Skip to main content

Trump admin has declared war on the environment | Capitol Weekly

By Robert García
Opinion August 2018

The resignation of Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt was met with a collective sigh of relief across the nation. Pruitt, one of President Donald Trump’s most loyal foot soldiers in the Trump Administration’s ongoing war on environmental quality, environmental justice, and environmental health, had overseen some of the most egregious rollbacks of environmental protections in history during his brief and troubled tenure in office.

But anyone who thinks that Pruitt’s departure is the end of the fight – or even just a momentary pause in hostilities – hasn’t been paying close enough attention.

President Trump and his administration remain a clear and present danger to our environment, to public lands, and to all who believe that health equity, public lands and monuments, biodiversity, clean air and water, and climate justice should take precedence over corporate profits.

Opposition is even higher among California voters of color: 84 percent said they are opposed to Trump’s actions.

Just scratching the surface, the Trump administration has torpedoed efforts to address climate change, weakened migratory bird and wildlife protections, rolled back vehicle emissions standards and other measures to reduce air pollution and protect human health, rolled back monuments, and stocked his administration with industry lobbyists and anti-science ideologues.

Trump has also effectively declared war on our nation’s public lands, waters, and monuments, opening up sensitive off-shore and on-shore areas to oil and gas drilling, scrapping efforts to balance energy development with conservation, and illegally reducing the size of national monuments celebrating the diversity of the nation.

Here in California, Trump’s administration has bent over backward to grease the skids for Cadiz, Inc.’s damaging groundwater mining project in the Mojave Desert.

We must continue to call on the Trump administration – and all elected officials – to ensure that our air, water, and public lands, and the natural and cultural heritage they embody, are protected for generations to come.

According to a statewide poll released this earlier year by Hispanic Access Foundation, California voters agree. The survey found that residents of the Golden State, from all different walks of life, place great value on their access to public lands, and overwhelmingly believe that these spaces deserve to be protected. An overwhelming 95 percent of voters said that they support protecting public lands, and 78 percent of voters said that they oppose Trump’s decision to remove protections from public lands.

Opposition is even higher among California voters of color: 84 percent said they are opposed to Trump’s actions.

The threats to these public lands’ future represents an affront to diverse communities throughout our state and nation. Access to our state’s natural wonders shouldn’t be limited to those with the means to enjoy them; we must ensure that there are abundant opportunities for people from all walks of life, particularly from disadvantaged communities, to enjoy nature and outdoor recreation through federal public lands and waters, state parks and beaches, and local open spaces.

Attacks on our public land, air, and water threaten our coastline, peaks, valleys, and rivers. They also pose a direct threat to public health, placing in jeopardy the well being of families and children throughout our state. Everyone deserves the ability to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and live healthy lives without those who exploit our natural resources doing unjust harm to our people.

Fortunately, many elected officials and community leaders throughout the Golden State understand what is at stake and have stood in defense of our environment. Our U.S. Senators, Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, as well as state officials Governor Jerry Brown, Senator Kevin de León, and Attorney General Xavier Becerra, have repeatedly stood up to the Trump administration in defense of clean air, clean water, and public lands, both in California and across the nation.

Amidst the myriad challenges facing our country at this moment in time, we rely on our elected officials now more than ever to continue using their national platforms to make sure that environmental and health protections remain a priority for our nation.

We all share the moral obligation to protect our outdoor heritage, our clean air and water, and the public lands legacy of future generations. We can’t allow President Trump to dismantle protections for people, public lands, or clean air and water.

Ed’s Note: Robert Garcia is the civil rights advocate for The City Project, a non-profit legal and policy advocacy team in Los Angeles.

www.capitolweekly.net/trump-admin-declared-war-environment/

Gil Garcetti, former L.A. County District Attorney, asks Gov. Brown to permit Kevin Cooper DNA testing, with Robert García

GIL GARCETTI

August 13, 2018

The Honorable Edmund G. Brown, Jr.
State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
Fax (916) 558-3160

Re: Permit Kevin Cooper to have DNA testing

Dear Governor Brown:

Robert Garcia and I write to urge you to permit death row inmate Kevin Cooper and his defense counsel to have advanced DNA testing done to help determine the question of his innocence or guilt for the crime he has always argued he did not commit. We both recognize the value of post conviction review to help ensure justice when the death penalty is at stake.

