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