want To Do When You Grow Up Some More?’ Advice For Aspiring Leaders In Early Childhood

Lea Austin is executive director of the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California, Berkeley. UC Berkeley Center for the Study of Child Care Employment

The children who live in this state are increasingly diverse.

In the 2017-18 school year, 76% of California kindergarteners were African American, Native American, Asian, Filipino, Pacifc Islander, Latino or multi-racial.

But while that demographic breakdown is often reflected in the early childhood workforce, leadership in the field is not nearly as diverse.

“The people that look most like the kids are usually the assistants,” said Mary Anne Doan, director of the California Early Childhood Mentor Program. There’s research that shows students can benefit from teachers that look like them and Doan believes this is true of leadership as well.

Much of the problem, researchers say, is lack of access to higher education for early childhood workers. But there are other obstacles to moving up in the ranks -- and we asked people who’ve worked in the field for decades to share their advice on overcoming them.

It’s geared toward people who want to work in child care and education, but chances are, if you’re looking to make the next step in your career, you might find something useful here.


About five years ago, Delia Vicente’s son asked her, “What do you want to do when you grow up?”

“Well, I'm already grown up,” the UCLA Early Head Start executive director answered.

“And he's like, ‘No, no, When you grow up some more.”

Vicente thought about it and realized she wanted to teach and create more programs.

Now, she often asks her staff, “What do you want to do when you grow up some more?” to get them to think about their goals.

“When somebody asks you that, then you go get it,” Vicente said. “Then you’re like, OK I’m motivated now. Now I know where I’m going.’”


Lea Austin, director of the UC Berkeley’s Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, says it’s been important for her to connect with other women of color in the field.

“We can also be intentionally thinking about how we're mentoring and the incoming generation of people doing this work,” Austin said. “But it's also just as important that we have a space where we can talk and where we can support each other… I have a group and colleagues and trusted confidants that I can go to and say, ‘Did I just hear what I think I heard?’”


Tashon McKeithan, executive director at the nonprofit Child Educational Center in La Cañada Flintridge, said she does daily affirmations. “I look in the mirror and say, you know, I could do this today,” McKeithan said. She also looks to the words of Maya Angelou and gets an email newsletter from the Happiness Project.

“I'm not religious, but I'm spiritual,” McKeithan said. “I pray and I find comfort and that there were people before me that did this and had success and failure and I'm continuing the line of very powerful people.”


This was one I heard from multiple people.

“A coach often is set up to definitively help a person through a certain practice, but a mentor is someone that really is building all the skills of the individual, the strengths they already have, and building on those skills, and really bringing them up to the next level,” Doan said.

Mentors can be found through professional development programs or informal networks, they can be older than you, or younger. Doan said look for a positive role model, someone with innovative ideas.


“That is what keeps me going, has kept me going,” said 28-year home child care provider and union organizer Tonia McMillian. She said you don’t always get along with the parents, the pay isn’t great, but then there’s the moment when a kid says their ABCs for the first time.

“If it's not valuable to anybody on Earth, it's valuable to this little person,” McMillian said.


“There's a lot more people for you than against you and a lot more opportunities than you think there are,” said Wassy Tesfa, executive director of Head Start and Early Head Start at Pacific Clinics. She says she’s found allies from other Black women and white leaders in the places she’s worked at. “I grew up in Africa, where everybody looked like me, whether they be on top or at the bottom,” Tesfa said.” So I think that made a difference in how I saw myself, whether people saw me that way or not.”


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Kevin de León Sworn In As LA's Newest City Councilmember, Replacing Jose Huizar

California State Senator Kevin de Leon delivers a speech on the first day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, July 25, 2016. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Kevin de León is now the newest member of the Los Angeles City Council. He was sworn in at 10 a.m. Thursday.

The newest councilmember is filling the seat of embattled Councilman Jose Huizar.

The seat became open during the summer after Huizar was suspended for his alleged role in a bribery scandal, in which he is accused of accepting at least $1.5 million in favors from real estate developers, taking more than $800,000 from a Chinese billionaire who owned a hotel in his district, and using his family members to launder money.

De León challenged Dianne Feinstein for her U.S. Senate seat in 2018. Prior to that, he was a California state senator from 2014 to 2018, representing downtown and east L.A.

In March, he won the primary for the city council seat outright with more than 50% of the vote and then was appointed early.

Shortly after his swearing in to the council today, he spoke with our newsroom about his priorities for District 14, especially when it comes to housing:

"First and foremost, we have to keep our residents who are currently housed, we have to keep them in housing because it's going to be exponentially much more expensive to re-house folks who are living in their apartments and their homes today."

