Anyone who’s been to multiple Town Hall meetings is well aware that some are nothing more than a dog and pony show, a public relations attempt to credit the politician with caring about community concerns. Well, for all you activists out there – don’t get too jaded yet.
Jean Quan, Mayor of Oakland held her first town hall meeting in West Oakland on Saturday, February 5, and over 200 community residents attended! The meeting was even structured with break out groups, based on a variety of community topics ranging from public safety to the environment. Each group was able to discuss and list out solutions in order of priority, on giant pieces of butcher paper which were then handed over to the Mayor herself.
In case participatory democracy in Oakland politics isn’t a highlight enough, the community actually identified tangible solutions in which everyone in attendance could agree on! One solution even appeared as a top priority in two of the break out groups. Sounds like Mayor Quan knows exactly what she needs to work on – Relocating the Recyclers.
West Oakland is home to, and disproportionately affected by, two scrap metal recyclers. Collectively, they are responsible for a large number of air pollutants through their industrial process of melting down scrap metal, as well as the consistent diesel pollution caused by the trucks that service those industries. This pollution wouldn’t be such a big deal if it wasn’t being emitted from sources directly next to schools, homes and various other community hubs. The logical solution? Relocate the recyclers from the neighborhood to the industrial old Oakland Army Base!
Makes sense, right? Both the recyclers want to move to the old Oakland Army Base. This is a win-win solution for the community and the recycling industry. The community will be able to breathe a little easier and the recyclers will be able to grow and develop their business while keeping it local.
The obvious hitch? The governmental redevelopment agencies. They’re holding out in negotiations for more money almost as if they’re putting a price tag on community health, which is being negatively impacted by the heavy industrial processes of scrap metal recycling. This is another prime example of environmental injustice, right here in Oakland.
Oakland resident? Join your neighbors in the fight for environmental health by relocating the recyclers, here’s the petition.
So, the Mayor of Oakland knows what we want, where do we go from here? Quan’s staff promised to organize the priorities listed out by the community, separating the short term from the long term. We’re going to keep the pressure on through tried and true grassroots organizing and turn these great ideas into implementation. Relocating the recyclers is a top priority & short term solution!