Why EYCEJ Opposes Measure M/POR QUÉ NOS OPONEMOS A LA MEDIDA M

*EN ESPAÑOL ABAJO*

LET US BE CLEAR

We, the hundreds of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice members from East LA, Southeast LA and Long Beach, will not support forcing our communities to pay a tax to indefinitely fund the environmental racism that has affected us for generations. We repeat, WE WILL NOT SUPPORT FORCING OUR COMMUNITIES TO PAY A TAX TO INDEFINITELY FUND THE ENVIRONMENTAL RACISM THAT HAS AFFECTED US FOR GENERATIONS.

Unless equity and meaningful public participation are a fundamental part of all funding and planning, for all transportation projects/policies/measures/propositions or otherwise, any effort will reinforce and reproduce the injustices we have been fighting for generations.

While Measure M promises to make everyone’s commute better, our communities face the threat of increasing contamination from fossil fuel trucks and cars, while others will get cleaner air in their communities through public transportation and active transportation investments.

We already carry a disproportionate toxic burden in the region, with 8 freeways (10, 710, 60, 5, 105, 91, 405, TI Freeway) in our communities handling local, regional, interstate and international traffic.

We already carry a disproportionate toxic burden for the nation, with the Ports in our communities handling 40% of the nation’s imported goods, which look like 40,000-60,000 truck trips in our communities daily, along with multiple railyards pushing trains from our communities out to the rest of the nation.

Our communities have carried a toxic burden for the Western United States, resulting in Exide battery recycling poisoning thousands of East LA and Southeast LA families, over multiple generations. The City of LA has been threatening our communities for over a decade with the proposed toxic SCIG (Southern California International Gateway) railyard project, an environmentally racist project which would serve to increase profits for a private company and service goods movement for companies shipping overseas and across the country.

State planning is upholding the status quo, and the status quo is environmentally racist. We refuse to disproportionately absorb the negative impacts of State and private projects that include “local hire” policies that create jobs for Orange County residents while leaving our communities to suffer extreme unemployment. While other parts of the County benefit, Measure M represents an increase in tax and toxic emissions for our communities.We are not here for that anymore.

WHAT’S AT RISK?

If Measure M is approved, our lives are at risk, literally. The toxic exposures in our communities, especially diesel particulate matter, already compromise our health, resulting in respiratory illnesses, cancer and premature death. What we have seen from transportation agencies (Metro, CalTrans) is antiquated transportation ideas (freeway expansion) and resistance to community leadership. For 4 years we have battled CalTrans to study Community Alternative 7, a community generated and community preferred alternative for the I-710 Project (710 from Long Beach to East LA). After getting some traction with Metro, just this last week we learned that one of the viable options for ensuring freight trucks are zero emissions, a catenary system, has been cut out of the project analysis. The claim that these entities are trying to be “technology neutral” is untrue since they are simply continuing a long history of excluding community based alternatives. When we look at the SR-710 (aka the 710 Tunnel) project, East LA was virtually excluded from the scoping process and community members had to fight to participate in the environmental review process after finding out the project threatens to displace businesses and compromise community health with an increase in toxic vehicle emissions.

With our opposition to Measure M, we know we risk straining relationships (political and otherwise) that have already been strained through our unrelenting struggle for justice on other issues. We also understand that in the past our communities have already been sacrificed in the service of maintaining political relationships or under the assumption that political favor could be leveraged in the future. When we envision moving forward the long struggle for justice for our communities, these types of political games and crony capitalism amongst elected officials, agencies and non-profit organizations, is not part of this struggle. In many ways, this is what has allowed for injustice to be maintained.

Some might wonder if we did enough to advocate and shape Measure M. Like our communities, our organization is under resourced and over burdened. Looking at our struggles and victories over the last year and half, when we were first contacted about the “Measure R2 strawman”, no one can say we haven’t been hard at work fighting for justice for our communities. We appreciate efforts by Supervisor Solis to support Community Alternative 7 and attempt to move the Gateway COG to be more responsive to community priorities on multiple projects and during the Measure M process. We appreciate Investing in Place and EnviroMetro for being responsive to our input around equity and mandatory zero emissions for freight investments, amongst other priorities. Before Measure M, we have created grassroots, bottom up solutions to transportation issues in our communities and have faced fierce opposition from CalTrans, Metro and the Gateway COG, so when allies engage us with open ears we are especially appreciative.

Unfortunately, we also saw the writing on the wall, with the lack of responsiveness to early input on the measure. We saw it again with efforts to get the Metro Board to be responsive to our communities on the I-710 project, which were ultimately undermined by the City of LA and the Gateway COG. Perhaps this acquiescing to the Gateway COG was an attempt by LA Mayor Eric Garcetti to win favor that could payoff in the form of Measure M support, which failed given the Gateway COG’s opposition to Measure M. Most recently, we saw Mayor Garcetti visit the Commerce City Council, attempting to get them to reverse their opposition to Measure M with appeals to unity across the region, even floating the idea of Commerce hosting water polo games for the 2024 Olympics. This fell flat when we reminded the council that we had to sue the City of LA because their SCIG project was going to do train maintenance in the City of Commerce, with no plans to mitigate toxic emissions. The unity Mayor Garcetti mentioned was not felt when we successfully defeated the City of LA in court and they decided to spend hundreds of thousands dollars more to appeal the case.

EYCEJ DECISION MAKING PROCESS

We engaged in a 3-month education and dialogue process with our members across the sub-region. At our membership meetings, we came to consensus on opposition to Measure M. This recommendation was taken to our Board of Directors, made up of our membership, and our opposition to Measure M was solidified on September 28, 2016.

KEY POINTS FOR OPPOSITION

Our members brought up multiple issues with Measure M. Below are points that were consistently brought up across our membership:

  • Measure M is a regressive tax. Regressive taxes result in lower income families paying a disproportionately higher percentage of their income, compared to higher income individuals.
  • Measure M has no “sunset,” meaning it will continue with no end unless a different measure is passed in the future to end it. Given the amount of money and political will required to pass a measure in the County, it is virtually impossible for low income communities of color, the communities most negatively impacted by transportation projects in the region, to remove the tax once it is approved.
  • Measure M lacks equity in planning and implementation. It continues a status quo in planning, resulting in a disparity in how funds would be collected and distributed. Claims of “fair” or “equal” funding schemes only work to uphold the legacies of environmental racism.
  • The Gateway Cities Council of Governments (Gateway COG) has failed to represent the needs of our communities in most transportation project planning, often actively undermining our communities. This was the same during the planning phase of Measure M, where they:
  1. Ripped out active transportation funding for the sub-region
  2. Worked to undermine Community Alternative 7 at the Metro Board
  3. Opposed mandating that freight investments be zero emission
  4. Weakened Measure M and then opposed it

WHAT WE SUPPORT

We support public transit.

We support active transportation.

We support zero emissions freight.

We support equity planning and meaningful community involvement.

We support genuine “local hire” guarantees.

We support a change in leadership at the Gateway COG.

We support community self-determination.

We support nothing less.

