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Environment

Opinion: Can California Protect Frontline Communities from Climate Change?

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By Sona Mohnot

In the last five years, San Jose has seen severe drought followed by the worst floods in a century and, to top it off,  record breaking temperatures. These extreme weather events are not unique to the Bay Area, but are happening all around California as well as the U.S. and the world. Climate change makes them more common and more severe.

Although California is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it won’t stop global warming. We can slow down extreme weather events like those in San Jose, but  communities will continue to feel the impacts of climate change no matter how much we curb emissions.
The weather conditions brought on by climate change — like  flooding, heatwaves and wildfires — can affect everyday life for people. Californians face the increasing likelihood of power outages, displacement, increased costs for electricity and food, contaminated drinking water, worsened air pollution and increased asthma rates.
While climate change impacts will affect everyone, low income communities and communities of color will be hit hardest. These frontline communities already spend as much as 25 percent of their entire income on just food, electricity and water, which is much more than most Americans. They face a greater risk for heat-related illness and death.And while air conditioning and transportation could alleviate extreme heat impacts, many people of color and low-income resident lack access to air conditioning or cars to escape hot days. Often located in areas with severe air pollution, these communities will also breathe even dirtier air as smog increases due to climate change.
So, what is California doing to ensure frontline communities are prepared to handle the impacts of climate change and continue to thrive?
Well, the state developed a climate adaptation strategy, called the “Safeguarding California Plan.” The plan covers 10 sectors, including energy, transportation, public health, water and forests. For each sector, the plan discusses what the state is currently doing to address climate adaptation, what must be done, and how the state plans to accomplish those goals.
The plan covers a lot of ground, but focuses heavily on the vulnerability of built infrastructure (e.g. roads, highways and energy facilities) and natural systems like wetlands, forests, and agricultural lands.
The plan does little to prioritize community vulnerability. For instance, are cooling centers available on hot days for communities lacking access to air conditioning?
Are emergency evacuation routes available for people without vehicles? What is the emergency response system to warn people of extreme weather events in rural or hard to reach communities? What measures are in place to prevent displacement?
Recognizing the need to address these issues, the Resources Legacy Fund brought together several environmental justice, public health and climate equity organizations, including Greenlining, to create a Climate Justice Working Group.
The working group provided recommendations to the state as it updated the Safeguarding California Plan earlier this year. We also just released a set of climate justice principles and recommendations that go beyond “Safeguarding California.” We believe the state should include the recommendations in all climate adaptation policies it develops.
Here’s an overview:
• The state should prioritize the protection of essential facilities that provide health care, food, and emergency shelter; bring economic opportunities into frontline communities and avoid negative consequences such as displacement.
• The state should conduct community vulnerability assessments to identify what make a community vulnerable. The assessments can inform strategies to build community resilience.
• Importantly, the state should meet with and actively engage frontline communities to include their voice in all climate adaptation plans.
• The state should identify at least $1 billion by 2020 and $10 billion by 2025 to accomplish climate resilience goals.
To hear what communities have to say about climate change, the Resources Legacy Fund and EMC Research conducted a survey of 800 California voters of color. Sixty-one percent of these voters say climate change poses a major threat to low-income communities, and 85 percent want their elected officials to develop stronger policies to help their community prepare for the impacts of climate change.
The recently passed extension of California’s cap-and-trade program designates climate adaptation as a priority that must get funding from cap-and-trade revenue. Since climate adaption will get funding, this is an opportune time for the state to think about incorporating the Climate Justice Working Group’s recommendations into its policies — especially since voters of color want to see policies that address community vulnerability. Officials must listen to the voices of the communities hit first and worst, and make sure that we build up the resiliency of those communities and don’t accidentally increase poverty and displacement.
Sona Mohnot  is Greenlining’s Environmental Equity Manager.

Activism

East Oakland Community Clean-up

The office of Councilmember Treva Reid invites you to…

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Oakland Clean Up Flyer

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Bay Area

New Assemblymember Mia Bonta to Caucus With 3 Legislative Groups

The 18th Assembly District includes a large portion of the city of Oakland and the cities of Alameda and San Leandro. Bonta was elected in a special election on August 31, defeating fellow Democrat Janani Ramachandra.

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Assemblymember Mia Bonta, (third from left), with (left to right) Senator Steve Bradford, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurman, U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee, assemblymembers Isaac Bryan Reggie Jones-Sawyer, and Kevin McCarty.

Soon after Assemblymember Mia Bonta (D-Oakland) was sworn in last week to represent California’s 18th Assembly District — which covers parts of East Bay — she signed on as a member of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus (CLWC), the California Latino Legislative Caucus (CLLC), and the California Black Legislative Caucus (CLBC).

Bonta is the 11th member of the Black Caucus and the only lawmaker representing a district in the Bay Area. In the Latino Caucus, she is the 30th member, and out of 120 lawmakers in both houses of the state Legislature, she is the 39th woman.

“Special congratulations to our newest member @MiaBonta, who was sworn into the Assembly this morning! #AD18 has chosen a fantastically fearless representative, and I look forward to working with you Assemblymember Bonta! #CALeg,” wrote Assemblymember Akilah Weber (D- San Diego).

Mialisa “Mia” Tania Bonta, who is Puerto Rican of African descent, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University in 1993 and a Master of Education (Ed.M.) from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 1996. Bonta also received a J.D. from Yale University Law School in 1999.

