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Future of STD testing and treatment by the Los Angeles LGBT Center uncertain

STD epidemic rages in Los Angeles County

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Board Supervisor Sheila Kuehl on Nov. 20 (screen grab from BOS live stream)

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a motion on Nov. 20 to approve the allocation of emergency reserve funds for organizations, including the Los Angeles LGBT Center, for public health initiatives like STD testing and treatment.

The motion, introduced by Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Mark Ridley-Thomas, will add $5 million for public health programs, along with $1 million in grant funding for clients with substance abuse disorders, over a period of two years. Pending the Health Department’s decisions concerning the allocation of those funds, the Center might be able to maintain levels of service for programs that were threatened, according to reports, by the organization’s dispute with Los Angeles County over funding for existing contracts.

In the last fiscal year, STD programming cost the Center $1.5 million, which was covered by reserve funds and other sources including contracts with LA County—which has supplied a consistent, flat level of funding to the organization, including in this case. High demand for testing and treatment, however, has depleted available money from contracts with the County.

Requests for funding increases from the County were turned down, to the surprise of the Center’s Chief of Staff, Darrel Cummings. He told the Los Angeles Bladethe organization was forced to draw funds from other programs—like meal services for seniors and housing services for youth experiencing homelessness—to cover the costs: “Every service we provide is impacted by our having to redirect funds from one place to another.” 

The Board’s motion for emergency funding was introduced just as the Center was prepared to announce cuts in free STD testing and treatment, following the discovery of an internal email from the Center’s Chief of Staff, Darrel Cummings, which was printed in WEHOville.

LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, author of the Board motion, told the Los Angeles Blade: “Local, state and federal governments have not been adequately investing in STD prevention. Funding has not kept up with the need and rising costs. Today the County voted to utilize our reserves to help The LGBT Center and other important community providers prevent STD infection, and we will do everything we can to find ways to invest even more money in preventing STD infection. We will continue to work with our local providers to advocate ever more effectively.”

Budgetary constraints have tightened amid a spike in STD rates nationwide, which has hit LA County especially hard. New gonorrhea cases nearly doubled from 2016 to 2017 among men who have sex with men (MSM), according to nationwide statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Officials shared the latest data documenting the number of diagnoses in the County between Jan. and August 2018. They found 5,337 cases of syphilis, 30 cases of congenital syphilis, and 16,654 cases of gonorrhea.

If the emergency motion was not introduced by the LA County Board of Supervisors and the Center was forced to comply with funding limits set by existing contracts, Cummings explained that the organization would have to cut STD testing/treatment services by 50 percent.

“Epidemiologists here calculate, in a very conservative fashion, what that would look like in one year,” Cummings said. “It would mean 8,000 people with undiagnosed gonorrhea. That would obviously be contributing to what is already a crisis.”

Cummings said public health officials must redouble efforts to fund testing and treatment programs—including those performed by the Center—but instead feels the County voiced appreciation for the organization’s programs while ignoring their efficacy.

“We’re diagnosing 22 percent of all syphilis cases in Los Angeles County,” Cummings said. “And the County has 14 of their own facilities—none of which are targeting the LGBT community. And [the County] doesn’t have to hold bake sales to keep their operations open. They’re fully funded no matter how effective or not they are.”

The Center’s cultural competency respective to the LGBT community is in large part responsible for the rise in the number of patients whom the organization is testing and treating for STDs. LGBT Californians are disproportionately affected by the STD crisis while the number of diagnosed cases in the state has reached record highs for the third consecutive year. Michael Fraser, Ph.D., executive director of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), explained that local and community-based providers are often better trained to meet the needs of at-risk populations. For example, “The techniques you might use in the MSM community are really different from what you might use with pregnant women,” he explained.

The need to address public health challenges among underserved communities was addressed in the Board of Supervisors’ vote—which moved to, among other tasks, “Instruct the Director of the Department of Public Health to develop and release a solicitation within 45 days to support the delivery of STD screening and treatment services specifically targeting underserved geographic areas and sub-populations of the County.”

Cummings emphasized that the Center has historically worked well with the County on public health issues. “Even though I’ve been pretty angry with the County because of their lethargic response to this issue,” Cummings told the LA Blade, “that exists in the context of—generally speaking, over decades—having very good relationships with public health officials in Los Angeles and elected officials who care a great deal about these matters.”

