Welcome to Louisiana Lefty, a podcast about politics and community in Louisiana, where we make the case that the health of the state requires a strong progressive movement fueled by the critical work of organizing on the ground. Our goal is to democratize information, demystify party politics, and empower you to join the mission because victory for Louisiana requires you.
I'm your host Lynda Woolard. On this episode I speak with Angelle Bradford about her work in Louisiana on climate justice and transit equity through Louisiana's Delta chapter of the Sierra Club. Angelle addresses the intersectionality of this issue, particularly in our Gulf state, with the environment, wildlife, pollution, health care, workers rights, economic justice, and quality of life. And she offers ways to engage in the work they're doing, both regionally and nationally.
Angelle Bradford! Thank you so much for joining me on the Louisiana Lefty.
Of course. Thank you for having me.
I wanted to talk about how we first met. I don't remember exactly when we met but I'm sure it was when you were at Southern University involved with the Democratic Society.
Yeah, it has to be that because I had just graduated from Ohio State. And I started my masters at Southern and started also teaching there. And then for some reason picked up what used to be the Young Dems that Southern turned into the Democratic Society. That was like, 2014, I think. And so probably the Mary Landrieu campaign.
That was going to be my guest. But you also helped out with the governor's race in 2019. You did a Get Out the Vote video for that race, which was very much appreciated. That was a great video. And 2016 I think you helped with a lot of the communications and graphic design stuff for the runoff in 2016 after the presidential.
Yeah, that was so tough, having like the Trump win, and then having to keep going with Senate.
What first got you interested in politics? What's your political origin story?
I feel like my parents always gave me and my twin sister Kaitlyn Joshua a lot of freedom. So many families talk about, "Oh, we didn't talk about politics at the dinner table." We did. Like our whole family is just like yelling and loud all the time. And we just have these big like, everyone circles up around the table, especially during the holidays, and just kind of pontificates over the political moment of that time. And so we always kind of had freedom. Now granted - and I always talk with my good friend Caleb about this - youth activism wasn't a thing yet. When we were teens, we were very much like, you know, student government president and vice president in high school and Model United Nations. But we never knew there were avenues outside of that to really get involved or organized when we were 18.
It wasn't until I volunteered in college with President Obama's second campaign in 2012, that I was like, "Okay, there's like a whole world of like, voter registration and voter education and engagement." And I have some of the best friends I've ever had from that. That just was a world that I loved. Now, granted, when I came back to Louisiana, I still loved elections, but by the time 2016 hit, I was pretty drained by the concept of only focusing on elections. In 2015, or 16, I never remember the year that I came across Moms Demand Action, I got involved with them. And then 2017 I know for a fact it was around like a Bodie White bill to dredge rivers that I met Margie with the Delta Chapter of the Sierra Club then and I was like, "Okay, well, I could just join all these other people who are doing the work and not have to do by myself." And so I got really invested in issues-based organizing at that point, and I've stuck with both since then.
Well, I actually went back and looked through emails we exchanged over the years in preparation for this and and there was a thing you wrote to me in 2017 that stuck out that relates to what you just said. You said, "After the blow of 2016 I want to focus on my work with environmental social justice nonprofits and save my energy for winnable fights."
That's so funny. I didn't think I was that pensive back then. I still feel that but I see the value - as you get older in your organizing and your skill set - of like, you recognize the systems and are just like, "Okay, how can I use my time to get at the system and not just the individual issue? Like, how can I pull down a larger lever whenever I pick up a campaign?"
You've already kind of mentioned the things you're working on, but just as a mini bio, tell me a little bit about what got you from the point of your interest in politics to the stuff you're working on now.
The legislature. I am all about it. When legislative session happens and those bills and I just have so much legislative family from it, where there's just a couple of us that are like, "Okay, let's throw down every legislative session." And I think it was being exposed to that with both organizations where I was just like, "Okay, I know I can testify, I can teach other people how to do this. This is not just something that is cute. And you should admire me for it, like you can do it too."
