Celebrity Backlash – LAist

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The backstory: There’s a long history of celebrities lending their voices to bigger causes.
The risk vs the reward: Artists, a publicist said, are “supposed to show emotion … That’s the whole point of art.” He preferred not to be identified.
Alyssa Milano first became an activist more than 30 years ago. But she tells the story of her eureka moment like it was yesterday.
In the late 1980s, when she starred in the sitcom Who’s the Boss?, one of her fans was a teenager named Ryan White who was HIV positive. The two became friends.
“He asked me if I would go on TV and give him a kiss to show that you couldn’t get AIDS from casual contact,” Milano recalls. She agreed and kissed White on Phil Donahue’s national talk show.
“It was the first time I felt that my being an actor, being on TV, had a purpose that was bigger than I was,” she says.
Since then she’s championed a number of causes including reproductive rights, gun reform and the #MeToo movement. Over time, she learned the good and bad of having both a high profile and a sense of purpose.
After Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, Milano, a UNICEF National Ambassador, used her social media platform to share the NGO’s messages.
She says the backlash was swift. “I felt like every time I posted from this place of peace, I was either a terrorist sympathizer or I did not fight strong enough for the oppression of the Palestinian people,” Milano explains. She says, while social media is a powerful tool for activism, “There’s no way to not be exposed to the vitriol” you get in return.

Oscar winning actor and Thelma & Louise star Susan Sarandon describes her lifelong activism as something that’s ingrained in her being.
“It’s a personality flaw,” she laughs, “I mean, when I was little, I thought that my dolls all came alive at midnight and I rotated their dresses so one doll didn’t have all the nice dresses all the time. Anything that’s unfair always really hurt me.”
Sarandon has been voicing her support for Palestinians for many years, so she says she was “shocked” when she was dropped by United Talent Agency (UTA) for a speech she gave at a rally calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.
She says her words were taken out of context. Nonetheless she issued a statement on social media apologizing if she offended anyone. UTA declined NPR’s request for comment.
Sarandon says, while the “isolation from my tribe” has been “painful,” she will continue lending her voice to calls for a ceasefire.
Sarandon recently attended a protest calling for a ceasefire on Capitol Hill organized by CODEPINK. The feminist group alerted the press she was coming. NBC, Al Jazeera and other outlets showed up. CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin says Sarandon’s presence was a game changer.
“We’ve been walking these halls for three months and nobody pays attention to us, especially the Congress people. But having her with us brings out the media and we get the Congress people themselves,” she gushes.
Not all of the Congress people. Sarandon met with Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Cori Bush. But Ritchie Torres refused to see her. Sarandon told reporters she suspected that’s because he receives money from the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC. On social media, Torres said Sarandon trafficked in “anti-Semitic victim blaming.”
Despite the harsh repercussions that can result, some artists are still using their star power to call for a ceasefire. Fans of Euphoria actor Hunter Schafer learned that she and dozens of anti-war protestors were arrested earlier this week in the lobby of NBC’s headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, timed to President Biden’s interview on Late Night with Seth Meyers.
A post shared by Jewish Voice for Peace (@jewishvoiceforpeace)
Schafer’s arrest was covered by numerous media outlets including Associated Press, USA Today and The Los Angeles Times, amplifying the ceasefire message.

