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Morning Brief: Mark Ridley-Thomas, The Santa Anas, And Bird Watching

Los Angeles City Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas is photographed in a headshot wearing a charcoal suit, blue shirt and tie.
Mark Ridley-Thomas, Los Angeles City Councilmember, District 10
( Courtesy of Mark Ridley-Thomas )
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Good morning, L.A. It’s Oct. 15.

On Wednesday evening, news broke that L.A. City Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas was indicted on federal corruption charges. Yesterday, his lawyer denied the allegations, calling them simply, “wrong.”

The charges allege that Ridley-Thomas and Marilyn Louise Flynn, the former dean of the UCS School of Social Work, conspired to secure fully-funded grad school admission and a paid professorship for Ridley-Thomas’s son in exchange for Ridley-Thomas steering lucrative county contracts to the school.

Flynn expected one of those contracts to generate about $9 million per year for the school. She also faces corruption charges, and her lawyers have stated that she “has not committed any crime.”

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The incidents reportedly took place in 2017 and 2018, when Ridley-Thomas was a member of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors.

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My colleague Frank Stoltze, our criminal justice correspondent, tells me that people he’s spoken to are “stunned” by the charges facing Ridley-Thomas:

“The indictment of Mark Ridley-Thomas is a body blow to L.A.’s Black community, where he has been a political icon for more than three decades. In the 1980s, Ridley-Thomas was outspoken in the protests against South African apartheid, and for the ouster of LAPD Chief Daryl Gates because of police brutality. As an elected leader, Ridley-Thomas fought for open spaces and was instrumental in transforming Martin Luther King, Jr. Hospital in South L.A. from a place known as “killer King” into a state-of-the-art facility. He is unique in that he has been a key player in protest politics, as well as in the exercise of power in office over multiple generations.”

Ridley-Thomas is the third current or former L.A. City Councilmember to face corruption charges in the past two years. Previously, José Huizar and Mitch Englander were both implicated in an FBI probe of corruption at City Hall.

We will continue to report on this story. Read LAist for more of this coverage (and we’ll keep you updated here, too).

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

What Else You Need To Know Today

  • An advisory predicts a 87% chance of La Niña conditions between December and February.
  • The Santa Ana winds are on their way back, and red flag warnings are in effect for parts of SoCal.
  • L.A. County Health Director Barbara Ferrer credits community and staff vaccinations and routine testing and mask wearing with reducing the number of COVID-19 cases at schools. 
  • The Alisal Fire near Santa Barbara has reached 16,000 acres, and strong winds could cause it to keep spreading rapidly. 
  • A panel of FDA advisers unanimously recommended that the agency authorize a booster dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Bruce's Beach was stolen from a Black family in California, before recently being returned. Here’s its history.

Weekend Reads

There's a lot going on in the world right now, and it’s hard enough to keep up with our day-to-day lives, let alone to stay current on the news. But if you have some time this weekend, here’s what you may have missed:

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Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a slew of bills, including a requirement for gender-neutral toy sections in some retail shops and a ban on removing condoms without consent. (CalMatters)

Before L.A. was the city it’s known as today, it was home to the Tongva people. (LAist)

Business owners at the U.S.-Mexico border celebrated its imminent reopening. (La Opinión)

Apprenticeships are becoming a more popular route to high-end chef positions. (LAist)

L.A. streets could soon see lower speed limits. Here’s what that change might look like. (LAist)

A state task force examined the migration of formerly enslaved Black people to California during the “Great Migration.” (L.A. Sentinel)

Did the wind steal a home run from the Dodgers in game 3? A physicist weighs in. (LAist)

Artist Mayuka Yamamoto examines the childlike desire for safety and protection in a new collection at an L.A. gallery. (Downtown News)

Before You Go ... This Weekend's Outdoor Pick: San Fernando Valley Audubon Bird Walk

a bird with a brown body and pale blue head sits on a branch
Take an easy hike while learning about birds at Malibu Creek State Park.
(dualdflipflop, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Learn about birding in Malibu Creek State Park during this weekend’s San Fernando Valley Audubon Bird Walk. The park has more than 8,000 acres of grass plains, oaks and peaks with great vistas and perching places for our feathered friends.

Or, you could: Attend a 24-hour horror movie marathon. Visit a pumpkin patch. Shop for native plants. Check out vegan Oktoberfest. Attend a Britney Spears Halloween dance party. Skate along with musician Payday. Nosh on Tijuana-style birria, tacos from Austin, dumplings, free chicken wings, free ice cream sammies and plant-based soft-serve. And more.

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