This is the second in a series of blogs outlining six draft outcomes to guide our advocacy work in 2017. For more background on this series, read the introduction here. We invite your questions, comments, and critiques! Please email us your thoughts at email@example.com
Outcome: Metro engages the community as a partner in developing the transportation system.
What success looks like:
Metro incorporates early and continuous stakeholder engagement in all major decisions, with demonstrated responsiveness to input.
Metro establishes a bench of qualified community-based organizations to expand the agency’s capacity for authentic engagement.
Metro’s decisions have far-reaching consequences for communities and these decisions aren’t always made on a level playing field. Transportation policy is technical and complex, so how decisions get made is often not transparent to the people affected by those decisions. With such a complicated subject matter, both language and education levels can pose barriers to participation for some stakeholders, not to mention the time commitment to attend meetings and engage decision makers.
Given the challenges inherent in community engagement, several of Metro’s recent efforts should be commended as great examples of proactive engagement yielding better decisions.Joint Development in Boyle Heights: After a community outcry, Metro scrapped their plan and went back to the drawing board to redo development standards for Metro-owned properties in Boyle Heights. These discussions delved into complicated land use issues in an accessible way, allowing community priorities for the sites to emerge and be incorporated into new development standards.
Transportation is often seen as tool for a displacement. LRTP serves as an opportunity to change that story. #justgrowth@seletajewel
Measure M: Developing the expenditure plan was an extensive process that took into account stakeholder feedback from all across the county. The combination of polling, public workshops, and targeted outreach meant that the input gathered was both broad and deep — getting a general sense of public sentiment while hearing directly from key constituencies. We particularly appreciated the public workshops held in each subregion to gather input from community members.
Policy Advisory Council: Measure M implementation will require carefully balancing competing priorities among different stakeholder groups. While the Policy Advisory Council hasn’t been formed yet, its structure is promising for its breadth and depth to allow different stakeholder groups to provide direct input on upcoming decisions.
These examples have a few common themes: identifying different constituencies with a stake in a decision; bringing those stakeholders into the decision-making process early; engaging them throughout; and clearly documenting how their input was incorporated into the final decision. We seek to make this approach the norm for major decisions at Metro.We also want to build capacity among community-based organizations to engage in transportation decisions by building more formal partnerships with Metro. Community-based organizations know their communities and are invested in their success.
LA is HUUUUUGE n that makes it hard to engage communities. If we don’t make ourselves heard, we get left behind #justgrowth#MeasureM
However, these organizations are generally under-resourced and may not have either the capacity or technical knowledge to engage on transportation decisions without greater support. We believe Metro should identify organizations with strong community ties and compensate them for their involvement in helping Metro to engage community members.
On Monday, Investing in Place brought together policymakers and elected leaders from across Los Angeles County for breakfast to continue a conversation around a shared vision for implementation of Measure M. The measure, approved with the support of 71% of voters, will provide a significant amount of revenue over the coming decades for transportation priorities throughout the county. While the major projects were spelled out in the ballot measure ordinance, many decisions about other funding programs have yet to be made.
We had two goals for the breakfast:
To continue bridging dialogue between policymakers, elected officials, and community leaders we hear from at our convenings, work groups, and transportation workshops.
To continue growing the discussion on implementing our vision for equitable, safe, and sustainable transportation, particularly how we will do that work in partnership will leaders across the region in 2017.
After welcoming remarks by Investing in Place’s Jessica Meaney and the American Heart Association’s Claudia Goytia, Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro Director Hilda Solis kicked off the discussion with a reminder how important it is to ensure all voices are at the table—particularly those who have been overlooked in past decisions—as we implement Measure M.
Supervisor Solis then (surprisingly!) presented Investing in Place with a commendation for our work advocating to improve the lives of all in our county. We are honored and humbled by her recognition… It’s a reminder that what we do in Los Angeles should be — and we’re channeling Santa Monica’s Rick Cole here — an example of what makes America great.
Next, we asked the policymakers to share their vision and priorities for transportation in the region. We heard about: looking out for vulnerable residents, linking transportation and housing, and using data to focus resources where they are most needed. Not too surprising, we heard these values and themes before from parents all across First 5 LA Best Start communities in Los Angeles County, people advocating for better sidewalks and crosswalks, and constituents advocating for a more equitable transportation system in Los Angeles County.
