Smithsonian Native Americans, Urban Waters, and Civic Engagement: The L.A. River Robert Bracamontes

November 26th, 2014

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Tribe Circle by  Ricardo Duffy

The Army Corps of Engineers drowned the Los Angeles River in concrete in the 1930s to prevent floods. The people of Los Angeles including Native Americans now have the opportunity to work with the Corps, the National Park Service, Department of Interior, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and state, regional, and local government to restore the lost beauty of the River with equal justice for all.

The Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum exhibit “Reclaiming the Edge: Urban Waterways and Civic Engagement” emphasized that greening urban rivers is not just about conservation values — as important as those are — it’s about the people who live along the rivers, and the range of values at stake, and the future of our children and our world. The exhibit covered the L.A. River and five others around the world. The New York Times highlights revitalization of the L.A. River as a best practice example for “more sustainable, livable and socially just cities.”

Robert Bracamontes, ‘Bob Black Crow,’ is Acjachemen, Nican Tlaca, indigenous to this land. Mr. Bracamontes writes on water and faith in the attached Smithsonian article:

How should I turn back the clock for you to see through my Ancestors’ eyes? We sat on the banks of rivers waiting for the fish to bite. The basic necessities of life existed an arm’s length away. The water meant life. It still does today. The river, its water, is the life line of our people. For the present settlers it is a tributary for pollution, commerce and invasion. For us it is everything.

Read the complete article on Native Americans, Urban Waters, and Civic Engagement: The L.A. River by Robert Bracamontes and Robert García.

Read the complete newsletter on Urban Waters: Water and Faith from the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum.

ace lar report

The US Army Corps of Engineers study provides a best practice framework for revitalizing the L.A. River

The San Gabriel Mountains Forever Leadership Academy is Recruiting for its Winter – Summer 2015 Class

November 25th, 2014

The San Gabriel Mountains Forever Leadership Academy is still recruiting for its Winter – Summer 2015 Class. However, time is running out.

The Leadership Academy is an education project of San Gabriel Mountains Forever, a coalition of over 150 individuals and organizations working to protect and enhance our mountains, rivers and parks withaccess for all and support a legacy of public lands stewards, particularly among youth and in communities of color. A six-month volunteer organizer training program, the San Gabriel Mountains Forever Leadership Academy emphasizes civic engagement, community advocacy and project management.

Classes are led by coalition staff, experienced organizers and professionals on various topics, including the legislative process, strategic planning, public speaking, social media and project management. The Academy is free to apply and attend. Participants are eligible for financial aid for transportation as well as child and adult care. Participants have the opportunity to receive up to $1,000 to organize a project in her or his community. Participants also earn $500 upon completion of the project. To date, the Leadership Academy has graduated 39 people and executed 20 projects across the Los Angeles region.

Along with a tremendous opportunity for young people and volunteers, consider this a chance to offer training to staff at no cost as well as connect with a coalition and our network of organizations across Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley.

We need people, like you, to help permanently protect and enhance urban access to our San Gabriel Mountains and River. We need people like you for the San Gabriel Mountains Forever Leadership Academy.

 Apply today at http://www.sangabrielmountains.org/academy

 Applications due November 25, 2014. Next class announced December 16, 2014.

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Current Leadership Academy Students visiting the Hilda Solis Overlook.

A grand jury will indict a ham sandwich. One that does not is called a runaway grand jury. #Ferguson

November 25th, 2014

A grand jury that does not do what a prosecutor seeks is known as a runaway grand jury.

Thus, for example, 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, according to the Washington Post. This data is about federal grand juries. There is no reason to believe state grand juries are significantly different, judging by the experience of prosecutors and defense attorneys.

The grand jury in Ferguson did not receive evidence in a public trial presided over by a judge, under the rules of evidence and procedure, with direct and cross examination of witnesses by the prosecution and defense counsel. The prosecution and defense did not engage in the examination and selection of the jury to guard against bias. The family of the victim, the public, and the media were not present to observe the truth unfold. Making selected transcripts and reports public after the fact is no substitute for these substantive and procedural safeguards that promote the reality and the appearance of justice. The Ferguson grand jury proceeding did not serve the public cathartic function of truth and reconciliation. This is not a criticism of the members of the grand jury. The prosecution manipulated the grand jury process to avoid these protections. The prosecution makes it clear to the grand jury not to indict, and then hides behind the grand jury decision. Ferguson also raises the need for grand jury reform.

