It’s easy to make political promises and call yourself a leader. True political leadership is marked by those who follow through and deliver on the promises they make to the people they serve.
In 2008, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas vowed to reopen what was, at that time, a discredited and shutdown King/Drew Medical Center in the county’s public hospital system.
King/Drew had fallen far from its 1970s beginnings as a beacon of hope in a community desperate for quality health care services.
By 2004, King/Drew had sadly become a hospital beset by patient care woes, staff indifference and administrative scandal. County officials closed King/Drew’s Level 1 trauma center and the full hospital would ultimately lose its accreditation. In 2007, King/Drew Medical Center was closed and emergency patients were sent to other hospitals.
Political observers claimed the medical center would never reopen.
Mark Ridley-Thomas believed otherwise. As a newly elected Supervisor, he set goals, initiated plans and put the process in motion to create a new governance structure for a new hospital. His plans included a medical campus that would provide public, outpatient and mental services to complement the new inpatient facility.
It was a major undertaking, but Mark Ridley-Thomas remained undeterred, knowing full well the community’s urgent need for hospital services and L.A. County’s pressing need to fill a major hole in its public hospital system.
He partnered with University of California Health Services to underscore the importance of a patient-centered health care model for the new hospital.
A project labor agreement ensured that local workers living within five-miles of the planned facility would have an opportunity to be hired and paid to help construct their community’s new hospital.
On August 7, 2015, local, county, and state officials came together with community leaders and residents to join Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas for a festive and heartwarming dedication of the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital and its still growing MLK Medical Campus.
This is what it looks like when our leaders follow through on the promises they make to the people they serve.
Leadership delivers. Mark Ridley-Thomas is a leader who delivers for us.
What Signifies Mark Ridley-Thomas’ Legacy of Leadership?
His Desire to Educate, Engage and Empower
More than 24 years ago, Mark Ridley-Thomas – as a newly elected L.A. City Councilmember – took a then novel concept for promoting resident involvement in city government – backed by his philosophy to “Educate, Engage and Empower” – to create The Empowerment Congress.
Since 1992, The Empowerment Congress has grown to become a national model for civic engagement, participatory democracy and community organizing. The Empowerment Congress has endured because city and county residents have invested their time, talent, intelligence, concern and energy to make it work for their neighborhoods and communities. The result of their efforts has been improved quality of life in every community in which the Empowerment Congress has been active.
His Commitment to Participation and Change
Participation in our democratic form of government begins with our Constitutional right to vote. Through our votes, we are able to select our elected representatives and decide whether to support or oppose ballot measures on important issues. Mark Ridley-Thomas' appreciation for the power of each person's vote led him to found the African American Voter Registration, Education and Participation (AAVREP) project in 2002.
To date, AAVREP has registered more than 200,000 new voters in targeted communities in California. With voting rights under assault in many states and our nation having recently celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas has worked tirelessly to educate voters and expand voter participation in targeted communities statewide to preserve democracy and encourage civic engagement through the exercise of the most important right we have as Americans: Our right to vote.