The campaign for cleaner air has extended with the South Coast Air Quality Management District enlisting South L.A. community leaders to spread the message to the public.
During a forum hosted by Sentinel Executive Editor and Bakewell Media president Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., a contingent of elected officials, nonprofit heads and faith-based representatives, listened as SCAQMD executives outlined how air pollution negatively impacts everyone in the region, especially minorities in low-income neighborhoods.
“Air quality is something you take for granted, but once I understood the importance of it and how Black and communities of color have been neglected, I want to urge everyone to work together to improve the quality of our air,” said Bakewell.
Dr. William Burke, chairman of the SCAQMD governing board, echoed those sentiments as he explained how the attendees could assist the agency in fulfilling its mission to clean the air and protect the health of all residents through practical and innovative strategies.
“Everyone is affected by the air quality because everyone breathes,” said Burke. “I am asking for your intellect, direction and input in educating people on what air quality means to our health and our children.” Burke added that SCAQMD has “allocated a huge educational program for the school districts in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.”
Bayron Gilchrist, SCAQMD general counsel, also stressed the impact of air quality on children, relating the crisis that his daughter endured during delivery. He recounted that she was born with a cord wrapped around her neck and not breathing, but fortunately, the medical staff was able to restore her life.
“When we talk about air quality or air pollution, the people who are most affected, our children. There is evidence that air pollution stunts their growth. There are thousands of children in the South Coast area that struggle to breathe and they don’t have doctors or nurses to help them breathe. We are working tirelessly to address those issues,” said Gilchrist.
Actually, SCAQMD has made considerable progress in reducing smog in its role as the regulatory agency responsible for improving air quality in the four counties and Coachella Valley. Maximum levels of ozone have declined to less than ¼ on what they were in the 1950s, despite the tremendous increase of people and vehicles in the region. Stage I smog alerts, which previously occurred 100-120 times a year, have been eliminated and the area hasn’t reached Stage II levels since the 1980s.
In addition, the agency offers a range of resources for residents, businesses and local governments.
For example, community members can take advantage of incentives such as the Clean Air furnace rebate program and the Replace Your Ride, which provides qualified applicants with up to $9,500 to replace their existing cars with newer, cleaner vehicles or transit passes or car-sharing modes of transportation.
Small businesses can also receive financial incentives for implementing cleaner technologies like non-toxic dry cleaning machines and new or retrofit engines for heavy-duty on-road trucks. And both businesses and governments are eligible for assistance to comply with South Coast AQMD rules and regulations, air quality policies, permit conditions, and recordkeeping requirements.
While the agency has reaped many successes throughout its decades-long existence, officials said more work must be done to meet 2023 and 2032 air quality standards and 2050 climate goals. Yet, they believe that with the participation of community leaders and members, they can succeed in continuing to improve the air in the South Coast District.
The attendees, who vowed their support, included a wide representation of the South L.A. leadership. The elected officials consisted of L.A. Council President Herb J. Wesson, Councilmembers Curren Price and Marqueese Harris-Dawson, Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer and Dr. George McKenna, LAUSD board member. Heather Hutt, state director for U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, was also present.
Other attendees were Elder Charles Blake II, assistant pastor of West Angeles Church of God in Christ; Charisse Bremond-Wheeler, president/CEO of the Brotherhood Crusade; Minnie Hadley-Hempstead, NAACP; “Sweet” Alice Harris, founder of Parents of Watts; Michael Lawson, president/CEO of the L.A. Urban League; the Rev. William Smart, president/CEO of the Southern California Leadership Conference; the Rev. K.W. Tulloss, president of the Baptist Ministers Conference of L.A. and Southern California; and Yvonne Wheeler, national representative for the American Federation of Government Employees.
The SCAQMD staff members on hand included Wayne Nastri, executive officer; Derrick Alatorre, deputy executive officer; and Fabian Wesson, assistant deputy executive officer/public advisor. The enthusiastic group adjourned, committing to support South Coast AQMD’s fight for air equality.
To learn more about air quality or to check the air quality in your area visit, http://www.aqmd.gov/