Latino Leaders Support President Obama’s Cuba Actions, Call for Congressional Support to End Embargo Immediately EEUU y Cuba

December 17th, 2014

William C. Velásquez Institute
For Immediate Release

For More Information Contact
Antonio Gonzalez, WCVI,  323-868-2049
Robert Garcia, The City Project, 213-260-1035

Latino Leaders Support President Obama’s Cuba Actions
Call for Congressional Support to End Embargo Immediately

(Los Angeles, CA Dec. 17, 2014) US Latino leaders cheered President Obama’s announcement today of historic steps opening relations with Cuba. This announcement followed a surprise prisoner swap earlier in the day of Alan Gross, a US AID Contractor jailed in Cuba and an unnamed “CIA asset” in prison in Cuba in exchange for three Cuban intelligence agents imprisoned in the US since the 1990′s.

“I commend President Obama for announcing important steps among them opening travel and exchanging ambassadors that taken together comprise gigantic progress in ending the 54 year old unjust US blockade of Cuba. The developments represent the victory of common sense over dogmatism and Mr. Obama has just cemented an important legacy of his presidency,” said Antonio Gonzalez, President of the William C. Velasquez Institute.

“The decision by Presidents Obama and Castro, from the U.S. and Cuba respectively, to announce the beginning of normalization of relations between their two countries represent a major breakthrough in U.S.-Latin American relations,” stated Oscar Chacon, executive director of the Chicago-based National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities (NALACC).

“We commend President Obama’s decision as it marks a long overdue departure from nearly 50 years of a failed U.S. policy towards Cuba,” added Mr. Chacon.

“We call of the U.S. Congress to abolish the Helms-Burton Act and to put U.S.-Cuba relations on a path towards mutual respect and cooperation,” concluded Mr. Chacon.

The President, early in his first term, relaxed some restrictions on US travel to Cuba. Over the years US and Cuban American opinion has markedly changed to overwhelmingly favor normalization of relations between the two countries.

“The Cuban people are not our enemies. We support President Obama and the US in the work with Pope Francis and Cuba to restore full diplomatic relations. The embargo of Cuba by the US has not worked, and has instead isolated the US in the world on this issue. I have visited Cuba three times. I am an immigrant. Soy Guatemalteco. Todos somos Americanos!” Robert García, The City Project, Los Angeles, CA.

US Latino opinion is consistent with general public opinion strongly in favor of restoring relations with Cuba.

“Mr. Obama should also use this moment to complete the New Chapter in relations with the Americas by reestablishing ambassadors with Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia and reject sanctions on Venezuela. Sanctions did not work on Cuba, and they will not work when applied to Venezuela,” said Dr. Miguel Tinker Salas, Chairperson of Chicana/o Latino/a Studies at the Claremont Colleges in California.

Mr. Obama’s announcement includes significantly opening US citizen travel, remittances, and trade to Cuba, exchanging ambassadors, starting the legal process to take Cuba off the US terrorist country list and calling for Congress to repeal laws comprising the embargo.  Click here for the White House Fact Sheet on Charting a New Course on Cuba.

“The normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba puts an end to half a century of aggression against the proud people of Cuba that withstood constant economic blockade, invasions, and attempts against the lives of Cubans,” said Salvador Reza, Chairman of Barrio Defense Committees, Phoenix, Arizona.

In response to Obama’s initiative Cuban President Raul Castro agreed to immediately release 53 Cuban political prisoners.

“People to people relations are the most important dynamic that shapes the history of peoples, countries, and nations. The people of Cuba and the United States deserve to enjoy such contact and relations. It appears that President Barack Obama and his administration understand that it is now time to assign government impediments to such relations into the dustbin of history and start a new course of openness. It’s time has come,” declared Taina Vega of Hermandad Mexicana.

“Today is a historic day for the Cuban-American community and represents an important shift toward normalizing relations with Cuba. We are hopeful that Congress will soon end the five decade long embargo that has torn Cuban families apart. As a Cuban American, I stand by President Obama’s decision to normalize relations and urge Congress to end the embargo once and for all,” said Mariana Ruiz, Managing Director of

“With this decision to open travel and exchange ambassadors, President Obama has taken historic steps that we support as part of a larger effort to end a U. S. blockade policy that other countries all over the world have categorized as archaic and outside the bounds of progressive international relations,” remarked Dr. Jose Zapata Calderon, Chairperson of the  Latino and Latina Roundtable of the San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys of California.

