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Smithsonian Clean Water: A Moral, Human Rights, Civil Rights, and Health Issue

Access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right. Nonetheless, there are vast disparities in equitable distribution of clean water across the planet. I witnessed these challenges firsthand while working to improve local climate change adaptation plans on the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua with blueEnergy, a sustainable energy non-profit centered in Bluefields, Nicaragua. Local communities face intense, flood-causing rains followed by lasting droughts which dry wells, rivers, and creeks. Increasing temperatures deplete crop yields and force residents to expand farm space through deforestation, which eliminates wildlife and causes harmful water pollution. These changes threaten the basic well-being of local communities: access to water, food, and safety. Even within the United States and other developed nations, there are significant disparities in clean water access. The recent water crisis in Flint, Michigan is a harrowing reminder of the environmental and health burdens often shouldered by low-income communities and communities of color. All people, regardless of race and class, share a common right to clean water and a clean environment.

Read the complete article by Samuel García in the Smithsonian Anacostia Urban Waterways Newsletter (#7 Fall 2016).


National Academies Report on Pathways to Health Equity Transformed into Comic Book CA Endowment #PromoteHealthEquity Take Action Comics

Take Action Comics is proud to have worked with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on a new comic book to highlight the Academies’ recent report, Communities in Action: Pathways to Health EquityThe report reviews the state of health disparities in the United States and their root causes, identifies community-based solutions to address them, and recommends key research needs to promote health equity. The report finds, among other things, that health inequalities are in large part a result of poverty, structural racism, and discrimination. As a  result, civil rights approaches are necessary to mitigate negative impacts of discrimination, analyze the burdens and benefits of health policy on all people, and to promote health equity.

The comic gives a brief overview of the report’s findings, recommendations, and guiding principles for communities, and directs readers to the full report and highlights.


Take Action Comics aims to make the struggle for health equity captivating and accessible to all – especially to younger generations. People of all ages and backgrounds hold a stake in carrying on the Civil Rights Revolution and promoting a culture of health. Of course, comics cannot convey the breadth of information that a full textual report can. Comic pages—filled with bright colors, interesting images, and striking text—can, however, provoke interest, inspire readers to learn more, and direct a wider audience to materials that they otherwise might never have uncovered. As the report itself finds, partnerships between diverse allies are critical to comprehensive solutions to health inequities. Creative media is an effective pathway to discovering those diverse allies.

-Samuel Garcia Stanford ’18 Take Action Comics
California Endowment Prevention Blog



San Gabriels Management Plan overwhelming support for civil rights & environmental justice compliance

Over 60 diverse community and national organizations and leaders agree the US Forest Service must ensure compliance with and enforcement of equal justice protections in the management plan for the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its regulations, and the President’s Executive Order 12898 on environmental justice and health. Many are listed below.

Click on the map for a larger image

Diverse Community and National Organizations Comments
Amigos de los Rios
Bike San Gabriel Valley
California Wilderness Coalition
Center for Biological Diversity
The City Project
Diverse Environmental Leaders Speakers Bureau
Earthwise Productions, Inc.
Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society
Jesus People Against Pollution
Kingdom Living Temple
Latino Coalition for a Healthy California
League of Conservation Voters
Los Angeles Conservation Corps
Mujeres de la Tierra
National Parks Conservation Association
Natural Resources Defense Council
New Alpha Community Development Corporation
The Whitney M. Slater Foundation
The Wilderness Society
Voces Verdes
Watts Labor Community Action Committee
WE ACT for Environmental Justice
West End Revitalization Association

