Celebrating victories for health in the Los Angeles harbor area
Today, I attended a press conference at the Wilmington Health Center, which provides health services to the port-adjacent community of Wilmington, California. The Harbor Community Benefit Foundation hosted its first annual health fair to celebrate the opening of a new respiratory clinic to fight asthma, emphysema, and COPD. As many of you know, port operations in the Los Angeles region, while providing regional economic benefits, also pose serious environmental and health impacts. To help alleviate some of the burdens imposed on communities adjacent to the port, the Harbor Community Benefit Foundation has been established.
Several speakers today recounted stories of the founding of the Harbor Community Benefit Foundation. While the event today was very tranquil, this organization formed from a large, heated dispute over terminal expansion at the Port of Los Angeles. The dispute centered around a dedicated group of environmental, community and labor advocates pushing back against large impacts imposed from expansion of the freight complex at the Port of Los Angeles. The disagreement was fierce, and through the first appeal of an Environmental Impact Report to the Los Angeles City Council ever, we struck a compromise to allow this project to move forward in a way that addressed large community concerns. At the center of this dispute was then Los Angeles Councilmember Janice Hahn who forced the parties to come to the table and strike a deal. All those involved owe now Congresswoman Janice Hahn a lot of thanks for pushing us to work towards compromise even when times were tense. You can read a fuller account of the history on my blog and David Pettit’s blog.
Today, Janice Hahn spoke vividly of this dispute. While sitting next to some of my fellow advocates, it was touching to hear a seasoned public official point to this struggle as a very meaningful moment in her distinguished public service tenure. She relished in the fact that she was able to push seemingly unrelenting parties to figure out a solution that benefited the community, allowed freight expansion to proceed and left a lasting legacy for the communities of Wilmington and San Pedro. I am proud of the work that the 14 groups who pushed back against port expansion, a dedicated team of consultants led by Mission Infrastructure and Public Counsel, the Port of Los Angeles staff, its Board of Harbor Commissioners, the Mayor of Los Angeles and the State Lands Commission were able to accomplish. I am also very proud of the amazing board of the Harbor Community Benefit Foundation, which is headed by Sean Hecht. Along with its crack staff, the board has crafted a big and bold vision that makes all involved proud.
At the end of the day, the Harbor Community Benefit Foundation will not resolve all of the community issues in the harbor. And there will continue to be conflicts between community groups and the ports. But it is nice to take times like today to reflect on the victories we have achieved that benefit community.
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