The City Project stands in solidarity with Ferguson and social justice advocates nationwide to demand accountability, transparency, and an end to racial and ethnic profiling in law enforcement. We urge the United States Department of Justice to move forward with its investigation of the killing of Michael Brown and the Ferguson police department. We support systemic reforms such as implicit bias training, increased community policing, and a national database of incidents of police violence.

I am a former federal prosecutor, having served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York. I have also served as defense counsel in death penalty cases, and as a civil rights attorney in police abuse cases. I helped release the late Black Panther leader Geronimo Pratt after 27 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

If you want peace, work for justice.

Robert García

Brown cap Ferguson 2014

Photograph of Michael Brown’s cap via St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office and the New York Times

The New York Times has published the documents released in the Ferguson case.

The planet will always be here. This is about us. Parks are the heart, lungs, and circulatory systems of the world.

November 24th, 2014

Bryce Canyon National Park hike Navajo Loop

Bryce Canyon National Park Navajo Loop

SYDNEY, Australia — I PARTICIPATED in the World Parks Congress in Sydney last week and learned a new phrase: “a black elephant.” A black elephant . . . is a cross between “a black swan” (an unlikely, unexpected event with enormous ramifications) and the “elephant in the room” (a problem that is visible to everyone, yet no one still wants to address it) even though we know that one day it will have vast, black-swan-like consequences.

“Currently . . . there are a herd of environmental black elephants gathering out there” — global warming, deforestation, ocean acidification, mass extinction and massive fresh water pollution. . . .

A hall full of park exhibits and park rangers from America, Africa and Russia, along with a rainbow of indigenous peoples, scientists and environmentalists from across the globe — some 6,000 — focused on one goal: guarding and expanding protected areas, which are the most powerful tools we have to restrain the environmental black elephants. How so?

It starts with a simple fact: Protected forests, marine sanctuaries and national parks are not zoos, not just places to see nature. “They are the basic life support systems” that provide the clean air and water, food, fisheries, recreation, stable temperatures and natural coastal protections “that sustain us humans” . . . .

That’s why “conservation is self-preservation.”. . . Every dollar we invest in protecting natural systems earns or saves multiple dollars back. . . . [W]hat we call “parks” are really the heart, lungs, and circulatory systems of the world — and they’re all endangered. . . .

It has to stop, not so we “save the planet.” The planet will always be here. This is about us.

Read the rest of this column by Thomas Friedman in the New York Times . . .

We are all immigrants. The City Project supports President Obama on #ImmigrationAction.

November 21st, 2014

I am an immigrant. My dad was deported. My uncle joined the Air Force and we got green cards. Robert García.

I am an immigrant. I was born in Guatemala and came to the United States with my mother, sister, and other members of my family when I was four years old. We were part of an exodus from Guatemala to the United States.

Today my family includes a lawyer, a medical doctor, and an MBA. We have two generations of Stanford students, and graduates from or students at Harvard, Cornell, Princeton, Boston University, Columbia, Colgate, and other schools, with more on the way. Our family includes workers in different areas and cities. We vote. We pay taxes.

Immigrants Newburgh NY ca 1957

My family of immigrants, New York 1957

My uncle Julio came from Guatemala to join the US Air Force when he was 17 – without immigration papers. After joining the Air Force he worried that he would be deported if they found out. He went to the commanding officer of his base and said “Sir, I have to make a confession.” “What happened?” Julio told the officer. “I arrived here without papers.” The officer asked, “Do you like it here in this country?” “Very much,” Julio answered. “And do you like being in the Air Force?” his officer asked. “I love it,” Julio answered. “You want to stay here?” “Yes,” Julio said, “I am certain I would like it.” “OK,” his officer said. The officer rang a bell and an official arrived. “Arrange Julio’s papers for his US citizenship,” he said. That’s how they arranged it.  Julio served in the US Air Force for 20 years before retiring. He arranged for my great grandfather, grandparents, mother and father, uncle, aunt, sister, two cousins, and me to immigrate to the US with green cards.

My father had previously been deported twice, before returning with the immigration papers that Julio and my grandfather helped secure.

I am an immigrant.

