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10:38PM

Making Progress Toward Marriage Equality 

 

Photo credit to Breitbart

Last week marked an important moment in the ongoing battle for marriage equality. On March 26th, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments for the legal challenge to Proposition 8 and then the following day considered the constitutionality of the federal government’s ban on same-sex marriage, Defense of Marriage Act. Interestingly enough, DOMA was signed in 1996 by President Clinton, who now believes it should be overturned. Furthermore, the Obama administration has determined DOMA’s denial of all federal benefits for same-sex marriages unconstitutional, though it continues to enforce the law. 

As a member of the LGBT community and a proponent for gay rights, this shift in judgment gives me a sense hope. During the oral arguments, Roberta Kaplan, who represented the plaintiff Edith Windsor, argued that Congress passed DOMA, because there was, “an incorrect understanding that gay couples were fundamentally different than straight couples… We all can understand that people can move on this, and now understand that there is no such distinction.” Kaplan’s statement speaks obvious truths that I want to believe this new generation can agree upon and adopt as the common attitude. Motivated by moral disapproval of homosexuality prevalent at the time, it is clear now that DOMA is blatant attack on human rights. Why should same-sex couples be disregarded in the eyes of the government and be treated as second-class citizens? Preserving and upholding this inherently unjust law would be a regressive move for a country built upon the foundations of freedom. 

As reported by the Huffington Post, Justice Kennedy displayed hostility toward DOMA, raising the question of “whether or not the federal government under our federalism scheme has the authority to regulate marriage.” I agree with this statement and believe that the right to marry and the right to access the federal benefits that come with marriage should not be in the hands of the government. It is unfortunate that given the current political landscape, same-sex marriage is at the mercy of the law. However, I am thankful that these thoughtfully reflective questions are being heard as they are pushing the fight for marriage equality in the right direction. 

Though a decision for these cases will not be made until June, I see these events as progress. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll showed 58% of respondents in support of gay marriage, while 36% opposed it. That is nearly the opposite of the public opinion on gay marriage in 2003 when ABC/Post polling showed 37% support and 55% opposition. I am hopeful that this shift in public opinion will be reflected in our future laws.

7:00AM

Friday Fives: March Madness Upsets

4:20PM

Scoping Out Social Media

Photo credit: http://mysocialintelligence.com

As an envrionmental review process communicator, I am tasked every day to share with the public what an EIR and/or EIS document is.  In case you don’t know what an EIR is – it is a document titled Environmental Impact Report that is prepared by the State of California in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act.  An EIS is the federal equivalent document (Environmental Impact Statement), that is prepared to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act.  These documents are required when a major project or initiative are deemed to have the potential to significantly impact our environment.  The documents look at an array of topics from noise, air quality, visuals, soils, water quality and so forth to social issues related to economy, health and how the project or initiative may impact minority or low-income communities (referred to in the document as Environmental Justice).

It is a very technical, extensive and lengthy document that is difficult for the average citizen to digest. Nevertheless, the process requires public participation that helps shape the project and its alternatives, the environmental analysis and ultimately the final outcome. Public Meetings are held at key milestones in the process, the first meeting is called a “scoping meeting.”

At these scoping meetings, the public is:

  • Introduced to the project/initiative
  • Informed about why this project/initiative is needed and what is seeks to accomplish (referred to as the Purpose and Need)
  • Educated about the alternatives that are being considered
  • Asked what issues or areas of concern should be analyzed in the scope of the environmental document (hence scoping meetings)

Planning and coordinating these scoping meetings is something we do at Consensus Inc. with our eyes closed.  However, getting people to attend these scoping meetings is the difficult part.  It’s not that people don’t care (when they are made aware that there is a potential for a project or policy to impact or benefit their communities), it’s that most of us are busy with everyday life – kids, school, work, errands, etc.  

To facilitate this process, over the years we have been launching online tools that allow stakeholders to participate in the comfort of their own home (in pajamas and bunny slippers).  We have live streamed meetings while offering the public to send comments via chat; email addresses have been set up to make it easier for people to comment directly with the project team; comment forms on project websites have been added to make it easy to comment after reading through information materials.

This month, kudos should be given to Metro for allowing us to take formal scoping comments via Facebook and Twitter.  This is the first time that the agency has allowed formal comments to come via social media platforms.

Using Facebookand Twitter provides a convenience for our engaged stakeholders to meaningfully participate in the process without having to attend a scoping meeting in person.  More exciting is that so far, we have doubled our public participation numbers:

  • We’ve experienced a 22.6% increase in Facebook likes and posts since we first posted that we were going to take formal comments via the site.
    • By downloading the Short Stack application, we were able to comment on Facebook in a seamless manner by only clicking on a “submit formal comments” tab that was added to our page timeline.

 

  • We have received more formal comments on Facebook and Twitter than we have received using the traditional venues (via email, US mail and at the scoping meetings). The numbers speak for themselves:
    • Facebook/Twitter comments (to date) = 31
    • E-Mail comments = 3
    • Comment Letters = 2
    • Comments at meetings = 26

Do you have ideas for how we can facilitate public comments using other methods?  We’d love to hear from you!

Lilian De Loza is a vice president at Consensus Inc. who has managed numerous CEQA/NEPA outreach programs in her 20+ year career.  She loves Sushi and her favorite dessert is cheesecake!

7:44AM

Friday Fives: Political Tweets of the Week

8:54AM

What does Washington D.C. Mean to You?

To the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, it is where the country’s decisions are being made on issues related to the long-term plan for economic growth. And from March 11 – 13, 2013 Los Angeles went to the Hill demanding bold action and bipartisan cooperation in the face of our nation’s fiscal crisis.

As I joined the delegation from Los Angeles, ready to pounce on anyone who debated us on our position that Los Angeles is a trend-setter in entertainment, technology, green industry, higher education, manufacturing and job creation, I fell in love with all things political and was proud to be a part of the bipartisan group of business, civic and labor leaders working together to create a bold future for Los Angeles.

But beyond the crowd and the messages, I was PULLED into the physical setting of D.C. The architecture, sense of history and carefully designed avenues radiating out from rectangles of open space, evoked a sense of pride that this physical place is where our country’s government acts and where members of the public are inspired to bring change.

Yes I could report on the specific talking points each Chamber delegation team used when meeting with members (or staff) of the House, Senate or Committees related to our regional economy, transportation and goods movement infrastructure, energy and environmental sustainability, housing and homelessness, healthcare, water, and education and workforce development, but that information can all be found in a nice brochure at http://www.lachamber.com/clientuploads/Access_DC/ADC_Agenda_2013.pdf.

So, what I will report on is my number one concern…our Southern California delegation in the House is not putting up a united front when it comes to issues related to all of California. As a member of the Chamber delegation’s water team, I heard loud and clear from the Department of Interior that the Northern California delegation is being more proactive when it comes to water issues. I was told, by a member of our Southern California delegation, that it is often difficult to rally around regional issues because there are so many of us and our districts all have different needs. Hmm…ok, so yes I am all about bipartisan cooperation but how about the importance of regional unity to ensure that Southern California is taken care of!?

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