Envisioning No Cars in LA!

Putting the Pieces Together: The No Cars in LA Models our Model

The NO CARS IN LA Campaign has already begun. It was launched at the Strategy Center's annual Political Party fundraiser/celebration on May 4, 2013 after months of discussion and planning by the Bus Riders Union Planning Committee and the Fight for the Soul of the Cities First Responders Group. The audience of 350 people, low-income bus riders and high school students, lawyers, professionals, teachers, and a wide range of people, were deeply moved by the Fight for the Soul of the Cities, Stop the Pre-Prisoning of Students, and No Cars in LA presentations. This was reflected in many ways, from dozens of new people signing up to work on the campaign, to the generous financial support from our appeal. While previously our highest one night fundraising total in 23 years had been $30,000, the group raised $42,000 in one hour.

The No Cars in LA Campaign begins with the moral imperative of the fight to stop and reverse global warming.

Los Angeles generates massive quantities of greenhouse gases and air toxins from the automobile, with 8 million cars on the road in a county of 10 million people. L.A. is known as "the auto capital of the world" and a No Cars in LA Campaign is understood by all at first glance-it needs little explanation. The discussion becomes is it a good idea and can it be achieved? For many, the idea is compelling. So, before we get to how such a radical plan could be won, the first theory of this campaign is that it is based on winning widespread support for the objective. That is, people begin by agreeing that racial segregation must be eliminated, the war in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, must be ended immediately, and move from that moral imperative to a tactical plan. The first component of our tactical plan is to create widespread knowledge of and support for this bold proposal.

Key Policy Demands of No Cars in LA:
• Prohibition of all auto traffic in Los Angeles County
• A 5,000 zero emission bus fleet operating 24/7
• No Fare -- Free Public Transportation

The Bus Only Lanes Victory-an important example of the theory and practice of Transformative Organizing and the Hopes for No Cars in L.A.

Five years ago, the Strategy Center initiated a Bus Only Lanes campaign in Los Angeles, proposing an 11 mile pilot project on Wilshire Boulevard. We began with one vote on the 14 person city council. Three years later we won the demand, including getting federal funding and a section of the project will be up and running this coming week! This was an example of how the Strategy Center works to change the terms of the debate-winning over small business people who first feared it would hurt their profits by restricting auto use during rush hours. They came to agree it would not hurt their businesses, but would dramatically help the city they wanted to live in and improve their public health and that of their families. We won because we tackled the issue from an ideological framework-limit the polluting auto, public health and climate justice first, mobility for masses not the polluting single passenger auto. As with our Truancy Ticket victory, it was amusing to hear city council people who had opposed the measure for years act as if they had initiated it. It is this long history of ideologically and morally driven organizing and from there, translating it into public policy that gives us great confidence about the No Cars in LA campaign.

On July 24th, at the corner of Wilshire and Western,  we will hold a celebratory rally and live art exhibit for the opening of the first section of the Wilshire Bus-Only Lanes. you can go to here to RSVP.

No Cars in LA Tactical Plan: Mass popular education in low-income Black and Latino communities on the No Cars in LA campaign.

This is a proposed five year organizing plan, with great saturation, to shift the terms of the debate about cars and public transportation. This will be done through on-the-bus organizing, neighborhood organizing, school site organizing, paid media, phone banking, robocalls, mass lawn signs and postering, extensive social media work, and as we will explain below, institutional organizing. We have many lessons from the No on J Campaign that give us great hope about our ability to develop a complex tactical arsenal, and we have learned the need to have a substantial budget to reach large numbers of people.

Building Multi-racial and Multi-class Alliances.

The Strategy Center works well with the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Coalition for Clean Air, the Sierra Club, with many labor unions, Americans for Democratic Action, UCLA and USC students and faculty, and many high school faculty and students who are already part of the Fight for the Soul of the Cities (FFSC). Our principal focus will be South Central Los Angeles, which, with 850,000 people, is still the largest concentration of Black residents amidst a growing Black dispersion and still the most Black/Latino area of the city. But we will also reach out, albeit with fewer resources, to many middle class forces.

Because, as with many other issues, the effects of climate change is not just an environmental issue, but a racial one.  As Susie Cagle pointed out in her recent Grist article "A new study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives digs deep under the sidewalks and streets that are soaking up all this new heat in our cities - and finds that not all neighborhoods and racial groups are faring equally. According to the research, blacks, Asians, and Latinos are all significantly more likely to live in high-risk heat-island conditions than white people."

We plan to work with groups in many cities in the U.S, starting with the Bay Area, New York, Chicago, and Detroit, to discuss the FFSC model and the idea of "No Cars in SF, Oakland, Chicago, Detroit, New York, Philadelphia, Houston, Denver and every major city in the U.S. Then we will take this struggle into the international stage. 

Rolling out No Cars in LA: The campaign will roll out in many phases over 2013 and 2014.

We will be spending the summer reading, studying, clarifying our tactical plan, writing leaflets, taking ideas out on the buses, developing our e-organizing plan, expanding our national website, www.voicesfromthefrontlines.com; writing position papers, talking with national allies, elected officials, and planning another large public launch of the campaign in Los Angeles in the fall of 2013 to which we will invite organizers from around the country. Our national tour will begin in late 2013 and early 2014 as the campaign is fleshed out on the ground.