Walk a Mile in My Shoes The City Project's Dayana Molina and Michelle Kao

Dayana Molina and Michelle Kao at the new Civil Rights Park in Los Angeles celebrating the Movement

I am a Dreamer. Organizer Dayana Molina.

I received my Dreamer status in May 2013, under President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. This program stops the deportation of eligible young adults. I am eligible to work, pay taxes, drive, and travel within the US. I knew that my newly acquired status would open doors for me, but I felt sadness because my parents could not benefit directly. They have been in this country as long as I have, and have worked low paying jobs for more than 20 years. It was hard to come to terms with the fact that I would be the only one to benefit from their many years of sacrifice and hard work.

Today President Obama’s announcement of his proposed executive action on immigration reform is some of the best news I have received in my entire life.

I am hopeful that President Obama’s announcement will further benefit the millions of youth under his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, as well as their parents and older generations of immigrants who work hard everyday.

“Dreamer status has given me hope. It makes me think that perhaps this country is finally taking steps forward towards comprehensive immigration reform. I would like to have a path to citizenship, and I would like the right to vote. I am hopeful my efforts to gain my degree will not be in vain. I hope the laws will change to make it possible for hard working immigrants to finally count and live the life we deserve.”

I am a Dreamer.

I am an Immigrant. Intern Michelle Kao, UCLA.

I am an immigrant. I was born in Canada to an extended network of families escaping the specter of Chinese communism. I came to America with my family when I was only three years old.Growing up in a predominantly nonimmigrant neighborhood, I have not only experienced the snide offhand remark about the shape of my eyes and the color of my skin, but the derision of classmates who didn’t know any better about the label “immigrant.” In middle school, I distinctly remember a classmate questioning the legality of my status, and whether or not I had to “jump fences to get here.” The ignorance and prejudice surrounding immigrants—with legal status or otherwise—is pervasive and unjust.The discriminatory image of faceless immigrant masses I confronted in my youth are thankfully being addressed in President Barack Obama’s proposed executive action on immigration reform. He not only humanizes and distinguishes the vast nuances of the immigrant community by prioritizing “felons, not families. Criminals, not children,” but also provides hope for hardworking immigrant families to remain together.This is a country of immigrants—we may not have been born here, but we are here to stay.

City Project intern Michelle Kao is a UCLA senior with a double major in Political Science and Japanese. She plans to go to law school. She is on the boards of Yukai Daiko, a traditional Japanese drumming group, and the Chinese Cultural Dance Club at UCLA.

Visit Fixing the System: President Obama is Taking Action on Immigration

Click here for the Justice Department memo on the President’s authority to enforce immigration laws.

Click here for the letter by 10 leading legal scholars: “While we differ among ourselves on many issues relating to Presidential power and immigration policy, we are all of the view that these actions are lawful. They are exercises of prosecutorial discretion that are consistent with governing law and with the policies that Congress has expressed in the statutes that it has enacted.”

I am an Immigrant. I support President Obama on #ImmigrationAction. City Project’s Michelle Kao, UCLA

November 20th, 2014
Michelle Kao Photo
I am an immigrant. I was born in Canada to an extended network of families escaping the specter of Chinese communism. I came to America with my family when I was only three years old.Growing up in a predominantly nonimmigrant neighborhood, I have not only experienced the snide offhand remark about the shape of my eyes and the color of my skin, but the derision of classmates who didn’t know any better about the label “immigrant.” In middle school, I distinctly remember a classmate questioning the legality of my status, and whether or not I had to “jump fences to get here.” The ignorance and prejudice surrounding immigrants—with legal status or otherwise—is pervasive and unjust.The discriminatory image of faceless immigrant masses I confronted in my youth are thankfully being addressed in President Barack Obama’s proposed executive action on immigration reform. He not only humanizes and distinguishes the vast nuances of the immigrant community by prioritizing “felons, not families. Criminals, not children,” but also provides hope for hardworking immigrant families to remain together.This is a country of immigrants—we may not have been born here, but we are here to stay.

Michelle Kao is a UCLA senior with a double major in Political Science and Japanese. She plans to go to law school. She is on the boards of Yukai Daiko, a traditional Japanese drumming group, and the Chinese Cultural Dance Club at UCLA.

