The following platform represents a vision for how the Inland Region’s government and economy can become more just, equitable, and inclusive. It has grown out of the work that Inland Empowerment partners are doing with the underrepresented and long-ignored communities in the Inland Region. The issues represented should not be addressed as siloed, individual problems. Inland Region families experience these issues as in an interconnected way and policy makers and community leaders need to understand these connections in order to identify and implement effective solutions. This platform is a living document that will continue to be updated as the partner organizations of Inland Empowerment continue to engage in conversations with grassroots communities and policy makers. The Inland Region has a history of racist leaders, systems, and practices that continue to have an impact on communities of color today. Achieving justice requires recognition and reconciliation of past injustices, so that we can redesign policies and systems to become truly inclusive. Every system and policy needs to be examined through a racial lens with an awareness of how racism, racial bias, and poorly designed policies can lead to negative racialized outcomes. Different groups need to be engaged in representing the unique interests of their communities to create policies and systems that are truly just, equitable, and inclusive.
Safe & Quality Jobs: The Inland Region is full of smart and resourceful people who deserve access to good, stable, quality jobs that provide livable wages, benefits and a safe and healthy work environment. Workers in the Inland Region often need multiple jobs to make ends meet, are exposed to more injuries at work, and face rampant wage theft, retaliation, and discrimination. Current industries offer few possibilities for workplace advancement which perpetuates poverty. Workers are trapped in dead-end jobs and promising graduates from Inland region universities are forced to look elsewhere for career opportunities. The Inland Region needs policies and regulations in place that hold employers accountable for providing equitable, fair, and just jobs that increase workers’ prosperity while ensuring the safety of the workplace conditions they create. Public officials need to pursue economic partnerships and policies that are inclusive and that create pathways to prosperity for all of our community members.
Transportation Well-planned, green, accessible transportation systems can create healthier communities and a better quality of life for all. Transportation can increase opportunities to thrive by connecting communities to resources and good jobs, without increasing toxins and bad air. The inland region has a low investment in traffic infrastructure and a high reliance on gas vehicles, both for transportation of people and the many goods and products that pass through the region and into the rest of the country. The residents of the Inland Region pay the price in dirty air; leading to health problems and a lower quality of life. Rural communities are often isolated from resources and good jobs. Policies that increase collaboration between planning, transportation, housing and environmental agencies will help create communities that are self-sustained, will require less miles traveled, and have decreased environmental impacts. Transportation planning must include the voices of traditionally ignored communities, including rural communities and low-income, communities of color and focus on increasing access to resources and hubs for good jobs. Investments in clean energy solutions will decrease reliance on fuel energy and lead to cleaner air and healthier communities.
Community Investments and Quality of Life Public investments in communities should be equitable and ensure that everyone has access to economic opportunity and a high quality of life. Infrastructure investment in the Inland Region is inconsistent. Families struggle to make ends meet because of high utilities and rent and many do not have access to green space, healthcare, or even clean, reliable water. Most residents have little input into the budgeting process and therefore, tax dollars are not benefiting local communities and neighborhoods. Planning elements need to mandate investments into local communities and public works. Local jurisdictions need planning and budgeting processes that include authentic community input and that reflect the needs of local constituents so that tax dollars return to communities through investments in parks, schools, healthcare, and basic infrastructure.
Government Transparency and Accountability In a healthy democracy, residents have a say in the decisions that impact their lives and elected leadership reflects the communities that they serve. The needs and experiences of residents are prioritized above corporate and other interests. Inland Region voters are disenfranchised from the democratic process and face obstacles to participation like lack of information, complicated systems, and lack of access to materials in their language. Although the Inland Region is incredibly diverse, local leadership often does not reflect that diversity and at-large elections make it difficult for minority and low-income communities to be adequately represented. Our democracy can be strengthened through the implementation of electoral systems that improve representation, like district elections. We need increased county investments in voter education, access, and streamlined systems. Furthermore, local jurisdictions would benefit from mandated community engagement processes that increase participation and transparency in government decision-making; such as budgets and planning. The upcoming implementation of vote centers will provide a critical opportunity to engage voters to ensure an equitable and functional roll-out that increases participation.