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SEAMOS CLAROS

Nosotros, las centenas de miembros de East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice del Este de LA, Sureste de LA y Long Beach, no apoyaremos la imposición forzosa de un impuesto a pagar en nuestras comunidades para financiar de manera indefinida el racismo ambiental que ha perjudicado a varias de nuestras generaciones. Repetimos, NO APOYAREMOS LA IMPOSICIÓN FORZOSA DE UN IMPUESTO A PAGAR EN NUESTRAS COMUNIDADES PARA FINANCIAR DE MANERA INDEFINIDA EL RACISMO AMBIENTAL QUE HA PERJUDICADO A VARIAS DE NUESTRAS GENERACIONES.

A menos que la equidad y la participación significativa del público formen parte fundamental de toda financiación y planificación, para todo proyecto/política/medida/propuesta de ley referente al transporte o semejante, toda y cada una de las gestiones reforzarán y reproducirán las injusticias contra las que han estado luchando nuestras generaciones.

Mientras que la Medida M promete mejorar la movilización urbana para todo el pueblo, nuestras comunidades enfrentan el riesgo del incremento de contaminación de camiones y autos de combustible fósil, mientras que las otras comunidades gozarán de aire más limpio mediante las inversiones en transporte púbico y transporte activo.

En la región, nosotros ya cargamos con el peso nocivo y desproporcionado que incluye 8 carreteras (10, 710, 60, 5, 105, 91, 405, TI) en nuestras comunidades, lidiando con el tránsito a nivel local, regional, interestatal, e internacional.

Nosotros ya cargamos con el peso nocivo y desproporcionado en nombre de toda la nación, con Puertos en nuestras comunidades que manejan el 40% de la importación de bienes y mercancías que ingresan a la nación, cuya realidad representa 40,000-60,000 viajes de camiones diariamente en nuestras comunidades, aunado a una multitud de yardas ferroviarias desplazando trenes de nuestras comunidades al resto de la nación.

Nuestras comunidades han cargado con este nocivo peso en nombre de los Estados Unidos del Oeste, conllevando al envenenamiento de miles de familias en el Este de LA y Sureste de LA por parte de la compañía de reciclaje de baterías Exide, por varias generaciones. La Ciudad de LA tiene amenazadas a nuestras comunidades por más de una década con la tóxica propuesta del proyecto de la yarda ferroviaria SCIG (Southern California International Gateway/Entrada Internacional del Sur de California), un proyecto de racismo ambiental cuyo fin es mejorar las utilidades de una compañía particular y favorecer el movimiento de mercancías para las compañías de embarques al extranjero y al resto de la nación.

El departamento de planeación estatal respalda el statu quo, y el statu quo es el racismo ambiental. Nos reusamos a absorber desproporcionadamente los efectos negativos del Estado y proyectos de iniciativa privada que incluyen las normas de “contratación local” que generan empleos para los habitantes del Condado de Orange mientras que dejan rezagadas a nuestras comunidades a sufrir del desempleo extremo. Mientras que otras partes del Condado se ven beneficiadas, la Medida M representa un incremento en el IVA y en emisiones nocivas en nuestras comunidades. Ya no se cuenta con nosotros para eso.

¿CUÁLES SON LOS RIESGOS?

De ser aprobada, la Medida M pone en riesgo nuestras vidas – literalmente. La exposición a sustancias tóxicas en nuestras comunidades, especialmente a partículas de diesel, ya afectó nuestra salud, conllevando a enfermedades respiratorias, cáncer y muerte prematura. Lo que hemos visto por parte de entidades de transporte (Metro, CalTrans) son ideas anticuadas del transporte (expansión de carreteras) y resistencia ante el liderazgo comunitario. Hemos batallado ya 4 años para que CalTrans estudie la Alternativa Comunitaria 7, una alternativa generada y deseada por la comunidad respecto al Proyecto I-710 (710 de Long Beach al Este de LA). Luego de haber influido un poco en Metro, la semana pasada nos enteramos que una de las opciones viables para garantizar el uso de camiones de carga de cero emisiones, la opción catenaria (trolebús), ha sido eliminada del proceso de análisis del proyecto. Alegan que estas entidades están tratando de tomar una postura “neutral respecto a tecnologías”, lo cual no es acertado ya que simplemente están dando continuidad a un extenso historial de exclusión de las alternativas comunitarias populares. Cuando vemos el proyecto SR-710 (alias el Túnel 710), prácticamente excluyeron el Este de LA en el proceso exploratorio y los miembros de la comunidad tuvieron que luchar para participar en el proceso de revisión ambiental luego de enterarse que el proyecto amenaza con desplazar negocios y compromete la salud comunitaria con un incremento en la emisiones vehiculares nocivas.

Al oponernos a la Medida M, sabemos que arriesgamos el poner en juego nuestras conexiones (políticas y otras) que ya han estado en juego antes por nuestra incansable lucha por la justicia tocante a otros asuntos. También entendemos que en el pasado nuestras comunidades han cargado con el sacrificio en aras de mantener relaciones políticas o bajo la suposición de que los favores políticos pudieran favorecernos a futuro. Cuando prevemos los avances de nuestra larga lucha por la justicia en nuestras comunidades, este tipo de juegos de política y camaradería capitalista, entre funcionarios electos, agencias y organizaciones sin fines de lucro, no forma parte de la lucha. En distintas formas, esto es lo que ha permitido que la injusticia prevalezca.

Algunos se han de preguntar si hemos hecho lo suficiente por abogar y moldear la Medida M. Al igual que nuestras comunidades, en nuestra organización los recursos son escasos y la carga abrumadora. Al dar un vistazo a nuestros estragos y victorias en el año y medio que acaba de transcurrir, cuando por primera vez se nos avisó acerca de la “Medida R2 strawman”, nadie puede decir que no hemos estado trabajando duro por la justicia en nuestras comunidades. Reconocemos con aprecio los intentos del Supervisor Solís en apoyo a la Alternativa Comunitaria 7 y el intento de influir en el Concilio de Gobiernos de las Ciudades de Entrada para que fuesen más sensibles ante las prioridades de la comunidad en varios proyectos y en el proceso de la Medida M. Le agradecemos a Investing in Place y EnviroMetro por su sensibilidad ante las opiniones tocantes a la equidad y la obligación de cero emisiones al invertir en los camiones de carga, entre otras prioridades. Anterior al a Medida M, nosotros hemos elaborado soluciones arraigadas en la comunidad ante las gestiones de transporte en nuestras comunidades y hemos enfrentado una oposición feroz por parte de CalTrans, Metro y el Concilio de Gobierno de las Ciudades de Entrada, así que nos sentimos sumamente agradecidos cuando un aliado participa con nosotros con una mente abierta.