Will and Grace star Debra Messing is one of a number of celebrities who’ve been outspoken in their support of Israel. Others include actors Michael Rapaport and Amy Schumer.
At the March for Israel rally in Washington, D.C., last November, Messing told the crowd of some 300,000 people, “We will pray for the success of the IDF in a war Israel did not start and did not want but a war Israel will win.”
Messing also traveled to Israel and met with family members of hostages held by Hamas and posted videos of those visits on social media. She visited a tunnel built by Hamas.
Her trip was coordinated by Creative Community for Peace (CCFP) an organization working to “promote the arts as a bridge to peace” and “educate about rising antisemitism within the entertainment industry.” The trips to Israel are intended to help artists “bear witness to what happened in the kibbutzim to meet people and survivors of the attack,” says CCFP’s executive director Ari Ingel.
While many people on social media thanked Messing for sharing stories about the hostages and their families, she was also called out for only talking about one side of the conflict and not addressing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza or the tens of thousands of Palestinians who’ve been killed by Israeli forces.
“Something about standing with a colonial force that is expelling people from their homes and killing thousands of civilians doesn’t exactly say ‘activist,'” reads one comment on Messing’s Instagram.
Ingel says more than 2,000 artists and industry leaders signed CCFP’s open letter in support of Israel, including Gal Gadot, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jerry Seinfeld, Mayim Bialik, Chris Pine and Michael Douglas.
The letter calls for the “entertainment community to speak out forcefully against Hamas, to support Israel, to refrain from sharing misinformation about the war, and do whatever is in their power to urge the terrorist organization to return the innocent hostages to their families.”
Ingel says celebrities who’ve spoken up in support of Israel have faced “condemnation.” He points to a protest outside a Syracuse theater where Seinfeld performed. Equally troubling, he says, was the “silence” from individuals and organizations after the Hamas attacks. He points to the Writers Guild of America waiting more than two weeks to comment on the atrocity.
“I think a lot of Jews in the entertainment community felt abandoned, not just by their silence, but by their condemnation,” says Ingel.

At the storied March on Washington in 1963, the late activist and entertainer Harry Belafonte told the crowd that he believed artists “revealed” society to itself. Sometimes that means revealing things that are hard to hear.
Jane Fonda has done that often throughout her life. In 1973, speaking to KQED about the Vietnam War she asked, “What business have we to try and exterminate a people?” Fonda was insistent, “My father fought against people in the second World War who were trying to exterminate a people. I don’t think today we should repudiate everything that our fathers fought against.”
Fonda was widely criticized for things she said about U.S. troops in Vietnam. But her antiwar stance resonated with millions of people.
“We often see celebrities getting a lot of backlash for their activism when they speak out about foreign policy,” says Sarah King, an assistant professor of History at the University of South Carolina-Aiken who has studied celebrity activism during the Vietnam War.
The backlash appears to be especially degrading toward women, says King. She notes that Fonda’s activism was described more harshly than her fellow actor Donald Sutherland’s.
“He is discussed as taking a stand, whereas Jane Fonda is described in much more negative terms,” King notes. “Nag, Nag, Nag” read the headline of a 1971 Life magazine article.

“We live in a time … where celebrity voices matter more than most,” says Rania Batrice who spearheaded the Artists4Ceasfire letter addressed to President Biden and signed by more than 300 people including Jon Stewart, Jordan Peele, Bella Hadid, Dua Lipa, Jennifer Lopez and Bradley Cooper.
Calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, the letter cites the tens of thousands of dead and injured, “numbers that any person of conscience knows are catastrophic,” it says. “We believe all life is sacred, no matter faith or ethnicity and we condemn the killing of Palestinian and Israeli civilians.”
Batrice says many of the artists were discouraged from signing the letter by their agents or publicists, and those who did faced pushback from friends and others in the entertainment industry.
Still, Batrice believes if they have a platform, they should use it to help those who need it.
“I sort of have this expectation that people will step up and utilize their privilege,” Batrice says, “I also am incredibly grateful for those artists who stepped up despite having all of these voices in their ears telling them not to do it.”
Actor Melissa Barrera has vowed to continue her activism. She was fired from the cast of the next Scream movie when she posted pro-Palestinian messages on social media. But instead of retreating, she doubled-down. She issued a statement that said she condemned “Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia” and that she would, quote, “continue to speak out for those that need it most.” She joined a protest calling for a ceasefire at the Sundance Film Festival and expressed no regrets.
“Honestly I feel like I finally am becoming who I’m supposed to be in life and the last few months have been awakening of that,” she told the Associated Press.
Artists, a publicist told me, are “supposed to show emotion … That’s the whole point of art.” He preferred not to be identified.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit npr.org.

