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Mark Ridley-Thomas' Pre-Indictment LA Political History

An image of Mark Ridley-Thomas with his finger pointed up.
Mark Ridley-Thomas
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Mark Ridley-Thomas was recently indicted on federal corruption charges. With a long history of L.A. politics, this isn’t the first time his name has made the news. This is Mark Ridley-Thomas' political background.

Mark Ridley-Thomas' Trajectory

Ridley-Thomas’ alma mater includes a bachelor’s degree in Social Relations and a master’s degree in Religious Studies from the Immaculate Heart College, and a Ph.D. in Social Ethics from the University of Southern California.

Ridley-Thomas’ trajectory spans since 1981 when he took over as the director of the late Martin Luther King Junior’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference Chapter in Los Angeles at age 26, where he stayed for a decade.

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More On Mark Ridley-Thomas
  • You can read more on the charges he’s facing with former dean of USC’s School of Social Work, Marilyn Louise Flynn, here. BTW, this indictment makes Ridley-Thomas the third current or former city councilmember to be indicted in two years.

As the director, Ridley-Thomas was active in fighting police abuse and pushed for the resignation of former LAPD Chief Daryl F. Gates, who was widely criticized over his department's response to the city's violent 1992 riots.

He has also been an advocate in the effort to end homelessness by seeking policy changes that provide shelter and end the inflow of homeless onto the streets through a ballot initiative called Measure H. He has also been appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom to co-chair the statewide task force on homelessness.

Mark Ridley-Thomas’ L.A. Roots 

He’s married to Avis Ridley-Thomas, co-director of the Institute for Nonviolence in Los Angeles, and father of Sebastian and Sinclair, two adult twin sons. Sebastian is a former state Assemblymember who has been accused of four allegations of sexual harassment in the wake of the #MeToo movement in late 2017. After resigning from the Assembly, he taught social work and public policy at USC, but later got fired.

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A life-long resident of Los Angeles, he’s among the most influential politicians in Southern California.

During the wake of the beating of Rodney King, Ridley-Thomas was first elected to public office in 1991 as the L.A. City Councilmember for District 8, which represents western South Los Angeles, where he served three terms until 2002.

Shortly after being elected, Ridley-Thomas created the Eighth District Empowerment Congress in response to the civil unrest caused by the riots that came after the Rodney King beating. Its goal was to promote civic engagement by allowing community members to have a seat at the table with their community officials so they could contribute to policy making.

In 2002, Ridley-Thomas went to Sacramento and served two terms representing parts of L.A. County in the California State Assembly, where he served for four years. He chaired the Jobs, Economic Development and Economy Committee, and chaired the Assembly Democratic Caucus.

In 2006, he joined the California State Senate, where he served for two years representing District 26, which spans areas of Redondo Beach, Santa Monica, West Hollywood and more. He chaired the Senate’s Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development. He also served as Chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus in 2008.

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His Time In The L.A. County Board Of Supervisors

Ridley-Thomas was a member of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors for 12 years, departing as Council President pro Tempore (in Latin, “for the time being”). He was elected in 2008 and reelected in 2012 and 2016. Federal prosecutors alleged that during his time as the L.A. County Supervisor, he backed county contracts and lucrative contract amendments while one of his non-identified relatives got substantial benefits from the USC in exchange.

Ridley-Thomas was instrumental in supporting the creation of the Office of the Inspector General and the Sheriff’s Civilian Oversight Commission, which had a mandate to promote transparency in law enforcement and restore public trust.

“Civilians must play a critical role in holding law enforcement to the highest standards of constitutional policing,” he said.

Amongst his accomplishments as a local leader includes supporting the opening of the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital and the construction of a public transit line connecting the L.A. County region to LAX while he served on the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

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In November 2020, Ridley-Thomas ran against challenger Grace Yoo for a seat in the L.A. City Council for District 10. His victory was a return to the L.A. City Council and his fourth four-year term. District 10 spans areas of central and South Los Angeles, including the neighborhoods of Koreatown, Wilshire Center, Leimert Park, and Baldwin Hills. In the district, African-Americans make up the largest percentage of registered voters.

He currently serves as Chair for the Council Homelessness and Poverty Committee on City Council.

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