San Gabriel Mountains Community Collaborative Comments
Jacqueline Ayer, Association of Rural Town Councils
Kathryn Barger, LA County Board of Supervisors – District 5 (Antonovich)
Dale Benson, California Department of Transportation, District 7
Tim Brick, Arroyo Seco Foundation
Josh Candelaria, San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors (Rutherford)
Andy Silva, San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors
Margaret Clark, Councilwoman, City of Rosemead; Board Member, Rivers & Mountains Conservancy
Ann Croissant, San Gabriel Mountains Regional Conservancy
Ron Ellingson, Mt. Baldy
William Estrada, Curator and Chair, History Department, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
Dianne Erskine Hellrigel, Executive Director, Community Hiking Club
Jessica Strickland, Trout Unlimited
Nancy Negrete, The City Project (Alternate)
Kelly Gardner, San Gabriel Valley Water Association
Armond Ghazarian, Los Angeles Department of Public Works
Omar Gomez, Consejo de Federaciones Mexicanas en Norteamérica (COFEM)
Richard Guttenberg, Archeology/Culture
Cliff Hamlow, San Gabriel Valley Legislative Coalition of Chambers
Henry Herrera, CalFire
Grace J. Kast, Gateway Water Management Authority
Joseph Lyons, Councilperson, City of Claremont; Representative, San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments
Mark Masaoka, Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council (A3PCON)
Mike McNutt, Palmdale Water District
Steve Messer, Concerned Off-Road Bicyclists Association (CORBA)
John Monsen, The Sierra Club
Chuck Myers, National Forest Homeowners
Judy M. Nelson, Councilwoman, City of Glendora
Michelle Nuttall, Southern California Edison
Daniel Oaxaca, San Gabriel Valley Conservation Corps
William Reeves – Fisheries Resource Volunteer Corps
Alternate – John Tobin, Pasadena Casting Club
Liz Reilly, Councilwoman, City of Duarte; Representative, San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments
Claire Robinson, Amigos de los Rios
Tamera Robinson, Equestrian, Alternate – Irma “Kelly” Carle, Antelope Valley Unit, Backcountry Horseman of California
Dan Rosenfeld, Community Partners and Trust for Public Land
Daniel Rossman, The Wilderness Society
Jack Sahl, Friends of the Angeles
Andrew Salas, Gabrieleño Band of Mission Indians-Kizh Nation
Chris Solek, Council for Watershed Health
Rick Travis, California Rifle and Pistol Association
Ben Smith, Mountain High
Alternate – Paul Bauer, Mountain High & Stevens Pass
Alternate – Amy Granat, California Off-Road Vehicle Association (CORVA)

San Gabriel Mountains Forever Coalition Comments
Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council
Amigos de los Rios
Bike San Gabriel Valley
The City Project
Council of Mexican Federations (COFEM)
Community Hiking Club
Climate Resolve
Friends of the River
National Parks Conservation Association
Sierra Club
Trout Unlimited
The Wilderness Society

Universities Condemn Travel Ban in Court Go Stanford #resist

Rodin at Stanford

“The Executive Order Harms Students, Faculty, Scholars, and Universities. International Students, Faculty, and Scholars Are Vitally Important to Amici, the United States, and the World More Generally.

“The Executive Order has serious and chilling implications for amici’s students, faculty, and scholars. By prohibiting persons from freely traveling to and from this country, the Executive Order divides students and their families, impairs the ability of American universities to draw the finest international talent, and inhibits the free exchange of ideas.

“Amici are Brown University, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Chicago, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Duke University, Emory University, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, Stanford University, Vanderbilt University, and Yale University.”

Read the friend of the court brief here

Auguste Rodin, Burghers of Calais, 1884–1895, six individual bronzes

The English king Edward offered to spare the people of Calais if its top leaders would surrender to him to be executed. One of the wealthiest volunteered first, and five others joined with him. Rodin captured this poignant moment of defeat, self-sacrifice, and willingness to face death. #solidarity and #resistance

Guatemala’s Indigenous Seek Recognition for Justice System

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS February 15, 2017

SOLOLA, Guatemala — The law works as it has for centuries in the Guatemalan indigenous community of Solola: Townsfolk bring grievances and local authorities make rulings, usually with a speed unheard of in a country where justice is often delayed, if it comes at all.

At one recent weekly court session, Maria Micaela Panjoc, baby in arms, came with a request for paternity payments. Others sought help with land disputes. Andres Xelp wanted the judges to force his son to move back home.

The generally non-partisan leaders of local Mayan communities hear the cases, trying to find quick resolutions when they can and sometimes passing cases over to formal prosecutors when they cannot — as in the case of a young woman speaking the Kaqchikel language who said she’d been raped.