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Why it matters: There’s a common misperception that all immigrants from Latin America speak Spanish as their first language, but that’s not the case. It’s estimated that around 17 Indigenous languages from Latin America are spoken by Indigenous migrants in L.A. County.
The backstory: Indigenous migrants from Latin America face challenges in health care, educational, and other settings due to a lack of understanding of their language diversity; many are presumed to be fluent in Spanish. This population is often overlooked and discriminated against, not only in Latin America, but within Latino communities in the United States.
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A new billboard campaign in Los Angeles highlights Indigenous migrants from Latin America, along with the many Indigenous languages they speak. Both have long been overlooked by local institutions, even within Latino communities.
The eight billboards, unveiled this week by a local Indigenous advocacy non-profit, feature portraits of people from Indigenous migrant communities in L.A. with messages with that read “I speak Mixe” or “I speak Zapoteco.”
“Usually when people think about Latinidad, they think that people automatically speak Spanish,” said Janet Martinez, co-founder of Comunidades Indigenas en Liderazgo, known as CIELO.
But that’s not the case. Martinez said her organization, which advocates for Indigenous language and other rights and provides interpreters for courts, hospitals and schools, has identified around 17 different Indigenous languages from Latin America that are spoken locally.
She said one major purpose of the campaign is to change that misperception, and raise awareness of L.A.’s Latin American language diversity among local institutions and service providers.
“It’s really a campaign to bridge the gap that a lot of service providers have when it comes to knowing that maybe people that are identified as, or categorized as Latino, that they also speak another language,” Martinez said.
That, and to recognize and make visible a population that’s often overlooked and discriminated against, even within Latino communities.

This came to the forefront in the fall of 2022, when leaked audio emerged of three Los Angeles City Council members, all of them Latino, engaging in racist and anti-Indigenous banter that, among other things, belittled Indigenous Mexicans from Oaxaca.
The news angered L.A.’s Indigenous Mexican and Central American communities. Some also hoped it would become a teachable moment that could lead to real change — like better representation of Indigenous Latin American communities in local institutions, and better in-language services in health care, educational and government settings.
There has been some movement in the right direction, said Gaspar Rivera-Salgado, a UCLA sociologist who directs the school’s Center for Mexican Studies.
“There are many different areas that we still need to grapple with, but at the very least, we’re having this conversation,” said Rivera-Salgado, who identifies as Mixtec from Oaxaca. “I think the Indigenous migrant community is even more active and more assertive, and I think that’s a good sign.”
The billboard campaign coincides with the recent re-introduction of a California bill that seeks to collect disaggregated Latin American Indigenous health data. Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a similar bill last year.
“Currently, there is no option to recognize this demographic that is often lumped with … Latino data, but who do not identify as Latino ,” said Mar Velez, policy director with the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, which backs the proposal.
Janet Martinez with CIELO said she’s seen more of a willingness at the local level to include Indigenous migrant communities, but that there is much more work to do, especially in terms of language equity.
“I think we definitely need to kind of bridge that education gap and have hospitals or different services understand the communities that they serve, in order to provide interpretation services that they need,” said Martinez, who identifies as Zapotec and is the daughter of Mexican-born parents from Oaxaca.
To that end, the billboards are placed strategically, she said; each is in a neighborhood where the Indigenous language and identity on that particular billboard represents residents in the surrounding community.
The billboards are set to remain up through April 21.

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The backstory: The report looks at one of the city’s most controversial laws, a rule known as 41.18 zones. Under changes approved in 2021, council members can designate areas in their district where unhoused people cannot sit, lie down, sleep, or keep belongings on sidewalks or other public areas. People are supposed to receive advanced warning and help finding shelter before encampments are cleared.
What’s happened since: The final report obtained by LAist finds that 41.18 failed to keep the vast majority of its areas clear of encampments and was “generally ineffective” at helping people get into housing.

This is a developing story, check back for updates.
L.A. city officials have for months kept from the public a damning report, ordered by the council, that found a major homelessness enforcement policy championed by several council members has failed in key goals to keep areas clear of encampments and get people housed.
The report looks at one of the city’s most controversial enforcement laws, a rule known as 41.18 zones. Under changes approved in 2021, council members can designate areas in their district where unhoused people cannot sit, lie down, sleep, or keep belongings on sidewalks or other public areas. People are supposed to receive advanced warning and get help finding shelter before encampments are cleared.
The camping ban was viewed by some council members and housing activists as a cruel crackdown that criminalized poverty and put public spaces off limits for people unable to access shelter that’s in short supply. Supporters cheered the change as a step to make schools and other places safer by removing encampments and argued that shelter beds are available.
Nearly a year ago, council members unanimously ordered a report assessing whether 41.18 was working as intended.
The answer: No.
That’s the conclusion of officials at the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority who analyzed the data in a report sent to the council’s legislative analyst in November. That report was not shared with Councilmember Nithya Raman, who chairs the housing and homelessness committee, until this week. And its findings have not been reported publicly until now.
The report, obtained by LAist from a person with access to the document and verified by others with knowledge of it, found that 41.18 failed to keep the vast majority of its areas clear of encampments and was “generally ineffective” at helping people get into housing.
A spokesperson for Raman said the council member first received a copy of the November report on Wednesday.
“Our team is still going through the data and is not prepared to comment at this time,” Raman’s spokesperson, Stella Stahl, said in a statement.
The other council members contacted by LAist did not immediately respond.

