SAN JOSE, Calif. - U.S. Congressman Mike Honda, D-San Jose, said that California’s parks and other open spaces must be preserved at all costs, and selling them off to close budget gaps would be a violation of public trust.
“Public lands have been acquired with public dollars,” the longtime Congressman said. “They are a community’s pride. I don’t believe in selling them off (to close) temporary budgetary deficits.”
Honda, who is a member of the House Appropriations and Budget Committees, and Chair Emeritus of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, shared those observations at an ethnic media newsmaker briefing here on the topic, “New Vision for California’s Economy and Environment,” organized by New America Media May 25 at the offices of KSJO/KLOK.
Ron Sundergill, senior director at the Pacific Region Office of the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), and Silicon Valley Community Planner Chris Lepe, who is shaping the planning of the Bus Rapid Transit service along an 18-mile stretch of the El Camino corridor in the South Bay, were the other two panelists at the briefing.
Sundergill said that unlike in the eastern part of the country, where many parks tell the story of U.S. ethnic history, the west coast has neglected to use the park system to tell the history of its ethnic leaders.
“One of the things we’re very concerned about is a lot of the stories that need to be told, haven’t been told,” Sundergill said. “On the east coast, parks talk about the civil war. On the west coast, (our parks) haven’t told immigration stories.”
By doing that, he said, parks will be able to draw more ethnic communities, something they have not been able to do so far.
He said he is currently working to have a park in Los Angeles that talks about the contributions of such Chinese Americans as You Chung Hong, a well-known Chinese American civil rights attorney of the 1920s, who was born in San Francisco but practiced in Los Angeles.
“As we create new parks they will bring jobs to the communities, and those who visit these parks will bring money to our communities,” Sundergill said, adding: “For every dollar invested in national parks, we can get $10 in gross national revenue.”
NAM’s executive director Sandy Close said in her opening remarks that a Public Policy Institute survey indicated that nearly 70 percent of people in communities of color identified themselves as conservationists who want to have open spaces preserved. This, she said, should be conveyed to policy makers through the ethnic media.
Honda is a longtime conservationist. He created the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority, as well as co-sponsored a bill to help to ensure that 300 acres within the city of San Jose could become a park. The congressman has often said that open spaces could reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, which are contributing to climate change.
Panelist Lepe, who works with TransForm, discussed the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project his non-profit is pushing for. BRT, he said, would reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Silicon Valley.
The proposed buses would run along the El Camino Corridor, on a dedicated bus lane. Project proponents say that in addition to cutting down on commuting time, BRT riders will contribute in Bay Area’s fight against climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Studies have shown that more than 40 percent of carbon emissions in the Bay Area come from the transportation sector.
“Around 4,555 metric tons of greenhouse gases will be removed annually along the corridor,” if the BRT project comes to pass, Lepe said, noting: “Transportation is a very important component of climate change.”
Currently, only two buses cover the corridor, and with the population in the Valley rapidly increasing, they will not be adequate, Lepe said.
The Sierra Club has endorsed the BRT project.
Video by Min Lee.