If you’re API, does LA County care what you think of park access?

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By Scott Chan

As I have shared, I sit on the steering committee for the LA County Parks Needs Assessment. Yes, this group comprised of 30+ leaders from all parts of the County (hand-selected by the Board of Supervisors) are responsible for figuring out the current situation of every single park facility in the County, as well as coming up with metrics to help us build better and healthier communities in the future. As daunting as it sounds, it also seems like a great opportunity to address privilege and access to healthy environments in our region.

Unfortunately, I left today’s meeting feeling that Asian and Pacific Islander communities are going to be mostly left out of the process. In late 2015 to early 2016, there is a community engagement part of this needs assessment where each city/jurisdiction in LA County is asked to host 1 meeting to ask community members what they think of local park facilities, and to prioritize for the future. Yes. Only 1 meeting, because there’s not a lot of time left and there’s only enough money to pay the city or a nonprofit to host 1┬ámeeting!

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So here we are, planning the future of parks in our great County, and I’m wondering how do we reach the API communities who aren’t a majority in certain jurisdictions. How do we reach the Vietnamese and Pakistani communities located in Hawthorne and Lawndale (yah, they’re out there). How do we reach the Tongans in Lennox and Pomona without staffing/funding to go and talk to leaders in the community? How do we convince minority of the minority communities to take part in civic engagement when they have never really been engaged in the first place?

I brought this point up in the meeting and the answers I received didn’t leave me feeling like there was a plan for how to reach our different communities. No, nonprofits can’t just come and do this grassroots work for free. No, we can’t “just go and talk to a church and have them send one representative to the meeting.” It’s not that simple! I suggested that they at least create written surveys that we could translate and get out to the community, but unfortunately it was shared that the only way to do the community engagement would be in-person meetings.

Are we doomed? Not yet. There’s still months to go and a special meeting was requested where we discuss issues like this. To be honest, I write this article because we need YOU to do all that you can. We’ll do our best to make sure more API voices are heard in this, but if you can go and talk to your city officials about what’s going on and how you feel like API residents need to be heard too, it’ll go a long way. Email me if you want to chat more: schan@apiopa.org

I’ll keep updating using this blog. Stay tuned.

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