I am an immigrant. My dad was deported. My uncle joined the Air Force and we got green cards. I support the President’s #ImmigrationAction

November 20th, 2014

I am an immigrant. I was born in Guatemala and came to the United States with my mother, sister, and other members of my family when I was four years old. My arrival was part of a larger exodus from Guatemala to the United States.

Today my family includes a lawyer, a medical doctor, an MBA, and two generations of Stanford students. We have graduates from or students at Harvard, Cornell, Princeton, Boston University, Columbia, Colgate, and other schools, with more on the way. Our family includes workers in different areas and cities. We vote.

Immigrants Newburgh NY ca 1957

A family of immigrants, New York 1957

My uncle Julio came from Guatemala to join the US Air Force when he was 17 – without immigration papers. After joining the Air Force he worried that he would be deported if they found out. He went to the commanding officer of his base and said “Sir, I have to make a confession.” “What happened?” Julio told the officer. “I arrived here without papers.” The officer asked, “Do you like it here in this country?” “Very much,” Julio answered. “And do you like being in the Air Force?” his officer asked. “I love it,” Julio answered. “You want to stay here?” “Yes,” Julio said, “I am certain I would like it.” “OK,” his officer said. The officer rang a bell and an official arrived. “Arrange Julio’s papers for his US citizenship,” he said. That’s how they arranged it.  Julio served in the US Air Force for 20 years before retiring. He arranged for my great grandfather, grandparents, mother and father, uncle, aunt, sister, two cousins, and me to immigrate to the US with green cards.

My father had previously been deported twice, before returning with the immigration papers that Julio and my grandfather helped secure.

I am an immigrant.

I am a Dreamer. I support President Obama on #ImmigrationAction. City Project Organizer Dayana Molina

November 20th, 2014

DM DC 2

Dayana Molina at the Time is Now Immigration Rally in Washington DC, 2013.

I received my Dreamer status in May 2013, under President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. This program stops the deportation of eligible young adults. I am eligible to work, pay taxes, drive, and travel within the US. I knew that my newly acquired status would open doors for me, but I felt sadness because my parents could not benefit directly. They have been in this country as long as I have, and have worked low paying jobs for more than 20 years. It was hard to come to terms with the fact that I would be the only one to benefit from their many years of sacrifice and hard work.

Today President Obama’s announcement of his proposed executive action on immigration reform is some of the best news I have received in my entire life.

I am hopeful that President Obama’s announcement will further benefit the millions of youth under his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, as well as their parents and older generations of immigrants who work hard everyday.

“Dreamer status has given me hope. It makes me think that perhaps this country is finally taking steps forward towards comprehensive immigration reform. I would like to have a path to citizenship, and I would like the right to vote. I am hopeful my efforts to gain my degree will not be in vain. I hope the laws will change to make it possible for hard working immigrants to finally count and live the life we deserve.”

Click here to read Dayana Molina’s full I am a Dreamer post.

10 Years Grassroots & Government Working Together on Clean Water, Clean Air & Quality of Life for All in L.A.

November 18th, 2014

Clean Water Justice Collection System Settlement Agreement 2004-2014

The people of Los Angeles celebrated ten years of success for clean air, clean water, and improved quality of life for all under the Collection System Settlement Agreement (CSSA) on November 12, 2014. The Agreement is the result of an epic community struggle to fix the sewer system citywide, reduce spills, clean up stormwater runoff, eliminate noxious odors that disproportionately plagued African-American and Latino communities for decades, and create multibenefit park and water projects. The odors smell like rotten eggs and are caused by hydrogen sulfide escaping from sewers. The formal Agreement, in place from 2004 to 2014, worked so well that community leaders and the City of Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation have agreed to continue working together voluntarily on green and blue infrastructure projects. The City and the people have learned to trust and listen to each other. Experts from around the world visit Los Angeles to learn how the city has cleared sewer spills, odors, and stormwater runoff — and how government agencies can work with grassroots leaders through democratic governance to meet infrastructure needs.

The work went from litigation to partnership under the Agreement. Community leaders from Baldwin Hills, Crenshaw, and South Central Los Angeles working with civil rights lawyers, the City, United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Regional Water Quality Control Board and mainstream environmentalists reached the $2 billion court-ordered Agreement under the Clean Water Act in 2004. This was the first time the Clean Water Act was used to address sewage odors, apart from overflows. The Los Angeles sewer system is one of the largest in the U.S., making this work significant to the nation beyond Southern California. This is one of the largest sewage cases in U.S. history, according to EPA.