He also said he'd like to add more beds for the homeless in his district.

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This (Virtual) Conference Aims At Closing Gaps For Latinos In The Tech World

(Photo by Christina via Unsplash)

Latinos may be a dominate force in labor, consumer spending and the U.S. population but they are largely left behind by the tech industry. That digital divide is fueling an effort to close the gap.

The annual LTX Fest — virtual this year due to the pandemic — wants to remove barriers for Latinos to the rapidly growing tech industry. Organizers say that means:

  • Encouraging interest in STEM majors
  • Creating systemic change among tech companies to hire and promote Latinos
  • Clearing a path for entrepreneurship

Lilibeth Gangas, a founding member of the conference, says there must also be digital equity:

"But if you don't have access what's happening, right? And so that can create a disparity between the communities that have already been suffering from all of these barriers and racism."

Organizers say only 6% of startup executives are Latino, yet they are demonstrated leaders with the highest rate of new entrepenuers in the country, particularly among women.

When it comes to the tech world, LTX Fest organizers said Latinos "are the least represented demographic in technology, totaling just 8% percent of the total high-tech workforce and 3% of tech leadership, despite being the country’s largest ethnic community."

Last year, when the conference was held in-person in San Franciso, organizers said more than 1,300 members attended.

Today is the third of four days of panels for this year's virtual LTX Fest.

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Judge Orders ICE To Reduce Immigrant Detainee Population At Adelanto Amid COVID-19 Outbreak

A federal judge has ordered the government to reduce the detainee population at Adelanto ICE Processing Center to at or below 475. (File photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

A federal judge had ordered U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to reduce the population at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center amid a coronavirus outbreak at the facility.

With 147 confirmed active cases reported as of Tuesday, according to ICE's website, the San Bernardino County facility had the largest current outbreak among ICE immigrant detention centers in the country.

According to Judge Terry J. Hatter’s order, the government must reduce the population at the facility starting Monday by at least 50 detainees a day, until the population is at or below 475 detainees. As of last week, about 750 people were detained there.

The order says ICE can reduce the Adelanto population by either releasing or deporting immigrants who are detained there, but cannot transfer detainees to other facilities. Judge Hatter also wrote that the government cannot release people who’ve had COVID-19 until they test negative for the virus and are symptom-free.

Judge Hatter first ordered a reduction in the population at Adelanto in April after the ACLU of Southern California sued due to concerns about the virus spreading at the facility. But the government appealed, and the order was halted as the case went to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Last month, the case was sent back to the lower court as the outbreak was growing.

ICE officials said in a statement that the agency does not comment on litigation.


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Come See The Many Sides Of Sears' Empty Stores

Exterior view of the Sears store on Soto Street and Olympic Boulevard, Boyle Heights, in 1997. (Security Pacific National Bank Collection/Los Angeles Public Library Collection)

Sears was once a retail giant with 3,500 outposts across the United States — and it all started in Boyle Heights in 1927.

In recent years, the company has closed more than 90% of its stores, leaving some empty (or mostly empty) architectural gems dotting Southern California. From Santa Monica to the San Fernando Valley, real estate developers are trying to revamp these structures with varying degrees of success.

The former Sears Auto Center in Northridge is going to become a Porto's Bakery. The Santa Monica Sears, which opened in 1947, is being converted into an upscale, multi-use complex with a market hall, beer garden and offices.

But the hulking, windowless Sears on Santa Monica Boulevard in East Hollywood, which closed in 2008, remains empty, a magnet for homeless folks and taggers.

Hadley Meares explores the history of Sears in Los Angeles and considers what comes next for these striking buildings sitting on valuable real estate.


LAUSD, Supervisor Candidates Weigh In On Early Childhood Programs

Ms. Carmen, a teacher in a Long Beach infant class, wears a face mask and a hair net for the safety of the children in attendance. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

With widespread child care unavailable during the coronavirus pandemic, candidates for the District 2 seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors say it’s time to invest more in the youngest residents and their families.

State Senator Holly Mitchell and L.A. City Council member Herb Wesson outlined their plans for early childhood at a forum Wednesday hosted by LA Partnership for Early Childhood Investment, Southern California Grantmakers and Unite-LA.

Both candidates acknowledged there isn’t always enough funding to go around – the county’s recent budget saw 8% cuts across its departments – but that they’d make early childhood a priority.

Mitchell said as chair of the California Senate Budget Committee, she advocated for creating a rainy day fund that was tapped to help stave off early childhood cuts in the state budget.

“What I could say is look at my history,” Mitchell said. “Look at my record. Understand that I know that early care and education isn’t an area that we can afford to skimp.”

