On August 6, 2020, the City Impact Lab welcomed Hilary Norton, California Transportation Commissioner and Executive Director of FASTLinkDTLA.
Hilary emphasized that the most important thing you can do to improve people’s lives is to build better cities, and, at the age of 10, she decided she wanted to do just that. She spent time in neighborhoods learning from people of diverse backgrounds and seeing how the networks we build impact the health of communities.
A passionate commitment to a more equitable Los Angeles for all
Her career path led her through opportunities to work with elected officials who were attempting to reconnect disconnected communities. She was just about to move to Washington, DC to work for HUD when the civil unrest of 1992 began in Los Angeles. She knew she had the rest of her life to work on housing issues and wanted to stay in Los Angeles to be a part of the recovery.
Hilary envisions a city with housing near transit and a market where inheritance isn’t the primary way to make a down payment and become a homeowner. She seeks to leverage her network and position as a Transportation Commissioner to move toward a more equitable city.
3 insights on making change in your community
A big takeaway from our City Impact Lab breakfast with Hilary is that effective community engagement and activation is as much (or more) about learning as it is about doing. She offered these three valuable insights:
Insight #1: Get out of your comfort zone to broaden your perspective.
Use your free time to learn about other people and to volunteer. Be in communities that aren’t yours, and help end the isolation that exists for yourself and others.
Insight #2: The only difference between people is time.
The arc of one’s career is long. Think about what you love and dedicate yourself to that. Some of the most interesting work is being done by people in their 70s and 80s. Seek out and talk to them; take a walk with someone with lots of experience to learn from them.
Insight #3: Accept that life happens.
As business school teaches you: “Talk to the people who have been through a bankruptcy.” Life happens, and you will cherish that time you have been on the ground. Don’t let temporary setbacks get in the way of your fire in the belly to help other people. People’s memories are short, but your character is forever.
Hilary ended her comments with a call to action that attendees take time to be healthy, take time to do the things they care about, and take time to build relationships. She challenged those in attendance to bring people together for the greater good, to give voice to the voiceless, and keep the conversations going. The people who are going to live in a place in the future don’t often get to speak up on it. If we don’t build affordable housing for younger people as our population is aging, we won’t enjoy prosperity in the future. “It’s time to help others see that these cycles of good will indirectly benefit their own interests.”
Watch Hilary’s remarks:
The attendees asked questions of Hilary, and broke into groups of 3 or 4 to discuss the question: What would you do if you had more time—just one more hour a day—that you could devote to making an impact? The groups all had different answers, but themes emerged related to spending time to get to know other people, focusing on learning more, and taking the time to work on passion projects.
Thanks to all who joined us! We hope you’ll join us online Thursday, September 3 at 8:30 AM (PT) for the next City Impact Lab virtual breakfast. Our guest will be Capri Maddox, Executive Director of the newly established Los Angeles City Department of Civil and Human Rights (CHRD). Mayor Eric Garcetti appointed Ms. Maddox to the position in February 2020 to address systemic racism and bias in the areas of commerce, education, employment, and housing. As the Black Lives Matter movement and the COVID-19 pandemic push these issues to the forefront of everyone’s consciousness, September’s City Impact Lab promises timely insights for leaders and citizens.