The Cuban 3 (once called the Cuban 5 -two prisoners served their sentences and are back in Cuba) consists of three Cuban agents who turned themselves into the FBI in the late 1990′s with information on a terrorist conspiracy emanating from south Florida against Cuba. They were tried and convicted in US court. The remaining three prisoners were released and flown to Cuba today as part of the deal.

For more information on the Cuban Five click here.

The statement by Cuban President Raul Castro is available here in English and Spanish.

WCVI through its Interhemispheric Initiatives Program has conducted educational programming about US-Cuba relations and advocated for full normalization of US Cuba relations since 1996. For more information see

The City Project’s Robert García, Founding Director and Counsel, has advocated for restoring relations with Cuba for over 40 years. He drafted the remarks on the Cuban people are not our enemies as an intern for Congressman Michael Harrington (D-MA) in 1974. The remarks in support of legislation to repeal restraints on relations with Cuba are published in the Congressional Record, 120 Cong. Rec. H25577-78 (1974). He has traveled to Cuba with WCVI in January 2000, with People to People in November 2000, and with the American Public Health Association in November 2010.

Habana 2010

Habana 2010


“Todos somos Americanos” Cuba, US to Restore Diplomatic Relations President Obama

December 17th, 2014

“The Cuban people are not our enemies. We support President Obama and the US in working with Pope Francis and Cuba to restore full diplomatic relations between the two nations. The embargo of Cuba by the US has not worked, and has instead isolated the US in the world on this issue. I have visited Cuba three times. I lived in fascist Spain under Franco, and in Guatemala under military dictatorships that killed or disappeared over 200,000 Guatemalan people, according to the Catholic Church. The dictatorships were sponsored by the CIA, which overthrew the democratically elected government in 1954. Being in socialist Cuba was better than being in fascist Spain or genocidal Guatemala. I am an immigrant. Soy Guatemalteco.  Todos somos Americanos!” Robert García, Founding Director and Counsel, The City Project


Plaza de la Catedral, Habana, Cuba, 2010


Office of the Press Secretary

Fact Sheet:  Charting a New Course on Cuba

Today, the United States is taking historic steps to chart a new course in our relations with Cuba and to further engage and empower the Cuban people.  We are separated by 90 miles of water, but brought together through the relationships between the two million Cubans and Americans of Cuban descent that live in the United States, and the 11 million Cubans who share similar hopes for a more positive future for Cuba.

It is clear that decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba.  At times, longstanding U.S. policy towards Cuba has isolated the United States from regional and international partners, constrained our ability to influence outcomes throughout the Western Hemisphere, and impaired the use of the full range of tools available to the United States to promote positive change in Cuba.  Though this policy has been rooted in the best of intentions, it has had little effect – today, as in 1961, Cuba is governed by the Castros and the Communist party.

We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different result.  It does not serve America’s interests, or the Cuban people, to try to push Cuba toward collapse.  We know from hard-learned experience that it is better to encourage and support reform than to impose policies that will render a country a failed state.  With our actions today, we are calling on Cuba to unleash the potential of 11 million Cubans by ending unnecessary restrictions on their political, social, and economic activities.  In that spirit, we should not allow U.S. sanctions to add to the burden of Cuban citizens we seek to help.

Today, we are renewing our leadership in the Americas.  We are choosing to cut loose the anchor of the past, because it is entirely necessary to reach a better future – for our national interests, for the American people, and for the Cuban people.