Fair and Affordable Housing We envision a world where every person has access to safe, affordable, and dignified housing regardless of income levels that is close to job hubs. Despite it’s reputation as “affordable” many Inland Region families are paying too much for housing. Multiple families must crowd into housing units and parents spend too much time traveling to and from job hubs in Orange and LA Counties. Despite high costs, housing conditions may be unsafe, leading to high rates of illnesses, like asthma. Affordable housing programs that exclude based on income, criminal background, and immigration status can further exacerbate the problem, leaving the most vulnerable without dignified options. Regional and local housing agencies need to prioritize housing for working people. Cities and counties need to create dedicated funding sources free from restrictions for supporting the most vulnerable and inclusive policies to encourage new multi-unit affordable housing.
Immigrant rights Every human has dignity and value and should have the opportunity for full participation in our communities. We recognize that we are a nation of immigrants and we stand in solidarity as fellow human beings with the immigrants in our communities. A wave of nationalism/nativism threatens our immigrant communities. Some local officials support enforcement of bad immigration policies, leading to increased fear and poor relationships with government and law enforcement. Our broken immigration system is not accessible and leaves community members without opportunities for legalization or full participation. Immigrant workers are left vulnerable to the worst kinds of abuses. Immigrant families and especially recipients of DACA are living with increased fear of separation, unsure of what the future will bring. We need National immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship that acknowledges the humanity and value of immigrants living within our communities. We need our state and local representatives to create policies that protect our families and mitigate the potential damage done by national policy, such as sanctuary city policies.
Environmental Justice We believe in the human right that everyone should live, work, play, and learn in a toxic free environment. In addition, we believe in equity and justice and a need to respect, protect and engage overburdened and marginalized communities most at risk from environmental pollution. One of the critical issues facing the region and identified by our communities is the expansion of the logistics industry – warehouse/distribution centers, railyards and intermodal facilities that service the movement of goods and products around the state and nation. Vulnerable residents located in close proximity to freeways are exposed to heightened environmental justice burdens, such as high particulate matter and ozone exposure. These air pollutants impact community health outcomes and result in high concentrations of cardiovascular disease, cancer, asthma as well as developmental delays in children. It is often a matter of life and death for children and families living and working in the Inland Valleys. Achieving the goals of protecting public health, providing environmental and social equity to residents throughout any given jurisdiction can only be accomplished through a strong explicit vision for growth. A standalone EJ Element serves as the foundation for all local planning and development, it is an important tool to implement local government policies and programs that are vital to environmental justice standards. In addition, California must develop joint transportation and air quality policies that work together to alleviate the burdens of air pollution.
Health and Human Services Everyone should have access to healthcare and a stable, dignified quality of life regardless of income or immigration status. A strong safety-net ensures that no one falls through the cracks and that our community members have enough financial and health stability so that they are are free to contribute and pursue opportunities for a better life; leading to a healthier community and a stronger economy for all. Many Riverside and San Bernardino residents do not have access to affordable health care due to income or immigration status. Programs designed to lift people out of poverty (Supplemental Security Income, In Home Support Services, CalWORKS, etc.) do not have enough slots according to the need or do not have cost-of-living increases to keep pace with inflation. Many people are unaware of safety net programs due to lack of sufficient outreach. As a result, families are falling deeper into poverty; including filing for bankruptcy, moving to overcrowded spaces, dropping out of college, or falling into homelessness. Inland Region legislators need to prioritize funding to protect and expand the safety net for all; including affordable housing, food security, dependent care such as child care and in-home supportive services and cash assistance programs for families, the elderly and people with disabilities. They must ensure access to affordable, quality health care for all residents and equity in health care access, treatment, research, and resources for communities of color to improve the health and life expectancy for all. The county needs to provide aggressive outreach programs to ensure that qualifying Inland Region residents are able to take advantage of existing resources.