We have both served as prosecutors. I served 32 years in the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office including four years at the Chief Deputy and eight years as the District Attorney. Robert served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York for four years.

We also worked as opponents in the case of Geronimo Pratt, the late Black Panther who served 27 years in prison for a murder he maintained he did not commit. In 1997, at a special hearing, the Los Angeles Superior Court vacated the conviction and ordered a new trial. I was the D.A. in 1997 when the Superior Count vacated Mr. Pratt’s conviction. Robert was a member of the defense team in the proceeding resulting in Mr. Pratt’s release. The California Court of Appeal in 1997 affirmed the reversal of his conviction on the grounds that the prosecution did not disclose impeachment and exculpatory evidence to the jury and the defense at trial in 1970.[1]

The prosecution subsequently dropped all charges, and Mr. Pratt died a free man. Mr. Pratt’s crime was a capital offense when he was originally prosecuted. Fortunately he was alive to be released.

The New York Times has published an extensive review of the evidence suggesting an advanced DNA test could exonerate Mr. Cooper. Federal judges, law school deans, F.B.I. veterans and a former president of the American Bar Association say he may well be innocent. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris support testing, as do editorials in the Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle. We strongly urge you to read these editorials if you have not already done so.[2] Pope Francis wrote to you about Mr. Cooper (and recently declared the death penalty unacceptable under Catholic theology).[3]

Advanced DNA testing not available at the time of the crimes, Mr. Cooper’s trial, or his earlier appeals could, experts argue, determine whether Mr. Cooper or someone else had worn a shirt found near the crime scene.[4]

It is exceedingly rare for a former county district attorney to urge the action we hope you shall order. But the facts, and lack of facts, in this case have motivated me to ask for your assistance in ordering the advanced DNA testing that could prove Mr. Cooper’s innocence.

Robert and I urge you to permit Mr. Cooper to have the advanced DNA test.

Very truly yours,

Gil Garcetti
12021 Wilshire Blvd. #505
Los Angeles, CA 90025
________________________
www.garcetti.com
213.300.3100

Robert García
Founding Director-Counsel
The City Project / Proyecto del Pueblo
Community Faculty, Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science
Santa Fe Art Institute Equal Justice Resident 2017
1055 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1660
Los Angeles, CA 90017
rgarcia@cityprojectca.org
213-977-1035

References

[1] In re Geronimo Pratt, 69 Cal. App. 4th 1294 (2d District 1999).
Robert also was a member of the defense team where the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed the reversal of the conviction and death sentence on the grounds that the prosecution did not disclose impeachment and exculpatory evidence to the jury and defense. Zant v. Nelson, 296 S.E.2d 590 (Ga. 1982), cert. denied, 460 U.S. 1056 (1983), appeal after remand, 405 S.E.2d 250 (Ga. 1991).
[2] Editorial, Governor Brown should do the right thing and grant clemency to death row inmate Kevin Cooper, L.A. Times, June 13, 2018, http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-brown-cooper-death-row-20180613-story.html; Editorial, Leave no evidence behind in Cooper case, https://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/editorials/article/Editorial-12958736.php.
[3] See Nicholas Kristof, Was Kevin Cooper Framed for Murder?, N.Y. Times, May 17, 2018, available at https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/17/opinion/sunday/kevin-cooper-california-death-row.html.
[4] See Nicholas Kristof, We May Be Able To Get Kevin Cooper Off Death Row, N.Y. Times, July 17, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/11/opinion/kevin-cooper-jerry-brown-death-row.html; L.A. Times Editorial cited above.