We still have power here, which is really interesting. In a Deep South state, we have committees that are chaired by Democrats, which is rare. Usually it's very polarized, even if there's a Democratic governor, Republicans run everything. And Louisiana is not quite that. There are factions in both parties that kind of make a lot of the legislators individuals. And so it's kind of like that drug that I was like, "Oh, wait, there are people that you can move on certain things." And so I hate it, but I love it. By the time sessions over, I'm so done. But also grateful, because you remember all the late nights of preparing, and talking to people, and bringing other people into the fold. And I think that's been the game changer for me. I work, I work full time, I'll go to work, and then after work, I'm on a call during legislative session talking about "Okay, what's the game plan for next week?" You know, it's just a part of my life.
And what's your day job, so to speak?
It's so funny. I'm still in school. I'm getting a PhD at Tulane School of Medicine in cardiovascular physiology. So I'm in the physiology and medicine departments. And so my day job, basically, and sometimes weekends, and sometimes nights is type two diabetes and cardiovascular disease. So I look at the molecular level of those things. And that keeps my brain going. And I think that both parts of my life complement the other. They don't always mesh like, you know, medicine in so many ways - while we have these really robust conversations around racialized medicine and stereotypes and access to health care - it's still a very apolitical world. And so I'm always very careful and mindful of that. And just kind of like, put my head down at work, and then go do this work afterwards, but I love both parts of my life. So I couldn't imagine giving either up.
That's amazing. Well, you've mentioned Moms Demand Action, which is on gun control. And the Sierra Club local chapter, which is the Delta Chapter. And I know you work on even issues outside of those. I think you've done some pro-choice or abortion rights advocacy as well. I've seen you talk about that. But I wanted to really talk to you mostly today about your Sierra Club work. So can you tell me about the work that the Delta Chapter is doing locally?
Of all the issues like climate change is just so scary, it's so scary, it's so daunting, it's so stressful, you feel it. The weather has changed, like you know, things are different. And you're racing against the clock. But with the Delta Chapter, there's groups across the state, first of all, so there's Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Northshore, which is called Honey Island, Shreveport, and Acadiana. I'm with the state level executive committee. Each group has a representative on the executive committee, and I'm an executive committee at-large member. I'm super spoiled and get to do pretty much what I want. And they let me just take on projects. And our group does everything from protect conservation stuff of protecting the black bear to coalition work when it comes to environmental justice to responsible development, commenting on like development and floodplains and watersheds and frustration, of course, with the state of our homeowners and flood insurance situation, just all these things, and then a strong wing that focuses on political and legislative parts of the environmental and climate world.
And I want to say it was almost three years ago, there was a Transit Equity Day. The perils of COVID were just really breaking apart and challenging the transit systems across the country. And you know, operators were getting sick, it brought light to workers' rights and their ability to live a healthy, happy life as a operator or worker within the transit industry, while also serving riders that their dignity is not fully held right now by the transit system. And so there was transit equity days, which basically honors Rosa Parks, it's always around her birthday, which I love. And then there's just the national hearings about how can we come at transit, not just from a climate place, but most importantly, rider dignity and integrity, operator respect and strong unions. And then also, how can we start to expand it? Because I think for a lot of people, they think Sierra Club will only talk about this from a climate perspective, but the climate part, and the fact that transportation is the number one contributor to climate change in the country, that can be solved if we just go all out in treating people the way that they should be treated through the transit system.
Also getting drivers to recognize the system doesn't work for you either, right? Like you spend tons of money on cars, tons of money on gas, our roads are horrible, not really by the fault of infrastructure, but just because we literally live in what used to be a swamp, and the roads are never going to be perfect, right? Like they're basically a couple of feet above water. So people need alternatives. And also a lot of Louisianans especially don't have cars, or they're elderly or they're teens, and they want to be able to get around in ways that are not confined to vehicles.