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California

H.S. students steal Pride flag, defecate on it & post video to TikTok

“It was definitely an act of hate directed at the LGBTQ community and a lot of students felt it, you know, felt that attack very acutely”

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Paso Robles High School via Google Earth

PASO ROBLES, Ca. – Earlier this school year two students walked into a science teacher’s classroom at Paso Robles High School, they proceeded to rip down the LGBTQ+ Pride flag hanging in the room and fled out the door. The theft took place as there was a classes break and as science instructor Evan Holtz took out after them he lost them in the throng of students in the hallway.

Holtz, who is a chemistry teacher, tutor, and swim coach, has been teaching at Paso Robles since 2019. In an interview with the San Luis Obispo Tribune, Holtz told the paper he had displayed the Pride flag to show solidarity with the school’s LGBTQ students, making sure that they knew they were welcome and safe in his classroom.

What happened immediately after the theft has left the high school’s LGBTQ+ students angered and alarmed. First, the Tribune reported, a video surfaced on TikTok of students attempting to flush the rainbow Pride flag down a toilet. Then, the video showed one student defecating on the flag in the toilet, according to those who had seen and heard about the video.

“It was definitely an act of hate directed at the LGBTQ community,” Geoffrey Land, a social sciences teacher told the paper. “And a lot of students felt it, you know, felt that attack very acutely.”

The Paso Robles Joint Unified School District said that administrators at the high school had taken “disciplinary action” after being alerted to the situation and the TikTok video by students. The next action undertaken on October 1st by the school district has left LGBTQ+ students disillusioned and further upset.

District Superintendent Curt Dubost sent a memorandum letter to faculty that read:

The Paso Robles Joint Unified School District has received multiple concerns about certain flag displays in teacher classrooms, including those that are large and distracting and those that alter the American flag.

I want to start by reiterating my statement from last year that rainbow flags mean different things to different people but to many are a symbol of safety, inclusion and equity. All students deserve protection against bullying and harassment. A safe, caring learning environment is essential if students are to achieve their academic potential.

We have a duty as a school district to ensure that hate speech and bullying conduct does not create an unsafe campus environment. Students in protected classes are often among the most vulnerable and susceptible to bullying and discrimination.”

Superintendent Dubost then laid out the new district policy: No flags bigger than 2 feet by 2 feet may be displayed in classrooms, and no flags that are “alterations of the American flag” may be displayed in classrooms.

In a follow-up interview with the Tribune Dubost justified his actions telling the paper, “We don’t want to turn it into a politicized issue where a student enters a classroom and looks up, ‘Oh, there’s a rainbow flag here, or there’s a blue lives matter flag here — that determines what the partisanship is of my teacher.’ We think that that’s a real slippery slope. And so we continue to believe that this is a very reasonable compromise solution that allows rainbows, but within reason.”

In an op-ed written by PRHS students on National Coming Out day last week, they expressed their dismay over Dubost’s actions.

October 11 is National Coming Out Day, when lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people can celebrate support for LGBTQ equality. But in Paso Robles, where we attend high school, we cannot celebrate. Too often, LGBTQ students feel unwelcome, unsafe and targeted by hate.

After briefly mentioning the theft, video, and the action to ban flags other than a U.S. National flag taken by Superintendent Dubost they added:

Eventually, the school imposed minor discipline upon the offenders, and nearly two weeks later issued a policy statement that includes a ban on rainbow flags larger than 2’ x 2’. As the standard flag size is 3’ x 5’, the school purposefully banned the very flag that was desecrated. What message does this send to students? The flag ban means the school has allowed the haters to win, while LGBTQ students feel punished for wanting to be seen and supported.

The students cited a 2018 oral history project at PRHS which interviewed students in the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District area high schools of Templeton, Atascadero and Paso Robles.

They found that offensive slurs and open hostility directed at LGBTQ+ individuals were commonplace in classrooms. LGBTQ+ students reported not feeling included in their school culture. Students interviewed reported that teachers who wore rainbow colored pins or posted supportive flags or posters in their classroom walls helped create welcoming, safe spaces. Over the years, PRHS has witnessed loss of life, violence and intimidation — all in the name of anti-LGBTQ hate.

In their call to action the students stated that; “Enough is enough. How many more students will be traumatized by systems and people who fail to embrace the beauty and diversity of their students? The school’s response is a collective slap in the face of all LBGTQ students at PRHS. From our perspective, the school’s flag ban means they’re more interested in appeasing the bullies than protecting the safety of the victims of hate.”

There is a community forum event scheduled for Wednesday, October 20 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the PRHS performing arts center. Organized by students, the event, “Coming Out Against Hate,” is an opportunity for students to “share their experiences and visions for a more welcoming, inclusive educational environment,” and it’s the first forum of its kind in Paso Robles, according to a news release sent out about the event.