Desafortunadamente vimos también, a plena vista, la falta de sensibilidad ante las opiniones iniciales respecto a la medida. La vimos también en los intentos por conseguir que la Directiva de Metro fuese más sensible ante nuestras comunidades en el proyecto I-710, los cuales finalmente fueron socavados por la Ciudad de LA y el Concilio de Gobiernos de las Ciudades de Entrada. Quizás esta aquiescencia con el Concilio de Gobiernos de las Ciudades de Entrada fue un intento por parte del Alcalde Eric Garcetti a manera de conseguir el favoritismo que resultaría en el apoyo a la Medida M, lo cual fue un intento fallido ya que dicho Concilio se opuso a la Medida M. Aún más recientemente, vimos al Alcalde Garcetti en su visita al Concilio de Ayuntamiento de Commerce, intentando conseguir que se retractaran de su oposición a la Medida M haciendo un llamado a la solidaridad de la región, incluso oscilando la idea de que Commerce fuese la cede de partidos de polo para las Olimpiadas 2024. Todo se quedó corto cuando le recordamos al Concilio que habíamos entablado una demanda en contra de la Ciudad de LA porque el proyecto SCIG iba a tener sesiones de capacitación de manutención en la Ciudad de Commerce, sin plan alguno para mitigar las emisiones de sustancias tóxicas. La solidaridad que mencionaba el Alcalde Garcetti no se percibió cuando nosotros victoriosamente vencimos a la Ciudad de LA ante un juez y ellos decidieron gastar cientos de miles de dólares para apelar el dictamen.

PROCESO DE TOMA DE DECISIONES EN EYCEJ

Condujimos un proceso informativo y de diálogo de 3 meses con nuestros miembros a lo largo de la subregión. En las reuniones de membresía llegamos a un consenso de oposición a la Medida M. Esta recomendación fue presentada ante nuestra Mesa Directiva, compuesta de miembros de la organización, y el 28 de septiembre, 2016 se ratificó nuestra oposición a la Medida M.

PUNTOS CLAVE DE OPOSICIÓN

Nuestros miembros mencionaron varias gestiones respecto a la Medida M. A continuación, presentamos los puntos que surgieron continuamente en nuestra membresía:

  • La Medida M es un impuesto regresivo. Los impuestos regresivos tienen como resultado el que las familias de bajos recursos tengan que pagar un porcentaje desproporcionadamente más alto por sus ingresos, comparado con los individuos con mejores ingresos.
  • La Medida M no tiene fecha de vencimiento, es decir que continuaría vigente indefinidamente a menos que otra medida sea aprobada que ponga fin a ésta. Tomando en cuenta la inversión monetaria y política que se requiere para la aprobación de una medida en el Condado, viene siendo prácticamente imposible para las comunidades de color de bajos recursos –siendo las comunidades que se ven principalmente perjudicadas por los proyectos de transporte en la región– el eliminar un impuesto una vez que haya sido aprobado.
  • La Medida M carece de equidad en su planificación e implementación. Le da continuidad al statu quo en la planificación, cuyo resultado es la disparidad en la manera en que se recolectan y distribuyen los fondos. El que el complot financiero declare actuar “justamente” o “con igualdad” simplemente contribuye a la preservación del legado de racismo ambiental.
  • El Concilio de Gobiernos de las Ciudades de Entrada (Gateway COG, en inglés) ha fallado en su tarea de representación de las necesidades de nuestras comunidades en la mayor parte de la planificación de los proyectos de transporte, frecuentemente socavando decididamente a nuestras comunidades. Vimos lo mismo durante la fase de planificación de la Medida M, en la cual:
  1. Extirparon la financiación para el transporte activo en la subregión
  2. Se esforzaron por socavar la Alternativa Comunitaria 7 en la Directiva de Metro
  3. Se opusieron al mandato que exige la inversión en trasporte de carga de cero emisiones
  4. Debilitaron la Medida M y luego se opusieron a ésta

LO QUE NOSOTROS APOYAMOS

Nosotros apoyamos el transporte público.

Nosotros apoyamos el transporte activo.

Nosotros apoyamos el transporte de carga de cero emisiones.

Nosotros apoyamos la equidad en la planificación y la participación significativa de la comunidad.

Nosotros apoyamos el garantizar una auténtica “contratación local”.

Nosotros apoyamos el cambio en el liderazgo del Concilio de Gobiernos de las Ciudades de Entrada.

Nosotros apoyamos la autodeterminación comunitaria.

Nosotros apoyamos todo esto y nada menos.

 

OUR MONEY, OUR CLEANUP: DTSC, Exide & the Path Forward

History:

For years we have worked to resolve the Exide issue, from closure to cleanup, and while we are encouraged by the Governor and legislature allocating $176.6 million to go towards the cleanup effort, our members had concerns that a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) exemption, pushed by the Governor and Assemblymember Santiago, would present more problems than solutions. CEQA ensures that environmental and health impacts of projects, in this case testing and cleaning up lead contamination at thousands of homes, are studied and impacts are properly mitigated (adequately dealt with so we are not forced to shoulder the burden, in this case further lead poisoning and other impacts). With informal processes outside of CEQA, responsible parties, in this case the state, can make promises through “parallel processes” (conversations with interested parties, in this case the community) and fall through without any accountability. This has already been the case as we have recommended how to better protect our communities with the residential lead cleanup that has already happened, and for months have been largely ignored despite the fact that it has been discussed and documented in an Advisory Group hosted by state and regional agencies.

Our community leaders have been involved in this fight since we were speculating the extent of contamination from Exide, to the point where many of them have now found that they are Priority 1 or Priority 2 properties (levels of lead in soil that classifies their property as toxic waste or near toxic waste), mostly families with children and infants in the household. It is these leaders who have provided vision and energy throughout the fight to shut down Exide and clean up contamination. It is also these leaders who took the position that CEQA exemption is unacceptable because of the danger irresponsible cleanup efforts pose.

We agree with and support the perspective of some DTSC staff that the Exide Advisory Group would be an appropriate place to plan what scoping for the CEQA process should look like.

Home Lead Testing Access Agreements:

We have worked to raise the visibility of the matter through print, radio and TV media. We have presented at countless community meetings and classrooms, knocked on thousands of doors, and collected hundreds of access agreements. Most of this was done before DTSC, or anyone else outside of our communities (and most elected officials within our communities) were interested in engaging with us to develop their skills in working with community to build trust and process access agreements to move community cleanup forward. We definitely want to recognize Supervisor Solis and the County Department of Public Health, City of Commerce Councilmembers Oralia Rebollo, Tina Baca Del Rio, Ivan Altamirano, Leila León, and Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, who stepped up to support the efforts of our members to fill the gap that existed in outreaching for access agreements.

After some turnover at DTSC, their staff became much more engaged. It wasn’t perfect, but it was progress, which we are willing to work with. Earlier this year we even agreed to take on a short-term outreach contract and brought on two part time staff members to lead the work, both of whom are currently awaiting cleanup of the properties where they live.