And then of course, particulate matter and pollution and carbon emissions that come from cars. So we just kind of fell into it. It was like the Delta Chapter had, you know, randomly put out an email about transit equity days, and we had like, 75 people show up. And I was like, "Okay, well, maybe this is a thing," and then we stuck with it. And that turned into, I think that year, we were advocating around Build Back Better, which was just like, I could pull my hair out with those federal packages, because they are nightmares. You never know what's actually going to end up in them. We advocated around Build Back Better, got kind of what we wanted from IIJA, also known as bipartisan infrastructure law. There was a lot of money for public transit in that and so we went to work, basically creating a white paper and creating a legislative platform this year around what we wanted to see from the state government around transit.
I'm glad you're talking about the transit equity issue, because listener, Clancy Ratcliffe actually specifically requested that I have you on to speak about your transit equity work. So please tell us more. What it is that you want to see happen in the state?
When it comes to transit, it's so quick for so many people to say, "Oh, the buses suck." And I will say this right off the bat, we are not obsessed with any one mode if it is something that keeps people out of their cars and active. There are tons of studies that show people are happier and healthier when they can participate in a public transit system, whether that is a bus, a train, a bike, or walking. The last mile sometimes might involve Uber or shuttle or something. But just having a robust public transit system, cities across the world creates healthier, more connected communities, period. And so we care about multimodal, but we do not get obsessed.
We do have a huge part of our priority around the rail from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, and I'll get to that. But that is not because we only think rail is great. I ride the bus in New Orleans. I love it, like it has changed my life. Transit and the complaints that we have at the local level, it doesn't start there. And I think that's what makes it. We chose it because it's a challenge that a lot of people don't pick up because it's so messy. And I think over the last couple of years, we've come to realize just how difficult of a system it is to affect. And so what I mean by that is public transit dollars often start at the federal level.
Granted, Baton Rouge does have a CATS tax for their transit service. New Orleans has allocations for our transit service. But if you ask CATS or NORTA like what does fully funded look like, I'm not sure you'll always get the same answer because in a lot of ways we've come from a very scarcity model for funding sources for transit. So people just don't think it's possible. And all that just to say federal government will allocate funding that transit services can apply for every year. They obviously allocated I think more than ever to create more parity between highways and cars versus transit at the federal level with these packages. But we're coming from such a place of need that our state also, I believe, and we believe needs to be allocating more money towards transit. And it's a blessing to be able to apply for these federal grants. And then also maybe have local taxes.
But the truth is, if you want a statewide transit network, which is part of our goals, we have to have a state and a Department of Transportation development willing to put in money as well. So generally, the money flows through planning commissions or transit services can apply for that funding directly. But we do wish and are calling for and advocating for a Department of Transportation development that is not just highways. And that's part of Louisiana's problem. We have, I think, now a $15 billion maintenance backlog for infrastructure. A lot of that more and more groups are recognizing probably doesn't need to be built, whether the cities and towns have different needs now, or it's just outdated. But we have these really elaborate transportation plans that go back a decade or two that no longer match the moment whether from a climate perspective or a community needs perspective.
So it's kind of just like this maze of, you know, commenting on this, advocating on this and all that led us to this past year of basically asking for three things. And I used to be so good at remembering all of them. But the first one with the legislature this year was basically to move forward with what's called a scope, schedule and budget, as well as environmental assessments for the Baton Rouge to New Orleans rail, and the North Louisiana, Dallas to Shreveport, Monroe, and then move through Mississippi and go to Atlanta. So we wanted to start like laying that foundation, if it's going to be statewide, it can't only be South Louisiana. So we called for that. We also wanted to see a greater investment in transit in what we called preservation projects. So stop with the expansions of highways, stop with the waste of money, and just really think about what makes sense. The third one I really cannot remember.
The third one you told me was: any new money coming for federal projects should go towards reinforcing what we already have, not expansion, not new projects.
So are there local groups that you're coordinating with all these efforts that you're invested in?
So our Delta Chapter transit equity team, we don't meet obsessively or a ridiculously amount because we do a lot of work in between. And so I'm very mindful of like, everybody works. And everybody wants to get something done. And so oftentimes, we'll check in through texts or slack or whatever. But we meet pretty regularly, maybe with our Transit Summit coming up, we meet almost weekly.