With the forum, we’re hoping that things change and they stop normalizing hate against us,” a senior told the Tribune, “I’m really proud of the fact that so many people are brave enough to come up against the adversity that is very obvious here. We might get a ton of hate for this. We might get hate-crimed ourselves.

But we can’t let this continue. We have a culture of homophobia here. We literally have no other option than to put ourselves kind of at risk and in danger. Because we can’t let this continue.”

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Los Angeles

IATSE and film studios reach a deal, strike averted

The new contract put a halt to what would have been the first nationwide strike in the union’s 128-year history

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Graphic via IATSE

NEW YORK – Negotiators for the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees reached a deal Saturday averting a major production strike that would have crippled film and television production nationwide.

The new 3 year contract between the union representing the 60,000 rank and file behind-the-camera film and TV workers and the studios put a halt to what would have been the first nationwide strike in the union’s 128-year history and the first major strike by crews since World War II.

Text of the press release announcement:

Important Update: Tentative Agreement Reached – Strike Averted
Late Saturday, President Matt Loeb and the 13 Hollywood Locals announced that the IATSE
has tentatively agreed to terms and conditions for the 2021 Basic and Videotape Agreements.
Everything achieved was because you, the members, stood up and gave us the power to
change the course of these negotiations. Our solidarity, at both the leadership and rank and
file level, was the primary reason that no local was left behind and every priority was
addressed. Because of you we realized:


• Living wage achieved
• Improved wages and working conditions for streaming
• Retroactive scale wage Increases of 3% annually
• Employer Funded Benefits for the term
• Increased meal period penalties including prevailing rate
• Daily Rest Periods of 10 hours without exclusions
• Weekend Rest Periods of 54 and 32 hours
• Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday Holiday
• Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiatives
• 13th and 14th checks for pre-August 2009 retirees
• Additional MPI Hours for On-Call Employees
• Expansion of Sick Leave Benefit to the entire country

Your local will provide more detailed information over the next few days. The Memorandum
of Agreement will be available when drafting is completed. We are currently working out the
details of the electronic ratification process.

Your strike authorization vote, your preparation for a strike and your willingness to risk
your livelihood to fight for yourselves and each other has profoundly changed our union.
We thank you for your unwavering support.

In Solidarity,
Matthew D. Loeb
International President,
IATSE
Rebecca Rhine
National Executive Director,
IATSE Local 600
Rachael Stanley
Executive Director,
IATSE Local 892
Greg Reeves
Business Representative-Secretary,
IATSE Local 728
Adam West
Business Representative,
IATSE Local 705
Patric Abaravich
Business Representative,
IATSE Local 871
Cathy Repola
National Executive Director,
IATSE Local 700
Scott Bernard
Business Representative,
IATSE Local 695
Doug Boney
Business Representative,
IATSE Local 884
Thom Davis
Business Manager,
IATSE Local 80
Randy Sayer
Business Agent,
IATSE Local 706
Tobey Bays
Business Agent,
IATSE Local 44
Robert D. Denne
Business Representative/
Secretary-Treasurer,
IATSE Local 729
Chuck Parker
National Executive D

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Los Angeles

In time for holiday travel LAX opens new parking structure

The $294-million, 4,300 parking space structure is located a half mile away from LAX’s Central Terminal Area

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Mayor epic Garcetti and LAWA/LAX officials open new parking structure (Photo Credit: City of Los Angeles and LAX Airport)

LOS ANGELES – This week City Mayor Eric Garcetti celebrated the opening of the LAX Economy Parking, a new LAX parking faculty set to open Tuesday. The $294-million, 4,300 parking space structure is located a half mile away from LAX’s Central Terminal Area.

Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), the City of Los Angeles department that owns and operates Los Angeles International (LAX) and Van Nuys (VNY) general aviation airports announced that there will be a dedicated shuttle bus to take travelers to the parking facility and the terminal area’s arrivals level.

Graphic courtesy of KTLA 5 and Los Angeles World Airports LAX

The four-story facility will have electric vehicle charging, automatic entry and exit, and allow drivers to pre-book parking online for a discounted rate. Initially, pre-booking discounts will give drivers up to 70% off the drive-up rate of $25 per day.

Previously, parking at LAX was only available on a first-come, first-served basis, with no reservation system available.

For those travelers who have furry canine companions or service dogs, the airport authority noted the new LAX Economy Parking facility features a pet relief area.

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