Orange City Council candidate Betty Valencia marched in support of climate change polices underneath the hot sun Nov. 1 alongside world-renowned climate activist Greta Thunberg at the youth climate rally in Los Angeles.
Valencia considers herself a strong believer in the effects of climate change. On the other hand, 16-year-old Thunberg from Sweden gained a following after her Sept. 21 speech at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York. Since the video of her berating national officials went viral Thunberg has attended marches globally, one of which was in downtown Los Angeles.
Not only was her campaign focused on climate change, but Valencia’s campaign for city council was inspired by the lack of representation among current city councilmembers, she said. She felt as though there was a separation between the community and the local government.
“Voices weren’t being heard,” Valencia said. “I wondered if they were listening to people in the community who are like me – representative of an immigration population. I want to work hard to have our voices, our perspectives, our presence and our identities honored in our local politics.”
While Valencia didn’t speak with Thunberg at the protest, she regards the strike itself as extremely powerful and an expression of her goals. If she wins a seat on the city council, she seeks to instate more businesses to use eco-friendly material and install refill stations in parks, solar panels at parking structures and more car charging stations.
“There’s so much to be done but wherever we start, we’re going to be ahead,” Valencia said. “People like myself with new ideas and an energy of really wanting to change for the better deserve to be in those seats.”
She also aims to make Orange more inclusive because she said many residents of mixed statuses don’t feel welcomed. Valencia has been a resident of Orange for 24 years, but her relationship with the city was never personal for her until April 10, 2018 – the night she decided to run for Orange City Council.
“Orange was just a city I lived in,” Valencia said. “Now, it’s a city I long to belong in like many of us. Orange needs leadership that represents our current demographics.”
Valencia said she wants to provide easy access to city council members, analyze budgets and resources, fix infrastructure issues, better support the city’s homeless population and help Chapman students feel like they belong in Orange.
“We’ve had so many students on our campaign because we want the students to know that they are a part of Orange,” Valencia said. “I would love to have a student representative at city council to inform us on what’s happening with the students.”