Now granted, we do have a larger coalition that's part of the transit meeting as well. So Ride New Orleans is amazing. Just the work they do is incredible, and has really impacted how we talk about transit. Statewide, because it was Courtney, who reminded me and my good friend, Robert, who's always like, it's about transit everywhere, don't get bogged down in arguments, whether with the legislature or with officials around a rail because people think it's shiny and pretty. But the truth is, it's the buses that get people closer to home. And that matters. So yeah, they're a big part of the coalition. As far as our legislative platform, we had Louisiana Progress sign on, we had the Louisiana Chapter of the American Planning Association sign on, we had some businesses sign on, we had Earthworks sign on, 350 New Orleans, and Common Ground Relief. I'm missing a couple. But we do have folks who also will be at our Transit Summit who are part of our coalition that consistently remind us of like our blind spots of, you know, like, what about unhoused folks? What about transient folks? What about disabled folks? Like, how do we make sure to keep them in the conversation?
When is your Transit Summit?
That is October 10, in Baton Rouge, at the River Center Branch Library downtown.
And is that open to the public?
It is not. And I know that sounds really bratty. So it's mostly invitation only because our worry was if there was a COVID surge, how many people would we have to go find and tell that we're moving to virtual? That's the main reason was so we would have enough room for physical distancing.
That makes perfect sense. Is there stuff that you do that's open to the public?
Everything is open to the public otherwise, like our transit equity team meetings, we have webinars, we have legislative session downloads and break downs and all of that. The entire Delta Chapter, all of our stuff is public.
So is there a best way for people to connect to you if they want to engage in some of that stuff? Is there a website or an email address that I should put in the episode notes?
So we have our Facebook our Twitter and our Instagram. We check those messages frequently. My email is Angelle.Bradford@SierraClub.org. I'm a volunteer, but they did give me an email address, and I'm very grateful.
And do you mostly engage with the legislature? Or are there other political entities that y'all are engaging with?
Metro councils and city councils, not as much. A lot of our energy has been towards the state, so DOT, engaging with their officials. For the rail projects, that was the hardest of like, how can we talk to all 100 plus people that were consulted over the last two decades with these major projects that can explain to us why they never happened? And so it's a lot of the business community folks engaged with the southern rail commission, a lot of transportation committees in the legislature, so the Senate side and the House side, and then DOT's board meetings, we sometimes go to their Transit Authority Board meetings at the Capitol. And then transit services directly like talking to the officials directly and their planners and their data scientists.
And you said you take the bus yourself. In New Orleans? From New Orleans to Baton Rouge? Is that what you're talking about?
So I've done both. I got in a car accident right before Ida and because of the supply chain backlog, I didn't have with me for like six months. And so I was just like, "You know what, I'm going to figure out how to get around without a car and also see how everyone else who experiences transit more regularly, what their what their experience is like." Plus I want to be less on the roads. I'm less likely to be rear ended by an uninsured driver that drives off. So yeah, so I've been for a couple months now. I've been more like regularly every day when I'm headed to work. And then on the weekends, if I'm not going somewhere late, I ride the bus in city, that's my promise.
Then every now and then I'll go to Baton Rouge on the FlixBus, which was not one of our demands, but we were hoping and asking for that. Before the rails are implemented, if they get there, that the FlixBus and Greyhound buses would be subsidised. So if I'm going to talk about that, I need to at least know what that's like. And so I will ride the FlixBus and my mom will pick me up downtown. And sometimes we'll go to this workout class afterwards. So it's always a good time. But it just depends on timing, because sometimes I wait too late to get a ticket or I just don't think about it. But I just need to, you know, plan better sometimes.
What's the FlixBus? I'm not familiar with that.
