Thursday, November 17, 2016

Leaders Discuss #JustGrowth Agenda for L.A. County

On Monday, over 150 people packed Yosemite Hall at The California Endowment to hear academic, philanthropic, business, community, and public agency leaders share their thoughts on how we can create a model for inclusive economic growth here in Los Angeles County.

In the wake of last week’s election, we crafted a hopeful vision of #JustGrowth that celebrates our diversity and leadership as an essential ingredient for a more prosperous future. Our panel dove into what it would take to build a policy agenda around #JustGrowth as a unifying organizing principle. Most agreed that bridging the gap between community and government is essential to addressing the root causes of inequity, and when some communities are left behind, we are all worse off than when we are all able to reach our potential.

Bea Solis kicked off the program by reminding the audience that we have a lot to celebrate in Los Angeles County with the passage of Measure A, M, and JJJ. At the same time, all of the investment Measure M promises will be for naught if the communities most in need of better access to opportunity end up getting displaced. She praised all the organizations working together on both housing and transportation and cited last weekend’s Los Angeles Times editorial as evidence that we are making progress.

Dr. Manuel Pastor gave us an overview of the academic theory behind #JustGrowth: that inequality and disinvestment lead to slower economic growth than when equity is at the center of the economic agenda. In his words, equity must be “baked into” regional decisions instead of “sprinkled on top.” He made the case that transit is the sweet spot for #JustGrowth where policy can create good jobs and increase access for low-income communities and communities of color. Dr. Pastor cautioned the audience that conflict and struggle are necessary for change, but so is collaboration.

Then, our own Jessica Meaney reminded everyone just how much a committed group of advocates can achieve. It took over four years of sophisticated policy work and coalition-building, but the #MetroFundWalkBike campaign yielded billions of dollars for walking, biking, and safe routes to school in Measure M. She called on everyone in the room to be a part of the effort for #JustGrowth in Metro’s Long Range Transportation Plan.

Our panelists John Kim of The Advancement Project, mark! Lopez of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, Mary Leslie of the Los Angeles Business Council, and Therese McMillan of Metro talked about what that effort will entail and give us key insights from their perspectives:

  • mark! Lopez – Agencies like Caltrans and the Gateway Cities COG haven’t always seen community voices like us as partners rather than adversaries. We can develop community leadership on projects like the I-710 and still get resistance.
  • Therese McMillan – Agencies need to remember who they work for and think about whether their process is designed to include them. We need to analyze gaps in the county and recognize that they aren’t all solved by infrastructure.
  • John Kim – Policy organizations like his need to support and lift up community-based organizations so that advocacy stays true to what is needed on the ground. If we really want to change conditions in communities of color, we can’t continue business as usual.
  • Mary Leslie – We are only as strong as our weakest link. No one benefits when parts of the city are left behind. But, the level of sophistication on these issues in L.A. is high, so solutions are possible.

As the conversation came to a close by focusing on what actions we can take, John Kim reminded us, “Equity is not a feeling. It’s about aligning budgets with values. It can be measured. Be clear about your asks. The issues we are addressing were created over centuries and won’t be solved overnight. Keep at it.”

We will.


If #JustGrowth interests you, during the session we outlined next steps we can take:

  • Read more about Metro’s Long Range Transportation Plan to understand what it means for our communities
  • Consider joining our #JustGrowth work group to support the most equitable outcomes for our communities in Metro’s Long Range Transportation Plan:
  • If you’re interested in better sidewalks, crosswalks, and urban forestry in the City of Los Angeles, consider joining our Completing Streets work group meeting on November 30, 2016:
  • Any other questions or suggestions, please feel free to email Jessica at

Meeting Materials:

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