The Solola court alone handled 3,000 cases last year.

For generations, outsiders have looked down on indigenous law courts, as they have on the native cultures themselves. Some 40 percent of Guatemala’s 17 million people identify themselves as indigenous and they are pushing for wider respect for the traditional ways in which their cultures deal with their differences, though opposition remains strong within the country’s non-indigenous communities.

Guatemala’s Constitutional Court already has accepted some rulings by indigenous courts and there’s a move to formally amend the country’s constitution to recognize them. An earlier measure to do that came two votes short in congress, with opposition coming from conservatives and from business interests that said they feared legal confusion if different systems co-exist.

Members of congress were scheduled to discuss the proposed constitutional amendment to recognize indigenous justice as part of the country’s judicial system, but on Wednesday they put off the debate for a week after no consensus emerged among the political parties. At least 105 of 158 legislators must approve the proposal for it to pass.

The idea has gained support from national Attorney General Thelma Aldana, as well as Ivan Velaszuqez, who heads the U.N. Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala that has been assisting in corruption investigations in the country.

“Guatemala has to be a place where all its inhabitants belong,” said Velazquez, who visited Solola to view the court process.

The formal legal system has often exploited or ignored indigenous Guatemalans, who were legally required to perform forced labor well into the 20th century and who generally found it nearly impossible to pay for lawyers. Even now, only 10 percent of the country’s townships have prosecutors’ offices.

In Solola, Mayor Tomas Saloj presided over hearings in a town hall decorated with the 20 figures representing the Mayan calendar — 20 days per month, 18 months per year. On the table that served as the judge’s bench were a candle and a glass of water, an invitation for the wisdom of dead ancestors to enter.

Punishments can include restitution, community labor, banishment or whippings: Two braided leather whips hang in the Solola town hall as a reminder.

Agustin Bocel, a town spokesman, recalled a case of attempted rape in which the attacker was sentenced to nine lashes of a whip — at the insistence of his own mother, one for each month she carried him, to remind him of the shame he caused her. Bocel said the man has never caused problems again.

Tomas Guarcas, the mayor of nearby Pixabaj, defended the practice.

“Whipping is a punishment that is like educating children, without violating human rights,” he said, adding that the punishment is usually applied by “by one of the offender’s relatives, the mother, father or in-laws.”

Indigenous Congressman Amilcar Pop said the use of floggings is increasingly discouraged, however.

“This type of mechanism is something that has to be controlled and avoided,” Pop said.

Aldana, the attorney general, said she sees no contradiction between the indigenous system and the formal courts. The indigenous courts, she said, “have helped maintain the peace” and helped “reduce pressure on the regular justice system and its budget.”

Victoria Chuj is one of just three women among the 71 mayors in the province of Solola, of which the town of Solola is part. She carries her wooden staff — the badge of her authority, decorated with four tokens representing the four directions — with pride.

“The staff has to be good and straight so that, like justice, it cannot be bent,” Chuj said.

This story appears in the N.Y. Times


Mayan people in Chichicastenango, Guatemala

Support justice for Guatemalan people before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights against the US for non-consensual medical STD experiments

The City Lights Project

The City Project 2016

Support Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary

According to the Northern Chumash Tribal Council, the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary would protect:

[N]ow submerged Chumash Sacred sites ranging from villages to solstice alignments 6 to 13 miles offshore. Chumash records suggest occupation of the central coast area for 20,000 years with two recorded dates of:

* 18,000 years at Point Conception, an extremely important Chumash Sacred Place
* 14,500 years on the Channel Islands
North of Point Conception, Jalama is a Sacred Chumash village site. Other significant Chumash sites associated with the ocean ecology are found along the adjacent coastal terrain north to Point Sal including two 10,000 year-old sites within Vandenberg AFB.
Onshore San Luis Bay are four major Chumash Sacred sites – three known to have been occupied for 9,000 years:
* The site for which the City of Pismo Beach is named
* The site where the Chumash people return to renew the Traditional Ritual Ceremony Cycle
* The old Chumash Capital in the area of Avila Beach, now partially covered by sea level rise
* The Chumash Sacred site at Diablo Cove along the coastline of the Pecho Coast
Continuing north are the Chumash Village Sacred site in Los Osos, hundreds of Chumash Sacred sites ringing Morro Bay, the Chumash village Sacred site of Cayucos (continuously occupied for 8,000 years), other large sites found in the area to a mile north of Pt. Estero, and two Chumash village Sacred sites in Cambria (continuously occupied for 10,000 years).