Letter from Gil Garcetti and Robert Garcia to Governor Brown re Kevin Cooper

Free the Beach! Hollister Ranch NRPA Parks & Recreation


By Robert García
Open Space August 2018

Two miles from Gaviota State Park beach, just west of Santa Barbara, California, sits Hollister Ranch, a gated community that’s one of the last large holdings of property along the California shore. State legislation required public coastal access as a condition for property owners to build houses. Three decades later, the public remains unfairly and illegally shut out. The state attorney general and property owners behind closed doors have proposed selling out the public. Fortunately, a state court judge has ordered a hearing to allow the pubic to take a stand to free the beach. The proposal would restrict public access to a life-threatening three-mile ocean route, except for small groups of children each year.

The City Project, GreenLatinos, and California League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) oppose the settlement agreement and support equal access to the California coast. The proposed settlement is illegal, unfair and inadequate, especially for people of color and low-income people who have limited or no access to the beach and coastal zone. These communities disproportionately lack access, are harmed by sea level rising and climate change, are deprived of coastal economic benefits, and are ignored or marginalized by the state.

“I grew up in Chicago, near Lake Michigan, and I was at the beach all the time for barbecues, swimming, hanging out,” says Yvonne Gonzalez Duncan, director of California LULAC. “In California, I live a mile from the beach and love lots of bonfires and fun for my family. All children and their families and friends have a right to beaches and trails along the coast.” LULAC is one of the largest and oldest Latino civil rights organizations in the nation.

“Growing up near the beach in Southern California, I always had the sense the beach is for everyone,” says Mark Magaña, executive director of GreenLatinos.“Free access is a great equalizer for everybody to enjoy the beach with their family and find solace. Taking that right away and making the beach a privilege for the few is the antithesis to how I grew up, and to our natural right to enjoy the wonders of nature equally without barriers to access.” GreenLatinos is a national network of Latino environmental, health and social justice leaders.

The “Gang of 100” — representing millions of Californians all over the state, from inland and urban residents to rural coastal dwellers — supported coastal justice in public comments to the Coastal Commission in January 2016, bringing together social justice and mainstream environmentalists. The Commission ignored them then, and the state ignores them now. When the court ordered the parties to provide public notice of the proposed settlement, the Coastal Commission and Coastal Conservancy should have reached out to the people they know care about coastal justice. Instead, the parties published an obscure notice in the Santa Barbara Press-News. Who reads that? People of color, low income people and other coastal supporters statewide generally don’t.

Hollister Ranch property owners have fought for decades to prevent public access. They bullied the federal government from making the Gaviota Coast a unit of the National Park System because of strong opposition from study area landowners. Now they are bullying the state to surrender the peoples’ right to reach the beach under terms the YMCA obtained in 1980 that provide road access to a 3,880-foot stretch of beach on Hollister Ranch.

The California Coastal Commission has traditionally refused to address environmental justice. For that reason, California amended the Coastal Act in 2016 to make clear that equal access and coastal justice are integral to coastal protection. The proposed settlement does not comply with these coastal justice standards. The attorney general traditionally defends agencies against environmental justice claims, rather than protect the public.

Over 1,500 people have submitted comments, most against the proposal. It’s easy to see why. The state largely limits public access to the beach to life-threatening three-mile trips via kayak, surf board, paddle board and soft-bottomed boat — with a return trip required the same day to prevent overnight stays. Sea, wind and weather conditions on the Gaviota Coast can change rapidly without warning, especially in the afternoon. Professional kayakers warn against even trying this trip. The attorney general, commissioners and property owners should personally kayak this route to back up their claim that it’s good enough for the people.

Wealthy property owners filed a class action lawsuit several years ago against the California Coastal Conservancy and Coastal Commission to limit public access to the beach. The action moved along largely in secret until the court ordered the parties to provide notice to the public of their proposed agreement.