I believe it comes out of Europe. I think they were the ones who revolutionized it. But it's basically like this really nice bus that a lot of workers use between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. And then it keeps going to Houston, Austin. And it's every day, multiple times, like four or five times a day. And so I will just hop on that from the train station here in New Orleans. And then I'll either take a nap or do some work and they have Wi Fi, great seats, all the things.
Is that like the Mega Bus used to be?
Yeah. I think there's still Mega Bus. But then there was also the bus after Katrina: LA Swift. It's like that, but it's just a private company.
Okay, cool. We were talking about your partner's a little while ago. Have you all been involved with Rise St. James, Loisiana Bucket Brigade, No Waste Louisiana? I just saw there was a report for a recent win where the court vacated air permits for the Formosa massive petrochemical complex. Were y'all involved in that?
Yeah, I mean, granted, right, like Miss Sharon Lavigne leads that work. And it's just incredible. And we just follow and I remember going to those protests right when my niece was born, which was just four years ago, and so it's just been a long, long fight, but they sustained so well and kept the coalition so strong. And Sierra Club was a part of that litigation as well. And so it was just a cool win. I think my comment for that was for No Waste because I'm on their board. I was just kind of like "Now what are you going to give these folks that deserve it?" This parish deserves so much more. And so I'm excited to see like what kind of economy they can create for themselves.
Are y'all involved at all with these Public Service Commission races, in getting information out to the public? Seems like they'd be races y'all would be particularly interested.
It's right up our alley. So we have a political committee. I mean, like, we went rogue during COVID. Like, so much stuff did not exist during COVID. We were just like, "Let's survive." And so we have over a dozen incredible people from across Louisiana, including Lake Charles that I'm just thrilled about that we can engage more people on the Acadiana side on the southwest side of Louisiana. And so the political committee has come back, we have our people in place, we'll be endorsing later. And then we'll just be volunteering for these races for district three and four.
Oh, very good. And again, you've reconstituted this political committee. If people want to be involved in that, are you the best person to reach out to on that?
There is a chair for that. I will not do everything. People want to do work. And so I don't need to be queen bee. But I'm just happy, we've come back together. And I'm a part of the political committee, but other folks lead it. If they email me, though, I'll connect them with with our political committee leaders.
It makes sense that you spread the work around, because people want to do work, but also because not every one person can do all the things. I'm really impressed also, by the work the Sierra Club is doing nationally with their advocacy and electoral work. And currently, here's another thing I'll put in the Episode Notes, they're almost daily, offering ways to plug into some of these swing district elections, making calls, sending texts, writing letters to people. They have a virtual event, like I said, almost every day right now.
Okay, great. I'm happy to hear that feedback. I'm with you, because I even said, you know, after our summit, I'm putting away any excess work. I'm gonna go to some states, like, I'll knock on some doors here for district season three and four, based on whoever we choose for Louisiana PSC to endorse. And then we have a Senate race district 17 that we will be endorsing as well, because it's a special election. But I want to knock on doors for Beto and Stacey and like, I just plan on giving my energy to that. There's a strong apparatus to just hop into and just get going. And so I'm grateful that we have that structure through our campaigns.
Well, and what I'll say, again, for folks who like to volunteer, but are sometimes a little nervous about speaking to voters themselves up, first of all, the letters are very simple. Obviously, there's not a whole lot of personal interaction there. But you get to write, like, why you care about these elections. Sierra Club does go in and look at the different elections across the country and find out like, what ones are movable. I don't know how much the Get Out The Vote shifts to just turning out voters later towards the election. But what I do know from the early engagement I've had with them is most of what they do is interact with other Sierra Club members across the country. So if you're targeting a district, they're really just calling or texting or sending letters to folks that they already know are invested in the environmental cause.
And what's so great about that, Angelle, is again and again and again, we see that environmental voters are sometimes some of the lowest turnout voters. So if the climate is an issue for us, we've got to turn out the people who care about climate.