The struggle of the Acjachemen people and their allies to protect the sacred site of Panhe is similar to the struggle of the Northern Chumash Tribal Council to preserve and protect ancient ancestral and archeological sites by establishing a federally-designated marine sanctuary where the tribe’s villages once existed, 3 to 6 miles west of current tidal lines, until submerged by the ocean. We recommend a similar analysis of the Native American values under federal and state civil rights laws.

Click here to read the complete public comments sent to San Luis Obispo County Supervisors.

Erica Flores Baltodano is on the National Advisory Council for The City Project and former Associate Director and Counsel. She is a partner at Baltodano & Baltodano.

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Opening brief for the states “This president has dismissed the stay by ‘the so called judge’ as ‘ridiculous.’ The states disagree.” #resist

The states could open their brief on appeal in the case to block the executive order ban on immigration: “This president has dismissed the stay by ‘the so called judge’ as ‘ridiculous.’ The states disagree.” That should set the proper tone for the Court of Appeals to review the executive order and the constitutional separation of powers. If the president is wrong, who is to tell him? The courts. The states. We the people. This is deja vu all over again: the constitutional crisis of the Nixon tapes case and the Saturday night massacre of the attorney general, deputy AG, Archibald Cox – and ultimately the president.

With the president run amok and Congress in disarray, it is up to the federal courts, the states, and the people to preserve constitutional protections and human rights. #resist

Justice under law is traditionally symbolized as blind, holding in her hands scales to balance competing interests and a double-edged sword that cuts both ways. We the people cannot let justice under law drop her guard and blindfold.

Valparaíso Chile 2016

Confused by the legal back-and-forth regarding the executive order immigration/Muslim ban? Condemn this president’s attack on the courts.

“Justice” by Albert-Ernest Carrier Belleuse, Valparaíso Court House, Chile

Condemn President’s Attack on Federal Court in Immigration Case Erica Flores Baltodano

“Confused by the legal back-and-forth regarding Trump’s immigration/Muslim ban Executive Order? Here’s my attempt at a summary for non-lawyers:
The states of Washington and Minnesota sued Trump (in U.S. Federal District Court in Seattle) last week over his Executive Order restricting immigration from seven mostly Muslim nations on the grounds that enforcing the ban would cause immediate and irreparable harm to the states and that the ban is unconstitutional.
On Friday, Judge James Robart (a Bush appointee described as a moderate Republican) temporarily blocked President Trump’s immigration order from being enforced nationwide, allowing immigration of visa holders from the seven countries to resume.
Trump inevitably denigrated Judge Robart as a “so-called judge” and described the judge’s order as “ridiculous” via Twitter and the Justice Department (on behalf of Trump) filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (based in S.F.) late Saturday.
In the appeal, Trump (through the Justice Department) sought to block the Seattle judge’s decision and asked that the lower court’s ruling be stayed (meaning, allow the Executive Order to stand) while the appeal is briefed and heard.
The Ninth Circuit court quickly rejected the stay early this morning (meaning immigration from those seven countries can resume/the Executive Order remains temporarily reversed nationwide) and briefing will continue on the appeal.
The states of Washington and Seattle now have until Sunday night to respond to Trump’s appeal and Trump has until Monday afternoon to reply. Then the Ninth Circuit will issue a ruling on the appeal of the District Court’s temporary Executive Order reversal.
Remember, reversal of the Executive Order by the District Court was temporary, basically putting Trump’s policy on hold at least until the government (Trump/Justice Department) and opponents of the order (Washington and Minnesota) have a chance to make full arguments or until the administration wins a stay.
What today’s order by the Ninth Circuit means is that Trump has lost his stay, the temporary reversal of the immigration/Muslim ban holds, and we’ll learn the fate of the temporary reversal of the Executive Order sometime after Monday afternoon. With that ruling, the Executive Order will either be enforceable, . . . or remain reversed/be unenforceable, while the more lengthy legal battles resume.
Either way, the legal fights are just beginning and we must all recognize that our democracy relies on an independent judiciary. Our constitutional rights depend on a healthy system of checks and balances and a respect of one branch by the other. Federal judges are appointed for life, so Trump can Tweet, but he can’t fire the District Court Judge he insulted. The fact that there are so many federal judge vacancies (thanks Obama obstructionists) and that the President appoints federal judges for life is one aspect of a Trump presidency that is so concerning.
Regardless of the steps Trump has taken to diminish our democracy, we can only hope judges continue to use our constitution and laws as their guide. So far, with respect to this immigration/Muslim ban, several members of the judiciary have done well (and lawyers continue to work around the clock to do their share).
Which leads me to recommend this piece by [law professor Eric Posner at University of Chicago Law School].
Regardless of how you feel about Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee, he’s likely going to be approved. . . . I thank Posner for his message to Gorsuch.