“This proposed settlement was conceived and executed behind closed doors,” says Marc Chytilo, an attorney for the Gaviota Coastal Trail Alliance, in the state court case of Pappas v. California Coastal Conservancy. The court has set a hearing on the Alliance’s motion to intervene on August 20, and a fairness hearing on the proposed settlement on September 10, 2018.

The City Project, GreenLatinos and California LULAC support the Alliance, and are organizing non-traditional allies to make clear that the beach does not belong to private property owners, state agencies, and mainstream environmentalists. Free the Beach!

*Named members of the Gaviota Coastal Trail Alliance include the Gaviota Coast Conservancy, the Santa Barbara County Trails Council, Coastwalk/California Coastal Trail Association and the California Coastal Protection Network

Watch this short stop-motion video by Sam Garcia by pressing play or visiting www.cityprojectca.org/free-the-beach

Robert García is the Founding Director of and Counsel for The City Project, a nonprofit environmental justice and civil rights organization based in Los Angeles.

This column is available online at NRPA’s Parks & Recreation Magazine Open Space Blog (August 2018). (NRPA is the National Recreation and Parks Association.)

Congressman Jimmy Gomez Roundtable: The Future of the L.A. River: How to Ensure Equity and Access

The City Project Congressman Gomez 20180810

Congressman Jimmy Gomez and river advocates, L.A. River Center

Congressman Jimmy Gomez held a roundtable on how to ensure equity and access regarding the benefits of revitalization along the L.A.River on August 10, 2018.

Congressman Gomez can help ensure equity and access through oversight of federal agencies and recipients of federal financial assistance, including state, regional, and local agencies, non-profit organizations, and private organizations. Effective oversight is needed to ensure agencies and recipients comply with civil rights, environmental justice, and healthy equity laws and principles in revitalizing the river.

Studies by the US Army Corps of Engineers, the National Park Service, the L.A. County Department of Parks, the L.A. County Department of Public Health, and the City of L.A. Recreation and Parks Department agree. There are park and health disparities along the river. Agencies and recipients of federal and state funding are required to alleviate these disparities.

The Presidential Memorandum on diversity and inclusion in parks, waters, and monuments, and California’s Prop 68 agree. They provide standards to diversify programs, visitors, and the work force.

Challenges to equity and access include the following:

  • Ensuring agency and recipient compliance through pre- and post-award review
  • Providing healthy active recreation
  • Promoting climate justice
  • Promoting economic vitality through jobs and deeply affordable housing, while avoiding displacement and homelessness.

Read The City Project’s written statement

Congressman Jimmy Gomez with Tim Mok, The City Project Social Justice Fellow

National Allies Comments on Environmental Justice and Civil Rights US Civil Rights Commission EPA L.A. River

Diverse allies across the nation submitted public comments to the US Civil Rights Commission following up on its report called Environmental Justice: Examining the Environmental Protection Agency’s Compliance and Enforcement of Title VI and Executive Order 12898 (2016) (“EJ Report”).

The EJ Report powerfully and authoritatively voiced what many environmental justice activists and advocates see on a daily basis: that the US Environmental Protection Agency’s civil rights enforcement is woefully inadequate and much more needs to be done to make the promise of environmental justice a reality.

The EJ Report included the following recommendations

  • Congress should increase EPA’s Office of Civil Rights budget to increase staffing to meet current and future needs.
  • EPA should bring on additional staff to clean up the significant backlog – in some cases decades old.
  • EPA should continue to build up its recent efforts to share expertise among the regions and headquarters, and support the Deputy Civil Rights Officers.
  • EPA leadership must empower and support the efforts of the Office of Civil Rights and provide it with the necessary tools and administrative responsibilities to support and hold accountable other EPA entities whose jurisdiction intersects communities of color. .. .
  1. EPA should not adopt a phased-approach to conducting post-award compliance review.
  2. EPA should include affected communities in the settlement process.

In many respects, EPA’s actions, particularly, since the new Administration came into office, further undermine hope for civil rights enforcement to address discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin by recipients of funds in the environmental sector.