Key Components of the Updated Policy Approach:

Since taking office in 2009, President Obama has taken steps aimed at supporting the ability of the Cuban people to gain greater control over their own lives and determine their country’s future.  Today, the President announced additional measures to end our outdated approach, and to promote more effectively change in Cuba that is consistent with U.S. support for the Cuban people and in line with U.S. national security interests.  Major elements of the President’s new approach include:

Establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba-
·         The President has instructed the Secretary of State to immediately initiate discussions with Cuba on the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba, which were severed in January 1961.
·         In the coming months, we will re-establish an embassy in Havana and carry out high-level exchanges and visits between our two governments as part of the normalization process.  As an initial step, the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs will lead the U.S. Delegation to the next round of U.S.-Cuba Migration Talks in January 2015, in Havana.
·         U.S. engagement will be critical when appropriate and will include continued strong support for improved human rights conditions and democratic reforms in Cuba and other measures aimed at fostering improved conditions for the Cuban people.
·         The United States will work with Cuba on matters of mutual concern and that advance U.S. national interests, such as migration, counternarcotics, environmental protection, and trafficking in persons, among other issues.
Adjusting regulations to more effectively empower the Cuban people-
·         The changes announced today will soon be implemented via amendments to regulations of the Departments of the Treasury and Commerce.   Our new policy changes will further enhance our goal of empowering the Cuban population.
·         Our travel and remittance policies are helping Cubans by providing alternative sources of information and opportunities for self-employment and private property ownership, and by strengthening independent civil society.
·         These measures will further increase people-to-people contact; further support civil society in Cuba; and further enhance the free flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people.  Persons must comply with all provisions of the revised regulations; violations of the terms and conditions are enforceable under U.S. law.

Facilitating an expansion of travel under general licenses for the 12 existing categories of travel to Cuba authorized by law-
·         General licenses will be made available for all authorized travelers in the following existing categories: (1) family visits; (2) official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; (3) journalistic activity; (4) professional research and professional meetings; (5) educational activities; (6) religious activities; (7) public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; (8) support for the Cuban people; (9) humanitarian projects; (10) activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; (11) exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials; and (12) certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines.
·         Travelers in the 12 categories of travel to Cuba authorized by law will be able to make arrangements through any service provider that complies with the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) regulations governing travel services to Cuba, and general licenses will authorize provision of such services.
·         The policy changes make it easier for Americans to provide business training for private Cuban businesses and small farmers and provide other support for the growth of Cuba’s nascent private sector.  Additional options for promoting the growth of entrepreneurship and the private sector in Cuba will be explored.

Facilitating remittances to Cuba by U.S. persons-
·         Remittance levels will be raised from $500 to $2,000 per quarter for general donative remittances to Cuban nationals (except to certain officials of the government or the Communist party); and donative remittances for humanitarian projects, support for the Cuban people, and support for the development of private businesses in Cuba will no longer require a specific license.
·         Remittance forwarders will no longer require a specific license.

Authorizing expanded commercial sales/exports from the United States of certain goods and services-
·         The expansion will seek to empower the nascent Cuban private sector.  Items that will be authorized for export include certain building materials for private residential construction, goods for use by private sector Cuban entrepreneurs, and agricultural equipment for small farmers.  This change will make it easier for Cuban citizens to have access to certain lower-priced goods to improve their living standards and gain greater economic independence from the state.

Authorizing American citizens to import additional goods from Cuba-
·         Licensed U.S. travelers to Cuba will be authorized to import $400 worth of goods from Cuba, of which no more than $100 can consist of tobacco products and alcohol combined.

Facilitating authorized transactions between the United States and Cuba-
·         U.S. institutions will be permitted to open correspondent accounts at Cuban financial institutions to facilitate the processing of authorized transactions.
·         The regulatory definition of the statutory term “cash in advance” will be revised to specify that it means “cash before transfer of title”; this will provide more efficient financing of authorized trade with Cuba.
·         U.S. credit and debit cards will be permitted for use by travelers to Cuba.
·         These measures will improve the speed, efficiency, and oversight of authorized payments between the United States and Cuba.

