Palmdale councilmember Steve Hofbauer on Wednesday joined regional leaders and a number of the top names in education, business and government from throughout Southern California in Downtown Los Angeles to discuss tangible steps moving forward in the ongoing War on Poverty.
Hosted by the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) and the Southern California Leadership Council (SCLC), the summit’s goal was to raise awareness, develop a broad coalition of stakeholders to help find solutions, to identify specific actions needed to move people out of poverty and into the workforce, and to come up with specific ways for attendees to get involved in serving the less fortunate.
Guest speakers included Connie Rice, co-founder and director of the Advancement Project, and former California Governor Gray Davis.
The SCLC is a public policy partnership created in 2005 to unite business and community leaders from throughout the region into an effective leadership organization. Three former California governors and two dozen local business leaders serve on the panel.
“It was 50 years ago that Congress passed the Economic Opportunity Act, and yet poverty remains a national, regional and local crisis,” Hofbauer said. “Today in Southern California, more than 3 million people live in poverty, including one in every four children.”
Carl Morehouse, SCAG president and a councilman in Ventura, said the summit allowed stakeholders in the areas of education, business, government and the non-profit sector the opportunity to find common ground in the War on Poverty.
“Job creation has been and remains our biggest weapon when it comes to defeating poverty at the local and regional level,” Morehouse said. “But that doesn’t simply happen. It takes a serious commitment to workforce development and training at all levels. We need to think strategically. We need to think big.”
The summit included workshops and panels on the relationship of poverty and workforce development, identifying and maximizing the region’s growth industries, and best approaches for moving people from poverty to prosperity.
Updated research by SCAG demonstrates a “loss of ground” on attaining socio-economic prosperity by impoverished residents of Los Angeles County. According to a panel of economists convened by SCAG last year, the number of people living below the poverty line in the six-county region grew from less than 1.9 million in 1990 to more than 3.2 million in 2012. Among children, the rates of poverty range from 17.7 percent in Ventura County to 32.8 percent in Imperial County. Nationwide, 15 percent of people live below the poverty line, but according to the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, true “market poverty”—reflecting what the poverty rate would be without any tax credits or other benefits—has actually risen from 27 percent to 28.7 percent during the past 50 years.
“Time has shown that we can’t simply throw money at the problem,” said Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of SCAG. “We need to come up with real solutions that allow people to move from dependency to self-sufficiency, and that starts with jobs.”
For a more extensive review of the War on Poverty, please see the cover story of the May 22 edition of Our Weekly entitled “War On Poverty: Success and Failure of America’s Commitment.”