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State of the Watershed Spotlight | The Importance of Engaging Communities

On September 27th, the Council for Watershed Health and LA Sanitation will host the 2018 State of the LA River Watershed Symposium, convening diverse stakeholders and expert panelists to identify actionable next steps for creating a healthy and resilient watershed. CWH will share a decade of LA River monitoring data and the comprehensive story of the river’s condition which includes water quality, habitat assessment and aquatic health.

The third panel, on "The Importance of Engaging Communities" will identify successful models and best practices for meaningful community engagement. Get to know our excellent panelists who who lead the conversation.

California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, 63rd District

Speaker Anthony Rendon was sworn-in as the 70th Speaker of the California State Assembly in March 2016. He represents the 63rd Assembly District in the Assembly, which includes nine cities in Southeast L.A. County. Rendon was the author of Proposition 1, the $7.5 billion state water bond, which voters passed by a 67% to 33% margin in the November 2014 election. During the bond development process, Rendon took input from residents over the course of 18 public hearings throughout the state, resulting in a measure with no earmarks or backroom deals.

Heather Repenning, Vice President, Board of Public Works, City of Los Angeles as Moderator

Heather Marie ​Repenning has served in a variety of roles over her eleven years with Mayor Eric Garcetti. As Director of External Affairs for the Mayor's Office, she oversaw​ intergovernmental relations, community and constituent services, and immigrant affairs. While Garcetti served on the City Council, she provided key policy guidance during his six year tenure as Council President and served as District Director for Community Development for the 13th Council District, helping to triple the number of parks and improve neighborhood infrastructure to promote livability in neighborhoods from Hollywood to Atwater Village to Echo Park. Heather also worked as Political Director on the Garcetti for Mayor 2013 campaign. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Swarthmore College and has a Master's Degree in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Irvine. She has one young daughter and resides in L.A’s Eastside. Bio pulled from LA City’s Department of Public Works website.

Irma Muñoz, CEO and President of Mujeres de la Tierra

Irma R. Muñoz is the Founder/President of Mujeres de la Tierra – an avant-garde environmental non-profit focused on healing La Madre Tierra and re-defining the traditional “green” dialogue in Los Angeles, California.

Irma firmly believes in the power of one and that community action starts with individual participation. She believes that the families and residents of the neighborhood should have the power and right to lead/own their issues and determine what’s best for them, their families and community.

She currently serves on the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy Board of Directors as an appointee of the Mayor of Los Angeles and is a Governor’s appointee to the Los Angeles County Regional Water Quality Control Board.

She has held many positions in the public sector and the position she is most proud of is being a presidential appointee with the Clinton Administration serving in Washington D.C. with the U.S. Small Business Administration.

She earned her BA from the University of California, San Diego and her Juris Doctorate from the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, California.

Miguel Luna, Dake Luna

Miguel A. Luna is sought after and respected locally, regionally, and statewide for his expertise in working with diverse communities on social justice issues and advocacy, and for his ability to utilize community reconnaissance in order to develop and implement effective outreach tools and mechanisms for grass-roots coalition building and consensus. He specializes in cultivating relationships with and between community-based organizations, businesses, elected officials, environmental organizations, academia, governmental agencies, and individual stakeholders at the grass-roots level.

Mr. Luna is a Principal at DakeLuna Consultants, a community-based firm working on local and regional conservation and watershed issues using culture and design as tools for creating sustainable places. As one of the firm’s principals, Mr. Luna plays a key role in its strategic development and implementation. He is also the firm’s Public Relations representative and designs engagement strategies for the firm’s projects.

In 2006, Mr. Luna founded Urban Semillas to educate underserved communities about social and environmental justice issues. Urban Semillas provides community members with community-building skills and empowers them to participate in local and citywide planning and policy. The organization has developed a myriad of successful community engagement programs for youth and adults, carried out over 100 trainings throughout the region, and has lead numerous research projects.

Mr. Luna matured his environmental knowledge while working at Heal the Bay in early 2003 where he held positions as Coastal Cleanup Day Coordinator and as Stream Restoration Specialist. He later served as the Tujunga Watershed Coordinator while at The River Project. There he established and fostered relationships with stakeholders in the Tujunga watershed. He developed and carried out outreach strategies that encompassed watershed management, river advocacy, environmental justice, smart-growth, sustainability, and policy. Bio pulled from Water Education for Latino Leaders, Board Member Profile.

Stephen Mejia, Friends of the LA River

Stephen Mejia-Carranza is the Policy & Advocacy Manager for Friends of the Los Angeles River. He leads and supports the execution of FoLAR’s policy work which ranges from organizing on local community-scale projects, to advocacy regional river-restoration planning, and engagement on county and state funding measures. Previously he worked as Urban Programs Coordinator at Heal the Bay working with underserved communities on water and open-space issues in the LA River, Compton Creek, and Santa Monica Bay watersheds. Stephen has spent the last 5 years focused on building watershed literacy, inspiring local stewardship and empowering community voices of all ages in local watershed planning efforts. He holds a BA from University of California, Santa Cruz in Environmental Studies.

Rudy Ortega, Tribal President, Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians

Rudy Ortega, Jr. is the Tribal President of the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians, a native sovereign nation of northern Los Angeles County.

He is a member of Siutcabit, the lineage of present-day Encino, CA. His ancestors come from the villages that originated in the geographical areas of Santa Clarita Valley, Simi Valley, and San Fernando Valley. His great-grandfather Antonio Maria Ortega, from whom he receives his role as tomiar, or traditional leader, fought in Superior Court in the 19th century to preserve traditional lands from encroaching settlers and maintain Siutcabit lifeways. His father, the late Rudy Ortega Sr., served as previous leader of the Tribe for over fifty years and was elected to the Native American Indian Commission in 1977.

As the current elected Tribal President of the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians ( Ortega Jr. oversees his Tribe’s governmental body and manages affairs pertaining to the rights of all Fernandeño Tataviam tarahat (people).

Since 2004, Ortega Jr. has served as the Executive Director of Pukúu Cultural Community Services (, the FTBMI’s non-profit that serves the greater Los Angeles County American Indian community. Through Pukúu, Ortega Jr. also oversees Haramokngna American Indian Cultural Center located 14 miles up the Angeles Crest Highway (2) (

Join us on Thursday, September 27th for a bold discussion as we synthesize the past, present and future of the LA River at the Autry Museum of the American West. Through networking opportunities and engaging discussions, the Symposium will convene elected officials, non-profit organizations, community-based organizations, academics, agency scientists and land managers to identify actionable next steps and reinvigorate efforts toward creating a healthy and resilient watershed.

Thank you to our sponsors for supporting our applied work to advance the health and sustainability of our regional watersheds!

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