Community leaders from African-American Los Angeles intervened in the Clean Water suit in 2001 because no one else represented their interests.  The community leaders actively engaged in all aspects of the Agreement and the litigation leading to it. Engineers, sanitation experts, rocket scientists, and organizers who live in the community worked arm in arm with their civil rights attorneys to prepare expert reports, counter government experts, craft the Agreement, and monitor implementation through the Community Advisory Board.

According to Adel Hagekhalil, Assistant Director of the City’s Bureau of Sanitation and a true community hero, the Community Advisory Board “restored trust between the community and the City. We listen to the community. They provide us real feedback. We provide them accurate information.” Plus: “Results helped. When you drove down Rodeo ten years ago you had to roll up your windows. Now children can walk across the intersection without holding their nose. We have built two state of the art ATFs. We are being visited by experts from around the world to study how we did it.”

According to Ms. Opal Young, a charming African American community leader who serves as the chief of the Advisory Board, “The city’s response under the new settlement has been excellent! It couldn’t get any better. But we will make things happen if the good things don’t keep up.”

The multi-benefit projects include:

  • South Central L.A. Wetlands Park transformed a bus parking lot into green space;
  • North Atwater Creek Park helped kick off the greening of the L.A. River;
  • Garvanza Park Stormwater project captures one million gallons of rain and runoff with underground cisterns that filter and replenish groundwater, irrigate the park, and keep polluted runoff out of the river and ocean;
  • Ed Reyes Greenway, part of the L.A. River Master Plan, captures sediment and contaminants before they enter the river; and
  • The North Hollywood alley retrofit installed permeable pavers to filter runoff in a Green Streets project.

A new Civil Rights Park funded under the Agreement commemorates the Movement by honoring national and local Civil Rights heroes, while beautifying the community and filtering rainwater. This is the only monument in the City dedicated to the Civil Rights Movement.

Under the Agreement, sanitary sewer spills were cut 75% from the baseline year. Spills caused by fats, oil, and grease from restaurants were reduced by 90%. Sewer-related odor complaints were reduced 38%. A project labor agreement created local green infrastructure jobs and contracts.

Diverse allies under the Agreement include the Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw Homeowners’ Coalition, Baldwin Hills Estate Homeowners Association (HOA), Baldwin Hills Village Gardens Homes HOA, Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles, Crenshaw Neighborhoods HOA, Expo Neighbors Block Club, United HOA, and Village Green Homes HOA, working with civil rights attorneys at The City Project and English, Munger & Rice.

Clean Water Justice Collection System Settlement Agreement 2004-2014

Click here for the City’s Powerpoint presentation summarizing the results of ten years of work under the Agreement. Click here for the City’s ten year report on the CSSA.

To learn more about the Agreement, visit:

www.cityprojectca.org/ourwork/cleanwaterjustice.html,

The Grass Roots Fight for Clean Water and Green Justice, and

Civil Rights Park 50th Anniversary Civil Rights Act of 1964 “Whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward” MLK.

The sewer case is not just about fixing the sewer system. It is about the values at stake in equitable urban ecosystem services, green infrastructure, watershed management, and environmental justice. These matters concern economists, ecologists, urban planners, landscape architects, elected officials, and legal and policy scholars and practitioners. See, for example, James Salzman et al., The Most Important Current Research Questions in Urban Ecoystems Services, Duke Environmental Law Journal (forthcoming 2014).

Eaton Canyon Hike San Gabriel Mountains Forever Leadership Academy

November 17th, 2014

The San Gabriel Mountains Forever Leadership Academy including The City Project’s Dayana Molina and  Ariel Collins participated in a Wilderness Walk in Eaton Canyon in the San Gabriels.

The Leadership Academy is a six-month volunteer training program on civic engagement, community organizing, and project management supporting San Gabriel Mountains Forever in diverse communities through self-designed local community projects.

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According to Bluebird Taylor, Native Americans have used the yucca, a plant commonly found in the San Gabriels, for food, clothes, shoes, baskets, and brushes. Bluebird, who is of Native American and African American descent, is an intern with The City Project and a student in the Leadership Academy.