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Author: Cinthya Martinez

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Western Center Roundup – October 2022

55 Years of Building a More Just California 

Western Center Kicks Off 55th Anniversary Year at Garden Party 2022 

On October 11th, Executive Director Crystal Crawford and event emcee Michael Tubbs kicked off Western Center’s 55th anniversary year of building a more just California at our annual Garden Party fundraiser. Paying homage to the Founders and past Executive Directors of Western Center (including the late Professor Derrick Bell) – the trailblazers upon whose shoulders we stand, Crystal shared, “We take very seriously our responsibility to challenge and transform broken systems. We are leaders and leaders challenge systems to say: ‘we can do better.'” In light of the Los Angeles City Council controversy, Crystal and Michael both addressed the need to stengthen alliances to address and root out racism.

We stand in solidarity with many of our partners, including Community Coalition in the call to do better in building the power and partnerships necessary to disrupt anti-Blackness in policies, laws, and institutions. In our milestone anniversary year, we will be spotlighting the ways in which we and our partners have transformed and dismantled oppressive systems and the accomplishments we have secured together to build a California where health care and housing are affordable, food is secure, and systemic racism is addressed. We invite you to follow us on social media to learn more about our history and mission to ensure all Californians have access to secure housing, quality affordable health care, and a strong safety net. 

As our team continues to grow, please share our open positions as we look for new folks to join us in this critical work. Also – we need your help to reach our Garden Party fundraising goal – click here to donate!

2022 Legislative Wins for Californians 

Western Center had an outstanding end to the 2022 legislative session, with 13 of our co-sponsored bills signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom. Among the highlights were (SB972), a bill modernizing street vending licensing (SB 972) and (SB 923), a first in nation bill on gender affirming health care. We also passed bills to repeal failure to appear (FTA) license suspensions and repeal the use of license suspension for low-income parents in arrears on child support. Other wins included mandating counties waive work requirements for domestic violence survivors and expanded protections for low-income debtors from wage garnishments. READ MORE about these WCLP co-sponsored bills, two additional bills we provided support on: AB 2594 and AB 2746, what bills we opposed, and what bills we’ll be bringing back next session.

2022 Housing Summit: Keeping Californians Housed 

On October 20th and 21st, Western Center and California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation hosted our biannual Housing Summit, bringing together housing advocates from legal services, organizing, and policy groups for the first time since the start of the pandemic to discuss regional housing issues, strategize on our collective work to keep Californians housed, and to build policy ideas and solutions to address our State’s housing crisis. Brandon Greene from ACLU Northern California provided a special address on California’s history of redlining and how the State’s Reparations Task Force is working to repair the harms of this history through housing policy advocacy.

Western Center Executive Director Crystal Crawford Joins CalNonprofit Board of Directors 

We are honored to announce that our very own Crystal D. Crawford was elected to serve on the board of directors of the California Association of Nonprofits – the leading voice of California’s nonprofit community. Two thirds of board members are elected by members, providing a statewide endorsement of leaders equipped to skillfully and thoughtfully advance our sectors’ needs. Crystal is joined by incoming board members: Le Ondra Clark Harvey, CEO, California Council of Community Behavioral Health Agencies (CBHA) (Sacramento) and Malcolm Yeung, Executive Director, Chinatown Community Development Corporation (Chinatown CDC), San Francisco.

Organizing for Vendor Justice in California: New Blog Post 

Abraham Zavala, Western Center’s Outreach and Advocacy Associate shares about the history of community organizing for street vendor justice that led to the recent passage of SB972. “On the last Friday night of September, Mariachi Plaza was bursting with beautiful music and enticing aromas. It’s always bustling on a weekend, but this night was different. Hundreds of cheerful street vendors, advocates, and supporters were gathered to celebrate the signing of SB 972 by Governor Gavin Newsom, which modernized the California Retail Food Code to be inclusive of street vendors. This moment was special for street vendors in California. They made history by organizing, mobilizing, and fighting for their rights. This is a victory that will be retold alongside other stories of social justice movements, like the Justice for Janitors campaign and the United Farm Workers movement.” READ MORE.
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Western Center Roundup – August 2022

Making History, Meeting the Advocates, Mike’s Milestones & The Search for His Successor


Opening the Search for Western Center’s Next Policy Advocacy Director

After 19 years of leading Western Center’s trailblazing policy work, Mike Herald is preparing for his retirement at the close of this year. We are in awe of what Mike has accomplished during his tenure – from tackling unjust fees and fines that place a high price on being poor – to securing historic budget and policy wins to expand public benefits for families – Mike has advanced some of the most pivotal policies to end poverty in CA.