I absolutely agree. And honestly, it's so funny, because that's kind of the the strategy with our political committee, we'll just be like, "How do we turn out our people?" It always seems appropriate to start with your base. And instead of being like, we need those people that we've never engaged with, it makes so much more sense to say like, "Okay, is our house even in order? Are they even ready to go?" And so I appreciate that, too. I think a lot of people are just, I hate saying overwhelmed because we're overwhelmed every single day. But like, just for the past seven years, I guess in particular, it's just been an onslaught. And it does take a little bit more work to say, "Okay, maybe this election could be the one," just because we've heard it so much that this is the game changing moment. And then things just kind of find a way to slip a little bit more. But the truth is, we can still save the planet from climate change. We can still save humanity. And so why not go all out?
Fairly routinely when I ask - and I don't think this is just my experience, I think pollsters will bear this out as well - I ask young voters what their biggest concern is, climate is almost always number one. If not, number one, it's in that top three.
Yeah, yeah, I agree.
I say about young voters all the time, and I will say this about environmental voters too: If young voters and environmental voters got together, they could swing every single election and climate would be like the number one issue that we forced elected officials to handle.
Definitely, I agree. And that would also bring in all the other issues that intersect, like you couldn't avoid it.
I saw something interesting I wanted to ask you about. Yesterday, the Washington Post was reporting that the seriousness of climate change for young people was causing them such great anxiety that now colleges are offering therapy for young people for their climate anxiety. And because it's such a unique issue, therapists are having to learn how to even treat for it, because it's not something that's in your head and it's not something you can just work through. It is a real threat. So they're having to come up with a new way of handling that. I want to get your thoughts on that.
It totally makes sense. Whenever I'm feeling really just stressed or mournful, my friend, the way she terms it, and she's gotten it from another organization - I can't remember the name of it, but they're super focused on like community within this climate change setting, and they call it climate grief. And I just find that such a compassionate title, because it does feel like a grief. It feels like a grief of a life that I thought and we thought we would have and a calculation that you have to make of like, "Okay, well, do I want to get married and have kids? And if so, you know, in a really existential way, what am I bringing them into if our country is not going to seriously take into account this actual thing that has already taken, you know, millions of lives around the world?" So I think climate anxiety makes sense. And it's funny, because I can totally see people calling it a total snowflake term or like a total millennial or Gen Z made up excuse, but I've learned to be more compassionate with myself in whatever work I'm doing at that moment of just being like, this is a really unprecedented time and that's not hyperbole.
It's really not. And I find it interesting that the other issue you work on, largely is the gun control issue. Because that is the other issue that colleges are having to find therapists and train therapists to handle is that anxiety over potentially having active shooters approach you on in your life. And I hear that again, when I asked young voters top issues, that is almost always in that top three.
Yeah. Also in some moments, I'm like, "How crazy are we, that as a country, we can have this much tragedy that is preventable?" and we're just like, "Let's keep going, it's fine." In terms of gun violence and climate change and climate disasters, it's kind of baffling that we don't see these massive transformative changes.
Is there anything I haven't asked you about climate change in Louisiana or public transit that you feel like I've missed?
Well, the only thing I'll say is while transportation in general, as a sector, is the second largest contributor to carbon emissions of Louisiana, we're different from the rest of the country in that our industry's number one, and obviously, we're working on that too. But while transit is very convoluted, just ride it. Like that's like the most important thing you can do is ride - it doesn't have to be all or nothing - if you want your local transit system to get better. If you want to join us in our fight for public transit to be ubiquitous and affordable and reliable across this state, you have to first just ride it
A big priority of ours as well is stopping highway build outs including the I-10 expansion in Baton Rouge, which is going to destroy neighborhoods, it will impact the environment. In tandem with that is the bridge that's proposed because there's always this always this idea that we can develop our ways out of traffic. And it's just constantly reminding people, no, you are a part of traffic, and we're not going to shift our bad practices of segregation, and unaffordable housing and sprawl and flooding in places that didn't use to flood and all of those things that go back to how we plan out our cities and towns, if we cannot fully invest in public transit, which also feeds into people's economic opportunities. Can they get to a job reliably? Or can they go to a job in another parish?