Initiating new efforts to increase Cubans’ access to communications and their ability to communicate freely-

·         Cuba has an internet penetration of about five percent—one of the lowest rates in the world.  The cost of telecommunications in Cuba is exorbitantly high, while the services offered are extremely limited.
·         The commercial export of certain items that will contribute to the ability of the Cuban people to communicate with people in the United States and the rest of the world will be authorized.  This will include the commercial sale of certain consumer communications devices, related software, applications, hardware, and services, and items for the establishment and update of communications-related systems.
·         Telecommunications providers will be allowed to establish the necessary mechanisms, including infrastructure, in Cuba to provide commercial telecommunications and internet services, which will improve telecommunications between the United States and Cuba.
Updating the application of Cuba sanctions in third countries-

·         U.S.-owned or -controlled entities in third countries will be generally licensed to provide services to, and engage in financial transactions with, Cuban individuals in third countries.  In addition, general licenses will unblock the accounts at U.S. banks of Cuban nationals who have relocated outside of Cuba; permit U.S. persons to participate in third-country professional meetings and conferences related to Cuba; and, allow foreign vessels to enter the United States after engaging in certain humanitarian trade with Cuba, among other measures.

Pursuing discussions with the Cuban and Mexican governments to discuss our unresolved maritime boundary in the Gulf of Mexico-

·         Previous agreements between the United States and Cuba delimit the maritime space between the two countries within 200 nautical miles from shore.  The United States, Cuba, and Mexico have extended continental shelf in an area within the Gulf of Mexico where the three countries have not yet delimited any boundaries.
·         The United States is prepared to invite the governments of Cuba and Mexico to discuss shared maritime boundaries in the Gulf of Mexico.

Initiating a review of Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism-

·         The President has instructed the Secretary of State to immediately launch such a review, and provide a report to the President within six months regarding Cuba’s support for international terrorism.  Cuba was placed on the list in 1982.
Addressing Cuba’s participation in the 2015 Summit of the Americas in Panama-

·         President Obama will participate in the Summit of the Americas in Panama.  Human rights and democracy will be key Summit themes.  Cuban civil society must be allowed to participate along with civil society from other countries participating in the Summit, consistent with the region’s commitments under the Inter-American Democratic Charter.  The United States welcomes a constructive dialogue among Summit governments on the Summit’s principles.

Unwavering Commitment to Democracy, Human Rights, and Civil Society

A critical focus of our increased engagement will include continued strong support by the United States for improved human rights conditions and democratic reforms in Cuba.  The promotion of democracy supports universal human rights by empowering civil society and a person’s right to speak freely, peacefully assemble, and associate, and by supporting the ability of people to freely determine their future.   Our efforts are aimed at promoting the independence of the Cuban people so they do not need to rely on the Cuban state.

The U.S. Congress funds democracy programming in Cuba to provide humanitarian assistance, promote human rights and fundamental freedoms, and support the free flow of information in places where it is restricted and censored.  The Administration will continue to implement U.S. programs aimed at promoting positive change in Cuba, and we will encourage reforms in our high level engagement with Cuban officials.

The United States encourages all nations and organizations engaged in diplomatic dialogue with the Cuban government to take every opportunity both publicly and privately to support increased respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Cuba.

Ultimately, it will be the Cuban people who drive economic and political reforms.  That is why President Obama took steps to increase the flow of resources and information to ordinary Cuban citizens in 2009, 2011, and today.  The Cuban people deserve the support of the United States and of an entire region that has committed to promote and defend democracy through the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

El Malecon, Habana 2000

El Malecon, Habana, Cuba, 2000

Robert García has advocated for restoring relations with Cuba for over 40 years. He drafted the remarks on the Cuban people are not our enemies as an intern for Congressman Michael Harrington (D-MA) in 1974. The remarks in support of legislation to repeal restraints on relations with Cuba are published in the Congressional Record, 120 Cong. Rec. H25577-78 (1974). He has traveled to Cuba with WCVI in January 2000, with People to People in November 2000, and with the American Public Health Association in November 2010.

Berkeley 50th Anniversary Free Speech Movement, Ferguson, Garner, Civil Rights

December 10th, 2014

berkeley fsm

Mario Savio FSM

BERKELEY, Calif. — This is the college town where the Free Speech Movement was born 50 years ago, spreading across the nation with sit-ins, marches, demonstrations and arrests. So at first glance, the demonstrations against police conduct in Ferguson, Mo., and on Staten Island that gripped Berkeley over the past few days should be no surprise.

But the University of California campus here today is nothing like the one that became the symbol of student activism in the 1960s, with its demonstrations for civil rights and protests against the Vietnam War. . . .

