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Incoming Calif. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon sees himself as bridge between East and Westside on environment concerns

File: Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, urged lawmakers to approve his measure that would ban hunters from using lead ammunition, during Assembly session in Sacramento on Sept. 10, 2013.
Rich Pedroncelli/AP
Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, a Democrat based in South Gate, has been tapped to become the next Speaker of the California Assembly. Rendon has a strong environmental track record. He authored last year's Proposition 1 water bond, and legislation banning hunters from using lead ammunition.

Last month, South Gate representative Anthony Rendon was tapped to become the next Speaker of the California Assembly, starting in January. This means both houses of the state legislature will soon be led by Latinos - Kevin de León became Senate President pro Tempore last year.

Rendon, a Democrat, has been a member of the Assembly since 2012 where he represents the 63rd District, which stretches from Bell and Cudahy in the north to Long Beach. He's third-generation Mexican-American, the grandchild of immigrants who arrived starting in the 1920s. He grew up in Southern California and attended local colleges and universities.

Rendon's background is in early-childhood education. But he's perhaps best known as an environmentalist. He headed the California League of Conservation Voters at the state and local level. His biggest political win so far has been last year's Proposition 1, a water bond he authored that pays for water infrastructure such as storage and recycling.

Rendon's district office in South Gate isn’t far off the 710 Freeway. To get there one has to weave around trucks past heavy industry and it's as good an entry point as any into what makes Rendon tick.

Interview highlights

KPCC: Please tell us about your district. It’s strung together by the 710 Freeway. There's a refinery and an aircraft parts manufacturer not far from your office.

KPCC: You've made your mark as an environmentalist. What took you there?
KPCC: When you went into the Assembly, did you come with an environmental agenda in mind? What this something you wanted to tackle having already worked in this area?
KPCC: The perception of the environmental movement in Southern California has typically been that it's more of a Westside movement, typically white, based in places like Santa Monica. You’ve done some bridging of the two. Can you tell us about that?
KPCC: We just saw the shutdown of the Exide Technologies battery recycling plant in Vernon. Can you mention some other examples where you have seen children, families, seniors poisoned in this area?
KPCC: You say that communities of color don't see strong outreach from mainstream environmental organizations. What's driving their interest in the environment?
KPCC: How might the perspective you’ve developed in your previous work and in this district inform your role as Speaker of the Assembly?
KPCC: Next year will be the first time that both houses of the state legislature are led by Latino lawmakers. It’s a milestone symbolically. But substantively, what subtle differences in perspective do you think Latino leaders bring to the table? Your own activism on the environment is a good example. Can you tell us more?
KPCC: Parts of your district – cities like Bell and South Gate – have endured a series of political corruption scandals, which makes political engagement among your constituents even more difficult than it already is. How to address trust and engagement in a district where people have been pushed in the opposite direction?