LCV Chispa Newsletter March-April 2018

Chispa is an organizing program of the League of Conservation Voters (LCV). We are dedicated to community organizing to build the capacity of communities of color to influence policy makers and pressure polluters to protect communities’ rights to clean air and water, healthy neighborhoods, and a safe climate for generations to come.

We focus on fighting the effects of climate change with and on behalf of the low-income and communities of color who are disproportionately affected by pollution. Last year, Chispa launched the Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign, which is calling on elected leaders to invest in electric school buses, and will, in turn, protect our children from breathing dangerous diesel toxins. We’re also standing with immigrant and climate refugee communities, fighting to advance clean energy measures at the state and local levels, and holding lawmakers accountable so the needs and priorities of communities of color are front and center when policy decisions are made.

Here are some of the highlights of these efforts from the last couple months:

We are winning and protecting children

The Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign is gathering speed, as Chispa organizers continue to grow support among families, elected officials, government agencies, public health institutions, community organizations, and other local groups in each city and state.

After hosting our first webinar in late winter, state programs achieved several local victories this spring. Chispa Maryland worked with Councilmember Deni Taveras to pass a resolution at the Prince George’s County Council that calls on Governor Hogan to invest in electric school buses.  Earlier this year, a group of 27 municipalities in the county passed a similar resolution.  Prince George’s County is keeping up the pressure, and with one of the largest school districts in Maryland, it can — and will — lead the state’s transformation to an electric school bus fleet.

Meanwhile, in Connecticut, New Haven Public Schools’ Board of Education passed a resolution that unanimously supports replacing their diesel school buses with clean, electric buses. Thanks to the advocacy efforts of Chispa Connecticut, New Haven Public Schools plan to ask for bids from electric bus companies during their contract renewal this summer.

The New York League of Conservation Voters’ Adriana Espinoza toured electric school buses and filmed an informative video on the benefits of switching to clean, quiet, and safer zero-emission buses. Check out the video here.

New Mexico’s State Representative Patricia Roybal Caballero authored an op-ed in the Albuquerque Journal, calling on Governor Martinez to invest in electric school buses that won’t pollute the air our children breathe each day.

Following the release of the American Lung Association’s 2018 State of the Air report, which found that millions more people in this country are breathing dangerous levels of air pollution, Chispa programs are gearing up to host Asthma Summits to highlight the health risks of diesel and other types of fossil fuel pollution. Juntos in New Mexico has already hosted an Asthma Stakeholder Meeting with dozens of new and old allies. After the meeting, several new community groups pledged their support for the Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign, and the New Mexico Department of Health has also committed to hosting more public events to learn about the campaign from local families.

Supporting Climate Refugees and Immigrants

The fight for environmental solutions and racial justice are inextricably linked. We stand with our immigrant and refugee brothers and sisters who deserve action from elected officials.

In Connecticut, Chispa Volunteer Da’kquie and Promotor Taylor Robertson secured co-sponsorships from two state representatives on a bill that provides funds for hurricane victims from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.  Chispa Connecticut volunteers also spoke at a rally for Puerto Rican families and called on state legislatures to match federal aid dollars to help climate refugees — who have been displaced and now reside in Connecticut — find jobs and provide for their families while their island home is rebuilt.

In Colorado, Protegete and Conservation Colorado joined dozens of allied community organizations in testifying against a bill that would have endangered public safety and put immigrant communities at risk of profiling and discriminatory policing practices.

Amplifying the Voices and Power of Grassroots Leaders of Color

Across the country, our promotores, youth activists, and grassroots activists are leading the way towards healthier, safer futures.

In early March, Chispa Arizona held a community retreat with 18 statewide leaders to discuss environmental justice, our common struggles, and the path forward. Leaders of color from state and regional movements shared lessons from their organizing work and helped our promotores listen to and learn from one another, getting ready to tackle the next organizing challenge.

Several of our team members were in the national spotlight this spring. Wildaliz Bermudez, Director for Chispa Connecticut, joined U.S. Congresswoman Barragán and other national Latina leaders for a telephone town hall with UnidosUS Action Fund. Rudy Zamora, state director for Chispa Nevada, was ranked one of this year’s top “50 Fixers” by Grist, a environmental publication that recognizes leaders working towards a sustainable planet. 

The Juntos’ team graduated a new class of 11 promotores, including 5 youth promotores who plan to lead the charge for the Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign in New Mexico. These promotores help recruit, train, and retain other local volunteers, from mothers to students.

Connecting Local Communities to their State Governments

Connecticut hosted its Youth Climate Action Day at the state Legislature in mid-April. Chispa Connecticut and the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters hosted six young people who spoke with their legislators about the importance of reducing greenhouse gases and fossil fuel pollution, increasing clean energy use and access to community solar gardens, and teaching climate science in public schools.

In mid April, Chispa Maryland co-hosted a candidate forum with the Langley Park Civic Association so local families could meet candidates and ask about their plans to protect the environment and invest in clean modes of transportation, like electric school buses for children. More than 65 community members and 15 candidates attended the forum.

Most Recent Report on Electric Buses

Our allies at Environment America and U.S. PIRG published an eye-opening and comprehensive report on electric buses, showing that they are cleaner, safer, and often cheaper than diesel buses. Read the full report: Electric Buses: Clean Transportation For Healthier Neighborhoods and Cleaner Air.

**Staffing News: National Director of Chispa Ernesto Vargas recently accepted an exciting new position at Friends of the Earth, an organization that LCV works with regularly.  While we will certainly miss him and the great talent he’s brought to Chispa, we’re excited to see his next big accomplishments. 

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