“We are so grateful for Mike’s impact and legacy after nearly 20 years of faithful service to Western Center and those we serve. As we prepare for Mike’s well-deserved retirement, we look forward to celebrating him and our policy team’s accomplishments under his leadership.” – Crystal Crawford, Executive Director, Western Center on Law and Poverty

We invite you to learn more about Mike’s Milestones and the many accomplishments made by the Policy Team during his tenure. Stay tuned for more information on Mike’s retirement celebrations to be held in October in Los Angeles and December in Sacramento.

We’ve opened the search for Mike’s successor. View the Director of Policy job description and please share widely with your networks. More Western Center employment opportunities can be viewed HERE.


Meet The Advocates: CA Street Vendors and Access to Healthy Food 

Did you miss Monday’s Meet the Advocates webinar? Don’t worry, you can watch the recording HERE!  The webinar featured a conversation with Rudy Espinoza, Executive Director of Inclusive Action for the City and Western Center Policy Advocate Christopher Sanchez, facilitated by Abraham Zavala, Western Center Outreach & Advocacy Associate. Panelists shared about the decade long history of organizing to expand rights for street vendors and how SB 972 can eliminate barriers to licensing by updating CA’s retail food code. The bill provides a clear pathway for food entrepreneurs to grow their businesses, which is key to expanding access to healthy food and produce to communities across the state. Learn more about how you can support CA Street Vendors and see SB972 to the finish line.

The evening before standing with street vendors to testify at the Capitol, Christopher Sanchez was recognized with the California Latinx Capitol Association Foundation’s Advocate Champion Award. You can watch his inspiring acceptance speech HERE.


Monkeypox: Your Rights to Testing, Vaccines, and Treatment

The federal government declared a public health emergency for Monkeypox on August 4, 2022. California declared a state of emergency for Monkeypox on August 1, 2022. These declarations allow the federal and state governments to work quickly to provide testing, vaccines, and treatment. Senior Attorney David Kane provides critical information in Western Center’s August Health Care Tip: Monkeypox: Your Rights to Testing, Vaccines, and Treatment


The Inflation Reduction Act Passes, Expanding Healthcare Access and Affordability

We applaud the passage of The Inflation Reduction Act, which includes the most historic health reforms since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, providing California families with much needed relief from skyrocketing prescription drug prices, capping costs in Medicare, and preventing major health premium spikes in Covered California. Western Center Senior Policy Advocate Linga Nguy weighs in on how the Act’s passage will translate into expanded health access and affordability for individuals, seniors, and families with low incomes.⁠

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The Interconnectedness of Our Struggles: Why the Fight for Reproductive Rights is Inseparable from Housing Justice Work

” [..]reproductive justice is inextricably linked to housing justice. Safe and sustainable communities are undermined by the lack of safe and affordable housing due to unchecked real estate speculation, rising rents and evictions, and unhealthy environmental conditions. Unhoused people and families who lack housing stability are routinely unable to access reproductive and other types of health care, and individuals experiencing homelessness tend to have higher percentages of unplanned pregnancy.”

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Local government is key to establishing equity in California

As the State of California considers reparations to correct fundamental economic harms caused by slavery, it is local governments that have the authority to either aid or thwart such equity initiatives. A dispute in Fresno, where proposed industrial expansion threatens a community-led plan to address generational equity concerns, is one example. In the coming months, the Fresno City Council and mayor will decide the fate of the southwest Fresno community, providing a potential case study for the ways racial, economic and environmental injustice can play out in California.

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