Back in the day of Mario Savio, the best-known leader of the Free Speech Movement, the student body was overwhelmingly white and most of the leaders of the movement were men. Today, just 29 percent of the student population is white; 39 percent is Asian, 13 percent Latino and 3 percent black.

In the 1960s, tuition at Berkeley was almost free; today, it costs $12,000 a year for Californians and $35,000 for nonresidents — and the Board of Regents just voted to raise it again, a decision that some people suggested had helped feed the protest.

Read the rest of this story in the N.Y. Times . . .

berkeley peoples park s

People’s Park

Read more about anniversaries of the Civil Rights Movement: Brown @ 60, Civil Rights Act of 1964 at 50, President’s Executive Order 12898 on environmental and health justice @ 20 in Poverty & Race . . .

President Obama The San Gabriel Mountains: A National Monument for All #NRPA Parks & Recreation #SanGabriels #MonumentsMatter

December 9th, 2014

The San Gabriel Mountains: A National Monument for All

NPRA Parks & Recreation Magazine 2014-12-01, Social Equity, by Robert García and Michelle Kao

President Barack Obama designated a national monument in the San Gabriel Mountains in Southern California to promote environmental quality, economic vitality and health for all on October 10, 2014. This is a historic moment, when the president recognizes that green access is a social justice issue and agencies need to address these values. His words and actions resonate with NRPA’s Three Pillars: Conservation, Health and Wellness, and Social Equity.

“That’s what makes this particular designation so important,” President Obama said. “We heard from the community…Too many children in L.A. County, especially children of color, don’t have access to parks where they can run free, breathe fresh air, experience nature and learn about their environment. This is an issue of social justice. Because it’s not enough to have this awesome natural wonder within your sight — you have to be able to access it.”

Improving public access helps address equally important health justice values. According to the White House, studies show that increasing recreational access to public lands translates to higher levels of youth activity and lower youth obesity rates.

Transit to Trails San Gabriel Mountains
Transit to Trails in the San Gabriels with Anahuak Youth Sports Association, The City Project, and US Forest Service volunteer.

The National Park Service (NPS) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) agree. Communities with the least amount of parks and open space tend to have higher rates of childhood diseases related to obesity such as diabetes, according to the NPS study on the San Gabriels. Los Angeles is one of the most disadvantaged counties in terms of access to park and open space for people of color, particularly children. Non-Hispanic white people have 12 to 15 times more park acreage per capita than Latinos and African-Americans. According to USACE, much of Los Angeles is park-deficient, with less than 3 acres of green space per 1,000 residents. Park access is lowest in areas with the highest number of families below an annual household income of $47,331. Environmental justice requires agencies to address these disparities, according to both agencies, citing Executive Order 12898 on environmental justice and health. The NPS and USACE studies are best practices for an environmental justice framework to address park, health and conservation values and outcomes. San Gabriel advocates relied on these best practices in comments submitted to the president, and John Podesta in the White House, in August 2014.

The Presidential Proclamation also recognizes the role of Native Americans in the rich cultural history of the San Gabriels. In part, it reads, “Native American history runs deep, at least 8,000 years, including the best preserved example of a Gabrielino pictograph rock painting.” The management plan for the monument “shall protect and preserve Indian sacred sites…and access by Indian tribal members for traditional cultural, spiritual, and tree and forest product-, food- and medicine-gathering purposes.”

The San Gabriel Mountains are a core part of the Los Angeles landscape, providing 70 percent of the open space for residents and 30 percent of their drinking water. More than 15 million people live within 90 minutes of the mountains. According to the president, “This incredible 346,000 acres of rugged slopes and remote canyons are home to an extraordinary diversity of wildlife. The rare Arroyo Chub swims through the cool streams, while the California condor soars above the vistas. You can hike through the chaparral, amid wild lilacs and mountain mahogany.”

These diverse values have been well-received. Daniel Rossman, chair of the San Gabriel Mountains Forever coalition (SGMF), said, “The president not only displayed compassion and understanding of environmental justice but was fundamentally motivated by the issues when he declared the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. The City Project thanks for your work to make the case for environmental justice and the San Gabriel National Monument a reality.”