Her work experience includes over 20 years working with nonprofits, including serving as CEO of Oakland Promise, a college and career prep program for Alameda County high school students.  She was also president of the Alameda Unified School District Board from 2018 to 2021.

“Congratulations to @MiaBonta on her election to the Assembly, which not only made her the first Afro Latina in the Legislature, but also raised the number of women in the Legislature to an all-time high,” California Lt. Gov., Eleni Kounalakis stated on Twitter.

The 18th Assembly District includes a large portion of the city of Oakland and the cities of Alameda and San Leandro. Bonta was elected in a special election on August 31, defeating fellow Democrat Janani Ramachandra.

“I am deeply honored to represent the 18th Assembly District. Our district has a long history of bold, progressive, leadership and I plan to continue this work in our diverse district,” Bonta tweeted September 7. “I’m ready to fight for bold solutions to issues like homelessness, housing affordability, climate change, and criminal justice reform for AD-18 and all Californians. I am ready to get to work.”

Bonta steps in to replace her husband, Rob Bonta, who vacated the AD 18th seat in April after Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed him California Attorney General, replacing Xavier Becerra, who is now United States Secretary of Health and Human Services.

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City Government

The Next First 100 Days

Building a Healthier Future for Oakland

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Symbol of democracy this picture show a child and his mom voting for french presidential elections. Photo Courtesy of Arnaud Jaegers via Unsplash

In 2022, the voters of Oakland will have an opportunity to elect the next Mayor for our city.  The Mayor of Oakland is the head of the executive branch, in charge of implementing actions and laws that have been passed by City Council and community.

The Mayor also selects and hires the City Administrator, appoints members of key Boards and Commissions, and sets the direction for the Administrative branch of government, thus having a major impact on what actions get taken.

In recent years, the City Council has adopted numerous laws and funded positions and projects – many of which have not been implemented, such as providing gun tracing and cracking down on illegal guns, civilianizing special events, providing pro-active illegal dumping remediation, a public lands policy to prioritize affordable housing, direction to provide healthier alternative locations to respond to homelessness, and many more.

In order to ensure that we build a safer and healthier future for Oakland, is it vitally important to ensure that we elect leadership for the executive branch with the dedication and commitment to take the actions needed to fulfill the needs of our communities.

With serious struggles facing our communities, it is vital that the next mayor take immediate action in their first 100 days – and so, I am undertaking to provide proposals regarding what the next mayor can, and should, do in their first 100 days in office.

These efforts will need to include recruitment and retention for the workforce; effective relationships with County government and neighboring cities to solve common problems; working with stakeholders including to expand equitable economic development and housing for all income levels; presenting and passing proposals at Council and bringing in and properly stewarding the finances needed.

Even within the first 100 days, a mayor can accomplish a great deal – including taking action to implement vitally needed services that already have Council authorization, and thus, can be brought about more quickly.

This is the first installment, a listing of some of the first items that the next mayor can, and should, do to build a healthier Oakland, and which should be factors in our decision-making in the year ahead.

  1. Ensure implementation of the directive to prioritize stopping the flow of illegal guns and stopping gun violence, including implementing gun tracing, tracking and shutting down sources of illegal guns, and providing immediate response to shooting notifications.
  2. Remove blight and illegal dumping, implement pro-active removal of blight rather than waiting for complaints, incorporate blight removal throughout city efforts (rewards program, summer jobs program, etc), to clear up backlog and establish a new normal that it is not OK to dump in Oakland.
  3. Provide healthier alternatives for homeless solutions, including safe parking/managed RV sites, and sanitation/dump sites, to reduce public health risks, including by partnering with the County and others.
  4. Implement previously approved Council direction to switch to the use of civilians (rather than sworn police) to manage parades and special events.  Help ensure community and cultural events can go forward without excess costs undermining them, strengthen the arts and economy and equity of event permitting system, and ensure that expensive police resources are directed where they are needed, rather than wasted on watching parades.
  5. Implement previously approved public lands policy to ensure using public lands for public needs, with a priority for affordable housing.
  6. Make it easier for local residents and small businesses to grow, build, and expand by providing coherent and simplified permitting, and by implementing the Council-funded direction to provide evening and weekend hours and easy online access to allow people to do projects like adding Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and make other renovations and construction projects more timely.
  7. Work with stakeholders and community to advance effective and equitable revitalization of the large public properties at and around the Oakland Coliseum, including with housing for all income levels, jobs and business development, sports and entertainment, convention and hotels and more.
  8. Work to speed up vacancies in needed city staff positions, and improve recruitment and retention, and local hiring, to help provide vitally needed services, including for cleanup, parks upkeep, gun tracing, and other community needs.
  9. Fire prevention and climate resiliency.  Our region is facing growing dangers from climate change and fire risk, and we must take action to reduce and remedy risk and protect our communities with a more resilient future, including by planning for and starting fire prevention and brush remediation activities earlier in the year, improving brush removal on public land as well as private, fully staffing the fire department, and improving public infrastructure to protect cleaner air and reduce risks.
  10. Job training and pathways.  Some industries face challenges finding enough prepared workers while many in our community also need access to quality jobs. Support and connect job training programs and quality job policies with growing sectors, and ensure that Oaklanders are prepared for vital openings in needed jobs while allowing our community to thrive.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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