Looking to Nationalize the Movement, BRU Hosts Town Hall on Recent Cuts

Mugging for the Streetsblog camera is irresistible. BRU Organizers Sunyoung Yang and Francesca Porchas smile at the VA Hospital Rally for the Wilshire Bus Only Lanes.

Tomorrow morning, the Bus Riders Union and a large coalition of sponsoring organizations will host a “Transit Justice Town Hall on MTA Cuts to Bus Service Lifelines.”  The event begins at 9:30 A.M. at Immanuel Presbyterian Church, 3300 Wilshire Boulevard in Koreatown.  The “Town Hall” will feature both a chance for community members to testify about the impact that recent bus service cuts and fare hikes have had on their lives.  You can read the BRU’s press release, here.

Combined with the surprising news that bus benches are disappearing around the city, BRU Organizer Esperanza Martinez claims, “From bus benches to bus lines, people are being stranded at the bus stop.  This is their chance to tell their story.”

In addition to the public testimony portion of the event, there will be a panel discussion featuring BRU leadership, public health experts and Dr. Robert Bullard, hailed by Newsweek as one of the top 13 environmental activists in the country and the “Father of Environmental Justice.”  A full list of panelists and short bios can be found at the end of the article.

Coming on the heels of the Federal Transit Administration’s visit to Los Angeles to conduct a civil rights audit of Metro; the Town Hall’s goal is not only to shine a light on the impact of Metro’s bus policy in recent years, but to place the local struggle of bus riders in a national context.

Yesterday, Transportation Nation reported that 80% of transit agencies across the country are experiencing hardships as a result of the national budget crisis.  At the same time, 700,000 Americans live in families without cars or access to transit.

“Really give people a sense how big this transit crisis is,” explains Martinez. “We need to build a national movement that fights for people’s civil rights”

Another reason that the event is being held in the dog days of August is that many elected officials are back in their districts instead of in D.C. or Sacramento.  Martinez closes, “We’ve invited a lot of elected leaders.  We hope they show up and take what they hear back with them.”

Co sponsring the event is an impressive group of community and advocacy groups including: Acción Westlake, Association of Communities United in South Los Angeles, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice-LA, Coalition for Clean Air, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, Comite Pro-democracia de Mexico, Comunidad Presente, Communities for a Better Environment , East Los Angeles Community Corporation, Esperanza Community Housing Corporation, Green LA Coalition, HOLA – Hispanos Organizados en Los Angeles, Inner City Struggle, Inquilinos Unidos, Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance, Korean Resource Center, Little Tokyo Service Center, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, Los Angeles Community Action Network, Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Los Angeles Taxi Workers Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles, Public Counsel, Reproductive Justice Coalition of Los Angeles, Restaurant Opportunities Center – Los Angeles, SEIU United Long Term Care Workers, SEIU-United Service Workers WestSoutheast Asian Community Alliance, Strategic Action for A Just Economy, Unification of Disabled Latin Americans, Union de Vecinos.

Panelist Bios:

Dr. Robert Bullard. Named by Newsweek in 2008 as one the 13 Environmental Leaders of the Century and described as the “Father of Environmental Justice,” he is the author of 16 books on sustainable development, environmental racism, and urban planning policy, including the landmark book on transportation justice, Highway Robbery: Transportation Racism and New Routes to Equity.

Martha Argüello is the Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility in Los Angeles. One of California’s leading voices for environmental health and justice, she co-founded the Los Angeles County Asthma Coalition and the Coalition for Environmental Health and Justice, and was appointed to Cal/EPA’s Environmental Justice Committee.

Guillermo Mayer is a leading transportation civil rights attorney in the US at Public Advocates. He co-authored the civil rights complaint in the landmark 2009 BART Airport Connector case and is a National Co-coordinator of the national civil rights and environmental justice campaign Transit Riders for Public Transportation.

Barbara Lott-Holland has been the co-chair of the Bus Riders Union for over 10 years. A mother and grandmother and a decades-long bus riders from South Los Angeles, Barbara is a leading voice for transit justice in Los Angeles.

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