On November 6, the City Impact Lab welcomed three special guests to share insights on making an impact, regardless of the outcome of the national election. Panelists includedDr. Lucy Jones renowned seismologist and founder of her Center for Science and Society;Cecilia Estolano, CEO of Estolano Advisors and Vice Chair of the University of California Board of Regents; and Shane Murphy Goldsmith, CEO of the Liberty Hill Foundation and Vice Chair of the Los Angeles City Board of Police Commissioners.
Each has been a featured City Impact Lab speaker (back in 2016 & 2017), and each has a role in shaping the future of our city. Here are some (paraphrased) highlights from the conversation:
The big question we’re all wondering about: “What will the future look like in this time of uncertainty?”
I asked our panelists what they’re telling people to help them feel they can be involved and make change in their own communities in light of what is happening nationally.
Cecelia: “No matter what the outcome, Southern California has to keep the faith.”
She stressed that through ballot measures, voters have committed to investments in infrastructure. Measure M enhancing transportation and Measure W providing funding for water initiatives, Measure P to fund parks and public space, and others represent a way to reimagine infrastructure and integrate them by communities most in need and that they benefit multiple sectors. “Because of this investment backed by voters, California is positioned to receive a major investment from the U.S. Government.”
“We represent the very best of the values in this nation—innovation and embracing diversity.” Cecilia is heartened by the work in front of Southern California. “We can take the week to watch the news, but we’ve got to get going! History belongs to those who act. We’ve got vision so let’s go do it!”
Lucy spoke of her 30 years as a federal employee and how important she saw the federal government to be. While she has watched the agency she gave her life to lose its integrity over the past four years, she also learned that the federal government doesn’t matter as much as she thought it did.
“California has done a lot throughout the last four years. We’ve learned about how vulnerable we are and how divided we are and there’s a lot of work. But,” she concluded, “no matter what happens, we will get through it. There is a really different level of what’s needed than before, and that is positive.”
Shane: “We’ve seen some of the best of Los Angeles. Measure J was passed by Los Angeles County voters which will divert more county money to social services and jail diversion programs. These programs will include alternatives to incarceration, youth initiatives and programs and benefitting the systematically oppressed. It’s a big deal because it came together quickly out of the social justice movement of 2020, and it will lead to a long-lasting change. The County Supervisors themselves put it on the ballot to take away some of their own funding, which says a lot about their leadership. It’s the best of the nation.”
Shane encouraged people to focus on where we win and recognize that it’s because it’s where we organized. “Progressive change-makers like President Roosevelt and his New Deal were pushed by movements and people who had everything at stake. As devastating as it is to see so much racism and inability to recognize truth in 2020, what we know is that when we fight, we win—so we have to keep fighting.”
“Based on the election outcomes we know so far, what can we do next?”
Cecilia advocated that we work on wealth generation for systemically oppressed communities. Owning a home or business provides power in generating wealth. The New Deal benefits were racialized and legally excluded people of color from accessing those programs. Prop 16 would have made it easier to correct some of these injustices, but since we can’t, we can at least work on it through programs that support women businesses and others left out of the economic opportunities from state and government contracting.
Shane recognized how Liberty Hill gives voice to the voiceless, and gave attendees a primer on how they can do the same: “How do we work to include more voices that bring everyone together? Just let people talk! There are already people who have the expertise and impact. We can advocate that they have the stage and all we have to do is listen.”
“Donate to organizations doing the work,” she advised. “Find people who know the people with the local expertise and how to give them a platform. Give them opportunities to speak. They aren’t hard to find; they are everywhere—we just need to support them and ask what they need… then give it to them.”
“What can leaders do to create a sense of calm to get through it?”
The co-host of the “Getting Through It” podcast, Lucy described how our brains are evolved to make patterns out of information. “Our advantage as humans is that we can make and follow up on theories. We hate uncertainty, but we can deal with it by recognizing it and taking charge of what we can control.”
Lucy suggested that we focus on the things we can do something about. “Without certainty, we all need to find purpose. Service to others can help you feel that calm.”
“What do YOU do to find calm?”
Cecilia likes to walk, bike, play with kids, reach out to friends, be in nature. Shane is inspired by her awesome group of colleagues who are hustling every day to make sure people are getting resources. “If a kid who spent their youth in jail and homeless can find a way to lead a movement, I can put one foot in front of the other.” Lucy brought out her string instrument, the viola da gamba, in which she has found comfort by spending a couple of hours a day playing music. Cecilia has started playing piano again.
“How to move forward?”
To close out the breakfast, we opened the discussion to our City Impact Lab attendees, whose questions focused on how to move forward.
Cecilia suggested submitting names for state board positions that will open up. She cited the example of the young mayor of Cudahy, Liz Alcantar, who faced an environmental challenge when a commercial airplane dumped jet fuel on a local elementary school. Her lived experience could add to expertise serving on an environmental board.
She also brought up Nithya Raman, the new council member for the City’s Fourth Council District: “She will need support from insiders, outsiders, and people who will tell her the truth to make sure the progressive platform she ran on doesn’t get lost in city processes.”
Shane addressed the election of a new L.A. County District Attorney whom she thinks will be a part of ushering in a massive movement for criminal justice reform.
Finally, the group agreed that there has to be grace in winning. It’s important for the greater good that we create space for those we don’t agree with to be their best selves. We need to understand where they are coming from, because we ALL care about making our communities the best they can be. Audience member (and past City Impact Lab speaker) Rick Cole quoted his father who said, “Spend more time with people who make you think than with people who think like you.”