Unfortunately, we have experienced issues and weeks ago decided we would not be interested in conversations on possibly extending the contract. We decided not to extend our contract with the state to do outreach and access agreement enrollment for multiple reasons. First, it has been extremely difficult working with the state, with DTSC in Sacramento taking a one month break from processing forms without letting anyone know, including their local community engagement staff and lead contractor, and DTSC in Sacramento potentially losing signed access agreement forms we sent them. This sort of breakdown is not something we are willing to work with. More importantly, we stepped in almost two years ago to focus on informing impacted residents on the issues and cleanup opportunity, support them in requesting cleanup, and serving as advocates throughout the cleanup process because the state wasn’t doing it effectively, and no one else was stepping up. DTSC is now moving to hire new outreach staff to do the access agreement enrollment, and are planning to open a local office. With this new capacity, we can step away from leading this work and continue to keep the agency accountable. We have been successful at pulling the state along. The next steps in the push are to expand the area being sampled from 1.7 miles from Exide, to 4.5 miles, given that the state released blood lead data for children under 6 that shows higher rates of exposure up to 4.5 miles from Exide. Additionally, we will be working to lift the conversation for addressing the health and social impacts of Exide lead exposure over the last 30 years and call for resources to address these issues (to fund early child development programs, nutrition programs, youth employment, reentry programs for the formerly incarcerated and other support services to address impacts on educational attainment and levels of violence related to lead).

Concerning the $176.6 million allocated for residential cleanup, DTSC in Sacramento failing in the access agreement process has highlighted the division between departments within DTSC, community engagement staff left to fend for themselves while having to cover for failure in other areas of the agency. It is becoming clear that this is what has happened over the years with the permitting and enforcement areas of the agency as well. Community engagement staff should not be used as public relations shields, they should be working to keep us informed so we can hold the agency and industries accountable. It is our position that, along with new funds dedicated to community cleanup, the state should be dedicating significant funding to create an office under Ana Mascareñas, DTSC ‎Assistant Director for Environmental Justice and Tribal Affairs, to build a statewide staff with the capacity to hold the permitting, enforcement and cleanup branches of DTSC accountable and work to ensure impacted communities are able to meaningfully participate in the public processes. This is how culture change can happen at DTSC, and some sense of trust in the department can begin to be rebuilt.

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OUR MONEY, OUR CLEANUP

Our communities view this money as our money. Why? Well, let’s respond to a question posed by Assemblymember Santiago in his reelection campaign materials. “Who took on Exide and fought to protect our neighborhood?” I am assuming the Assemblymember is genuinely asking the question, since he was nowhere to be found for years. Last year, when members of EYCEJ and CBE met with Assemblymember Santiago, he discouraged us from pressing the state for Exide cleanup funds, dismissing the responsibility of the state in allowing this whole mess to happen. Like the many failures of DTSC, we didn’t allow this to stop us. We continued to press on.

Now, we are here with $176.6 million to start a serious cleanup process. This is an opportunity to put the failures of DTSC aside, though we continue to hold that there needs to be an independent investigation of the department in it’s handling of Exide over the last 30 years (US EPA where you at?!). The new DTSC office opening up in the Exide impacted communities, and the staff being brought on to work on the Exide issues, need to hear the demands of our core members, those who have fought for years and continue to wait for a proper cleanup of their homes. They demand that the local office and staff be dedicated specifically to Exide. They do not want Exide identified funds that were hard fought for to fund any of the DTSC activities unrelated to Exide. This is not an opportunity to pad budgets or fill gaps. Additionally, the DTSC Exide team must be allowed to operate independently from the rest of DTSC. We do not need the failures of the past mixing in to the work moving forward.

We propose that a local coordinator from DTSC’s staff be selected, with concurence from the Exide Advisory Group, to run the operations of the local office and Exide related work. DTSC Staff Member Cesar Campos, with his background working with communities, would be a good fit. They shall report directly to Assistant Director Ana Mascareñas and Director Barbara Lee. In our experiences attempting to work with DTSC over the years, we have found that there are those who want to do right by us, and new leadership does as well, but middle management acts as a barrier, miscommunicating, misdirecting, and slowing down progress. This Exide Pod (local office with dedicated staff) can act as a pilot for how future DTSC operations are conducted. The Exide Pod can meet directly with community members every other week, reporting back on progress, and troubleshooting issues that come up. A dedicated local office will serve to meet the needs of any member facing issues related to Exide, from initial information to every step of the enrollment and cleanup process.

We have already gotten a taste of what this can look like, with DTSC staff and multiple community stakeholders already engaging in a conversation around the formation of a workforce development and local hire plan for residential cleanup. DTSC has been very responsive to input and seems to actively work to engage interested parties. This promises to be a model for the department, both the plan itself as well as the process to get there.

We have had to push every step of the way to get to the point we are at now. It is time for DTSC to step up and accept the challenge to do better. #NoMoPlomo

When “Caring for Kids” Becomes Convenient: Assuming Ignorance After Inaction

image2Exide Picture

The Issue:
For years we have worked to resolve the Exide issue, from closure to cleanup, and while we are encouraged by the Governor’s plan to allocate $176.6 million to go towards the cleanup effort, our members have concerns that a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) exemption, pushed by the Governor and Assemblymember Santiago, will present more problems than solutions. CEQA ensures that environmental and health impacts of projects, in this case testing and cleaning up lead contamination at thousands of homes, are studied and impacts are properly mitigated (adequately dealt with so we are not forced to shoulder the burden, in this case further lead poisoning and other impacts). With informal processes outside of CEQA, responsible parties, in this case the state, can make promises through “parallel processes” (conversations with interested parties, in this case the community) and fall through without any accountability. This has already been the case as we have recommended how to better protect our communities with the residential lead cleanup that has already happened, and for months have been largely ignored despite the fact that it has been discussed and documented in an Advisory Group hosted by state and regional agencies.

Our community leaders have been involved in this fight since we were speculating the extent of contamination from Exide, to the point where many of them have now found that they are Priority 1 or Priority 2 properties (levels of lead in soil that classifies their property as toxic waste or near toxic waste), mostly families with children and infants in the household. It is these leaders who have provided vision and energy throughout the fight to shut down Exide and clean up contamination. It is also these leaders who have taken the position that CEQA exemption is unacceptable because of the danger irresponsible cleanup efforts pose.

The Response:
To come to our position opposing CEQA exemption, we held dialogues with our youth and adult core members and came to consensus. We discussed the benefit CEQA exemption would provide, quicker start of cleanup, but our members deemed this short sighted and irresponsible. CEQA is designed to protect our communities. It requires that impacts are understood and addressed. It requires a public process and provides for accountability. In their assessment, our youth and adult community leaders found the following: 1) The whole reason we are in this mess is because DTSC acted irresponsibly, and did not understand the full impacts of the Exide facility on our communities. 2) There has been much work put in to turning the state agency (DTSC, Department of Toxic Substances Control) around, but if we allow for this CEQA exemption to move forward, it will be in the vein of the old DTSC. 3) Not understanding the full impacts of this cleanup is dangerous and would be seen by our community leaders as a disservice, and a step backward for the state. 4) While we understand the benefits of expediting this process, the amount of time that we would gain is not worth the danger and fear we would face. 5) It is time for the state to set its principles and do right by our communities.

On March 15, we sent a letter (link below) to the Governor expressing the concerns of our members and opposition to CEQA exemption. We also sent the letter to Assemblymembers Anthony Rendon, Cristina Garcia, Jimmy Gomez, and Miguel Santiago, California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) Director Matt Rodriguez, DTSC Director Barbara Lee, Senators Kevin de León and Ricardo Lara, and Supervisor Hilda Solis. The Governor’s Office reached out later that day and admitted it was a mistake to not consult with the impacted communities in this process. We scheduled a meeting with the Governor’s Office to discuss how to appropriately move forward for the following week.