The analysis by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) looked at 41.18 operations from December 2021 to November 2023, totaling 174 encampment clear-outs.
Among the report’s key findings, the vast majority of encampments came back:
For example, at Venice Boulevard and Tuller Avenue, the data show an encampment of 54 people before the operation. Among them, 52 people wanted shelter — but only two people got it, according to the data.
And after the 41.18 operation, 122 people came back at various points, the data show.
“In general, the framework of 41.18 falls short of more effective encampment resolution efforts, such as Inside Safe or other Encampment-to-Home initiatives,” states the report, dated Nov. 28. Inside Safe expands bed capacity so everyone at a particular encampment being cleared has a place to come indoors.
The encampment clearings also can disrupt people’s ability to get shelter, the report adds.
Unhoused people “may move away from the location and providers may lose contact after clients are displaced,” the report states. “Clients may also become distrustful of providers and refuse services after being forced to move from their current location. Encampment clearings can lead to a loss of ID and documentation that are crucial for ongoing services and eventual housing.”
Current and former homelessness officials told LAist the report’s findings underscore that the shortage of shelter and housing is driving the homelessness crisis, and unless that’s dealt with, encampments will keep coming back.

The effectiveness report has been kept under wraps from the public for months, until now. One person familiar with the report said there was widespread anxiety and fear about releasing the findings due to concerns it would highlight a lack of progress addressing homelessness.
The report was ordered by the council on April 12 last year after public pressure on the council to study whether 41.18 is working.
The report was required to be provided to the council within 60 days, by mid-June.
How did we get here? Who’s in charge of what? And where can people get help?
It ended up taking 230 days.
It was five months late when LAHSA sent it to the council’s legislative analyst, Sharon Tso, in late November.
But the report wasn’t made public under the online council agenda file for this item, where these kind of report-backs usually go. LAist reviewed the website on Friday, and it wasn’t there.
Efforts to keep it hidden have reportedly sparked an uproar within city hall.

An analysis released last fall by L.A. City Controller Kenneth Mejia’s office found a wide disparity in how much 41.18 enforcement council members were doing in their districts.
At the top of the list was Councilmember John Lee, who is running for reelection in District 12. Nearly half the 2023 arrests through mid-September were in Lee’s northwest San Fernando Valley district, while it had one the smallest unsheltered populations.
His district had 836 arrests, which is more than three times as many as the second-highest district, Council District 1, represented by Eunisses Hernandez.

In October, activists with one of L.A.’s leading unhoused advocacy groups filed a written comment with the council wondering why the report was taking so long.
“While this report back is well over 100 days past due, we hope that the City will present their findings soon,” wrote Adam Smith of the LA Community Action Network.
He asked for a special public City Council hearing about the report when it’s turned in.
“Our request,” Smith wrote, “is rooted in a long-standing City Hall precedent for holding hearings that include presentation of data by stakeholders impacted directly by City policy.”

