Opinion

Investment target: ‘Transformative Climate Communities’

A community with rooftop solar panels, a leading source of renewable energy. (Photo: Roschetzky Photography)

During the past June primary elections, the process of how the Legislature should allocate funds from California’s climate change program was front and center in Proposition 70. Voters were loud and clear in rejecting that ballot measure — which was born out of a nefarious deal with the oil industry.

Now, the question of what those funds should be invested in still hangs in the balance, as the Legislature will soon decide on the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) budget for the coming year. 

One thing’s clear: limiting spending on programs like the TCC is not what Californians voted for recently.

Programs like Transformative Climate Communities (TCC) represent the type of funding that were on voters’ minds. Proposition 70 would have led to budget gridlock, jeopardizing funding for programs like TCC that help build community-driven plans that include affordable housing, local green jobs, and renewable energy. The risk of losing these critical investments drove local communities to act with urgency and mobilize their family, friends, and neighbors to defeat Proposition 70. 

In the aftermath of the elections, we need to make sure that climate funds truly reach those most vulnerable among us. Gov. Brown’s proposed budget, however, does not honor that goal —  allocating only $25 million to TCC, a stark difference from 2017 when $140 million was awarded —  an 82% reduction.

But one thing’s clear: limiting spending on programs like the TCC is not what Californians voted for recently. They voted to protect investments in front-line communities, not to slash their funding.

 The TCC program was created to turn our state’s most polluted areas into models of sustainability by concentrating multiple benefits in one place, catalyzing community transformation through community-driven projects. These kinds of investments pay lasting dividends, propelling neighborhoods towards healthier and more prosperous futures, with built-in safeguards against displacement. 

 In my hometown of Fresno, a transformational project through the TCC program is underway to reconnect Southwest Fresno and Chinatown to the city center. This community-led plan includes an electric car share program, creating seventeen acres of new public parks and community gardens, building a new community college facility, increasing affordable housing, and much more.

This plan will reduce greenhouse gases by 28,400 tons of carbon — roughly equivalent to the amount generated by burning over 28 million pounds of coal. But the Governor’s proposal to reduce funds for TCC will put the brakes on projects like this in 2019.

 Ten other environmental justice communities across California have been awarded TCC planning grants last year to create their own vision for transformative climate communities.

East Oakland, East LA, Stockton, Richmond, the Eastern Coachella Valley, and others have begun to convene stakeholder collaboratives and develop their own TCC road maps. These roundtables brought together community groups, local planning agencies, businesses, community development organizations, and — most importantly — residents.

But none of these visionary projects will be actualized without more funding from the GGRF budget. 

 In order to move existing TCC planning grants from the blueprint stage to ribbon-cutting ceremonies, the TCC program needs at least $80 million at a minimum. With Proposition 70 behind us, legislators should follow the will of the people and do the right thing  — allocate sufficient funding for programs like the TCC to reach those that need climate funds the most.

Ed’s Note: 
 Grecia Elenes is a policy advocate at the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability in Fresno, CA — a member of the California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA).

 


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