Summary of Our Discussion
Here are highlights from our discussion:
Mayor Ted Winterer, Santa Monica: Acknowledged the growth of low-wage jobs in Santa Monica. Mayor Winterer said, “In Measure M, I want to make sure we build out a robust transportation system to service those with lower-wage jobs.”
Councilmember Lindsey Horvath, West Hollywood: One of Councilmember Horvath’s priority is to complete the Crenshaw northern extension. She wants to “connect people to economic opportunity” and cultural destinations, while making sure “we address impacts of development.”
Steve Lantz, South Bay Cities COG: Steve talked about Measure M as an opportunity to have broader goals — “looking at new ideas of mobility,” he said — rather than just reducing congestion for vehicles. He acknowledged Measure R didn’t include funding for active transportation — now, Mr. Lantz asked fellow policymakers in the room, how can we finally address active transportation in Measure M and beyond?
Josh Kurpies, Office of Assemblymember Richard Bloom: Mr. Kurpies encouraged those in the room to link transportation and housing policy both locally and at the state level. He acknowledged the challenges and opportunities of working on the federal level — “big problem is fighting for those [federal] dollars.”
Terry Dipple, Malibu-Las Virgenes COG: What do these transportation improvement strategies look like in parts of the county that don’t have good transit?, Mr. Dipple asked the room. “We have different opinions, different backgrounds, and we try to find common ground,” he said. He urged the room think about addressing highway funding and prioritizing every region’s important projects.
Councilmember Al Austin, Long Beach: Councilmember Austin highlighted local priorities including active transportation — “being bike-friendly” — local streets, “helping residents get home” via the 710 freeway, and addressing the movement of goods in and out of the ports.
Blake Dillinger, Assemblymember Laura Friedman’s Office: Blake talked about the California 43rd Assembly District — which covers Burbank, Glendale, and central parts of Los Angeles — “not being a very good public transportation district” with “very little transportation options.” One of their office’s priorities is integrating the future High Speed Rail network with existing and future mobility network.
Nancy Pfeffer, Gateway Cities COG: Nancy reminded everyone about Gateway Cities’ long range multi-modal strategic plan. She said “Measure M is going to be an opportunity to put all that into practice.” She stressed that our region’s transportation system should work for those who are 8-year-olds and 80-year-olds.
Madeleine Moore, Office of Supervisor Sheila Kuehl: Madeleine highlighted that building the core north-south and east-west transit grid will still take a lot of work — “we” can’t lose focus on the tremendous benefits of that system. She reminded everyone that we still need to develop partnerships with transportation network companies to complement our system.
Jeff Jacobberger, Office of Councilmember Bob Blumenfield: Jeff emphasized that voters all across the county voted for Measure M and they all deserve to see benefits. In addition, he asked: “How do we maximize local return funding?” Miguel Perla, consultant based in Antelope Valley: Miguel brought it down to the community level. He said: “Oftentimes we hear about the isolation and long distances people have to travel.” He wants to bring in community members and parents who don’t traditionally participate in decisionmaking to get involved in transportation planning.
Megan McClaire, Advancement Project: Megan encouraged any update to the Long Range Transportation Plan elevates voices of those who don’t have freedom of choice in transportation. A very important reminder.
Seleta Reynolds, LA Department of Transportation: Seleta reminded the group that it’s important to use a data-driven approach to direct resources to where they will have the greatest impact. She said, “There are inequities inherent in where people are getting killed on our roads,” so where safety resources go will not be equal. Traffic collisions are the number one cause of death for children in L.A. County, and “every single one of these deaths is preventable,” she said. Her overall point was: Measure M will be a failure if we just build a bunch of transit without addressing huge safety issues. We, she said, “need to prioritize small, but effective capital projects early on” and “prioritizing the most vulnerable The focus needs to be on how our transportation projects build wealth and strengthen communities.
Joanne Kim, Office of Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson: Joanne expressed her commitment to ending “divide by 15,” (for example, in the case of local return) and instead using data to allocate resources. “Equality is not equitable,” she said.