This shouldn't be controversial, but for a lot of people, it's like, that's not possible. But until you just get on a bus, the planning commissions, the DOT, the local services themselves, and the city councils and metro councils are not going to magically invest in it. They're not going to be revolutionaries. We have to give them the demand to improve the transit. And so that's a big part of it. And the same with the rail. I don't know where we go from here, particularly on the Baton Rouge to New Orleans rail, because the things that we are asking to be done, whether it's have the cities beef up their bus transit, and their paratransit, from the lens of women and caretakers, and the disabled, and for workers that are looking for work, a lot of the things that get printed in the news aren't actually happening. And you know, there was a piece earlier this week from the Louisiana Illuminator about the rail from Baton Rouge to New Orleans of just like, what comes across as like, "Oh, this is happening and therefore the thing will be" is often window dressing. And so we're even figuring it out in real time of like, what does it look like to either escalate or demand or create alternatives to these projects that we've just been waiting on for decades that people think is happening tomorrow?
You're saying it's announced and then it doesn't happen?
Right, you'll see the governor, or you'll see Secretary Wilson have a press conference in front of the KCS train. I mean, it happened a couple months ago, when they were talking about the IIJA bipartisan infrastructure law, and basically saying, like, "We're excited for rail to come." But notice, they don't give you a timeline. And they don't say when it's gonna be here. And we know, from meetings with transportation experts at the federal level and across the country, that if Louisiana wanted to do rail, it could be ready in two years. And for North Louisiana, I think the timeline is actually sooner. And so then you just have to ask the question, like, "Why isn't it happening?" We don't have that answer. But it is a constant question of just if the money's there, and the public interest is there, and you've surveyed the heck out of people at this point, why aren't we just moving forward? What are the deliverables?
And that's why we put forth the Senate Bill 467. I can't remember the act number because it did pass a scope, schedule, budget, and environmental assessment, which are like metrics and documents, deliverables that you have to have at the federal level in order to move forward with instituting intercity rail. We don't have the receipts for whether or not those things are happening in the ways that that bill requires. And so there's supposed to be a legislative hearing before legislative session in April next year. Well, session starts in April next year. So ideally, there will be a hearing before that. It remains to be seen what they'll produce for that hearing.
Have you been following this issue in New Orleans about the bike lanes?
Yeah, so I did comment on that. And I mean, I'm concerned that it's taken us backwards, that's for sure. And, you know, some people say it's retaliation of, you know, the usual conflict between city council and the mayor, which is ridiculous at this point. But it also endangers lives. And that's the part that's so bothersome. Bikes are culture change, and I get it, just like, you know, people say Starbucks means gentrification, like, I get it. There's a frustration there. But I'm not convinced that everyone inherently in Algiers was against those bike lanes, I think, you know, sometimes, you know, the squeakiest wheel makes the most noise. And if we have enough powerful, particularly white residents that are able to say, I don't want x, then is that going to happen in the rest of the city and then we're endangering bikers and cyclists and pedestrians, which is another example of an American culture where we just cannot center riders and those who walk which is a safety issue at the end of the day.
And so our worry is the precedent that it sets. Would we go backwards and start removing lanes when other people get frustrated? That then would also impact the city and parish cycling goal and carbon emissions goal. So it's just kind of a nightmare. And I get it, there are issues that I probably don't fully understand about the bike lanes in Algiers. I wish we would have engaged them more. I didn't even see that coming. I didn't realize it was a was a huge thing until it happened on Thursday at the city council meeting.
The claim at this point - that I don't know about because first of all, it's not my part of the city and then second off I had other issues I was focusing on at the time - their claim is that there were no public meetings about this. I don't know if that's true or not but I'm hoping what they're doing is just now having public meetings instead of unilaterally removing things that, like you say, would be taking us backwards in some ways.