The recognition of Native American values receives praise from Robert Bracamontes, Acjachemen Nation, Nican Tlaca, who grew up nearby and continues to visit the San Gabriel Mountains with his family. “To see those words in writing used by the president in the proclamation, ‘preserve and protect sacred sites,’ brings me a great sense of hope. For indigenous people, the land gives us food, a place to play, a place where we are put to rest in peace, a place for ceremony, a place where life and culture are one. We need our land, we need to protect it for future generations,” says Bracamontes.

George Sánchez-Tello, who teaches at California State University-Northridge and oversees the SGMF Leadership Academy, emphasizes the essential role of local community groups. “While traditional conservation organizations, like the Wilderness Society and the Sierra Club, were key allies, the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument would not exist without the support of local environmental justice, education and immigrant-advocacy groups. This scenario will play out across the country in future public land campaigns as communities of color and urban populations continue to grow.”

“The City Project’s work on park access is one of the two leading areas in environmental justice,” according to Leslie Fields, national director of environmental justice and community partnership at the Sierra Club.

“Too many children in L.A.County, especially children of color, don’t have access to parks where they can run free, breathe fresh air, experience nature, and learn about their environment.” President Barack Obama San Gabriel National Monument Dedication
Author Robert García greets President Barack Obama at the monument dedication ceremony.

A key argument for creating the monument is to give the U.S. Forest Service money and staff to maintain trails, creeks and picnic areas damaged by overuse. Under the Proclamation, the secretaries of agriculture and the interior will prepare a management plan with maximum public involvement, including consultation with tribal, state and local government, as well as community environmental conservation, health and justice organizations. Congresswoman Judy Chu has also introduced legislation to create a San Gabriel national recreation area, which would bring in NPS oversight, money and focus on recreation. The goal remains for the Forest Service and NPS to work together to meet the needs of the people as defined by the people. This is a simple concept; it’s called sharing.

Not all people have access to the San Gabriels. People of color and low-income people visit national park land at disproportionately low rates, but not because they do not value the environment, health and outdoor recreation. This is evident in NPS’s findings that “economically disadvantaged populations in the [area] lack access and the ability to partake of existing opportunities due to lack of close-to-home open space, lack of effective transportation, lack of culturally advantageous facilities or opportunities, and lack of knowledge about recreation and natural resources.”

One solution is the Transit to Trails program developed by Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA), NPS, Anahuak Youth Sports Association and The City Project with diverse allies. Transit to Trails provides opportunities for park-poor, income-poor communities to learn about water, land, wildlife and cultural history, and engage in healthy physical activity. Transit to Trails is a best practice according to NPS, and will help increase access to the San Gabriels, as emphasized in the president’s speech.

Monument status is only the latest milestone to enhance the San Gabriels for all. Hilda Solis, who originally called for the national recreation area as a congresswoman, will help implement the management plan as a county supervisor and wrote the California statutory definition of environmental justice as a state legislator.

Bridge to Nowhere East Branch San Gabriel River
The San Gabriels National Monument includes 346,177 acres of national forest land.

The struggle for green justice continues. No sooner had the president designated the monument than the L.A. Times argued that he didn’t go far enough by protecting only portions of the San Gabriels. The Times editorial ignores the practical and symbolic value of the president recognizing the San Gabriels are not just a land use but a civil rights issue. The president also acted because Congress is not likely to act soon on the legislation for the national recreation area.

Partisan critics argue President Obama abused his power by taking executive action, but the value of protecting the San Gabriels transcends politics and time. Republican presidents have protected the San Gabriels for more than 100 years. Benjamin Harrison created the forerunner of the Angeles National Forest in 1892, Teddy Roosevelt transferred the land from the Department of the Interior to Agriculture in 1905, and Calvin Coolidge divided the Angeles and the San Bernardino National Forests in 1926.

National monuments play an important role in supporting local economies, according to the White House. Jobs and apprenticeships for youth, and diversification of government contracts to involve local workforce, can promote economic vitality for all. Forest Service crews have already been out enhancing lands and improving trails and recreation sites. Almost 200 jobs and educational experiences have been created as the Forest Service hired youth crews from the Youth Conservation Corps, California Conservation Corps and the San Gabriel Valley Conservation Corps in the past two months. Economic vitality also requires addressing gentrification and displacement by increasing home ownership and support for small businesses as communities become greener and more desirable. Otherwise, lower-income residents will no longer be able to live or work nearby.