Dennis Gleason, Office of Councilmember Joe Buscaino: Dennis talked about the challenge and opportunity we face in the City of Los Angeles: coordinating projects with multiple objectives with funding from multiple sources. He stressed that we can address sidewalks and stormwater at the same time.Therese McMillan, Chief Planning Officer for Metro, described the process for updating the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), noting that it will be very different than the last one. She said the LRTP needs to define equity in a way that makes sense to everyone, use data to address safety, and be rooted in shared values.
Jessica closed out the meeting by sharing Investing in Place’s priorities—especially a transportation equity policy—that will advance our vision of #JustGrowth and a timeline for upcoming policy decisions and ways to get involved.
Note: The Just Growth Champions interview series is a collection of conversations with elected officials, public agency staff, advocates, and community members who embody the values of the “Just Growth” concept — a concept developed by Dr. Chris Benner and Dr. Manuel Pastor, focused on equity, inclusion, and investing in the most economically-challenged neighborhoods first to develop a strong regional economy. Just Growth is a central concept for our Equity Opportunity Zones vision in Los Angeles County.
In our first interview, we talked with Councilmember Karina Macias, whois serving her first term in the City of Huntington Park. In 2015, she was the youngest Mayor in Huntington Park’s history, and currently serves as the city’s representative on the Eco-Rapid Transit board, 710 Project Committee, and the Sanitation District Board.
She was a “vocal” critic of LA County’s transportation ballot measure, Measure M — “It’s important to keep the promise to voters… We want you to do the right thing,” said Councilmember Macias in a LA Times article. In June 2016, Councilmember Macias and a group of Southeast LA County elected officials urged Metro to accelerate the construction and opening of the West Santa Ana Branch, a 19-mile light-rail line connecting Union Station, Vernon, Huntington Park, South Gate, Paramount, Bellflower, and Artesia. The line is part of a transit project being planned known as the Eco-Rapid Transit, a joint powers authority which Councilmember Macias sits on the board, stretching from Bob Hope Airport in Burbank to Artesia.
After discussions with Metro CEO Phil Washington and Mayor Eric Garcetti about the benefits and potential opportunities for under-resourced cities like Huntington Park, Councilmember Macias eventually supported Measure M.
Investing in Place: What motivated you to be a councilmember?
Councilmember Macias: I tell people I never pictured myself being in elected office. But, I’ve always held progressive views and had a deep belief that in order to have change, we need a people’s movement. You need people to believe in something and push our legislators to do something to benefit the community.
After college, I came back to my Huntington Park community and got involved with city council meetings and asked questions, never with the intention of running for office — only with the intention of emerging myself into local issues. Some community members approached me about running for office. I was going through my master’s program at the time, working part-time, and taking care of my family.
When there was an opportunity to run for office, my motivation was the community, and to provide a different approach as a councilmember. I could only have done it with community support. In 2013, I ran against incumbents that had a lot of resources. For my campaign, community members, college friends, and colleagues came out to help. It was very much a grassroots campaign that won at the end of the day.
I was surprised, I didn’t think I was going to win by such margins. It told me the power of movements, of people, and when they believe in someone, the importance of having a progressive voice.
Investing in Place: What are the top issues your community faces and how does transportation fit into that?
Councilmember Macias: In the Southeast cities, there’s a lot of issues but there’s also a lot of potential. In Huntington Park we face a very small budget. Our resources are not what they used to be several years ago, especially with redevelopment gone.
Now, as a council we have to figure out our priorities. My community depends so much on the resources we provide, like parks and public works. There’s a great need of having more so we can provide more. Future train station site for the West Santa Ana Branch in Huntington Park at the intersection of Pacific Blvd. and Randolph St.
Now, we don’t have as much but we’re trying to provide as much. Everything ties into transportation. We have a transit-dependent community. We have members of our community who take the bus to work, or to downtown for work, or even further. Our Pacific Boulevard is a transit hub. Everybody takes the bus. Everyone here knows about Pacific and Florence.
The potential to have transportation projects can possibly change a lot of lives because you have individuals who can travel a little bit farther because they can get that job because they just so happen to not have a car. You know I didn’t have a car until I graduated college, for the same reason that it takes a lot of money to have a car.
A lot of these communities really depend on having resources to move, having that access to bus, to rail, because that’s their way of getting to that job that’s going to pay for their rent and everything else that comes up, having a family, taking care of someone.
