By: Diane Vanette, One LA Leader, Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills
There are times when we get so caught up in changing this world from what it is to what it should be we lose sight of where we are going.
Several years back with the passing of the ACA, or Obamacare to some, health care was on everyone’s agenda. One LA-IAF put much effort into training people to enroll the low income and immigrant population into a health care plan that the county of Los Angeles would provide. Access to their own medical home was not just in their self-interest, but in my self-interest as well. Fewer people ending up in an emergency room would mean my insurance premiums would not rise. I, like many others, shared in the cost to treat the uninsured. Seeing a doctor in a clinic near your home could mean lower premiums for us all. So, with the help of some soft money, money with strings attached, we trained our leaders and organized events where we enrolled over 140,000 Angelino’s in their own parishes or schools into the My Health LA program. This felt good to us and was good for Los Angeles County.
But with this huge success came the realization that we were neglecting ourselves. Folks burned out. We were not recruiting new member institutions. My core team grew smaller and smaller. I needed help to take on the next challenge.
California has a budget the size of the 5th largest country in the world. Los Angeles County has over 10 million inhabitants. This is about the size of the 7th largest state in the United States. Every day I witness the extravagance of the wealthy and the despair of so many others. Don’t get me wrong. Life can be wonderful in sunny California. But I feel my heart ache every day as I look around my city. With this population the budget for the county of Los Angeles is over 30 Billion dollars. If I want to help bring people to the table to better their lives I have to be in conversation with them and the people who make the money spending decisions. But to get a place at the table it takes the work of Institutional Organizing. I need to be trained to have those relational conversations that build power, help recruit new institutions, and continue creating the change my neighbors and I deserve. The soft money we had to bring access to health care to thousands couldn’t help us hire talented new organizers. Only the hard money, dues from our institutions or money raised could make that happen.
Back to Basics (Why all organizing is disorganizing and re-organizing)
As we struggled along for a few years we were still able to win some victories. We focused some effort on training immigrants at “Know your Rights” workshops.
We held civic academies and formed an alliance with the LAPD to fight sex trafficking. We formed a team of leaders to strategize about these new challenges. But we were becoming more of an issue-based organization, not one that could build relational power. Every time a discussion of money came up at our strategy team meeting, there was silence. Why was it so hard to talk about money? We all knew that we needed it. But I never thought of myself as a fundraiser. ‘I’m just not good at asking for money’, said that little voice in my head. Talking about money is not the kind of conversation to have when there are so many other challenges ahead. Wasn’t that the job of the “professional” organizer? I remember seeing folks looking at each other as if the person on your left or right was going to take on the job of raising money. ‘Thank goodness it didn’t have to be me.’
But the more agitated I became, the more I felt something had to change within me. If I was to be the leader I wanted to be, I had to own the task. I had to ensure that this huge place called Los Angeles and One LA had the organizers we needed to really get at the table and stay at the table. I wanted to develop a new core team in my institution. I wanted power.
Fortunately, a couple of very talented IAF organizers, with the help of Ernesto Cortes Jr., decided to join with us in Los Angeles. With some guidance and the help of one of our institutional leaders who had experience raising money we formed a small group of leaders who were ready to take on this challenge. I jumped in. As the work around the community continued we began to have quarterly delegate assemblies. Core team leaders from all of our institutions came to ratify our plans to put out a vision for the future and to set a goal to raise $50,000. Our effort paid off and we reached that goal by the end of last year.
If our vision for 2020 was to become a reality: taking on immigration; doing more know your rights workshops for hundreds of people; getting city money for legal representation for victims of illegal eviction; tackling the homeless crisis; working with the LA County Department of Mental Health to include mental health benefits for My Health LA recipients; or partnering with the city attorney and LAPD to work to end sex trafficking, we had to focus our work on recruitment and the raising of hard money. Hard money has no strings attached.
We decided to focus our action on July 21, 2019 on ourselves. With every action there is a reaction. Every institution had to reflect on raising money and recruitment if we wanted to get down to business. Two months before the action we scheduled planning sessions so we were prepared to bring the institutions together to caucus. Decisions were made in the room about dues commitments, ways to raise additional monies, and new institutions to recruit. The public business that got done was personal. We also strengthened relationships with two elected officials who are likely to run for mayor of Los Angeles and one of the LA County Supervisor seats that will be vacant next year. Remember that 30 Billion-dollar county budget? It is going to take our money to build the power to negotiate for some of that money.
I am energized and focused on the work I must do. It feels good to say I share these feelings with my partners in One LA. In 2020 we will see more clearly.