LGBTQ Issues Every person is unique, has value, and deserves dignity. Members of the LGBTQ community deserve to be acknowledged and accepted as full members of our community and should not face barriers to the pursuit of happiness and a full life. In the Inland Region there are little to no resources to assist LGBT people, and this negatively affects them from living full lives. Lack of social recognition has an effect on the capacity of LGBT people to fully access and enjoy their rights as citizens. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are more likely to experience intolerance, discrimination, harassment, and the threat of violence due to their sexual orientation, than those who identify as heterosexual. A majority of LGBT people continue to hide their sexual orientation or endure harassment out of fear of losing their job. Particularly vulnerable are young LGBT people who experience estrangement from family and friendship networks, harassment at school and invisibility. These experiences can lead to underachievement at school, school dropout, mental health problems, and homelessness. Transgender people do not get adequate medical care and therefore are forced to travel out of the Inland Region to get their medical needs met. There needs to be equal assistance and opportunities for LGBT people in the Inland Region and complete and full acknowledgment of the LGBT community by businesses, schools, service providers, and county and government officials. Decision-makers need to seek out the consultation of LGBTQ persons in the creation and implementation of policies to ensure that their needs are met and they are not intentionally or unintentionally disenfranchised.
Criminal Justice Reform Every human being has value and communities prosper when everyone has access to opportunities to thrive. Formerly incarcerated and people living in high crime neighborhoods are no exception. Humane treatment, investments and creation of opportunities will lead to safer, more prosperous communities. Instead of investing in proven strategies to reduce crime through restorative practices and the creation of opportunities, counties and school districts are taking a punitive approach that continues to fill up our prisons, separating families and increasing instability in our neighborhoods. People of color and their neighborhoods are perceived as threats and problems to be controlled, rather than community members and partners, leading to higher rates of arrest and incarceration. Instead of investing in combating issues that lead to and perpetuate incarceration and recidivism, our county budgets invest more in prisons and practices that lock people up and maintain the status quo. Big corporations with private prison contracts are profiting from the destruction of our communities. Citizens returning from incarceration face obstacles and lack of opportunities, leading to high recidivism rates. We need to eradicate policies that allow big corporations to profit off of human beings, invest in practices that restore people to the community rather than lock them up and increase investments in creating opportunities for at-risk youth and formerly incarcerated individuals. Pursuit of public safety needs to start by making investments in addressing the issues that lead to and perpetuate incarceration and recidivism. Neighborhoods with high crime need greater resources and opportunities for dignified work before there are more arrests.
Justice in Education: Every child in the Inland Region deserves to have access to well-resourced and equitable, quality education that empowers them to not only become economically secure, but also critical thinkers, and active participants in their school and society. We need schools where kids and parents are engaged as participatory members of their communities, that prepare kids for good jobs, and that create a positive school climate that recognizes the value and dignity of students and teachers. The Inland Region has low-performing schools with limited parent engagement that often funnel high risk kids into prisons. Our schools are often led by representatives that are out of touch with local people, and as a result lead to mismanagement of funds and goals and standards that are irrelevant or ineffective. Education Stakeholders are not talking to each other, leading to division among administration, teachers, and parents. Latino and African American communities are often pitted against each other in the pursuit of scant resources. Systems for the allocation of resources lack transparency, leading to inequitable distribution of school funding and teacher compensation. Education stakeholders need to engage in “Courageous Conversation” that encourages listening and intentional engagement of all subgroups; including Black, Latino, Native American, and LGBTQ communities. Schools need to create positive school climates through the pursuit of restorative justice practices and multi-tiered positive behavior support modifications. Policies need to empower local parents and educators to to determine success standards that are meaningful and relevant in the local context and that acknowledge language, culture, and economics. Districts and local schools need to provide transparency in local district and school budgeting to ensure equitable, needs-based allocation of funding, teacher training and compensation.