They look upon our city council to provide not only policy, but also what else we can provide is resources. Making sure that we’re going out there advocating for the community.
Investing in Place: Thinking about transit-dependent populations and potential investments in your community, can you talk about how you feel about Measure M passing?
Councilmember Macias: I’m very hopeful for Measure M, because it’s going to provide a lot of funding for Metro and for their projects.
It’s no secret when it first came out that I was one of those vocal elected officials that was not happy about how the projects were first prioritized and the lack of MTA really looking into the needs of the Southeast cities.
There was a lot of people in the Gateway Cities and Southeast Cities in general that felt, “What about us? You promised us in 2008, now we’re back in the same place.”
I think a lot of it has to do with communication and making sure that we have a sit-down… which happened. There was a lot of work from elected officials that took the time. I sit on the board of Eco-Rapid Transit. There was a lot of work that was done to make sure they understood the importance of the West Santa Ana branch project, and how much that’s going to help out our immediate cities, the importance of making sure that we can continue to get the resources and the priority for them to continue looking at the Southeast cities.
There’s a lot of potential in these cities, it’s just that we have to really sit down with people — like the Metro CEO Phil Washington — that have the power to make sure that we can continue to get resources. Not just for a project, but the resources to fix our streets, making sure that they keep the Southeast as a priority.
All the other cities have their own priorities, but we’re talking about the reality that our community is a transit-dependent community. If you put a rail system or if you put a bus line here, you’re going to have that ridership. They are just waiting for that resource for them to use it.
Investing in Place: Like Martin Luther King Jr., we believe our budget documents (where we invest our public dollars) says a lot about our morals. How does this statement resonate with you? What budgets are you most interested in tracking and better understanding?
Councilmember Macias: The statement resonates with me. I think that it’s in the personal but also in the public.
For me, I value where I put my money, where I invest it, where I get a donation — whether I’m campaigning or not. A lot of the donations I get from individuals eventually goes back to the community, whether it be a toy drive for the kids, a turkey drive, whether it be an event for the kids on Christmas. Everything goes back to the community.
When I came into the council in 2013, there was a lack of understanding of where we were investing our money, where we were budgeting our money, whether it be how much we were giving to a contractor, how much we were paying… “Do we really need that contractor right now? Do we need to keep them as a retainer? Can we use this money for something else?”
In order to track other budgets, we need to look at our own house. We can criticize other cities, we can criticize the county and how they spend their money, but I think we also need to look on the inside. Since I’ve gotten here, it’s about prioritizing what the community really needs right now — what contract needs attention? Maybe we can save money here.
No service is cheap unfortunately, everything is going to cost more throughout the years for cities. It goes back to what I was talking about: we are doing more with less. I think where we invest in, how we go about it, really has to be transparent for the community too so they know where the money is going.
I personally would love to have the chance to see where our federal funds are going, especially now with a new administration. I think it’s going to be crucial for everybody to track where all our monies are going in the federal, county, and state budgets. There’s always a need for questions to where the money is going, and it definitely starts in-house.
Investing in Place: Thinking about Measure M and local return, is there any opportunity for fixing sidewalks, better crosswalks, and traffic signals?
Councilmember Macias: There’s an opportunity with local return that we are looking into. Local return helps us a lot with fixing and repaving streets, not just pot holes. A lot of residents are asking us if we have a plan to repave a lot of streets because they have seen potholes and haven’t seen any change.
It goes back to having a bigger budget. We definitely will depend on local return because we can pave the way to have a plan to provide safer streets, better streets, and sidewalks. Everything counts because at the end of the day we have a lot of people who walk on Pacific Boulevard and parents who walk their kids to school. All those project funds like local return are really important to us.
Investing in Place: What advice do you have for future community leaders?
Councilmember Macias: I always say that anybody that would like to go into public office needs to keep the community in mind. At the end of the day, I am a politician, that’s the reality. There’s many public officials that lose their way. It can easily happen. A lot of people will come around you: contractors and people with influence. It’s the nature of politics.
How you navigate it and how well you are grounded has a lot to do with it. If you are well-grounded and believe that the community comes first, you can navigate it really well. You can talk to a contractor and say, you can put an RFP and that’s fine.