One LA Leaders teach the importance of hard money, and pledge their commitments for raising hard money through dues pledges and an investment campaign. ~ July 21, 2019
One LA leaders and allies from St. John's Well Child and Family Center, Clinica Romero and the Building Healthy Communities effort in Boyle Heights testified in support of the program's preservation.
The Board of Supervisors also voted to direct the Director of Mental Health to come up with a funding plan for providing mental health services to MHLA patients at primary care settings. This is a major step forward toward increasing access to mental health services, which has been a big priority for One LA. Leaders recognized Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Katherine Barger for introducing the motion, and the entire Board of Supervisors for addressing the need for increased access to mental health services.
Temple Emanuel hosted the conference Immigration: Moving Beyond the Partisan Divide with special participation from Rabbi Sarah Bassin, Bishop David O'Connell, Shukry Cattan of the Tiyya Foundation, and the Industrial Areas Foundation National Co-Director, Ernesto Cortes, Jr.
Conference attendees discussed the moral and economic arguments in support of immigration, and highlighted local efforts to support immigrants and refugees. A project initiated by Temple Judea and Our Lady of Grace on citizenship classes inspired many leaders to consider following suit.
One LA Partners with Mayor on $100 Million Affordable Housing Fund & Launches Listening Campaign to Shape Implementation
500 One LA-IAF leaders assembled with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to discuss implementation of the recently passed linkage fee for affordable housing at St. Agnes Catholic Church, and to report on what is happening in their neighborhoods. Representing the first community organization with which the Mayor met, leaders won his commitment to more deeply collaborate with the organization in the next few months.
Leaders told poignant stories about illegal evictions (and threats of eviction) from garage apartment conversions in Pacoima, families with children hiding their homelessness in West LA, and youth and senior citizens battling despair in the face of daunting odds near La Placita Catholic Church downtown. Leaders also decried longtime South LA residents facing displacement from rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods and the rising homeless rate among South LA students in LAUSD.
Said Fr. David Matz of St. Agnes Catholic, “All of us can see that homelessness is increasing. But, hidden beneath the surface is a growing affordability crisis that affects millions more.” Debra Silverman of Temple Isaiah in West LA argued, “I want my community to reflect the diversity of Los Angeles. I want to live in a neighborhood open to all, even if they cannot afford market-value housing….And I know a lot of my neighbors feel the same way.”
Last December, the Los Angeles City Council passed a linkage fee on new development, projected to generate $100 million per year for the City of Los Angeles’ affordable housing trust fund. The linkage fee was a major focus of leaders’ engagement with Mayor Garcetti at the One LA Delegates Assembly in July 2017, and its implementation was a focus of this one.
One LA pledged to organize listening sessions with City Councilmembers in the San Fernando Valley, Downtown, West LA and South LA to shape the implementation of the linkage fee during the next few months. Leaders also won a commitment from the mayor to include La Placita leaders in planning meetings for a new pilot project that will make on-site social and mental health services available to people staying in City short-term housing.
The Mayor pledged to meet with One LA in three months to hear concrete proposals that emerge from the listening sessions, and to continuing to work with One LA to identify opportunities for more affordable housing construction.
One LA Wins Support of Mayor Garcetti; LA Becomes First Major City in US to Sign On to Gun Safety Campaign
In July 2017, 500 leaders of One LA-IAF organized a public assembly with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and secured his support for the 'Do No Stand Idly By' (DNSIB) campaign for gun safety.
The 'Do Not Stand Idly By' campaign is a market-based approach to pressure gun manufacturers to prevent illegal gun sales and utilize gun safety technologies.
After One LA called on the Mayor to “make sure we have a city of safety, a city of justice and a city of responsibility,” Mayor Garcetti committed the City of Los Angeles to leverage its purchasing power to encourage the development of safer (i.e. child-proof and theft-proof) guns among manufacturers and to continue its efforts to compel greater responsibility among gun sellers and owners.
In securing Mayor Garcetti's pledge to support the DNSIB campaign, One LA leaders enabled Los Angeles to become the first major city in the United States to support the campaign. , Houston became the second major American city to sign on, at the urging of sister organization The Metropolitan Organization.
'Do Not Stand Idly By' is a campaign initiated by faith leaders and citizens from sister organizations affiliated with the Metro Industrial Area Foundation.
500 One LA delegates from 28 member institutions assembled to hold themselves, and elected officials, accountable on a Sunday afternoon in July. Delegates ratified a new strategy team, updated the bylaws, and pledged increased dues.
