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Alleged Corruption, An Indictment, And Now A Trial For A Once Powerful Politician in LA

City Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas, wearing a suit and glasses, speaks to an interviewer off-camera.
Mark Ridley-Thomas, the once powerful politician with a storied history in Los Angeles, goes on trial today on corruption charges.
(Screengrab from L.A. City Channel 35. )
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Mark Ridley-Thomas, the once powerful politician with a storied history in Los Angeles, goes on trial today on corruption charges. Born and raised in L.A., not only was he a lawmaker who served on various political seats for decades, he also was a high school teacher and the executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater L.A. He was the first Black man who was ever elected to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors.

A once powerful L.A. politician faces trial starting today

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But he was indicted in 2021 due to actions he partook in as a supervisor on the county board.

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What happened? Ridley-Thomas is facing 19 counts, including conspiracy, bribery and wire fraud, for allegedly engaging in a quid pro quo scheme with the former dean of the USC School of Social Work, Marilyn Louise Flynn. He's been accused of promising to vote for lucrative contracts that would benefit the school in exchange for a scholarship and a job for his son. After his indictment, the L.A. City Council voted to suspend him.

Flynn has since pleaded guilty to bribery and is awaiting sentencing.

As Ridley-Thomas starts his trial, my colleague Frank Stoltze has all the info we need to know about what is happening and why it matters. Frank dives deep into his storied history in L.A. and his relationship with USC. Read Frank's story here.

We’re here to help curious Angelenos connect with others, discover the new, navigate the confusing, and even drive some change along the way.

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Wait... one more thing

Why does it take so long for streetlights to be repaired?

The top of a street light in Los Angeles. Below it is a street placard that says Missouri Ave.
(Ryanne Mena
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An LAist reader wanted to know why it took so long for the city to fix streetlights. For the interesting story of the week, Ryanne Mena took a deep dive to figure it out. What did she find?

More than 25,000 streetlights in our city are in need of repair, at any moment in time. That’s a lot for the 200 or so people who work for the Bureau of Street Lighting.

They’re pretty far behind.

Ryanne talked to Miguel Sangalang from BSL about this issue. Sadly, he said they are lacking funding, so it could take more than three months to get streetlights fixed.

“Unfortunately, we’re facing times that are much longer than I think anyone would want,” Sangalang said. “For things that have been taking us, you know, two to three days before, if it was like a single light out that was burned out, it’s now taking us three to four weeks.”

He said copper wire theft is adding to the backlog.

Ryanne’s article digs into the issues plaguing repairs, explores streetlight history, and advises on how you can try to get a streetlight fixed in the city.

One fun fact before you go: Forget LACMA’s Urban Light forest (just kidding … you know we love you!) Did you know that there’s a secret museum of streetlights in downtown L.A.? Check it out!

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