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The backstory: In a letter to the board of supervisors earlier this week, the Los Angeles County CEO’s Office said shifting that revenue away from mental health services would affect several services offered by the county Department of Mental Health, including the psychiatric mobile response teams and other parts of its crisis care system.
Why it matters: Law enforcement interactions with people in the midst of a mental-health crisis often have violent or deadly outcomes. Of the 34 people Los Angeles police officers shot at last year, 12 had a perceived mental illness, according to department data.
What’s next: Voters will decide Prop. 1 on March 5. A new poll from UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies found Prop. 1 supporters outnumbering opponents 50% to 34%, with 16% undecided.
As voters prepare to decide the fate of Proposition 1 — which could bring big changes to mental health funding in California — some L.A. County authorities worry the measure would pull money away from existing services, like the teams of health professionals who respond to crisis situations instead of police.
In a letter to the board of supervisors earlier this week, the Los Angeles County CEO’s Office acknowledged the potential benefits of Prop. 1 if it passes, including funding for more treatment beds — the lack of which is a perennial problem.
But the letter also points to a couple of challenges. One, it says, is that Prop. 1 could limit local control of money from a key source: the Mental Health Services Act, also known as the “Millionaire Tax.”
The CEO’s office said shifting that revenue away from mental health services would affect several services offered by the county Department of Mental Health, including the psychiatric mobile response teams and other parts of its crisis care system.
How to evaluate judges

Head to LAist’s Voter Game Plan for guides to the rest of your ballot including:

The letter reads, in part: “The provisions of Proposition 1 that restrict the County’s flexibility and local control over one of its biggest and most flexible funding streams … would make it more difficult for the County to continue meeting both the mental health needs of the rest of the County’s residents and the State mandated requirements to ensure access to care.”

State and local authorities, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, have said Prop. 1 would constitute the first major change in California’s approach to mental health in decades. It would create more than $6 billion in bonds to fund treatment beds and housing.
But one of the biggest changes the proposition would require is that counties spend 30% of Mental Health Services Act dollars—- the funding that comes from the state’s 1% surtax on personal incomes above $1 million — on housing programs. That would mean there could be less money from that particular funding source for several services the county already provides, including:
In the Feb. 26 letter, county CEO Fesia Davenport noted that the Department of Mental Health “does not have an ongoing revenue source to replace this loss” of Mental Health Services Act funding. Her office also says losing access to some of that funding would make it “challenging” for the department to increase staffing and lower caseloads.
According to county authorities, Millionaire Tax dollars are the biggest contributor to the county’s alternative crisis budget, which includes the mobile crisis teams, at more than $120 million last year.
“Of course it’s a concern we have, we have some work to do,” Kalene Gilbert, the department’s Mental Health Services Act coordinator, told LAist.
The county has not taken an official position on Prop. 1, and officials have said they would work to find other sources of funding if it passes so that services are not cut.
Gilbert said the Department of Mental Health would have to figure out a way to continue those services. She also noted that the county would have until at least 2026 before some of the funding changes set in.

The inclusion of Prop. 1 on the March 5 ballot comes at a time when L.A. County is struggling to build out its mobile mental health crisis response system, a service local leaders say they want to expand.
When someone in the community is experiencing a mental-health crisis, a two-person team of clinicians can be deployed to the scene, where they try to intervene and de-escalate the situation.
The program launched in 2000 and consisted of 33 teams as of last summer, according to the county. The county has said more than 23 “entities” send referrals to the psychiatric mobile response team program “making it a critical source of care and response.” The teams served more than 20,000 clients in fiscal year 2020 alone, according to a department fact sheet.
Law enforcement interactions with people in the midst of a mental health crisis often have violent or deadly outcomes. Of the 34 people Los Angeles police officers shot at last year, 12 had a perceived mental illness, according to department data.
County sheriff’s officials reported 13 shootings by deputies in 2023 that resulted in injury or fatality, according to data posted on the department’s website. At least one of those shootings, in March of last year, involved a 47-year-old man in Altadena who was reported to be experiencing a mental health crisis. It was not immediately clear how many other incidents involved someone with behavioral health issues.
County leaders, families living with mental illness and mental health advocates have long called for ramping up the unarmed response system. But people who have made requests for a mobile team response during a psychiatric emergency have reported having to wait hours — in some cases all day.
That’s a problem that could be exacerbated if funding is diverted elsewhere. But county officials say they will adjust as needed.
Connie Draxler, acting chief deputy director for the county Department of Mental Health, told L.A. County’s Mental Health Commission last month that this isn’t the first time the agency has braced for a potential loss of funding.
“This isn’t the first time the department has faced adversity, and fortunately we can plan for it a little bit,” Draxler said. “And I think we will do our best to ensure that there is not a dramatic change in services or any reduction in services.”