New York Times: Gorsuch Must Condemn Trump’s Attack on a Judge, by Eric Posner.”

Erica Flores Baltodano is on the National Advisory Council for The City Project and former Associate Director and Counsel. She is a partner at Baltodano & Baltodano.

Erica Flores Baltodano Save Our Coast and Climate for All! California Coastal Commission 2016
Erica Flores Baltodano Save Our Coast and Climate for All! California Coastal Commission 2016 


The states could open their brief on appeal: “This president has dismissed the stay by ‘the so called judge’ as ‘ridiculous.’ The states disagree.” That should set the proper tone for the Court of Appeal to review the executive order and the separation of powers.  If the president is wrong, who is to tell him? The courts. The states. We the people.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has set up this page for the public to follow the case challenging the executive order. It has links to the court orders and documents filed by the parties.

Free the Beach! Affordable overnight visits for all LA Times

Robert Garcia, the founding director of the City Project, has long worked on equal access to California’s parks and recreational facilities. He praised the bill and offered to work with Gonzalez to make her legislation as strong as possible.

The measure by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-Chula Vista) calls on the California State Coastal Conservancy to create a program that would preserve and add to the number of low-cost hotels, motels and hostels in coastal areas, particularly on parkland.

The bill would require the conservancy to work with the California Department of Parks and Recreation and to develop a separate pilot program to explore the development, maintenance and operation of affordable accommodations by the private sector and nonprofit organizations. . . .

Equitable access to coastline has emerged as a major concern of organizations that represent low-income people of color and the California Coastal Commission, which is responsible for protecting public access to the state’s beaches.

According to the commission, a room at a budget hotel in beach areas costs between $135 and $260 a night during the summer — an expense that many low-income families cannot afford.

The commission also reports that since 1989, about 24,720 economy rooms have been lost along the coast because of hotel and motel closures and remodels. Such affordable accommodations now make up only 5% of the rooms available in coastal areas.

Recent polling by UCLA and San Francisco State University indicates that the expense of travel, parking and overnight accommodations is becoming too much for many potential visitors, making the coast inaccessible to ordinary people, especially low-income families that live inland. . . .

Robert Garcia, the founding director of the City Project, has long worked on equal access to California’s parks and recreational facilities. He praised the bill and offered to work with Gonzalez to make her legislation as strong as possible.

“We do agree with the thrust of this bill and the steps that are suggested,” he said. “But we think the devil is in the details.”

Garcia said the measure does not address people of color or minorities specifically, and the bill needs to stress compliance with state civil rights laws, including equal justice provisions recently added to the California Coastal Act, which is enforced by the Coastal Commission.

“If you use a euphemism, such as under-served communities or low-income communities, it is not effective,” he said. “People of color can be left behind.”

Read the rest of this story by Dan Weikel in the L.A. Times [link added].

Free the Beach! Stop action video Sam García ’18