On March 22, representatives from East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, Communities for a Better Environment, California Communities Against Toxics and Resurrection Church met with representatives from the Governor’s Office, DTSC, Senator de León’s Office, Assemblymember Santiago’s Office and the technical advisor for the Exide Advisory Group (contracted by the South Coast Air Quality Management District and DTSC). The state came in with an agenda, but we immediately asserted that it was inappropriate for the Governor or the legislature to hold up Senator de León’s $176.6 million appropriation bill because there is disagreement about Assemblymember Santiago’s CEQA exemption bill. After an hour long conversation, the Governor’s Office agreed that the Governor would do what we wanted because he wants what we want. This was significant and was a primary goal of our meeting because we did not want the funds to be tied up in political games (more on that in the “Political Baggage” section of this piece). Conversations on environmental review should not hold up the appropriation.

The next half hour was spent reiterating that CEQA exemption is unacceptable and is off the table. The Governor’s Office agreed that this was a clear demand and our conversations moving forward would be focused on figuring out how to do option 2 (expedite CEQA) or option 3 (full CEQA).

The last 15 minutes were spent by DTSC introducing documents they brought to the meeting that we hadn’t seen in advance and discussing next steps. Towards the end of this last section of the meeting, the technical advisor was asked for his opinion on the matter and he shared that he was interested in seeing what the CEQA exemption process would look like. Despite the fact that we had spent an hour and a half getting the Governor’s Office to agree to not hold up the appropriation and take CEQA exemption off the table, and the fact that the technical advisor serves as an advisor and does not represent our communities, somehow the Governor’s Office, and perhaps DTSC and the Office of Assemblymember Santiago, left the meeting thinking that CEQA exemption was back on the table. I left the meeting agreeing to learn about what an expedited CEQA would look like, and the Governor’s Office was going to speak to the Governor and get back to me to confirm he would not veto the $176.6 million appropriation.

We spent the following two days communicating with the Governor’s Office, DTSC and the offices of several members of the legislature, consistently reexplaining our positions that the appropriation should not be held up and that CEQA exemption is unacceptable. In our last conversation we learned that we would not find out what an expedited CEQA is, because it was effectively a CEQA exemption as well, meaning two of the three options on the table were CEQA exemptions. This was very misleading and should have been off the table when we met. This was clearly the source of all of the confusion and has begun to feel like causing this confusion has been strategic for the state in an attempt to discredit community positions.

We stil have not heard directly from the Governor on this, though several elected officials (Supervisor Solis and Assemblymember Cristina Garcia) have spoken to the media supporting CEQA exemption, but have not spoken to us on the matter.

The Title:
When “Caring for Kids” Becomes Convenient: Assuming Ignorance After Inaction
There are claims that the CEQA exemption is being pushed because the communities have cried for action, despite the fact we were ignored for decades and are now being ignored when we oppose a CEQA exemption. There are those who are claiming they are pushing for CEQA exemption because they are all of a sudden “caring for kids” in our communities, not understanding that we need the protections of CEQA because the state has/continues to act irresponsibly. After inaction from those who will step up now to speak for our communities, their deficit perspective on our communities leads them to believe we are ignorant and our actions are “mindless” (literally what someone said). Our work speaks for itself, but for those that don’t know, please let me give you a small peek into how East Yard gets down.

We work to build community experts, well informed and well equipped self-advocates to engage in public processes to ensure self-determination when it comes to decisions that will impact our communities. This includes understanding and engaging in the CEQA process, a process that time and time again has served to protect our communities.

Regarding Exide specifically, we have informed the outreach efforts, knocking door to door to find that residents were initially being discouraged from requesting soil sampling over a year ago, and continually offering support to government agencies and jurisdictions on how to conduct proper outreach in our communities. We have informed the extent of the contamination, consistently pushing for wider sampling, introducing a California Air Resources Board air model to show wind patterns are also prevalent in the Northeast and Southwest direction, not just North and South, and uncovering a soil sampling study that showed high levels of lead in the City of Commerce a year before the state admitted Commerce residents are impacted. We are working to inform the Exide site cleanup effort, working with our expert allies to expose the risks to health and propose solutions, which has included visiting the Exide site with an environmental disaster cleanup team with expertise beyond what the state has to offer. Most recently, we had to participate in educating decision makers on how CEQA works, which was deeply troubling given positions have been taken in favor of CEQA exemption.

Because of all of this, it is incomprehensibly offensive when there are claims that we “don’t understand CEQA,” are “confused about options” and our “mindless” efforts will “get more children sick.” I would charge that we, the many of us that have been involved in this struggle for years, decades, generations, know exactly what we are talking about.

The Political Baggage:
It appears as if political baggage is playing a primary role in this process. Ego, beefs, and attempts to gain and/or exert political power are typical games politicians play in office. This should never be acceptable, but is especially problematic in this case. From what it looks like, the Governor, though publicly stating the Governor’s Office is working with us, is invested in a CEQA exemption and holds the most power in this process, the power of veto. His track record has shown he hasn’t been friendly when it comes to CEQA and in our conversations with his office, his reasons for the CEQA exemption don’t hold water in the face of the experiences, perspectives, needs and positions of our members. Let us not forget that until very recently, the Governor has been completely silent and complacent on this Exide issue. So the governor is passing the buck to Assemblymember Santiago, the author of the CEQA exemption bill, and Assemblymember Garcia, a co-sponsor of the bill. Assemblymember Santiago’s Office communicated that he felt he was being left out when Pro Tem de Leon moved forward with crafting the $176.6 million appropriation bill, and that removing the CEQA exemption would make Assemblymember Santiago’s bill empty and effectively useless. These are terrible grounds for supporting CEQA exemption. Given the influence Speaker Rendon has in the region and the state, and with Assemblymember Santiago being the new Assembly Majority Whip, one might begin to believe he is also supporting CEQA exemption, though we haven’t heard much from him or his office.

On the other side, on the Senate/Assembly divide, and also potentially the CEQA exemption issue, is Pro Tem de León, whose $176.6 million appropriation bill is being threatened by the success or failure of Assemblymember Santiago’s CEQA exemption bill. We have seen Governor Brown veto the long hard work of the Pro Tem in the past, specifically on issues related to Exide and DTSC accountability. I’m interested in learning more about the Governor’s history with the Pro Tem, and as those involved in the fight against the prison in Boyle Heights in the 80s have reminded us, we definitely can’t forget that Governor Brown was pro prison.

Having this understanding, you can begin to get a sense for the pettiness that may be involved in this process. We will really get an understanding on where everyone involved is at as the appropriation does or does not move forward.

We will be watching and we will be transparent about what we are seeing.