Grassroots groups are vital in the struggle for the San Gabriels, but mainstream environmentalists receive vastly more funding. They are in a gold rush to seek funding from the greening of the San Gabriels and the L.A. River. Increasing the number of people of color in mainstream environmental organizations is important, but it’s still not enough. Government agencies and foundations must ensure equal funding for local environmental justice and grassroots groups, or diverse values at stake for the community will not be represented. Funding for organizations where conservation, health and social justice are integral to their values and culture is key to enhance the San Gabriels, and to transform the environmental movement to reflect the new California and the critical electorate of Latinos, African Americans, young people and single mothers. California surveys show that Latinos, African Americans and Asian Americans have been the biggest supporters of park bond measures, and the most concerned about the environment.

The City Project has been working to diversify access to and support for the San Gabriels since 2001, working with nontraditional partners and SGMF. We will continue to support (1) implementation of a national monument management plan, (2) proposed legislation for a national recreation area, and for wilderness and wild and scenic river designations, and (3) compliance with environmental and health justice laws and principles, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Executive Order 12898 on environnental justice and health.

Bridge to Nowhere East Branch San Gabriel River
Nelson’s Bighorn Sheep on the East Fork of the San Gabriels.

President Obama has designated 13 national monuments, and has personally traveled to designate only two: the San Gabriels and the Cesar Chavez National Monument. Cesar Chavez is the first national monument in the U.S. dedicated to a Latino born after the 1700s, according to NPS. The president has preserved 3 million acres of public lands.

President Obama spoke eloquently in the San Gabriels: “My commitment to conservation isn’t about locking away our natural treasures; it’s about working with communities to open up our glorious heritage to everybody — young and old, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American — to make sure everybody can experience these incredible gifts.” That is the promise of the San Gabriel Mountains with green justice for all.

Robert García is the Founding Director and Counsel of The City Project and an Assistant Professor, Community Faculty, at the Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science. He served as a keynote speaker at the 2014 NRPA Congress. Michelle Kao, UCLA ‘15, is an Intern for The City Project. The City Project added the emphasis in bold and the pictures of Transit to Trails and the sheep.

Download the San Gabriels green justice article from NRPA Parks & Recreation Magazine (Dec 2014).

NY Times This the best overview of how grand juries work since #Ferguson and #Garner

December 9th, 2014

A grand jury will indict a ham sandwich – unless the ham sandwich is a cop. 41 officers were charged with murder or manslaughter over seven years, while police reported 2,600 justifiable homicides to the FBI. U.S. attorneys prosecuted 162,000 federal cases in 2010, the most recent year for which there is data. Grand juries declined to return an indictment in 11 of them. If you want peace, work for justice.

No precise figures exist for the number of people killed by the police in the United States, but police departments each year voluntarily report about 400 “justifiable police homicides” to the Federal Bureau of Investigation; it is an incomplete count, criminologists say

Rarely do deaths lead to murder or manslaughter charges. Research by Philip M. Stinson, a criminologist at Bowling Green State University, reports that 41 officers were charged with either murder or manslaughter in shootings while on duty over a seven-year period ending in 2011. Over that same period, police departments reported 2,600 justifiable homicides to the F.B.I. . . .

For most felonies, grand jury hearings are swift, bare-bones proceedings. Prosecutors present enough evidence to show it is probable that the defendant, who rarely testifies, committed a crime, and ask the jury to vote for an indictment. Several cases are usually processed in a single day.

But because most prosecutors impanel a special grand jury to investigate police-related deaths, they insulate themselves from the final decision, while appearing to fulfill the public desire for an independent review, legal experts said. The inquiries often go on for weeks or months, with testimony from several witnesses.

The proceeding is transformed into a trial of sorts, behind closed doors but without cross-examination. Prosecutors control what witnesses appear and in what order, legal scholars said.

In most cases, the officer provides his or her account; prosecutors can decide to let an officer’s version of events go unchallenged or to discredit it with cross-examination. They can do the same with other witnesses.

“If the prosecutor wants an indictment she or he is probably going to get one because they do have so much control over the grand jury” . . . .