While Prop. 1 has gained wide-ranging support from local leaders, including L.A. Mayor Karen Bass and county Sheriff Robert Luna, the board of supervisors has not taken an official stance.
The county CEO’s letter outlines other possible funding difficulties if Prop. 1 passes. Specifically, it says the measure would create an “unclear revenue outlook” as the county works to expand certain services and meet state requirements.
For example, Davenport asserts in the letter that the burden of sustaining funding for substance-use treatment facilities could fall on the county if the state doesn’t provide continued funding later. She also says the measure could affect L.A. County’s ability to draw matching funds from Medicaid.
It’s unclear, according to Davenport’s letter, how bond money would be allocated to the counties to support housing initiatives.
But the CEO also acknowledges that Prop. 1 could “expand the county’s ability to provide access to community-based treatment” for people with behavioral health conditions” including those experiencing homelessness, veterans and people with serious mental illness or substance-use disorder.
Mark Gale, criminal justice chair for the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Greater L.A. County, said the thousands of treatment beds that are promised if Prop. 1 passes are “incredibly important,” even if the measure isn’t perfect.
“We’ve been screaming for more beds and more funding for years [and] Proposition 1 is the best chance — maybe the last best chance — we have of completing California’s mental health system and finally providing a full continuum of care for the mental health population,” he said.
A new poll from UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies found Prop 1 supporters outnumbering opponents 50% to 34%, with 16% undecided.

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Why it matters: All voters in Los Angeles County can cast their ballots at the Connie Norman Transgender Empowerment Center through primary election day on Tuesday, March 5. But the transgender and nonbinary community is invited to do their civic duty and make their voices heard.
Why now: “In a time when our trans and nonbinary siblings are having to face elements of erasure with legislation, it’s important that we speak up,” said Queen Chela Demuir, the founder of the Unique Woman’s Coalition and the international vice president of FLUX. “It’s important for us to go to the polls, go to the voting places, and cast those votes against those legislations that want to bind us, and prevent us from being who we are.”
Go deeper: …to learn more about the new vote center making history.
The nation’s first ever vote center in a transgender support space will open in West Hollywood on Saturday.
All voters in Los Angeles County can cast their ballots at the Connie Norman Transgender Empowerment Center through primary election day on Tuesday, March 5. But the transgender and nonbinary community is invited to do their civic duty and make their voices heard.
“By providing a safe and affirming space for the transgender community to exercise their fundamental right to vote, we are breaking down barriers and ensuring every Californian has equal access to the ballot box,” Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis said at a news conference Thursday.

Queen Chela Demuir, the founder of the Unique Woman’s Coalition and the international vice president of FLUX, told LAist that it’s important for all Americans to have an opportunity to cast their vote in a place where they feel free and comforted.
“In a time when our trans and nonbinary siblings are having to face elements of erasure with legislation, it’s important that we speak up,” she said. “It’s important for us to go to the polls, go to the voting places, and cast those votes against those legislations that want to bind us, and prevent us from being who we are.”
More than 500 anti-trans bills have been introduced across 41 states this year alone, according to the Trans Legislation Tracker.
Demuir noted that some people may not be able to update their identification records, which can cause discomfort and anxiety when they go to cast their ballots.
Many may choose to mail them in instead, which she said can make people feel like they’re missing part of the energy and excitement that comes along with voting.
The Connie Norman Center will be hosting a special Super Tuesday celebration from noon to 7 p.m. for the public.

Demuir said she wants the new vote center to inspire other transgender and nonbinary spaces across the country to follow in their footsteps.
“I’m a firm believer in, if you could see it, then you can achieve it,” she said. “I think that every generation should always move the needle, move the marker, beyond where it was.”
The center is named after the late Connie Norman, nicknamed the “AIDS Diva,” who moved the needle in her own right. Norman was the first gay rights activist to host a daily talk show tackling LGBTQ+ issues, racism, and poverty on an L.A. area commercial station in the early 1990s.
Norman died in 1996 from complications of AIDS. She was 47.
Decades later, the Connie Norman Transgender Empowerment Center opened in her honor as a project from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, FLUX, and the Unique Woman’s Coalition, as a way to empower the next generation.
Now, Demuir is hoping the center will one day be a place where transgender and nonbinary candidates can cast their vote for the city, county, and the district they’re running to represent.