If you’re going into public office or a public position, if it’s not about the community comes first, people can easily become lost. When I ran, I was 25, I was pretty young. A lot of people had their doubts. A lot of people see the age and ask, “are you mature enough? Are you really grounded in the sense that you’re going to represent the community?”
I think it’s going to happen with more young individuals — you see a wave of young elected in the Southeast, they’re coming back from college, going back home, and they want to make a difference. It’s not just about showing up to the council meetings, you really have to want to invest your time in the community.
Investing in Place: How do you feel about the new additions to the Metro board?
Councilmember Macias: I think it’s good, change is always good. I think there’s an opportunity for other cities who maybe felt they have not had a chance to be heard by the board, maybe this time they can be heard. That includes the Southeast.
I commend the work of Mr. Phil Washington who has taken the time to not only himself but his staff to come to the table with the cities, including myself. I had a sit-down meeting with him and with Mayor Garcetti to talk about the issues that we see. “I don’t want to cause any trouble with you guys, I want this measure to pass.”
We want to make sure that we are not forgotten, because we have a whole population that is transit-dependent. If you put a rail there or another bus, they are going to use it. It goes back to community and the resources that they need.
Investing in Place: Councilmember, is there anything else you’d like to add?
Councilmember Macias: Thank you for the opportunity. I think that we are looking at a future of transportation that’s going to look different and I’m very hopeful for the future.
Today, Metro CEO Phil Washington reiterated his commitment to a transparent, equitable, and regional process when it comes to fully implementing Measure M — the game-changing transportation plan Los Angeles County voters passed by more than 71 percent. “We’re investing in our communities,” said Mr. Washington at today’s Metro Board of Directors meeting.
Metro will administer its Independent Taxpayer Oversight Committee (committee will be in place by June 2017), and,
Most importantly, Metro (with the guidance of Metro’s Chief Planning Officer) will form an Advisory Council to review and comment on Measure M draft guidelines (December 2016 – June 2017). The Advisory Council would include “balanced representation” from 24 members divided into 3 groups: transportation consumers, transportation providers, and accountable jurisdictions (8 each).
Throughout this process, Metro staff will brief the Metro Board of Directors on a quarterly basis, regularly communicate to the public about the progress and status of projects, and present updates at Metro’s newly formed Mayor’s Roundtable forum.
Optimistic but cautious
We’re looking forward to — but cautious — about Metro’s Measure M implementation plan. To fully ensure we’re investing in our communities, we need our historically marginalized communities at the decision-making table from the very beginning and throughout the process to ensure all our families and neighbors will thrive — community groups with constituents who rely on public transit like TRUST South LA, Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education (SCOPE), East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, and Communities for a Better Environment should all be encouraged to participate.
Despite what’s happening on the national level, 2017 is going to be a defining moment if you, like us, are advocates for a better Los Angeles County where neighborhoods are safe, walkable, and provide access to greater opportunity for all.
Last month, over 70 percent of Los Angeles County voters signaled their support for more and improved transportation options by voting to pass Measure M — a game-changing transportation plan that will invest over $120 billion in the next 50 years in walking and biking projects, better bus operations, maintaining what we build, and countywide connectivity.
But whether or not you or your organization voted for Measure M, the task ahead is clear: how do we guarantee that current and future generations of families, especially in low-income neighborhoods, benefit and thrive with Measure M’s investments? At our Just Growth Forum on November 14th, Dr. Manuel Pastor said, “We need anti-gentrification local policies in place as Measure M projects are rolling in.”
Echoing Dr. Pastor’s sentiment, we — and many of those who attended the Just Growth Forum — need to ensure resources generated from Measure M are concentrated and prioritized in vulnerable communities. To grow stronger together as a region, we need every community to benefit from Measure M’s investments.
Three key ways we can do that are:
1. Strengthening Metro’s 2017 Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP)
Metro is in the process of updating its Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), a key policy document that has far-reaching implications for how our transportation dollars are spent and whether our communities benefit from that investment. With Measure M, Metro has the resources to fully build out our countywide transportation system. The LRTP will help guide those investments.
Some key points about the LRTP process:
Ensuring long-term financial sustainability: The decisions made in the LRTP will determine what levels of transit service Los Angeles County residents can expect for the next several decades and how Metro will leverage future state and federal funding to meet capital needs. For example, the building out of the Active Transportation Strategic Plan and ensuring sufficient funding for sidewalk repair and construction, street, buses and trains, shared mobility options and other emerging mobility strategies.
