2017 L.A. Streetsies: Vote for Advocate of the Year
Today, SBLA opens the votes for individual advocate for 2017. The award is called the Deborah Murphy Award for Excellence in Advocacy, named for the founder and head of Los Angeles Walks.
Voting is underway and will close on Wednesday, January 10, 2018 at noon. Reader voting accounts for one half of the scoring this year, with one quarter going to SBLA staff voting, and another quarter going to the SBLA steering committee.
Lois Arkin – Lois Arkin is the founder and indefatigable force behind Los Angeles Eco-Village. For decades, Arkin has run the non-profit Cooperative Resources and Services Project. Under her leadership, CRSP has purchased four Koreatown sites, converting three of them to Community Land Trust-owned affordable ecological housing. The eco-village serves as a hub for environmental and social justice activism, including incubating the Bicycle Kitchen and hosting Streetsblog events. In late 2016, Arkin closed escrow on a fourth site, and is working to remediate the former auto shop to serve community uses.
Charles Brown – Charles Brown, senior researcher with the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center and adjunct professor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy (both at Rutgers University), while not a local advocate, has done important work on the intersections of race and mobility in ways that are shaping both national and local conversations. This past year, he took his work to the next level by launching the “Walking Toward Justice” webinar series in collaboration with America Walks to provide an open forum for exploration of the intersection of history, race, class, gender, and politics with mobility. The first national webinar featured author Richard Rothstein, The Color of Law, in conversation with Tamika Butler (Executive Director of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust), Sonia Jimenez (Business Manager and Lead Consultant of Ximenes & Associates, Inc.), and myself (Sahra) about how to right the wrongs of segregation. Rothstein had already been interviewed about the book by many notable thinkers, including Ta-Nehisi Coates. Yet none seemed willing to take the risk Brown did in not only diving into the parameters, power, and significance of white supremacy and privilege in planning, but in allowing his panel the space to navigate their way through those uncomfortable waters. It made for a powerful and memorable conversation, and pushed the envelope on the ground conversations around walkability could tread.
Michael MacDonald – Architect Michael MacDonald earns another Streetsie nomination. He is the bicycling force behind Bike the Vote L.A., which had another active year with city council, Measure S, and special elections. Bike the Vote has made sure that candidates take bicyclists seriously, and, when it was called for in last year’s tumultuous race for the First District, that candidates took the vulnerabilities of all their constituents seriously. MacDonald’s bike activism goes way beyond BTV, though. He is also one of the creators of Street Beats Great Streets re-envisioning of the intersection of Crenshaw and Florence. He is one of the key players in the Keep MyFig On Track working group that worked to ensure that the big MyFigueroa complete streets project is on track to open in 2018.
The women who spoke up with a #MeToo and the women who refrained – This is a bit of a departure, but it would be hard to close out 2017 without acknowledging the way the individuals who had the courage to speak up and those who felt they had to protect themselves by remaining silent rocked our collective world. They offered a poignant reminder that whether rights were trampled out in the open or behind closed doors, the extent to which misogyny and patriarchy remain embedded in the power structures we all participate in upholding is what allows those abuses to endure. They also served as a reminder that, in looking just through a gender lens, we are only scratching the surface of structural forms of violence. Much remains to be done if we are to create more equitable and accessible cities, spaces, and workplaces for all. Kudos to those who have done and continue to do the difficult work of exhuming their own pain to push those conversations forward and to ask us to do and be better.
Javier “JP” Partida and Art Ramírez – When Javier “JP” Partida – president and founder of Watts’ own Los Ryderz Bike Club – saw the now-infamous video of Benjamín Ramírez’ cart being knocked over by Carlos Haka, he immediately reached out to me (Sahra) asking if I could help connect him to Ramírez. He and Art “The Skrapfather” Ramírez wanted to build the elote vendor a custom replacement cart. They managed to get enough donations together (including custom wheels from Warren Wong) to get the project rolling. Art has long been in the business of building custom bikes and vendor carts, but over the last couple of years, he and JP have worked together to teach the youth of Los Ryderz how to design, weld, and build their own custom bikes – a marketable skill in a community where that kind of training is hard to come by. Building a cart for the elotero was an extension of the bike club’s ongoing effort to make the streets safer and more welcoming for lower-income riders of color and to teach youth how they can make a difference in their own neighborhoods. Plus the cart was super-dope. [See it and Aura Bogado’s story, here. Sadly, the city has yet to formalize the street vending ordinance and permit process, so Ramírez is afraid to take the cart out, according to L.A. TACO.]
Honorable Mentions: Elotero Benjamín Ramírez for having the wherewithal to capture the assault on his cart and the courage to bring attention to the plight and vulnerability of vendors across the city; Brian Velez, Bike SGV’s outreach coordinator, co-host of SBLA’s SGVConnect podcast, and lovely human being whom SBLA misses greatly. Rest in power, friend.
Past Winners: Luke Klipp, Tamika Butler, mark! López, Jessica Meaney, Valerie Watson, Colin Bogart, Sunyoung Yang, Don Ward, Stephen Box