The public comments remainder provide additional background on the status of the Commission’s key recommendations.

For example, at page 6: EPA should regularly conduct meaningful affirmative review of civil rights compliance and enforcement pre- and post-award. The City of Los Angeles, presents an opportunity for EPA to exercise its affirmative responsibility to review recipient compliance with civil rights mandates. Diverse stakeholders have repeatedly raised civil rights and environmental justice concerns with the City and EPA over the revitalization of the Los Angeles River, yet the goal of environmental justice through a straightforward civil rights compliance and equity plan is still far off. The City admits the River flows through the “epicenter of cancer risk” in Los Angeles, and the River has become a hotspot of green displacement and gentrification that disproportionately impacts people of color and low income people, making River revitalization the perfect opportunity for EPA to take meaningful action to implement both the recommendations of the Commission and EPA’s own Environmental Justice 2020 Action Agenda. To date EPA has not properly addressed compliance and enforcement in L.A. River revitalization. We ask the Commission to inquire into EPA’s efforts to conduct pre- and post-award compliance reviews.

Marianne Engelman-Lado Visiting Clinical Professor of Law
Benjamin W. Wedeking
Student Clinician
Environmental Justice Clinic
Yale Law School

Public Comments on behalf of: The City Project * Earthjustice * Equal Justice Society * Gasp * GreenLatinos * Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law * Los Jardines Institute * Maurice & Jane Sugar Law Center for Economic & Social Justice * NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. * Natural Resources Defense Council * New Mexico Environmental Law Center * New York Lawyers for the Public Interest * PODER * Poverty & Race Research Action Council * Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia * Sierra Club * University of Miami School of Law Environmental Justice Clinic * University of North Carolina Center for Civil Rights * West End Revitalization Association * Yale Law School Environmental Justice Clinic * Marc Brenman * Adrienne Hollis * Ellis Jacobs * Helen Kang * Gregg Macey * Vincent Martin * Vernice Miller-Travis * Glenn Robinson * Maria S. Savasta-Kennedy

See Robert García & Tim Mok, Whitewashing The L.A. River: Displacement and Equitable Greening (2017)

 

 

#ParksRx LA #JUMPP

Visit the JUMPP webpage.

Tim Mok, City Project Fellow, at Parks Rx LA JUMPP round table.

From Snow to Sea Southern CalIfornia Has It All!

Christmas in July August at Will Rogers Beach

 

Federal Appeals Court in Pasadena Hears Border Wall Challenge Tuesday August 7

The U.S.-Mexico border wall threatens marginalized communities and endangered species, and embodies hate and divisiveness. Marta Segura, Center for Biological Diversity, Robert García, The City Project, “Protect People, Wildlife, Places and Values, #stopthewall.” 

Media Advisory, August 6, 2018

Contacts: J.P. Rose, (408) 497-7675, jrose@biologicaldiversity.org
Mary K. Reinhart, (602) 320-7309, mkreinhart@biologicaldiversity.org

Federal Appeals Court in Pasadena to Hear Border Wall Challenge
Courthouse Rally Will Precede Tuesday Hearing
PASADENA, Calif.— A federal appeals court will hear an appeal Tuesday brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and the state of California challenging a federal court decision allowing Trump’s border wall replacement project near San Diego to proceed. A rally against the wall will precede the hearing.

Attorneys are asking the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to rule that the Trump administration illegally waived dozens of laws to build replacement walls and prototypes south of San Diego. The appeal challenges the administration’s use of the long-expired waiver to sweep aside more than 30 laws that protect clean air, clean water, public lands and endangered wildlife.
“Trump is ignoring bedrock environmental protections and relying on a congressional waiver that expired years ago,” said Brian Segee, a senior attorney at the Center. “Borderland communities and wildlife deserve the same protections as everyone else in the country. We’re hopeful that the court will put an end to this lawlessness and executive overreach.”