Metro Board of Directors will have a key role in our regional transportation future: The LRTP update is led by Metro’s Countywide Planning Department and adopted by the Metro Board of Directors. The Metro board will continue to build on countywide goals for safety, mobility, accessibility, sustainability, and equity. The Metro board will be responsible for adopting a comprehensive long-range plan consisting of projects and programs that will meet these goals.
At Investing in Place, we’re staying engaged on how to help allocate future transportation investments in historically disenfranchised communities. One of the measures of a successful LRTP for us is an inclusive process that involves community from the very beginning all the way through to implementation.
2. Achieving Countywide Goals Through Subregional Programs
One of the key policy innovations of Measure M’s expenditure plan is the creation of subregional programs. Let me explain…
It’s no secret but Los Angeles County is a huge place to govern with over 10 million people and has one of the largest economies and transportation systems in the country. To help make decisions about our transportation system, subregional governments and Council of Governments (COGs) identified and prioritized Measure M projects that would help meet their subregion’s transportation needs (Not sure what a COG is? Check out our memo). The existence of these programs is a recognition that in a county of over 10 million people, places like Lancaster and Long Beach have vastly different project needs that shouldn’t be determined in Downtown Los Angeles.
Over the next several months, Metro will work with the Executive Directors of each of Los Angeles County’s COGs to develop the guidelines for these programs. This is an opportunity for policy innovation around performance measures, project selection, and project delivery. This process will be greatly enriched by on-the-ground community voices and experiences.
As Metro develops these guidelines, Investing in Place advocates for a public participation process that includes early and continuous participation from various demographics, race, class, and cultural backgrounds across the region. Having diverse neighbors and community partners at the table has the potential to elevate the success of our transportation investments to benefit our growing population.
Please email me if you’re interested in this work — firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Getting the Most Out of Local Return
Measure M also includes about $150 million per year for cities to meet local needs like street and sidewalk maintenance, local transit, and small capital projects — this funding is called local return. It is a formulaic distribution of Measure M revenue based on a city’s population.
All 89 local jurisdictions (88 independent cities and the County of Los Angeles) will now need to set their own policies for how this new revenue is allocated, and potentially reconsider priorities for the local return from Propositions A & C and Measure R alongside the new revenue from Measure M. Cities that have completed local plans, such as bicycle and/or pedestrian master plans, safe routes to school master plans, or updated circulation elements of their general plans, will be better prepared to use this revenue strategically. Cities that haven’t, can consider using this funding to pay for them.
Decisions about local return are made by cities and the Board of Supervisors (if you live in an unincorporated part of Los Angeles County). As long as projects fall within broad eligibility guidelines, cities are free to spend the funding on anything from filling potholes to building and repairing sidewalks, improving crosswalks and bus stops, adding bike lanes to operating local shuttles.
Interested advocates should reach out to their local elected officials about their priorities to make sure that these funds are invested to support safe, affordable and reliable transportation options for all are adequately funded.
Over the next few months, Investing in Place will develop resources for local advocates looking to influence local return decisions. We’ve formed a City of Los Angeles workgroup called “Completing Streets” on this item — please email me if interested in joining and, if you’d like to attend our first work group meeting, please join us this Wednesday.
Over the past several months, Investing in Place has been working to support the passage of Measure M, which will unlock billions of dollars of funding for our priorities of improving transportation options — especially for people out walking, bicycling, and catching the bus or train. Throughout our campaign, we outlined Measure M’s many benefits, but we also cautioned that some of those benefits were opportunities, rather than guarantees.
Now that Measure M has passed, our work must shift toward the policies and practices that will implement Measure M’s funding programs.
We hope you’ll get involved in these conversations.
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.
How do we make #equity more than just a buzz word for ppl who are disconnected from communities that have been disinvested? #JustGrowth
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.”
If #JustGrowth interests you, during the session we outlined next steps we can take:
Consider joining our #JustGrowth work group to support the most equitable outcomes for our communities in Metro’s Long Range Transportation Plan: bit.ly/JoinJustGrowth
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: completingstreets2016.splashthat.com
Any other questions or suggestions, please feel free to email Jessica at email@example.com