Transforming Communities, Transforming Lives
Recently, I had the honor to represent CSAC and Humboldt County at the 27th Annual Empowerment Congress Summit, hosted by Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. I attended the conference with my fellow CSAC Officers 1st Vice President Lisa Bartlett, Orange County, and Immediate Past President Leticia Perez, Kern County, as well as Executive Director Graham Knaus. I truly appreciate the invitation to provide welcoming remarks by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, who is one of the Empowerment Congress founders. The Congress is a shining example of community-based leadership that takes many forms in communities large and small throughout the state.
This year’s Summit theme, “Transforming Communities,” resonated deeply with me regarding the critical role we all play as elected officials. I was delighted to provide an official greeting on behalf of CSAC, along with a welcome from Congresswoman Nannette Diaz Barragán and a keynote by Congresswoman Karen Bass (no relation). Sharing the stage with colleagues involved in representing California at the national level was an invigorating experience.
Indeed, the energy in the tent was palpable, with elected officials, community leaders and every day citizens on hand to listen, learn and dive deep into topics ranging from homelessness and housing, healthcare to transportation, criminal justice reform and more.
While the conference was hosted by the largest urban county, and I represent one of the more rural counties, it was very clear to me that we all can learn from each other in how to apply best practices, with local adaptations, to the issues concerning every California county. In fact, during the conference, I was interviewed by the media on the differences and similarities between Los Angeles County —home to over 10 million residents, and Humboldt County— population 135,000. I was struck by how much the two counties actually have in common. It doesn’t matter if a county is rural or urban, north or south, red or blue – we are faced with a lot of the same issues and have the same priority in mind: enhancing the quality of life for our residents.
I spent a significant amount of time at an interactive community workshop showcasing the homeless services and housing system in Los Angeles County. “Transforming Neighborhoods and Transforming Lives” was so enlightening and moving that I invited LA County officials to visit Humboldt County so we can work together on adapting urban successes to address very similar rural issues. I know this endeavor will not only benefit my county, but all the rural counties working hard to improve the lives of their most vulnerable residents.
The conference timing was not coincidental, leading up to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, as the Empowerment Conference focuses on participatory government. Dr. King was not afraid to get involved, and even today, if we want to improve our cities, our counties, our state and our nation, we all must get involved. Hold your elected officials responsible. Demand results. Despite what it might sometimes feel like, government does not happen in a vacuum. It takes participation and involvement on both sides of the aisle and at all levels.
I was truly honored to attend the Empowerment Conference with my colleagues. I look forward to taking my learnings back to Humboldt County and to all California counties through my role as CSAC President.