-mark! (EYCEJ Member and Executive Director)

Click link below to read EYCEJ letter to Governor Brown sent March 15, 2015

EYCEJ Exide CEQA Exemption Opposition Letter

 

 

Why you won’t see EYCEJ at the LA Mayor’s Exide event tomorrow:

StopEnvRacism Ciclavia

First off we would like to make it clear that we are not discouraging anyone from participating in tomorrow’s activities. A component of the event includes door knocking to get residents in Boyle Heights to sign property access agreements to have their soil and paint tested for lead. The more people sign up, the further we advance our long struggle for justice on this issue.

What we have issue with is how long it took Mayor Garcetti to acknowledge the Exide issue (especially when compared to his response at Porter Ranch), the fact that we had to push for this to happen, and have had to continually push to see any action out of his office (which is now only beginning to look anything like his response in Porter Ranch), and the response has been problematic. On top of this, one particular staff member from his office has been rude, condescending, and low key threatening (no need to mention names since the name comes out of everyone’s mouth as soon as we mention there has been conflict with the Mayor’s office). We are not here for that.

We, along with other community allies, have had to push this Exide issue every step of the way, moving the CA Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA), moving the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD, more on corporate polluter politicians at AQMD in a forthcoming statement), moving the CA Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), moving the Governor (more on that in a forthcoming statement about a terrible proposal for a CEQA exemption for Exide residential cleanup) and even the Mayor of LA. We continue to have to push.

The Mayor’s Office is disconnected from what is happening in our communities. One example is when the Mayor’s Office invited our staff and members to get trained to do door knocking ahead of this Saturday’s event. They were not aware that the DTSC staff prepared to train them, were prepared by our staff and members. In fact, the DTSC staff members’ first experience walking door to door on this issue was at one of our monthly outreach blitzes a week before the Mayor’s Office was offering the training. They were not aware that before DTSC ever approached us to start conversations on how they could do more successful outreach, we had already knocked on over 1,000 doors and had gotten hundreds of access agreements signed by residents of Boyle Heights, Unincorporated East LA and the City of Commerce. Our communities have had to take on this work for years because those in power have failed us.

We have pushed back because we don’t need press conferences. The time for statements from politicians was when Exide was still open, or before the Governor announced a plan to fund partial residential cleanup. Other elected officials have stepped up with action to help make these things happen, and we don’t need to list them because our communities know who has stepped up and who has fallen flat. We know who has done real work and who has shown up for party. At this point we don’t need a response from the LA Mayor in the form of a one-day event. As we explained weeks ago to his office, now is the time for a response and commitment from the City of LA. We need the City to commit funds, similar to what the County has done, for a sustained effort to reach residents and test residential properties to move us closer to justice. We are not here for anything less.

We are not here to pose with the Mayor in front of cameras at a press conference, or stand next to him as cameras capture him knocking on a door. Plenty of people will rush to his side for that. We are not interested in glorified reelection campaign activities. We are not here for that.

What we are here for is to continue to fight for what our communities deserve. We are here to meet with the Mayor, and his staff who have been positively responsive, when we can seriously discuss what our needs are as Exide impacted communities.

At the end of the day, you won’t see EYCEJ out with the Mayor on Saturday because we stay out here in these streets building up a movement.

-mark! Lopez (EYCEJ Member and Executive Director)

*If you are interested in joining us in outreaching to the Boyle Heights, East LA and Commerce communities to sign residents up to have their soil and homes tested for lead, you can join us:

Saturday, March 19, 2-6pm in East LA & Boyle Heights

https://www.facebook.com/events/1557752434535221/

Sunday, March 20, 2-6pm in the City of Commerce

https://www.facebook.com/events/1134711393229893/

La Leona – Marina Uranga Pando

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 5.08.03 PM

2.18.1933-6.6.2015

By Hugo Lujan, EYCEJ Community Organizer

*Translated in English below.

“Marina, alguna ves a estado enamorada?”

“Si pero los hombres son muy mendigos.”

“A ver, porque?” le pregunte.

“Una ves, me enamore con un hombre que era muy celoso. Pero el, si quería andar de aquí para haya con Viejas del vecindario y el muy sin vergüenza pitándome el carro cada ves que pasa por la calle para que yo viera. Y luego cuando llegaba a la casa, me preguntaba, ‘Que no oíste cuando te pite el carro?’ Yo le contestaba, ‘Si te escuche. Pero el pito no es mi rienda.’ En una de esas me quiso dar una cachetada, pero no me la dio, pues porque yo tenia muy bien cabeceo. Esa ves el se salió, y me cerro todas las puertas y ventanas para que no me fuera. Al momento que ya no se veía su carro, agarre una lámpara, y la avente hacia la ventana,. Y por ahí mismito me salí. Me fui directo a la casa de mi papa donde me pregunto, ‘que pazo?’ ‘Pues me quiso dar una cachetada.’ ‘Y te la dio?’ ‘No, Pero no me voy a esperar a que me la de.’ Cuando le pedí que me divorciara, el me dijo “No. Que porque en esta familia, nadie se divorcia.” En ese momento lo mire directo a los ojos y le dije. ‘Me divorcias tu, o me divorcia otro. Pero si no me divorcias tu, te juro que no me vuelves a ver en tu vida.‘ Mi mama lo mira y le dice- ‘Hazle caso a La Leona, que bien sabes que lo que te promete, te lo cumple.’

“Y la divorcio?”

“Pues Si.”

“jajaja So le dicen La Leona?”

“Si”

“Y porque la Leona?” Le pregunte.

“Porque nadie me podía decir que puedo y que no puedo hacer.”

Conocí a La Leona, conocida en ese momento, como Doña Marina, hace 3 años en un 4 de julio en Rosewood Park, donde nos pusimos una mesa para inscribirse miembros de la comunidad para un taller de Oratoria Publica. Mi primera impresión de Marina era su pequeño cuerpo y el amigable sentido del humor. Después de 30 minutos de conversación, Doña Marina se inscribió en el lista para el taller, y me pidió que le llame para recordarle y recogerla de su casa el día del taller. Dos semanas más tarde, la recogí y la llevé a nuestro centro comunitario para la primera parte del taller.

A lo largo de un par de semanas, el primer viaje a la oficina se convirtió en paseos semanales. Después de un par de meses, recogerla todos los días a las 10am se convirtió en rutina. Todos los días se inició con, “Buenos Días Marina! Como amaneció hoy?” Ella respondería con “Acostada, y en ayunas. Que tenemos que hacer hoy?” De 8 -10 horas más tarde en el viaje de regreso a su casa, ella cerraba el día con “Que hacemos Mañana? Y una que hora me levantas?” Esto se convirtió en nuestro ritual diario.

Marina y yo pasamos muchos días juntos. Minuciosas sus muchas historias, ella compartía muchos sobre sus trabajos industriales donde era una de las pocas mujeres en citio lleno de hombres en los 60’s. Ella nunca dudó en llamarle la atención a los hombres que acosaban a ella o a sus amigas en el trabajo. Mientras trabajaba en la Compañía de Neumáticos Firestone por la Firestone Blvd, compartió que en su segundo día de trabajo, ella se acercó a su jefe y le exigió que se desarrolle una políca para disciplinar a hombres que molestaban a empleadas. Mientras trabajaba en un centro de fusión de metal, ella trato de organizar a los trabajadores para que entre la Unión. Fue aquí donde se enteró de reuniones públicas donde ella también exigía el uso de equipos de seguridad para todos los trabajadores en el lugar.

