City Council says Aye to Next Phase of "Clean Up Green Up"

by Anonymous (not verified) on June 21, 2013

june 21 2013

by Brinton Williams

 As a political science major and summer intern at Liberty Hill Foundation, I have always considered myself politically involved and very socially aware. But despite being what I considered politically informed, I’ve thought of local government as a service-oriented institution that filled in potholes, cleaned up neighborhood parks, and dealt with minor issues that city residents had. In my mind, real social change only occurred at the Federal or State level, and city governments were incapable of working to truly improve the social conditions of citizens within its borders. I had always reasoned that if I wanted to see proactive change occur, I would have to lobby intimidating United States senators and stubborn congressmen, not work with local government officials.

I was proven wrong this past Wednesday, June 19, when the Los Angeles City Council voted 12-0 to direct the City Planning Department to research, analyze and draft "Clean Up Green Up" policy recommendations for three pilot areas of the city. The Clean Up Green Up campaign is focused on improving air quality and reducing pollution in some of the most toxic areas in the city: the communities of Pacoima, Boyle Heights, and Wilmington.  Residents in these three neighborhoods, through community-based organizations including Pacoima Beautiful, Union de Vecinos, Communities for a Better Environment and Coalition for a Safe Environment, worked tirelessly to organize their communities to improve public health by championing this policy.

After more than a decade of effort that included years of research and documentation of the deplorable pollution hazards in these areas, and many months of reaching out to city officials, community allies and business leaders the “Clean Up Green Up”  initiative has passed an important milestone. Real
work can now be done to improve the health of community members living in these three areas, and eventually across the city.

For me, being in the room with members of the Clean Up Green Up movement when they finally saw the fruition of their years of hard work was inspiring, to say the least. It felt like history was being made in the tightly packed chamber full of ornately decorated columns and American flags. Sitting next to people who had been directly affected by toxic hazards in their communities and who had decided against accepting dangerous living conditions by organizing their communities and fighting for change really showed me the power of grassroots organizing at the local level. I heard firsthand how residents were able to work in partnership with the city government to propose ways to make positive and substantive change in their communities.

Change can occur at the city level, and it is this type of neighborhood organizing that makes improvement in air quality possible. The vote at City Hall to advance this environmental justice policy is a testament to the power that community members can have when they organize and work together. It is these community members who make city government so much more than a complicated bureaucracy. Because of these neighborhood leaders, City Hall can become a catalyst for real social change.