Definitely. And I love that you say that, because like, I'm all about the public meetings and transparency. Obviously, if there was greater transparency with some of the projects I talked about, I would have less gray hair at this point. But it's hard because it's like, you never fully understand what's a political game? And what's actual reality? And yeah, that's the hard part is like recognizing the importance in drawing all this together and connecting the dots and saying like, the bike plan is a part of a climate plan for a city that is literally going to be underwater in a couple of decades if we can't commit to a different life, you know?
That's often lost on people is there are these behind the scenes, political things going on, that there are players pushing each side to move forward and be more vocal. And while some of these people speaking out, some of the community people speaking out, may be very earnest in what they're saying, they're also probably getting pushed forward by people who do not have their best interests at heart quite often.
Do you get attacked by oil and gas in your work ever?
You know, not like, I mean, if it's not it, like at a meeting face to face, like at a legislative hearing or something, I don't engage them. Like, we don't connect that much. It's really interesting. I'm actually surprised sometimes. But like, there's a line that I keep, I mean, I'm not going to go harass them. And I don't have that experience with oil and gas. I do sometimes wonder if they're the lever holding up some of these projects, you know, and so I wouldn't even need to talk to them to be fully frustrated with them.
They don't come after the Sierra Club specifically.
I'm sure they come after us as Sierra Club. But as a chapter? No.
Angelle, let me get to the last three questions. I ask a version of these every episode. What do you think is the biggest obstacle for climate justice in Louisiana?
The window dressing and like puppeteer behind the curtain, that's the problem. It's not the people. There's enough people that are like, "You know what? I would like to be able to afford my flood insurance. I would like to be able to know if my house flooded before I moved there. I would like to not have to drive everywhere all the time." And so I'm not convinced it's the people. I just think we're kind of hijacked by, like an extreme narrative. And right, that goes back to the gerrymandering, to the Jeff Landry crowd that is just so loud, and Clay Higgins, that it makes it difficult to recognize that is not Louisianans. And that is not who we are.
It's shocking to me some of the people who get elected here. And we spoke about the gerrymandering a little bit in the video we did before we recorded the podcast, which people can find on Facebook and on YouTube. So we did speak a little bit about that. What do you think is our biggest opportunity for climate justice in Louisiana?
You know, I envision it like okay, so I love Louisiana, otherwise, I wouldn't have stayed here and I wouldn't have moved back after college. And I just envision us and like, I think we need to lean into our roots, right? Like we come from like French culture and Spanish culture and indigenous Black and like just very different ways of life. And I think if we could just collectively envision a life where it doesn't have to be this hard. It doesn't have to be this hard to get where you need to get. It doesn't have to be this hard to afford everything. It doesn't have to be this, like we don't have to, you know, prove to someone out there that we pulled ourselves by the bootstraps in order to have our basic needs met. And so my vision is very much like when I go to like a foreign country and just like my life is not that complicated. I hop on whatever transit I need, I connect with the people I need to, I have really long lunches. I feel like Louisiana could be that if we could kind of reject that capitalistic - and yeah, I'm left so whatever - that very capitalistic and oppressive economic culture that just comes from slavery, quite frankly, the like micromanaging each other and the like, "No, you didn't work hard enough." And who cares? Let people live a good life. That's like the vision.
I love that. Angelle, who's your favorite superhero?
I do love Black Panther. The music's incredible. The scenery is incredible. The acting is incredible. And, you know, befittingly, I think that Chadwick Boseman would be a superhero just personally, the way he lived his life and then his acting.
Yeah, that's, that's lovely. Angelle, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule. You've got so many things going on. And they're all wonderful things. Maybe we'll have you back on later to talk about the gun control issue, but I really appreciate your speaking to me about your environmental work.
No problem. Thank you for having me on to speak about this. It's been very cathartic. So thanks.
Thank you for listening to Louisiana Lefty. Please follow us on your favorite podcast platform. Thank you to Ben Collinsworth for producing Louisiana Lefty, Jen Pack of Black Cat Studios for our Super Lefty artwork, and Thousand $ Car for allowing us to use their swamp pop classic "Security Guard" as our Louisiana Lefty theme song.