The LA Civics Initiative

In partnership with City Impact Lab, the Bedrosian Center is working toward an action plan designed to engage stakeholders to create an action plan to increase civic engagement and civic literacy in Los Angeles.

The LA Civics Initiative generic title slideOur kickoff workshop, held on March 23, 2016, featured a panel of civics experts as we looked at the gaps in civic engagement vis-à-vis civic education and how we got here. The panel featured educators, elected officials, activists, and academics in a lively conversation about the state of civics in our communities across the Southland.

Attendees then engaged in a workshop designed to define the biggest barriers to civic literacy and engagement in Los Angeles. You are invited to roll-up your sleeves and help launch this initiative that will last for the next year and help define civics for Los Angels. We will work toward a more civically engaged Los Angeles, together.

Panelists for our March 23rd Kickoff Panel 

Bwarie JohnJohn Bwarie (Moderator) – City Impact Lab

John knows more about Los Angeles than anyone you’ve met. John has started schools, taught in Watts, worked for 4 elected officials, led governmental organizations, instigated change in communities across the country, created an event with over 5 million participants, spoken at technical conferences on Capitol Hill, and created the City Impact Lab, to name a few things. He works to connect people and solve problems while always focusing on an actionable outcome. He loves his wife and family, ice cream, and bringing people together.

Raphael Bostic – USC Price School of Public Policy

Dr. Raphael Bostic is the Chair of the Department of Governance, Management & the Policy Process at the Sol Price School of Public Policy at USC. Prior to his return to USC in 2012, he served for 3 years in the Obama Administration as the Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Dr. Bostic first arrived at USC in 2001, where he served as a professor in Policy, Planning, and Development. His work spans many fields including home ownership, housing finance, neighborhood change, and the role of institutions in shaping policy effectiveness. A particular emphasis has been on how the private, public, and non-profit sectors interact to influence household access to economic and social amenities. He worked at the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, where his work on the Community Reinvestment Act earned him a Special Achievement Award. He earned his Ph.D. in Economics from Stanford University and his BA from Harvard University.

Kassakhian, ArdyArdy Kassakhian, City Clerk for Glendale, CA

Ardashes Kassakhian is the Glendale City Clerk, an elected office. A Glendale native and UCLA grad, he participated in the University’s Center for American Politics and Public Policy Program in Washington, D.C. During his professional career, Kassakhian has run a number of local, state and federal campaigns to register voters and Get Out The Vote.  Kassakhian was the Executive Director of Western U.S. offices of a local non-profit which specializes in voters’ rights, advocacy and public policy (Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region). Kassakhian is the only Glendale resident representing a grassroots organization on the Los Angeles County Clerk’s Community Voter Outreach Committee (CVOC). CVOC was created by the County Clerk to look for different methods to raise voter participation in county, state and federal elections. He has taken his passion for public service and enthusiasm for the political process into the classroom as well lecturing on the importance of civic responsibility to numerous college campus groups and teaching a class in Government and Political History at a private school in Hollywood. Kassakhian became a candidate for City Clerk in 2004 and made outreach, technology and voter education his campaign cornerstones.

Kaplan, NateNate Kaplan, See Political

Nate Kaplan has been an active player on the political scene from coast to coast. Nate is dedicated to promoting political inclusion and civic participation. He served as a legislative aide in the Massachusetts State Senate before working in Boston’s Trial Court system. At the age of 24, Nate ran for the office of state representative in his hometown in Central Massachusetts. With a landslide victory, he became the youngest candidate in that district’s history to receive a major party nomination. Upon his arrival in Los Angeles, Nate’s passion for politics continued to thrive. Nate received his Masters Degree in Public Policy at the University of Southern California while working as a communications and legislative director for the Los Angeles City Council. After working in California politics for several years, he realized that direct democracy in this state had a fatal flaw, a majority of voters admittedly have little reliable knowledge about what they are asked to vote on. Nate founded SeePolitical as a solution to educate the electorate.

Beltran, RaquelRaquel Beltran, Associate Director, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs

Raquel Beltrán has served as associate director since September 2014. A native of San Diego, Raquel Beltrán’s professional experience includes over 35 years of public administration and non-profit experience. Her service with the Institute waspreceded by six years as the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles’s executive director. Her prior years of experience have the unique characteristic of including work with a variety of organizations. Examples include business organizations, government agencies, organized labor, community organizations, institutions of higher learning, and community-based organizations. She is a graduate of the City of San Diego Management Academy; a former San Francisco Bay American Red Cross disaster preparedness specialist, and past –president of the Cal. State Dominguez Hills Alumni Association. She is also a co-founder of the United Domestic Workers Union of America. Raquel earned her Masters degree in Business Administration from California State University Dominquez Hills, with Delta Mu Delta honors. She completed her undergraduate studies at California State University, East Bay with a B.A. in Political Science. What does Raquel do for fun? She is founder and president of the Mariachi Academy of Carson, an after-school cultural and education program.

Zimmer, SteveSteve Zimmer, LAUSD School Board Member

Steve Zimmer is a 16 year veteran teacher, counselor, advocate and community activist. His work on innovative classroom programs, service learning, school-based intervention services, community organizing and school community relations is known throughout the city. Steve Zimmer joined Teach For America in 1992. After completing his summer student teaching at Jefferson High School, Steve was placed as an ESL Teacher at Marshall High School in Silver Lake. Linking public service with civic understanding, Steve led his students on several trips to Washington D.C. as well as to City Hall and the State Capital. In 1995, Steve created Marshall’s Public Service program. Under Steve’s leadership public service and service learning was woven into the fabric of the Marshall student experience. In the over ten years that he led the program, Steve built relationships with over 100 elementary schools, community based organizations, hospitals, health clinics, libraries and recreation centers. During that time, Marshall students planted over 500 trees, repainted more than a thousand miles of graffiti covered walls and volunteered in over 5,000 elementary classrooms. From 1998-2003 Steve served as Council District 13’s representative on the commission that oversees LA’s Community Development Department.

Press Release

Workshop tables were named after Los Angeles’ 20 longest streets!

John was kind enough to give a free webinar “Government 101: How Los Angeles Works.”