What: 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals court hearing challenging Trump’s border wall
When: Tuesday, Aug. 7: Rally in front of the courthouse at 8:15 a.m.; hearing begins at 9 a.m.
Where: U.S. Court of Appeals, 125 S. Grand Ave., Pasadena, CA
Media Availability: Attorneys and organizers will be available for media interviews outside the courthouse, before and after the hearing.

Background
The Department of Homeland Security exempted itself from more than 30 laws to rush construction of border-wall replacement projects and prototypes south of San Diego. But the waiver authority, granted by Congress more than 10 years ago, no longer applies.
The Center sued the Trump administration last year and a U.S. District Court judge heard arguments on the matter in February. In March the judge ruled against the Center, the state of California and other conservation groups. This appeal challenges the ruling.
The border-wall replacement project would include 14 miles of new primary and secondary border fencing from the Pacific Ocean to Otay Mesa. This region of coastal San Diego County contains wetlands, streams and other rare wildlife habitats, as well as critical habitat for numerous endangered species, including the Quino checkerspot butterfly and coastal California gnatcatcher.
A 2017 study by the Center identified more than 90 endangered or threatened species that would be threatened by proposed wall construction along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border.
Beyond jeopardizing wildlife, endangered species and public lands, the U.S.-Mexico border wall is part of a larger strategy of ongoing border militarization that damages human rights, civil liberties, native lands, local businesses and international relations. The border wall impedes the natural migrations of people and wildlife that are essential to healthy diversity.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

California’s Prop 68: A primer for infusing diversity and equity into public policy NRPA Parks & Recreation

Park access is “a human rights and civil rights issue” Senator Kevin de León. Prop 68 offers lessons for activists and candidates nationwide.

By Robert García

Social Equity August 2018

California voters taxed themselves more than $4.1 billion to improve park access when they approved Proposition 68, the California Drought, Water, Parks, Climate, Coastal Protection, and Outdoor Access for All Act of 2018 on the June ballot. Why?

According to Sen. Kevin de León, a leader of the measure: “Parks make life better. You can feel the grass below your feet. You can see butterflies. You can hear birds. Playing fields for soccer, not just passive parks, but active parks, make life better.” Sen. León made this statement during a community celebration at Vista Hermosa Natural Park and Soccer Fields, adjoining the Edward R. Roybal Learning Academies. The celebration and setting, in one of the most park-poor assembly districts in the state, reinforced the message for the shared used of parks, schools and pools to make optimal use of tax payers’ dollars.

“This is a human and civil rights issue,” Sen. de León emphasizes. “Some folks have to fight and struggle for access. So, thanks to the incredible folks here, and the incredible campaign that made this come to fruition. Folks like The City Project, Our Parks LA Coalition and others have done incredible work.”

Sen. de León talked about park access and healthy active living: “Parks matter for health reasons. This includes type 2 diabetes, obesity, psychological and mental stress…pressures we deal with. Parks make for great therapy for mental health issues. Parks impact all of us. Everyone loves parks,” he concludes. “Parks and green space, equal access to bees, trees, the ocean, beaches, larger regional state parks, soccer fields, pocket parks. We want it all.”

Prop 68 recognizes disparities in park access and helps ensure everyone has their fair share of healthy parks, water and climate protections. People of color and low-income people disproportionately have the worst access to parks and recreation, are harmed by global warming and are among the biggest supporters of conservation measures.

Prop 68 does the following:

• Authorizes $4.1 billion for state and local parks, natural resources protection, climate adaptation, water quality, and flood protection
• Recognizes the underinvestment in parks, trails and outdoor infrastructure in disadvantaged areas and communities
• Favors disadvantaged communities for certain projects
• Provides workforce education and training, contractor and job opportunities for disadvantaged communities
• Provides standards for outreach to minority, low-income and disabled populations, and tribal communities under section 8
• Requires annual audits

The Prop 68 standards are important to measure progress and equity, and to hold public officials accountable. The annual audit makes it possible to ensure the standards are being met. Public agencies that receive Prop 68 funds must consider actions to engage diverse populations, including minority, low-income and disabled people, and tribal communities under section 8. Those actions include:

