By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor
mgreen@afro.com

While the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting cities across the world, mayors are taking special consideration on how to help their constituents during these unprecedented times. Inglewood, California Mayor James Butts explained to the AFRO, in an exclusive Facebook Live interview, how he has managed to keep his city afloat and plans for the future, as leaders learn more about the novel coronavirus every day.

When Butts became mayor nine years ago, he helped Inglewood boost an economy nearing bankruptcy and brought entertainment to the city that is more than 40 percent African American, and the partnership with Madison Square Garden to revamp The Forum arena.  Much of Inglewood’s economy relies on entertainment.

In an exclusive interview, Inglewood, California Mayor James Butts spoke to D.C. Editor Micha Green about how the city is managing during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy Photo)

“Every city in this country depends upon sales taxes, property taxes, if you have entertainment, you depend on ticket taxes and parking taxes to thrive.  So when you cut down your sales taxes to astronomically low rates, every city is going to be affected, and that includes ,” Butts said.

“We have 3,000 people that go to work on that stadium every day; 1,200 of them are Inglewood residents.”  

However, Butts explained that Inglewood is still managing.

“ unemployment rate has dropped from 17 and a half percent to 4.7 percent- from one of the highest in the states, to one of the lowest unemployment rates for minority-led and minority-majority cities in the state of the California,” the mayor explained.

“So we have managed our finances wisely, so that we have our rainy day fund, but our intent is looking at what’s going to come at the end of the rainbow,” Butts said.

“We have been saving money over the last seven or eight years, to the point where we can absorb this hit to our economy without layoffs and without furloughs.  Other cities are not that fortunate, and so we will be able to do what we need to do, until a vaccine is developed,” the Inglewood mayor explained.

Butts is concerned that without a vaccine, this pandemic will be cyclical and detrimental to cities worldwide. 

“The only thing that I see that can happen for this country is for a vaccine to be developed, because we can’t cycle back through this- four months in, four months out. The economy can’t survive,” he said.

While the pandemic continues, Butts has recommended social distancing and is requiring Inglewood residents to wear masks in public and even in private when interacting with people other than family.  

In addition, the city of Inglewood has opened a testing site at The Forum.  

“They have a 3,500 space lot and so it’s perfect for staging a drive-through test site. It’s open seven days a week from 9 a.m.- 5 p.m.”

Butts has also found a way to help residents who might be struggling financially.

“When you come into a situation like this, where some people are literally put out of work because their worksites are closed down, there’s things that you can do outside of what the federal government and the state government are going to do.  And one of those things is we placed a moratorium on evictions,” Butts said.  “You cannot be evicted from the city of Inglewood, from your apartment, from your commercial space during this emergency and you have to be given six months to catch up with any rent you may have in the rears; we wanted to protect people and give people security in their homes.”

Micha Green

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor