- Terelle Jerricks
By Terelle Jerricks,
Though the gymnasium in Banning Park’s Senior Center was air conditioned May 23, temperatures rose anyway at the Wilmington Neighborhood Council meeting.
Wilmington residents concerned about the Clean Up Green Up campaign learned that the vote on the issue was going to be tabled. It wasn’t made immediately clear for how long the issue would be tabled.
During the first half-hour of the meeting, supporters of the Clean Up Green Up campaign distributed informational handouts about Clean Up Green Up and a bullet point dossier of Wilmington’s biggest blight and pollution offenders such as illegal container yards that dots much of the community.
Clean Up Green Up is a grassroots initiated effort in Boyle Heights, Pacoima, and Wilmington to create Green Zones.
According to the www.cleanupgreenupla.org website, Green Zones would prevent and reduce pollution in those communities and help protect the health of all residents while streamlining the permitting process for businesses and providing them with access to business support programs.
The specific objectives of Clean Up Green Up, as listed on its website are:
- Protect public health by using planning tools to mitigate pollution in these heavily impacted communities
- Invest in economic development with financial and planning incentives to retain jobs and create new, green enterprises
- Reduce existing environmental hazards through streamlined inspection and enforcement; and
- Expand public-private partnerships to leverage outside resources
Cecilia Moreno, Wilmington Neighborhood Council board president cited several reasons for tabling the issue, including: Outreach to business wasn’t sufficient; and shifting definition of Clean Up Green Up.
Gabriella Medina, Councilman Joe Buscaino’s deputy liaison for Wilmington explained that the council office didn’t have a position on the issue but was concerned that there wasn’t enough community input, particularly from the business community.
To Green Up supporters, the Wilmington board’s explanation smelled funny. Contrary to Moreno’s assertion, they repeatedly noted in the public comment period the wide-ranging support the campaign has received from individuals and organizations throughout the community.
According to the Clean Up website, more than 30 local businesses in Wilmington are in support of Clean Up Green Up.
Medina said the council office has been holding brainstorming session with 45 organizations in the community on the issue.
The Clean Up Green Up initiative was made into a non agendized item and public comment was moved to end of the meeting, causing a significant number of the audience to leave early, never to return the rest of the evening.
Moreno, for her part, tried to encourage residents to stay encouraged and stay involved.
“I respect my board to sit down and study the issues,” Moreno said. “While I encourage you to continue being passionate about the issues, you need to respect the work that this board has done.”
Longtime Democratic activist and community resident, Rick Pulido, registered his displeasure with the motion by talking out of turn at the podium during a public commenter’s time, when the board attempted to move on to the next item of business.
Many people who showed up early left by 8:15 p.m. never to take their 3 minutes at the podium.
Coalition for a Safe Environment founder, Jesse Marquez, spoke during the public comment, noting the importance of a community plan and sticking to it. He said that that Clean Up Green Up was about putting in new green technology companies in place of Wilmington’s bad and dirty neighbors like Pick Your Part Junkyard, which had one of its buildings gutted by fire more than a year ago. He also noted the proliferation of open container yards where port trucks would leave their empty trailers until they were used again. Marquez said he knows eight such Green-tech companies that are ready to move in.
Some people in attendance questioned the board’s interest in the community’s concerns.
“If you don’t support Clean Up Green Up, then you’re supporting cancer,” said community resident and supporter of the Green Up campaign, Jessica Martinez, before she began recounting her family’s struggles in coping with cancer.
Wilmington Wire blog founder, Kat Madrigal’s comment was tearful.
“I believe in justice and believe in positive change,” said Madrigal, in tears. “I love my community… It’s difficult when people in your life has to deal with cancer.”
She recalled a close family who is afflicted with leukemia and said she was shocked that people aren’t taking the issue more seriously.
“It’s unthinkable that that you’re even thinking about not supporting Greenup Clean Up,” she said.
Flavio Mercado, Clean Up Green Up’s GIS Mapping expert presented an old science fair project that one second place in a science fair with his three minutes.
The experiment was simple. It involved three jars of Vasaline. One jar was placed outside without lid, another open jar was placed inside also without a lid and third jar was in a closet with a lid on. After three weeks, the jars that were uncovered had pollutants in them, demonstrating the level of Wilmington’s pollution problems. He lost to the guy lost to a guy that generated electricity from potatoes.
Towards the end of the meeting, at-large board member Anabell Romero responded to the raw feelings of Green Up Clean Up supporters by trying to explain that tabling the issue did not mean the board was against it, but just that they needed more time to study the proposal.
However, the words of Romero, a University of Southern California graduate student and NPR journalist, were interpreted by some to mean that the board was divided on the issue and that she sided with the Green Up supporters. This, in turn, caused Moreno to take Romero to task, leaving Clean Up Green Up supporters even more confused about where the neighborhood council stands.