In response to compelling stories, and the presence of hundreds of delegates, Mayor Eric Garcetti committed to working with One LA on concrete solutions to the affordable housing crisis, including a proposed linkage fee that would generate $75 Million per year towards affordable housing construction. Garcetti not only became the first mayor of a major city to sign on to the national IAF-initiated “Do Not Stand Idly By” campaign for safer guns, he additionally pledged to persuade other mayors to sign on.
After several young people shared stories about their immigration experience, the President of the LAUSD school board, Ref Rodriguez, pledged to support One LA and the Superintendent’s efforts to create ways for the district to provide support to young “newcomers” (recent immigrant arrivals & unaccompanied minors).
Regarding the treatment of 190,000 immigrant victims of crime (mostly women and children) who qualify for and are awaiting U-visas, Sheriff Jim McDonnell committed to working with One LA and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to place a stay on their deportations. U-visas are reserved for victims of crimes who are wiling to assist in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity.
Additional officials in attendance who pledged their support included: LA City Attorney Mike Feuer; Mitch Katz, director of LA County Health Services; LA Police Deputy Chief Robert Arcos; and Bishop David O’Connell, San Gabriel Region of the Archdiocese.
[In photo, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti publicly pledges to support One LA agenda of issues. Photo Credit: Rafael Paz Parra]
Crisis de Vivienda, Univision 34
Additional Photos, Rafael Paz Parra
Video Preview, Rafael Paz Parra
As a way to act on the extraordinary pressures they experience around housing, San Fernando Elementary school leaders (including twenty parents and their Principal, Maria Awakian) and One LA’s education team testified before the San Fernando City Council.
Publicly speaking for the very first time, three parents shared how 1 of 8 children in San Fernando area schools experience some degree of homelessness, often resulting in disruptions of academic progress and difficulties in staying awake for class.
The council is currently divided in their vision for implementing the state’s new policies regulating granny flats, which is often the only housing parents can find.
Leaders asked council members to meet with them in the near future so that they can be included in the creation of solutions to this complex issue. The parents who spoke on behalf of the group were publicly recognized by various members of the council.
The council ultimately delayed the vote, creating more time for potential solutions.
In the first three month of the year, One LA leaders engaged over 1,000 LA County residents through fifteen ‘Know Your Rights’ civic academies hosted by member institutions. In partnership with One LA member Neighborhood Legal Services of LA, leaders educated participants on the the implications of recent presidential executive orders including the enforcement of immigration regulations, as well as the Muslim and Refugee Travel Ban. ”Train the Trainer” seminars have also been organized to teach institutional leaders about the civil and due process rights to which all US residents are entitled, regardless of immigration status.
The newly re-energized Immigration Strategy Team is now crafting a vision / action plan they will take to LA County and state-elected leaders to ensure that all families, including blended immigrant families – those with US citizens and unauthorized immigrants – are protected and treated fairly. This task force also plans to challenge unconstitutional orders and implementation practices by federal immigration and other law enforcement agencies.
One LA leaders celebrated a second election victory for the most vulnerable in Los Angeles County after the March 7 election. Together, with a coalition of other organizations and with the support of County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, leaders worked to pass Measure H— a quarter cent sales tax to fund critical services for homeless populations as well as homelessness prevention for those at risk.
Following successful efforts to pass Measure HHH in November, a county-wide ballot measure to fund the construction of housing for the homeless, One LA leaders rallied again to support Measure H in 2017. Expecting low turnout, leaders organized civic academies and information sessions in their congregations to encourage members to vote.
One day prior to the election, One LA leaders joined Rabbi Dara Frimmer of Temple Isaiah and Fr. Arturo Corral of La Placita in lending moral authority to the measure at a press conference in which they stood flanked by Mayor Eric Garcetti and Supervisors Mark Ridley Thomas and Sheila Kuehl.
Measure H passed by only 2 percentage points, approximately 16,000 votes, driving home the lesson that all politics is local, and every vote counts.
One LA Reaches Milestone Healthcare Enrollment of 146,000, Celebrates Expansion of Enrollment by 54,000
Before a packed audience of 200 health care leaders and Dr. Mitch Katz, Director of the LA County Department of Health,One LA celebrated the milestone enrollment of 146,000 Los Angeles residents into My Health LA, 8,000 of whom were enrolled by One LA leaders themselves at their institutions. My Health LA is a program One LA leaders compelled the County to create to cover undocumented residents and leaders ultimately secured an additional $6 million in funding and negotiated an agreement from LA County to conduct healthcare enrollment at One LA member institutions. 350 trained leaders held over 100 events to enroll the 8,000 residents.
At the celebration, Dr. Katz agreed to authorize funding to expand healthcare enrollments to reach an additional 54,000 residents!