The LA Riots 20 Years Ago: Where Were You?


That was one of the first questions I was asked by Dr. Fernando Guerra, the Director of the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University, during the Center's Urban Lecture Series that took place recently. On April 29, 1992, I was sitting in the United States Attorney's office in Los Angeles reviewing details of a number of existing cases when a call came in about the potential for violence in our City's streets. Employees in the U.S. Attorney's office, housed in the Federal Courthouse downtown, were released early that day. There were a few prosecutors that remained in the office into the evening, only to find the building under attack by rioters that night.

Like so many of you, I watched the images on television in disbelief while responding to concerned calls from friends and family around the country. The riots claimed more than 50 lives, 2,000 suffered injuries,1,100 buildings were damaged, over 3,000 fires were set, stores' shelves were looted completely bare, and property damage estimates exceeded $1 billion.

While we all remember where we were during the 1992 L.A. riots, on this day 20 years later I believe it is important to look at where we have come as a City.

While a recent poll published by the Center for the Study of Los Angeles found that many L.A. residents believe the City is safer and believe the City has better race relations than in 1992, sadly the City's economic situation is surprisingly similar to what we faced in 1992. According to a recent L.A. Weekly report, the California Economic Development Department ("CEDD") painted a bleak picture of L.A.'s 1992 "labor market as 'experiencing one of the most severe recessions of the postwar era.'" The Weekly reported that the CEDD found that between April 1991 and April 1992, 108,000 local jobs vanished and that "Black and Latino communities were hard hit, with a combined 29.7 percent in poverty and more than 13 percent unemployed."

The same news report states that "in the Los Angeles area, unemployment for Latinos and Blacks is worse than in 1992. In 2010, 13.4 percent of Latinos and 19.5 percent of African-Americans were without work." The City's 2012 reported overall unemployment rate sits at 13.3 percent. The Los Angeles Business Journal recently reported that the Los Angeles area has lost 400,000 jobs since December 2007.

While the survey from the Center for the Study of Los Angeles provides reasons for optimism, Los Angeles is undoubtedly experiencing a decade of decline. Urban Development professor Joel Kotkin writing in the Wall Street Journal correctly placed significant blame squarely in the laps of current City leadership.

The entire nation knows that L.A. has been mismanaged. I am running against the City's managers. We face a jobs crisis, budget crisis, infrastructure crisis, public education crisis, and transportation crisis. Public safety challenges will emerge due to the State's prison realignment legislation; add the culture of corruption and the desperate need for City Hall reform could not be more pronounced.

Los Angeles can get back on track -- citywide. The entertainment industry is still headquartered here. We have prestigious universities, the best health care facilities, and the Port of L.A. We remain the most diverse City in the country, with a world class workforce and unmatched talent in technology. We need new leadership in City Hall.
Join me in making L.A. great again!

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