by Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
Associated Pomona Teachers (APT) members joined forces with other community groups in September to protest a waste transfer station that threatens the health, safety and property values of school community members. APT members and other opponents fought against the proposed project because they fear it could increase area traffic, vermin and health risks, and also lower property values.
Under the proposal, local trash collection trucks would take loads to the transfer station, where waste would be moved onto larger trucks that would haul it to a landfill. City of Industry-based Valley Vista Services, which is behind the waste transfer station plan, has made campaign donations to several city council members, say APT members.
APT members joined community activists, clergy, local businesses, residents and students to protest against the proposed facility, which would be located near several schools in one of Pomona’s poorest communities on Ninth Street. During three public hearings in which Planning Commission members deliberated the project inside City Hall, hundreds of protesters gathered outside to march, chant, sing and pray in opposition. So far the proposal has failed to pass the Planning Commission, due to a tie vote, and proponents have already filed an appeal to the City Council.
“This massive community outreach took place in the pursuit of health and environmental justice,” says APT President Tyra Weis. “We hope the city officials of Pomona do the right thing, because we are not going away.”
APT has a long history of community outreach and community involvement. The chapter is a dues-paying member of OneLA, a broad-based organization focusing on issues including education, public safety and employment opportunities. The group consists of unions, nonprofits, faith-based organizations and local businesses. Leaders with the Pomona Valley cluster of OneLA are in the process of forming an offshoot called the Inland Empire Sponsoring Committee, which will be focused on the Inland Empire and address community issues including street lights, community safety, immigrant checkpoints, pension security and job creation through the formation of a Healthcare corridor.
OneLA is part of the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) network, a group of labor, homeowner, immigrant and faith-based organizations dedicated to equity, justice and social change. IAF has a long history of working with CTA on socially progressive issues and is working with several CTA chapters, including APT, on clearing up myths surrounding pension issues and the importance of adequately funding public education.
“We don’t agree with CTA on every issue,” says Ernie Cortes, a member of the IAF Board of Trustees. “But we share a belief in the importance of public education. We believe teaching is a career and that it is a craft. We believe there needs to be collaboration between school and community.”
While some may consider collaboration and community outreach to be “extra work,” for CTA members, it is easier in the long run to accomplish goals when community partnerships are strong, says Morgan Brown, an executive director of APT.
“As individuals we don’t have a lot of power,” says Brown. “But as members of broader constituencies, we can address issues that we can’t take on alone.”
Community outreach is more than about building relationships with other community groups, he adds. It also helps CTA chapters develop leaders within their ranks.
“It is important for us to be visible,” adds Brown. “In this way, we can serve as real-life examples to our students and members of our community about the importance of engaging in civic life.”