• Conducting active outreach to diverse populations about programs and opportunities
• Mentoring new environmental, outdoor recreation and conservation leaders to increase diverse representation
• Creating new partnerships with state, local, tribal, private and nonprofit organizations to expand access
• Increasing visitation and access
• Expanding multilingual and culturally appropriate materials
• Developing or expanding coordinated efforts to promote youth engagement and empowerment, including fostering new partnerships with diversity-serving and youth-serving organizations, urban areas and programs
• Identifying staff liaisons to diverse populations

Prop 68 recognizes the dangers of green displacement, where, as communities become greener, more desirable and more expensive, current residents no longer are able to live or even work nearby. Prop 68 prioritizes funding for projects that prevent displacement as a result of increased housing costs.

Legislative leaders and Governor Jerry Brown led the battle to put Prop 68 on the ballot. These leaders include Senator de León, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, and Assembly Members Eduardo García and Cristina García.

The City Project worked with these legislative leaders to include the provisions on diversity and equal justice in Prop 68. That language in turn is based on the Presidential Memorandum called Promoting Diversity and Inclusion in Our National Parks, National Forests, and Other Public Lands and Waters (2017). The City Project also worked with GreenLatinos, Next 100 Coalition and others to support that work. In recent testimony before the Congressional Forum on “People Over Polluters” in Washington, D.C., The City Project testified on Prop 68 as a best practice for the nation.

Prop 68 and its provisions on diversity, equal justice and inclusion are more examples of progressives taking matters into their own hands to improve equal opportunity in California. The diversity language was added directly by the people and the leaders, not by mainstream environmental organizations and funders that have dictated the terms of past “pay-to-play” natural resource funding measures.

Indeed, the first bill that then-Assembly Member de León introduced on his first day in office was a park bond measure that passed. He later worked with community leaders to define standards for “park-poor” and “income-poor” communities to receive park funding. The standards worked: fully 88 percent of those funds reached communities of color and low-income communities. These measures were a response to past ballot measures that make empty promises to distribute park and resource funds equitably, and notably fail to deliver.

Progressive grassroot leaders are often marginalized by mainstream organizations and government agencies. They have helped change California into a “state of resistance” against national cutbacks in safety-net protections for environmental justice, health equity, climate and conservation, and other areas. The state’s journey from Prop. 187, which would have made immigrants in the state ineligible for public benefits, required legislative action, but it was pushed every step of the way by immigrant advocates. While Governor Brown receives credit for the state’s current budget surplus, the “millionaires’ tax” that raised needed revenue was the result of activists threatening to run their own ballot measure. Even the decision to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2022 is the product of an even more aggressive schedule offered by labor and community allies, according to University of Southern California.

Prop 68 offers lessons for activists and candidates nationwide.

Robert García is the Founding Director-Counsel for The City Project/Proyecto del Pueblo.

Photo: Senator Kevin de León (in lavender shirt) celebrating passage of Prop 68 with community leaders | The City Project

Download the PDF file. This column is available online at NRPA’s Parks & Recreation Magazine Social Equity Column and in hard copy (August 2018). (NRPA is the National Recreation and Parks Association.)

Oppose Citizenship Question on 2020 Census #SaveTheCensus

The City Project opposes the inclusion of a citizenship question in the 2020 Census survey. Including such a question would be discriminatory, discourage participation in the Census, and threaten the accuracy of Census data. Census data are used to inform government decisions regarding the funding and administration of public schooling, housing, health care, and investment programs.  A discriminatory and inaccurate Census will have long-term consequences for immigrant communities, low-income communities, and communities of color. These groups are already undercounted in the Census process. The addition of a citizenship question will stoke fear in immigrant communities and worsen this problem.

The City Project
Samuel David García
Graduate Intern
Stanford ‘18

Robert García
Founding Director-Counsel
Take Action! cqrcengage.com/censuscounts2020/