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When does it take effect: The restrictions and enforcement will be relaxed as long as the polling site is open on Election Day — March 5 — and on all other days the voting center is open.
What are the exemptions: Parking time limits will not be enforced, neither will parking meters or street sweeping restrictions.
Red, yellow, disabled zone rules still apply. People will also still have to obey “No Parking Anytime” and “No Stopping Anytime” signs.

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Frank’s social calendar pick: L.A. may not be the first place you think of when it comes to late-night spots. Non-club establishments that are open past midnight are rare because work and nightlife culture is transforming, he says. But what about the night owls! (I agree with Frank.)
Some of these K-Town spots are open until 2 a.m. and serve bites and coffee till then. These are great settings for a late-night hangout, a sobering night recap or just a study/work session. Here are the cafés Frank highlighted that bring good vibes:

Listen to the episode: Listen to the latest How To LA podcast episode to learn about what events Brian and Antonia are checking out this month.

Welcome to March, y’all.
Wondering how to fill your calendar this month? Consider a late-night coffee date in K-Town, a trip to the Pantages Theater in Hollywood, or start exploring your green thumb with some pre-spring gardening.
We were joined by L.A. Times columnist and longtime Angeleno Frank Shyong, who documents diasporas, culture and politics in the city. He’s also a food enthusiast with great restaurant and street vendor recommendations; check out his Insta.

We love L.A. But there’s a lot to choose from when it comes to happenings. Every month, Imperfect Paradise host Antonia Cereijido and I share a slice of our L.A. for our segment “Social Calendar.”
We hope you’re inspired to do something new or revisit a place! Enjoy.
While we’re on the food topic here, Frank notes there are two different ways we should think about food: eating vs. dining. Eating is needed substance without the fancy — a simple sandwich from the corner store or a street taco. And when you dine, you expect an experience that’s somewhat elevated.
Frank confesses there’s a lot more “eating” in his life nowadays. One reason is he spent too much money eating in nice restaurants when he was in his 20s. The other reason is because its fun. What I like about food is “how it connected me to interesting stories, interesting experiences,” he says.
And so, almost naturally, his pitch for your social calendar is all about eating and hitting up a late-night café in Koreatown.

L.A. may not be the first place you think of when it comes to late-night spots. Non-club establishments that are open past midnight are rare because work and nightlife culture is transforming, he says. But what about the night owls! (I agree with Frank.)
Some of these K-Town spots are open until 2 a.m. and serve bites and coffee. These are great settings for a late-night hangout, a sobering night recap or just a study/work session. Here are the cafés Frank highlighted that bring good vibes:

I recently went to a showing of The Wiz at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood and I wish I had gone sooner. There are two factors here: the musical and the venue.
The Wiz a production that has been around since the early 70s, brings a modern twist to The Wizard of Oz with an all-Black cast. Dorothy is played by Nichelle Lewis, singer Deborah Cox does a great Glinda and Wayne Brady is the wizard. The drama, dancing, music, costumes all shine brightly on stage and it all took me back to warm, fuzzy childhood memories. The last show is March 3, but Chicago is coming to town next.
Fun fact: the art deco Pantages Theater used to be a movie theater, so that’s why you might find the seating or acoustics… interesting. Just getting to that busy Hollywood corridor can be daunting, but once you’re parked (or off public transportation) it’s a spectacular building to be in.
I suggest you get there early, grab a coffee or drink on Hollywood Boulevard, take a stroll down the block and check out some stores like Amoeba Records or the whimsical Funko Pop store. And don’t forget to take some cute pics in front of the Pantages marquee.

