Regional planning documents and hearings are hardly exciting to write about. Interminably long public meetings, wonky terms, never-ending studies. It’s one reason that Streetsblog hardly covers the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), even though the regional plan it puts out is incredibly important in determining which projects receive federal funds and which ones don’t.
Fortunately for the sake of clicks and page views, but unfortunately for public policy, the Tea Party is taking aim at SCAG Executive Director Hasan Ikhrata just as the agency is holding Environmental Justice workshops in advance of the 2016 Regional Plan. Meeting details for its second of two outreach meetings are at the bottom of this post. You can also email comments on the plan to firstname.lastname@example.org.
SCAG is required to provide an explanation of how its regional planning impacts disadvantaged communities and communities of color. Advocacy groups have rightly noted that this requirement is one lever that can be used to re-direct funds away from the types of highway projects that have traditionally divided minority and less-affluent communities and instead use it to reinvest in those areas by providing better access to parks and public transit, more open space, and safer and more attractive facilities for walking, bicycling, or just being outside.
Coverage of the current SCAG efforts on Environmental Justice by Climate Plan and the Safe Routes to Schools National Partnership help explain in greater detail how these meetings, and this part of the plan, provide excellent opportunity to increase the investment in active transportation and disadvantaged communities for anyone who wants to learn more.
The post by Climate Plan is particularly interesting as it calls for, in the wonky way that regional planners prefer, better outreach to disadvantaged and communities of color, creating environmental justice metrics and tracking that can be broken down for each of the six counties in the SCAG region and a full analysis on the health impacts that the poor air quality created by Southern California’s freeways has on the communities they cut through.
If all of Climate Plan’s suggestions become part of the regional plan, it would have an impact on what kinds of projects get built similar to a Measure R2 that sets aside hundreds of millions of dollars for active transportation. Maybe not right away, but it would change the way the region talks about transportation.
Any chance that will happen would go away if the public comment they receive is dominated by people asking for greater investment in our already sprawling and gigantic highway system.
But just as SCAG is holding these meetings, Grindal61, a tea party videographer, launched an attack on SCAG’s executive director in a video subtly titled, “COMMUNIST GODFATHER KINGPIN HASAN IKHRATA DEFENDS HIS AGENDA 21 POLICIES.” Read more…