Durante el tiempo que pasó en nuestra oficina, comenzamos a organizar nuestras reuniones mensuales para adultos. En cuestión de meses, ella se nombro a sí misma como la secretaria del centro, llevaba la cuenta de los calendarios mensuales, recordó a los miembros de la comunidad sobre las reuniones, preparados para las visitas a Bell Gardens High School, y se encargó de plántulas de la La Cosecha Colectiva. Con el tiempo, usando una placa de metal con su nombre, declaró un escritorio en la oficina de la organización como el escritorio de “Marina U. Pando.”, a la vez entregándome una lista de los materiales que va a necesitar para llevar a cabo sus responsabilidades.

En su segundo año, fue invitada a hablar en UCLA, donde tuve la oportunidad de verla florecer en una oradora pública increíble y encarnan la líder que siempre pensó que nunca estaría preparada para llegar a ser. Con sorprendente carisma, chistes e historias personales, se refirió a su experiencia de trabajo en las industrias tóxicas y la importancia en la protección de las comunidades y los trabajadores contra los humos tóxicos dentro de las instalaciones. Cerró con invitar a los estudiantes y profesores a visitar a su comunidad y aprender acerca de las formas que pueden apoyar su trabajo. En un momento más tarde, ella también fue invitada a hablar en un panel de líderes mujeres con Inner City Struggle donde según ella, estaríamos “celosos en la cantidad de gente que la amaba.”

Al convertirse cómoda hablando en público, no había nada que la detuviera. En una reunión pública, después de que trabajadores de un desolladero en Vernon terminaron afirmando que han estado trabajando allí durante años y nunca han olido el hedor que salía de la planta, Marina se levantó lentamente, se acercó al micrófono y dijo-

“Antes trabajaba en una compañía donde derretían metales. Para que el olor de los metales no me molestara, lo que hacia era fumar cigarros. Después de trabajar ahí por muchos anos, se me fue el olor y sabor. Hoy le doy muchas gracias a dios por cuitarme el olfato para no tener que oler los olores que salen de esa compañía. Y a los trabajadores, si ya no lo huelen, mejor váyanse al doctor para que no terminen como yo.”

Debido a su excepcional liderazgo y dedicación al movimiento de justicia ambiental, se le concedió a Marina el ‘Premio Margarita Holguín’ de EYCEJ en 2014.

Cerca de sus últimos meses, Marina nos acompaño a la reunión NEJAC (Consejo Asesor Nacional de Justicia Ambiental) con el Moving Forward Network para exigir que la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de Estados Unidos haga un estudio más detallado sobre la contaminación de las emisiones de diesel y empuje para la tecnología de cero emisiones en nuestras comunidades. En su última semana con nosotros, ella había comenzado pidiendo aprender a usar una computadora para poder enviar y recibir correos electrónicos. No había límites a su impulso para seguir creciendo y aprendiendo.

El Sábado, 06 de junio 2015, después de una operación difícil, Marina Uranga Pando comenzó su camino en la vida siguiente, dejando con nosotros un legado inolvidable y las historias de su vida como un testimonio de lo verdaderamente poderoso que podemos ser. En recuerdo de ella, he llegado a considerarme muy bendecido de haber conocido a Marina. Tengo la suerte de haber sido testigo de la cantidad de fuerza, la sabiduría, el coraje y la dignidad que una persona puede llevar; además presenciarlo en acción.

Para muchos era Doña Marina.

Para mí era un luchadora por los derechos de la mujer y los derechos de los trabajadores.

Una luchadora por la vida de su comunidad.

Una artista con sus muchas bromas.

Narradora increíble.

La Mil Usos.

Para mí, ella era La Leona.

En una conversación dos semanas antes de su muerte le pregunté “Marina, si se nos vaya, ay algo que le gustaría dejar saber a su familia o a sus amistades?” “Pues Si. A mi hija Idalia, muchas gracias por todo lo que me cuidaste y todo lo que haces por mi. Que no se que hice para merecerme a una hija como tu. Se que te va doler que me valla, pero quiero que sepas que te quiero mucho. A mis nietos, que cuiden a su mama, y que también los quiero mucho. Y todas mis amistades, que no vivan la vida como pendejos. Vívanla siempre a lo que puedan.”

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 6.15.12 PM

“Marina, have you ever been in love?”

“Yes, but men are stupid.”

“Let’s see, why?” I asked her.

“Once, I fell in love with a man who was very jealous. I was not allowed to do anything. But according to him it was ok for him to be driving around the neighborhoods with other women in his car. That shameless man would honk at me each time he would drive by just so that I would see him with the other women. And then when he got home, he would ask me, ‘Didn’t you hear me honking at you?’ I would answer, ‘I did hear you. But the honk is not my rein.’ In one of those fights, he tried to slap me but was not able to because I had very quick reflexes. That day, he left the house and closed all the doors and windows so that I would not leave. I waited until I could no longer see his car, grabbed a lamp, and threw it out the window; then I jumped out. I went straight to my father’s house where my father asked me, ‘What happened?’ ‘Well, he wanted to slap me.’ ‘And did he slap you?’ ‘No, but I will not wait around until it happens.’ When I asked him to divorce me, he said ‘No. Because there are no divorces in this family.’ When he said that, I looked in his eyes and told him. ‘You will help me with the divorce, or I will find someone else to do it. But if you don’t help me, I swear you will not see me again for the rest of your life.’ My mother looks at him and said, ‘Do as La Leona asks you, because you know the promises she makes, she keeps.’”

“Did he divorce you?” I asked.

“Well Yes.”

” Why do they call you La Leona?” I asked.

“Because no one can tell me what I can and can not do.”

I met La Leona, known to me at that moment as Doña Marina, 3 years ago at a 4th of July event in Rosewood Park where we set a table to sign up community members for a Public Speaking 101 workshop. My first impression of Marina was her small build body and loud sense of humor. After 30 minutes of talking, she then signed up for the workshop, and asked me to remind her and pick her up from her house. Two weeks later, I picked her up and brought her to the community room for the first portion of the workshop.

Throughout a couple of weeks, the first ride to the office slowly became weekly rides. In about a couple of months, picking her up every day at 10am became routine. Every day began with, “Good Morning Marina, how did you wake up?” She would respond with, “Laying down and fasting. What do we have to do today?” Sometimes 8 -10 hours later on the ride back to her house, she closed the day with “What are we doing tomorrow? And, what time will you be picking me up?” This became our daily ritual.

Marina and I spent many days together. Through her many stories, she shared many of working in industries, being one of few women in an industry full of men. She never hesitated to snap back at men harassing her or her friends at work. While working at the Firestone Tire Company down Firestone Blvd, she shared that on her 2nd day of work, she walked up to her boss and demanded that a policy be developed to discipline men who would catcall female employees. While working at a metal melting facility, she talked about organizing workers to bring in the Union. It was here where she first learned about public meetings where she also pushed for the use of safety equipment for all workers on site.

