Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia’s hometown of Bell Gardens is so notoriously contaminated by toxic waste sites and freeways stacked with diesel trucks that some residents of nearby towns call it “Bell Garbage.”
Garcia channeled her anger into a successful 2012 Assembly campaign, and today she is in the vanguard of a movement that is redefining environmentalism in California. She and her political allies are warriors for “environmental justice” who argue that Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers should pay more attention to the polluted air and cancer-causing toxins plaguing California’s poor and working-class neighborhoods as they pursue the lofty goal of saving the planet from global warming.
“We’ve done a lot for this global environment, but we’ve done very little for the needs of these communities,” said Garcia, a Mexican-American who heads the Assembly Natural Resources Committee.
Garcia’s allies in the Legislature include Latino, black and Asian-American Democrats representing districts from Richmond to the Inland Empire who would have felt out of place in California’s lily-white environmental movement that grew up in wealthy coastal communities in the late 1960s and 1970s. Their ranks include two powerful Latino Democrats — Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León — who have lent support and visibility to the cause.
“What’s changing today is the message,” said Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, a key player in the movement. “We’re not talking about the extinction of polar bears and the melting of ice caps. We’re talking about people who can’t breathe.”
Read the whole story in the Mercury News