Wesson, who served as council president for eight years, pointed to Measure J, which would shift money from the Sheriff’s Department to community investment , as an opportunity to cover early childhood.

“I would have earmarked a percentage of that that’d go directly for early child care, development and other needs,” Wesson said. “I do not believe that it's too late to do that. So when, Lord willing, and the people will it, and I get there, that'll be one of the first things.”

The forum also included candidates for the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education’s Seat 7.

Ahead of the Wednesday forum, the L.A. Partnership for Early Childhood Investment and Unite-LA commissioned an online poll that found voters largely supported increased investment in early childhood programs.



Note: The LA Partnership for Early Childhood Investment also supports LAist’s early childhood coverage.

At our Voter Game Plan you can find:

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The Great ShakeOut, Pandemic Edition. We're Here To Help Get You Ready For An Earthquake

Jacob Margolis, host of the podcast The Big One: Your Survival Guide spent months learning how to make the best earthquake survival kit. Do you know what you need? (LAist)

Southern California is earthquake country. Last month's 4.5 rattler reminded us of that.

This morning (10:15 a.m. to be precise) marks the Great ShakeOut — an annual statewide earthquake drill.

With so many people working and studying from home and often with improvised furniture arrangements, our science reporter Jacob Margolis has help for your quake prep.

"Throughout your house, you should make sure you strap down heavy objects like dressers, or mirrors... buy some straps off the internet and you could drill them into studs and connect the other part to whatever heavy object might tip over and potentially hurt someone. That has the added benefit, if you have kids, of protecting them from objects tipping over on top of them."

The same goes for heavy TV screens and computer monitors. And keep a pair of shoes nearby, including by the bed, to protect your feet from shattered glass.

Great ShakeOut day is also a reminder that being earthquake ready includes being insured against quake damage. Standard homeowners and renters insurance policies won't cover you. But policies bought from a private insurance company or the California Earthquake Authority will.

The authority was created by the state after the 1994 Northridge earthquake. We talked to CEO Glenn Pomeroy:

"A person pays in accordance to what their risk is. In the L.A. area, earthquake insurance is really relatively affordable, even though there's so much risk around here. And for people who rent, earthquake insurance is really inexpensive and everyone ought to check it out."

Only 10% of California homeowners have quake insurance, but Pomeroy says there is always an uptick after a big quake. Renters should know: even if your landlord has earthquake insurance for the building, your belongings aren't covered.


We don't want to scare you, but the Big One is coming. We don't know when, but we know it'll be at least 44 times stronger than Northridge and 11 times stronger than the Ridgecrest quakes last year. To help you get prepared, we've compiled a handy reading list:

And here's Jacob's guide to assembling your quake kit:

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As 2020 Census Ends, Federal Officials Claim '99.9' Percent Completion -- But There Are Many Questions

Census tracts that are considered "hard-to-count" are represented in dark red. (Courtesy of California Complete Count Census Office)

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The 2020 Census is set to end today, after a months-long legal battle over the end date for the decennial count. If you’ve been putting off filling out a census form, there are now only hours left to do it -- over the internet, phone or by mail.

The U.S. Census Bureau announced the Oct. 15 deadline on Tuesday, hours after the Supreme Court allowed the bureau to end the count sooner than the Oct. 31 date ordered by a lower court. Internet self-response is now set to end tonight at 11:59 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time, according to the bureau. Paper census forms must be postmarked by end of day Thursday, and phone responses and door-knocking are also set to end.

The Census Bureau says most U.S. households have already been counted, issuing a press release claiming a 99.9% completion rate across the country.

But that’s not the whole story.

To begin with, “completion” of a case in census terms doesn’t necessarily mean someone responded to the count -- because enumerators are allowed to take shortcuts.

In hard-to-count Los Angeles, there are fears of an undercount as the census winds down.



What's at stake for Southern California in the 2020 Census? Billions of dollars in federal funding for services like health care, public education, even disaster planning. Political representation in Sacramento and D.C. A census undercount could cut critical resources in L.A. County, home to the largest hard-to-count population in the nation.

ALERT! It's Time To Start Following LA's Parking Rules Again

A car parks next to a street cleaning sign in Echo Park. Ticketing and parking goes back to normal on Oct 15, 2020. Chava Sanchez/LAist

The past six-plus months have been very unpleasant for many, many reasons (a massive understatement, we are aware), but there has been one tiny, merciful silver lining through all of this: relaxed parking enforcement.

Remember in the beginning of the pandemic when our leaders asked us not to leave our homes and then gave us the very small consolation of allowing us to put the issue of parking tickets out of our minds and focus instead on the deadly virus-slash-pending-economic collapse that would likely alter the course of American history?