During the time she spent in our office, we began with organizing our monthly adult meetings,

Within months, she labeled herself the secretary, kept track of monthly calendars, reminded community members about meetings, prepared for outreach at Bell Gardens High School, and took care of La Cosecha Colectiva seedlings. Eventually, using a Silver desk nameplate reading “Marina U. Pando”, she declared a desk in the organizing office as her own, all while handing me a list of the materials that she will need to accomplish her duties.

In her second year, she was invited to speak at UCLA, where I was able to see her flourish into an amazing public speaker and embody the leader she always thought she would never be ready to become. With striking charisma, jokes, and personal stories, she touched on her background working in toxic industries and the importance in protecting communities and workers from the toxic fumes within the facilities. She closed with inviting students and professors to visit her community and learn about ways that can support her work. At a later time, she was also invited to speak at a women leaders panel with Inner City Struggle where according to her, we would be “jealous at how much people loved her.”

In becoming comfortable speaking in public, there was no stopping her. At a public meeting, after workers from a rendering plant in Vernon finished stating that they have been working there for years and have never smelled the stench, Marina slowly got up, walked to the mic and stated:

“I used to work at a company where they melted metals. I used to smoke cigarettes so that the odors wouldn’t bother me. After working there for many years, I lost my sense of smell and taste. Today I thank God very much for taking my sense of smell so I don’t have to smell the odors that come from that company. And to the workers, if you don’t smell the odors, better go to the doctor so you don’t end up like me.”

Because of her outstanding leadership and dedication to the environmental justice movement, Marina was additionally awarded the EYCEJ ‘Margarita Holguin Award’ in 2014.

Close to her last months, Marina accompanied us to the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) meeting in San Diego with the Moving Forward Network to demand that the US Environmental Protection Agency do a closer study on contamination from diesel exhaust and push for Zero Emission technology in our communities. In her last week with us, she had begun asking to learn how to use a computer, type, and send emails. There were no limits to her drive to continue growing and learning.

On Saturday, June 6th, 2015, after a tough operation, Marina Uranga Pando began her journey in the after life, leaving with us an unforgettable legacy and stories of her life as a testament of how powerful we can truly be. In remembering her, I have come to consider myself very luck to have met Marina. I am blessed to have witnessed how much strength, wisdom, courage, and dignity one person can carry; furthermore witness it in action.

To many she was Doña Marina.

To me she was a fighter for women’s and worker’s rights.

A fighter for the life of her community.

An artist with her many jokes.

Amazing storyteller.

She was La Mil Usos.

To me she was La Leona.

She left me with this last conversation, two weeks prior to her passing:

I asked her: “Marina, if you pass away, is there something you would like to tell your friends or family?”

“Well Yes. To my daughter Idalia, I don’t know what I did to deserve a daughter like you. Thank you very much for taking care of me and everything you have done for me. I know that it is going to hurt you once I leave, but I want you to know that I love you. My grandchildren, take care for your mother, and I love you. And to all my friends, do not live life like idiots. Live it always to its fullest potential.”

Marina

Fighting for Life Honoree Andrea Hricko #ThrowBackThursday

 

1972 behind garbage truck working for ralph naderandrea and angelo monitoring

 

My first foray into monitoring diesel exhaust was in 1972 – there I am (in the left photo) at the back of a garbage truck, at the request of the sanitation workers union in Washington, D.C., during the time when I worked on occupational health issues with the Health Research Group, one of Ralph Nader’s organizations. The workers’ concern was carbon monoxide. Fast forward 30 years – and there I am with Angelo Logan of EYCEJ monitoring diesel exhaust (this time for harmful ultrafine particles) from big rig trucks in Commerce.

Does that mean we’ve made no progress? No… now both garbage trucks and big rigs have smokestacks above the cabs, not in areas where workers directly breathe the exhaust. And many of the harmful constituents in diesel exhaust have been reduced over the years through stricter government regulations.

But those of us still working to ensure that diesel exhaust does not continue to suffocate low-income communities of color, and that big rig diesel trucks and locomotives are not the dominant feature of the community landscape … know that we still have a long way to go to protect these communities from harm.

I’m so pleased to be one of East Yard Communities’ honorees next week at its Fighting for Life Celebration. For the past 10 years, the environmental health outreach program I direct, which is based at USC, has partnered with EYCEJ and other environmental justice groups and asthma coalitions, along with academic allies from Occidental College. We call our group “THE Impact Project” – for Trade, Health and Environment impacts. It is a community-academic partnership focused on reducing the impacts of international trade on health and community life.  Partners in THE Impact Project have been instrumental in forming a nationwide organization of groups called The Moving Forward Network (link to http://www.movingforwardnetwork.com/2013/10/about-moving-forward-network.html) which aims to transform the way ports and other goods movement facilities operate, in order to protect communities and health. You’ll be hearing the word ZERO mentioned a lot in the near future from the Moving Forward Network: zero emissions … zero pollution … zero health effects.

EYCEJ has gone from a small group of activists in 2002 to become a leader in the EJ movement in Southern California, the state and nationally in 2015. I have been lucky to be able to work with the great community organizers and advocates at EYCEJ during this period, bringing them news of the latest research findings on diesel and other air pollutants, while they inform our team of scientists at USC and UCLA about community concerns. Together, we have informed policymakers about the latest science and EJ groups have advocated for reducing pollution … building to a momentum for successful policy change.

*For more information on our 2nd Annual Fighting for Life Celebration coming up on June 6, click here.

First EYCEJ Bike Toxic Tour of 2015!

Bike Toxic Tour

First EYCEJ Bike Toxic Tour of 2015!

Happy New Year from EYCEJ! We had a great start welcoming this new year with our first Bike Toxic Tour of 2015! Won in our Live Auction at our annual Planting Seeds of Change year-end appreciation brunch for members and allies, Executive Director mark! Lopez led a private Bike Toxic Tour.

The EYCEJ Bike Toxic Tour takes participants to various toxic/hazardous sites that are adjacent to homes and communities, demonstrating the negative impacts on our local communities (and entire region) in the form of health & quality of life issues. EYCEJ Bike Toxic Tours also invite participants to learn more about local issues and how they can get involved in making a difference.

Below are what two participants shared about their experience on the Bike Toxic Tour:

“January 3rd, 2015, a group of us hit rubber to pavement and rode bikes throughout the City of Commerce to explore the environmentally racist infrastructure that affects families of color throughout Los Angeles. We saw oil rigs, incinerators, heavy truck traffic (common for an industrial area which much of the nations goods passes through). We learned about the victories of East Yards Communities for Environmental Justice (EYCEJ). We went into the history and the future of this area and how communities are at the forefront of fighting for life and building resiliency in the face of state violences manifested through multinational companies present throughout this region.” David De la Cruz

“Although this picture is all smiles, it was a good reality check — I’m grateful I had the opportunity to be a part of this bike ride and talk about the environmental racism that’s going on right in our back yards.” Maryann Aguirre

For more information or for upcoming Bike Toxic Tours visit our Events tab or use the EYCEJ Bike Toxic Tour pamphlet for a self-guided tour.

*Photo Credit: David De la Cruz 

Toxic Tour 2

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