Theodore “Ted” Lumpkin is a lifelong resident of South Los Angeles and is part of that historic group of Tuskegee Airmen — known as “Red Tail Angels” — the first Black pilots trained in combat that went on to fly 1,578 missions and destroy 261 enemy aircraft.
On Friday, Ted, 93, along with his retired wife Georgia, were part of a somewhat lesser, but nevertheless important milestone as they were in a group of residents that helped launch Eric Garcetti’s South L.A. Mayor Help Desk.
Garcetti’s latest one-on-one meeting with constituents — his other “office hours” open doors have been in downtown, Boyle Heights and Van Nuys — was held at the city of Los Angeles Constituent Services Center, 8475 Vermont Ave.
In a welcome ceremony, emceed by Public Works Commissioner Mike Davis, an invocation was given by Pastor Kelvin Sauls, Holman United Methodist Church and classical tenors Bradley Baker and Donald Perry, accompanied by pianist Quinton Zigler, provided the musical entertainment.
On the walls of the downstairs conference room where the media briefing took place, were suggestion boards containing residents' ideas for better government. They included more funding for public works, cleaning trash from sidewalks, more youth after-school programs, greater funding for gang intervention and more youth jobs.
Eighth District Councilman Bernard Parks introduced Garcetti.
“We’re certainly pleased to have this help desk here in this facility and to work hand in hand with the mayor and also to see his approach in getting back to basics,” he said. “[That means] getting the sidewalks fixed, hedges being trimmed and alleys being cleaned. That’s gonna be a significant change in direction and I’m looking forward to being a part of it.”
Meanwhile, Garcetti told the large gathering that he was excited to be mayor and that meant that he would be “present” and not just for press conferences or events.
“That is what today is all about,” he added. “I am your mayor, I’m excited and I will be present. It’s not about you begging government, but being government.”
Following his remarks, Garcetti and his staff retired to an upstairs office where he met with constituents face to face to hear their particular grievances, which in the Lumpkin’s case concerned the state of the Marlton Square redevelopment project.
According to Georgia, the site, bordered by Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard on the north, Marlton Avenue on the east, Santa Rosalia Drive on the south and Buckingham Road on the west, needs to be cleaned up.
“Part of it is fenced, but part of it is in the open air; people break into it and it’s become a magnet for more trash,” she told the mayor. “The buildings have been demolished, but right now it’s in bad shape. It’s dirty, there are weeds, ratty trees and it’s starting to attract garbage. There’s old furniture in the middle of open spaces.”
Garcetti sympathized with the Lumpkins and noted that the city is trying to revive the stalled retail development.
“It does look like a ghost town and your average shopper wouldn’t think of going there,” he said.
The mayor promised to contact the sanitation department and assured the couple that Yvonne Farrell, who heads the Constituent Services Center, would take their information and be in touch.
The couple sounded impressed after their face-to-face mayoral meeting.
“I think it went really well,” Ted said. “I was impressed in what he said and how much he knew about it. My wife drives past there all the time; we’re just trying to make sure it stays clean, pending this upcoming development — if it ever gets here.”
For her part, Georgia noted that her grievance was a “doable deed.”
“With a minimum of effort, it can be kept clean until the development takes place,” she said. “It’s about taking care of the little things, potholes [and the like]. It doesn’t take billions, just the will to do it.”