Better yet, remember when you could just leave your creepy van parked outside of your neighbor's house for an indefinite period of time and no one could do anything about it?

Well, all that has now come to an end as of today (Oct. 15, 2020).

We suggest you set whatever alarm you use to move your car for alternate street sweeping again. Sorry.

Here are the parking rules that are now back in your life:

  • 72-hour rule: In the city of L.A., you don't have the license to park in a public spot forever. You have a maximum of 72 hours before your car can get towed. It doesn't matter if you're in a residential street with no signage for miles — 72 hours is all you have.*
  • Overnight parking: It’s technically allowed in the city of L.A. But in several other cities, including Pasadena, Alhambra, Beverly Hills and Culver City, overnight parking is not allowed unless you have a permit.*
  • The street sweeping guardians have no mercy: Street sweepers came and left? Street sweepers don't even show up? Doesn't matter. In L.A. city, if you're parked in a street sweeping spot during designated "no parking" hours, you're still eligible to get a ticket.

* L.A.'s Department of Transportation will delay booting and impounding of "scofflaw vehicles" until Jan. 1. And the city will not impound vehicles when someone is living in them.

(Illustration by Dan Carino for LAist)


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'It Was A Moonscape': Losing Everything In The Lake Fire

A brush fire that broke out Aug. 12 grew to 6,000 acres just in the first hour. (Courtesy LA County Fire Air Ops via Twitter)

On a hot August afternoon, the Lake Fire broke out near Lake Hughes in the hills above Palmdale.

It moved quickly, through dense chapparal, made dry by a hotter than normal summer.

Michael Lacroix lived nearby, and it wasn't long before firefighters showed up, showered him and his home in red fire retardant, and told him he was running out of time to grab what he could before before he had to flee the property.

"I knew walking around that property that it would be super hard to defend ... because the growth was so heavy," he said. "I thought that they would be able to stop it before it got to the homes. Why I thought that, I don't know."


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Morning Briefing: L.A.’s Most Expensive Election? The LAUSD Board

(Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Never miss a morning briefing. Subscribe today to get our A.M. newsletter delivered to your inbox.

Good morning, L.A.

If you don’t have school-age children – and even if you do – you might not be paying much attention to the race for two seats on the L.A. Unified School District board. But as my colleague Kyle Stokes reports, they’ve been the most expensive local campaigns this year, with outside political groups throwing in a total of $13 million to influence voters’ opinions.

The heart of the battle lies in the ongoing clash between charter schools and public schools, which compete for public funding. Depending on who wins these two spots, the board could lean more heavily in one direction or the other.

Why should you care? Well, as Kyle puts it: “[LAUSD] board members are ultimately responsible for whether nearly 580,000 students in L.A. are learning.” In other words, the stakes for the city’s future are high.

Voters will cast their ballots for the next LAUSD board members on Nov. 3.

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

Jessica P. Ogilvie

Coming Up Today, October 15

More than 8,600 structures have been damaged or destroyed by wildfires this year in California. As these fires are put out and we move on to the next blaze, it’s easy to forget that some families have lost everything. Jacob Margolis has a story about what it’s like for one such man, two months after the Lake Fire.

We’ll be live streaming day four of Amy Coney Barrett’s U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

In the wake of the North Hollywood Sears’ closure, Hadley Meares explores the history of the various Sears stores around L.A., most of which have been shuttered in the past decade.

Explore the art and culture of Frogtown, check out a new food hall, help save independent music venues during a weekend of shows, and more. Christine N. Ziemba has this weekend’s best online and IRL events.

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The Past 24 Hours In LA

Equality In L.A.: Four public housing communities will get a new internet provider, which will be free for six months before switching to a $15 monthly charge – although the connection is still unlikely to be as good as in wealthier neighborhoods. The L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted to condemn Azerbaijan's military operation against the Armenian community in Nagorno-Karabakh, and to denounce Turkey's interference in the conflict.

Local Elections: Former L.A. City Council President Herb Wesson and state Senator Holly Mitchell, who are vying for a seat on the powerful county board of supervisors, faced off in a live debate moderated by KPCC/LAist’s senior politics reporter, Libby Denkmann. The most expensive local elections in L.A. this year have been the races for school board.

Policing The Police: The L.A. City Council took another step towards deploying unarmed civilians, rather than armed law enforcement, to respond to mental health and other non-violent calls.

On The National Stage: Watch what happened on day three of Amy Coney Barrett’s U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

Photo Of The Day

A dancer from LA Dance Project performs, wearing a mask, during the drive-in show, "Solo at Dusk."

(Photo by Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images)

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