It’s been raining lately, and it makes many of us pout. But the water has helped Antonia plot her garden in her backyard.
I love Antonia’s pick because it’s something you can do (mostly) anywhere — whether you’re a renter or a homeowner. Start exploring your green thumb on a budget.
Gardening can be an expensive hobby so Antonia has learned some DIY tactics to help:

Let us know what’s on your social calendar and drop us a note. We’d love to read your suggestions on the podcast: [email protected]

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Why it matters: The California State Library Parks Pass program has received a $16.5 million investment from the state to date and was created to increase outdoor access for Californians.
Since the program’s inception, the Los Angeles County Library has loaned almost 10,000 passes.
What’s next: Should the parks program be eliminated, the CA Department of State Parks intends to explore potential partnerships to continue making free park passes available.
For nearly three years, thousands of people have been able to visit California state parks for free by checking out a pass at their public library. Under the new proposed state budget, though, the program could vanish.
When it began in 2022, parks officials said six out of 10 Californians lived in areas with less than three acres of parks or open space per 1,000 residents. The California State Library Parks Pass was meant to lower the barriers for urban residents who want to visit the state’s vast network of parks.
It has since proved to be popular. The Los Angeles County Library system alone has loaned out almost 10,000 passes. In Orange County, libraries loaned out nearly 10,000 passes just last year.
But with Gov. Gavin Newsom facing a yawning deficit, his proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2024-25, which begins July 1, eliminates the three-year pilot program, which has so far received $16.5 million from the state.

According to the California State Parks Foundation, more than 63% of survey respondents who checked out the pass identified as Black, Indigenous, or people of color. Nearly 70% of the respondents also indicated that they have a household income level of less than $60,000.
“It is introducing a whole new generation and new communities of folks to this incredible state park system that we have in California,” said Rachel Norton, executive director of the California State Parks Foundation.
Surveys conducted by the foundation found that the primary barrier preventing people from visiting state parks is cost. After using the library pass, people were also more likely to go back to the parks, Norton said.
Park entrance fees at California state parks vary but can reach up to $15 per car. The entrance fee to McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park, for instance, is $8, while Malibu Creek State Park is $12.
Should the parks program be eliminated in the final budget, state officials have said they intend to explore potential partnerships to continue making free park passes available.
A spokesperson for California Department of State Parks also said new funding for the California State Park Adventure Pass program is proposed in the education budget.
That free annual pass, however, is only for families with children in the fourth grade.

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Details: CVS will start filling prescriptions for mifepristone in Massachusetts and Rhode Island in the weeks ahead, with eventual plans to expand to other states where the drug is legal on a rolling basis, according to a CVS spokeswoman. Walgreens will begin dispensing the pill at some of its stores in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, California and Illinois within a week, a spokesman for the company said.
The backstory: Last year, the FDA passed a rule that allows pharmacies to fill prescriptions for abortion pills. Before this rule change was finalized, pregnant people had to get the drug straight from their doctors or by mail via telehealth consultations. Mifepristone remains at the center of an ongoing legal battle between anti-abortion activists and the FDA. Anti-abortion rights groups sued the agency in 2022 over the approval of mifepristone — a drug that had been in use for more than 20 years.
CVS and Walgreens, two of the country’s largest retail pharmacies, received federal certification to begin dispensing mifepristone, one of two drugs used in medication abortions, in states where it is legal to do so, the companies separately confirmed to NPR.
CVS will start filling prescriptions for mifepristone in Massachusetts and Rhode Island in the weeks ahead, with eventual plans to expand to other states where the drug is legal on a rolling basis, according to a CVS spokeswoman.
Walgreens will begin dispensing the pill at some of its stores in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, California and Illinois within a week, a spokesman for the company said.
“We are beginning a phased rollout in select locations to allow us to ensure quality, safety, and privacy for our patients, providers, and team members,” the Walgreens statement read.

The two pharmacies received certification from the Food and Drug Administration to fill prescriptions and dispense the commonly used pill, expanding access to abortion at a time when many states are further restricting a path to the procedure.

Last year, the FDA passed a rule that allows pharmacies to fill prescriptions for abortion pills. Before this rule change was finalized, pregnant people had to get the drug straight from their doctors or by mail via telehealth consultations.
Mifepristone remains at the center of an ongoing legal battle between anti-abortion activists and the FDA. Anti-abortion rights groups sued the agency in 2022 over the approval of mifepristone — a drug that had been in use for more than 20 years.
A federal judge ruled against the abortion pill last year. But, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear this case later this month.
President Biden called the move to certify the sale by the two major pharmacies “an important milestone in ensuring access to mifepristone.”
He said in a statement, “I encourage all pharmacies that want to pursue this option to seek certification.”

LAist is part of Southern California Public Radio, a member-supported public media network.

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