Read the complete story Grand Jury System, With Exceptions, Favors the Police in Fatalities in the New York Times . . . .

Ferguson photo via St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office and the New York Times

CICLAVIA South L.A. Sunday Dec. 7 9-3

December 7th, 2014


CICLAVIA South L.A. Sunday Dec. 7 9-3

KCET Departures: In light of #Ferguson, #TamirRice, & #Garner, have we made progress in police reform in L.A.?

December 4th, 2014

KCET Departures: In light of recent events in Ferguson, Cleveland, and NYC, let us take a look at the efforts at police reform in our city, from the time of the Watts Riots in 1965, through the L.A. Riots in 1992, to today. Have we made much progress?
Riots and Rebellions: Los Angeles Police Reform Time Line 1965-2012

Saving California State Parks for All at 150

December 3rd, 2014

L.A. River Campout 2 Bowtie Project Oct 18-19

Bowtie Project California State Parks L.A. River

Yosemite was California’s first state park (1864) before it was transferred back to the federal government.

California’s parks movement flourished in the early 1900s . . . . Baby boomers enjoyed a state park system that was affordable, accessible and unparalleled in its inventory of natural and cultural resources.

But what’s to celebrate today? The system is in free fall, what with failing infrastructure, worn facilities, ever-increasing fees, nearly $2 billion in deferred maintenance, political and public indifference, a dispirited workforce and a complete absence of leadership or urgency on the part of elected officials to do anything about it.

[W]e encourage the governor to act on three critical initiatives:

  • A permanent, adequate funding source. State Parks has suffered from inadequate and inconsistent funding since the 1980s. These are public trust assets that contribute to the quality of life, and they deserve public funding. Yes, user fees should be used to support the system. But an overreliance on revenues and bottom-line management is creating a park system for the wealthy, alienating major segments of the population and fostering an unhealthy dynamic of revenues over resources. . . .
  • Leadership. It is time for the governor to use his expansive Rolodex to find a dynamic, talented, qualified state parks director. . . .
  • Infrastructure. It is bad business to allow further deterioration and the loss of these irreplaceable assets. The system and its iconic parks are major contributors to California’s tourism industry and are economic engines for scores of gateway communities. Commit $75 million per year for the next decade to repair worn out facilities and restore crumbling historic structures. . . .

It is really a question of what kind of California we would like to leave for our children and our children’s children. . . .

Mary Wright was chief deputy director of California State Parks from 1991-2001. Ted Jackson was deputy director of park operations from 2004-2009, and Dick Troy was deputy director of operations from 2000-2002. Read their complete op/ed in the San Jose Mercury News.

San Jacinto Wilderness April 2009

San Jacinto Wilderness State Park

State Parks should promote health and environmental justice and quality for all through the transformation of the State Parks System. See the Parks Forward recommendations from diverse allies here.

Sinkyone Roosevelt Elk August 2005

Sinkyone State Park Lost Coast Wilderness

Rainbow outside our window

December 3rd, 2014

Rainbow outside my window


#GivingTuesday Support Equal Justice, Democracy & Livability for All The City Project

December 2nd, 2014

The City Project’s results in 2014 include:

President Barack Obama: Too many children, especially children of color, lack access to parks. Health and social justice require action.

L.A. State Historic Park Groundbreaking “One of the most significant environmental justice victories in Los Angeles, and the catalyst for revitalizating the L.A. River.”

Billion Dollar L.A. River Plan

Investing in Park Poor, Income Poor Communities: It’s Working

The Civil Rights Park celebrating Brown v Board of Education @ 60, Civil Rights Act @ 50, Environmental Justice Order @ 40

Clean Water Justice 10 Years of Grassroots & Government Working Together

Health Justice with Charles Drew University Community Faculty, CDC

“Real Community Lawyering and an Inspiration” U.S. EPA Environmental Justice Head Lisa García

December 2, 2014, is a wonderful day to show your support for equal justice, democracy, and livability for all. #GivingTuesday is a global day of philanthropy to celebrate and encourage support of non-profits nationwide.

Your gift of $25, $50, $100, $250, or more, is the fuel that drives our work. We invite you to make a gift online so that together, we can help create a world which is more just for all.

Thank you and have peaceful and happy holildays!