By Sandy Simon
Persistence and cooperation among five CCL chapters led to a surprisingly quick win on June 25, 2019, when the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution in support of the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act.
According to the county website, 10,441,080 people are represented by the vote. Los Angeles County is the most populous county in the United States and one of the most powerful elected bodies in California. Their congressional delegation consists of 18 members of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Five Los Angeles CCL chapters worked together on the successful effort. The initiative began in January 2019 when a new volunteer, Savannah Cooley, asked Pasadena Foothills group leader Rob Haw what she could do to help. Rob suggested that she work on getting the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to pass an Energy Innovation Act resolution—a huge goal. Savannah promptly set up a committee with volunteers from five different Los Angeles chapters who met monthly by phone.
Volunteers Judy Trumbo (Pasadena Foothills) and Ann Rushton (San Fernando Valley), both with insider knowledge, were together at the February 2019 SoCal Regional Conference and discussed talking with their contacts in the County. Ann had a long-term friendship with Los Angeles County Board of Supervisor Sheila Kuehl’s Deputy for the Environment, Katy Yaroslavsky. Supervisor Kuehl is well known for her environmentalism.
“My long-standing friendship with Katy really opened the door to a meeting with Supervisor Kuehl’s office,” Ann said. “We were able to schedule a conference within a month of requesting one.” The meeting was scheduled for May 22, 2019.
Ann prepared a “briefing book” to take to the meeting, containing a wealth of information for staff, including a summary and text of H.R. 763, a list of congressional cosponsors, economists’ statements on carbon dividends, an economic modeling summary, and resolutions from other jurisdictions. Group leader David Gaines compiled over 400 constituent comment letters from Supervisor Kuehl’s district.
By the time Ann had secured a meeting with Supervisor Kuehl’s deputy, the West Los Angeles Democratic Clubs had endorsed H.R. 763, and four members of Congress—Ted Lieu, Adam Schiff, Judy Chu and Gil Cisneros—representing parts of Los Angeles County, had signed on as Energy Innovation Act cosponsors. They were trusted messengers, both among local elected officials and CCL volunteers.
In attendance for the 30-minute meeting with Supervisor Kuehl’s staff were Ann Rushton (San Fernando Valley chapter), group leader Kathy Seal (Los Angeles West), group leader David Gaines (San Fernando Valley chapter) and Rhetta Alexander (San Fernando Valley chapter). The meeting was brief but productive, and Katy Yaroslavsky promised to discuss possible future actions with Supervisor Kuehl.
Volunteers with the Pasadena Foothills chapter also met with their supervisor, Kathryn Barger, the lone Republican on the Board of Supervisors, who is known to be concerned about water and fire issues. Her staff listened politely to CCLers Judy Trumbo, Rex Mayreis and Rob Haw’s arguments for the bill, but they came away from the meeting not feeling optimistic about getting an endorsement from Supervisor Barger.
Local impacts of climate change
None of the Los Angeles County Supervisors needed to be educated about the local impacts of climate change. The supervisors, especially Supervisor Kuehl, had been kept extremely busy dealing with the aftermath of the Woolsey Fire in November 2018, which ravaged her district and burned 96,949 acres in western Los Angeles county and eastern Ventura County. More than 295,000 people were evacuated, and park facilities were hit hard. The Woolsey Fire was one of several which started in November 2018, including the Camp Fire, the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history, all of which devastated large swaths of both southern and northern California.
Speaking, then celebrating
On June 20, Ann Rushton received word that Supervisor Kuehl had agreed to sponsor a resolution in support of the Energy Innovation Act, with Supervisor Hilda Solis cosponsoring. The resolution was on the Board of Supervisors’ agenda for the June 25 meeting. That gave the chapters only four days to organize speakers and volunteers to attend the meeting!
Several volunteers spoke at the June 25 meeting, including Ann Rushton (San Fernando Valley chapter), Dan Kegel (Los Angeles Mid City chapter), Elizabeth Fenner (Los Angeles Mid City), Kathy Seal (Los Angeles West), Grace Lorentzen (Long Beach-South Bay) and Dale Whitney (Long Beach-South Bay). They were limited to one minute each.
“I spoke on behalf of Savannah,” remembers Kathy Seal. “We’d been waiting for our agenda item for five hours. Most of us are retired, but Savannah is in her 20s and was devastated that she had to leave before the vote.” Savannah’s words to the Supervisors were, “I am 25 years old and dream of having children one day. I envision a future where all children can be born into a livable world. An endorsement of H.R. 763 from L.A. County—the most populated county in the nation—represents an important step towards this vision.”
The resolution passed unanimously, 5-0. There was jubilation all around! Supervisor Kuehl graciously thanked the CCL volunteers for bringing the matter to the Board’s attention and later came down to the floor for a hug and congratulatory chat with Kathy Seal and Ann Rushton.
David Gaines said, “The County Board of Supervisors’ vote reminds us all that when we pull together to exercise our political will, our elected officials will respond. Proper preparation and organization, along with CCL’s persistence, pays off.” Ann Rushton agrees. “I was delighted with the vote! Strong local support is needed to make progress in Washington.”
This successful effort was due in no small part to the relationships and coordinated efforts of several chapters working together to achieve a common goal with enthusiasm, teamwork, persistence and a positive outlook.
Sandy Simon is CCL’s National Resolutions Project Coordinator. You can write to her about municipal, county and state resolutions at resolutions @ citizensclimate.org.
For information on how to plan and pass a local resolution, visit the “Engaging City & Local Governments For Resolutions” page on Community. For a list of municipal and county Energy Innovation Act resolutions passed to date, visit the Energy Innovation Act Supporters-Local Governments page.