By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor
For more than 25 years Joan Greenwood and her late husband, John Gailey, have embraced the Long Beach community as their own.
Now, Greenwood is looking to leave her mark by running to represent the city’s Council District 7.
“I have been inspired to run for the 7th District council office based on my 20 years of commitment to improving the quality of life and the environment in District 7,” Greenwood, 65, said. “All initiatives start at the neighborhood level. So, I have focused on the air quality impacts and opportunities within the neighborhood to provide activities for younger children.”
Greenwood, a project manager and environmental consultant for CSC Targee Inc., is best known for her work on the board of the Friends of the Los Angeles River. She became concerned with air quality issues in 2000. She was the president of the Wrigley Association from 2004 to 2007 and a founding board member of the Wrigley Area Neighborhood Alliance. As resident of Wrigley, a neighborhood that is directly adjacent to the Interstate 710 Freeway, she lives in a high-risk zone for pollution impacts.
“What happened is when I got involved in environmental issues in Long Beach, I suddenly learned the California Environmental Quality Act really doesn’t protect you unless you put a lot of time into refuting or supporting your arguments within the CEQA process,” she explained.
Greenwood decided to get a certificate in strategic environmental management in UC Irvine. She went from being a senior manager with high technology companies to being an environmental consultant.
Greenwood opposes the Southern California International Gateway rail yard project and supports the mayor and the city council’s decision to pursue a legal case, because she believes that the project cannot be mitigated. She said she objects to the project on both the economic and environmental justice grounds. By contrast, on-dock rail could make the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles more competitive.
Greenwood favors having a separate alternative to the Interstate 710 expansion.
She believes that her expertise and vestment in the community makes her the right candidate for the job as a council member.
“I’m very familiar with the issues related to the I-710, the railroad expansion, because not only do they affect the people in my district, I am directly affected by them,” said Greenwood, who has a degree in chemistry. “These issues are very complex. They are very technical. A great deal of city council deliberations on these matters will be behind in closed sessions because of litigation.”
She said that the city has to think beyond zero-emission vehicles. She cites that there are ports that use cable systems, which move far more cargo with a much smaller carbon footprint.
“Tire dust is far worse than diesel exhaust for the chemicals that are in it,” she said. “So, just solving the emissions problems, doesn’t take away the risks to those neighborhoods….. We need more out-of the-box thinking, more forward thinking at the ports. Because if they can’t do it better, cheaper and faster, the goods are going to go to other places.”
Also, as we go into clean truck technology, there is a need for vocational programs and manufacturers for those technologies.
“We cannot protect the middle class in a consumer economy,” she said. “We have to go back to be a manufacturing economy.”
Smart Growth and Connectivity
Greenwood is running on a smart growth platform. She said she would like to explore balancing quality jobs with high end housing, as well as affordable housing for seniors and bringing more parks to her district.
She opposes the gentrification of neighborhoods. She believes mixed-income housing is necessary to ensure that the city puts sustainable principles into action. She said social impact bonding and nonprofit-public partnerships can potentially turn infill sites into affordable housing units.
Another item on her platform of issues is connected neighborhoods to achieve and create pathways to self-sufficiency is at the neighborhood level.
Greenwood believes that connected neighborhoods can foster the next generation of neighborhood leadership and volunteerism.
“We need to connect those neighborhoods because, if we look in some areas, you have people with the skills and abilities to bring about change and you have other people who are developing their leadership skills,” she said. “We just don’t see people rising up to be leaders of their neighborhoods and kind of pulling everybody together, rather than each person going in their own separate direction.”
There also is a trickle-down effect to quality of life, she said. By bringing neighborhood groups together there is a potential of better infrastructure, maintenance and education.
Quality of life also means supporting job standards. She supports requirements such as local hiring and living wages for any incentives of funding requested by private enterprises and in all city contracts for goods and services.
Greenwood also is running on a responsive government platform that focuses on policy.
“When you are in council your responsibility is policy and I do firmly believe that it is not the role of a city council person to dictate to a department what they should or should not be doing,” she said. “Our role is policy.”
If elected, medical marijuana is a policy that she definitely will have to tackle. The city council again is looking at ways to allow for the regulation of medical marijuana in Long Beach. The latest proposals include relegating collectives to industrial areas, which District 7 has several pockets.
“I am opposed,” she said. “I don’t know why they expected the storefront dispensaries to work.”
She recognizes that there are some people for whom it is the only alternative to improve their quality of life. However, she believes the role of establishing an ordinance should fall with the city’s health department. There also should be a better study of places where they have legalized medical marijuana, such as Canada, she said.
Being familiar with the chemistry of such issues, she said that the beneficial property of marijuana is not the THC, the active ingredient that causes a high. She said the species of marijuana most effective in helping patients are the ones that have less than 1 percent of THC.
Also, she notes that ingesting medical marijuana is more effective than smoking it.
“I believe in it as a medical approach, but again, you have to go back and look and control what type of marijuana is being allowed for medicinal purposes,” Greenwood said. “And, it’s the species that have less than 1 percent of THC, which is very mild. The species that they have been developing and selling in storefronts are very high quality, with very high levels of THC.”
Total Quality Management
Greenwood considers that she is persistent, tenacious and very task-oriented. She wants to use the experience she’s gained in small, entrepreneurial companies as a council member. The companies had self-directed teams that were led by a coach, not a manager, she said.
“As a city council representative, you really are in the position of being a coach, rather than a unilateral decision maker,” Greenwood said. “If you are a coach you have recognize the strengths of everybody on your team and you have to assign people’s roles and responsibilities based on those strengths, but you also want to team people up where they have complementary skills and abilities so each can learn from the other.”
That is what she calls, “total quality management,” a concept for you which achieve quality and your goals through incremental improvement. “You don’t make giant leaps, typically and therefore everything can always be improved upon.” Total quality management can be result in bringing more revenue and keeping costs by cross-training people in doing each other’s job and therefore letting them work as a self-directed team.
She also believes her involvement with neighborhood associations and her connections with city department heads and most of the candidates running for office also give her a boost in running for District 7.
“We already have a good working relationship with almost every department in the city from the perspective of the neighborhood and the quality of life in the neighborhood, “And, that’s the big difference. It’s having that broad-base of knowledge of both city operations and the neighborhoods themselves through being a community volunteer.”
Perhaps one of her strongest suits is that she recognizes that politics is compromise.
“One of the reasons it has to be compromise is that almost any decision you make, you may have unintended consequences,” she said. “Some small group is going to be adversely affected in which case your duty is to make sure that whatever impact that is you mitigate it to the maximum extent possible. That’s why you have to listen to all stakeholders.”