Los Angeles Times
Reasons to be thankful in 2022
Smart voters, careful water consumers and carless roads. These are some of the things we’re grateful for this year.
There was a lot not to like about 2022. Russia invaded Ukraine in February. Nineteen children and two teachers were massacred in an Uvalde school in May. The Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade in June, obliterating a constitutional right to abortion that had been in place for nearly half a century. Amid it all was another toxic election season showcasing the nation’s deep political division, soaring inflation and ongoing economic uncertainty. And of course the ever-present dark cloud of climate change.
Even so, there were moments and acts of grace and inspiration over the course of the year that helped keep our spirits up. On this Thanksgiving, here are some of the people, events and trends that have given us reason to say a special thanks:
Election workers everywhere. Theirs is an underappreciated, and increasingly dangerous, task as those who traffic in political conspiracy theories, including a certain former president, have taken out their ire on the people who collect, count and protect our ballots. To them we credit the fact that midterm elections went forward without a hitch and with little griping about fraud.
Improved wildfire containment strategies. So far this year, California has escaped the extreme destruction of 2021 and 2020. While we haven’t resolved the underlying causes of wildfires, we feel quite grateful that fires were not worse in 2022.
Los Angeles residents. We saved 6 billion gallons of water over the summer after having responded poorly to the drought during the first half of the year. It may take us some time, but this shows we ultimately do what’s necessary to get the job done.
Inflation seems to be easing. It’s a reminder that despite a war in Ukraine that created upheaval in energy markets and the convulsions of pandemic, lockdown and the Great Resignation, our economy is sound.
Nancy Pelosi. She has been a trailblazer as the first female speaker of the House. But it’s also her mastery of the legislative process to improve the lot of her fellow citizens that wins our praise. She announced earlier this month that she would not seek reelection to a House leadership position again, but she will remain an important member of California’s congressional delegation.
California’s smart voters. Who says big money wins at the ballot box? Special interests may have broken spending records this election season on ballot measures involving sports gambling, kidney dialysis regulations, electric vehicle funding and flavored tobacco, but they didn’t win. Voters rejected their arguments. In Los Angeles, mayoral candidate Rick Caruso spent more than $100 million of his fortune on his campaign, flooding the airwaves and mailboxes with ads. But voters chose his opponent, Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles), to be the next mayor. It’s gratifying to see that money doesn’t always equal electoral success.
Brazilian voters. They tossed out farright President Jair Bolsonaro last month in favor of leftist former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who campaigned on protecting the Amazon rainforest. The Brazilian election result is a hopeful sign for the preservation of a region often called the “lungs of our planet” and a place of unmatched biodiversity.
The opening of the “K Line.” This Crenshaw/LAX light-rail line is part of the growing network of rail lines designed to give Angelenos faster, more efficient and convenient transit choices. The line will eventually connect with Los Angeles International Airport in 2024, providing future Thanksgiving travelers an alternative to the hellish LAX horseshoe traffic.
The end of fossil-fueled vehicles is on the horizon. The California Air Resources Board set a firm 2035 deadline to stop selling new gas-powered cars. The state that pioneered car culture is blazing a new road that is fully electric.
A carless road in Griffith Park. In a small but important step, Los Angeles banned cars from a segment of Griffith Park Drive to reduce cut-through traffic and provide park users a safe route to bike, ride horses and walk. Angelenos crave more community space — just look at how people flocked to the Sixth Street Viaduct — so let’s look for more roads to close temporarily or permanently.
Fighting NIMBYism. Gov. Gavin Newsom is cracking down on some communities that make it too hard to build much-needed housing. His administration created a Housing Accountability Unit to put teeth behind the state laws aimed at boosting housing production, protecting rent-controlled units and reducing racial segregation.
The persistence of street vendor advocates. California lawmakers finally passed a bill to make it easier for food vendors to get the permits they need to legally sell their wares. It took years of organizing, lobbying and work by advocacy groups to make sure the purveyors of sliced fruit, bacon-wrapped hot dogs, tacos and other delectables can work without fear of getting shut down.
New health protections. California lawmakers banned new oil and wells within 3,200 feet of homes and schools and the L.A. City Council moved to end new drilling citywide, and phase it out entirely within 20 years. These were turning points in a yearslong fight for environmental health and justice for pollution-choked communities.
The Inflation Reduction Act. Congress finally did something meaningful about climate change by passing this landmark law that will be the U.S. government’s single biggest action on global warming in history, helping reduce planet-heating pollution and speed our transition to renewable energy.
A ban on single-use plastic. After several near misses over recent years, California lawmakers in 2022 passed a landmark consumer packaging bill that will significantly reduce single-use plastic over the next decade by banning most plastic packaging that isn’t being recycled or composted.
Antigen tests. Though the pandemic remained with us in 2022, the availability of athome COVID testing made it easier to ensure gatherings were safe.
Voters who support reproductive rights. In California, Kansas, Michigan, Kentucky and elsewhere, voters sent a strong, unequivocal message that they demand reproductive rights by passing state ballot measures to protect abortion access and defeating measures to restrict or eliminate abortion rights.
Safer passage for wildlife. A longawaited state-of-the-art bridge over the 101 Freeway at Liberty Canyon that will offer mountain lions and other creatures safe passage across a treacherous roadway broke ground this year. State lawmakers also adopted the Safe Roads and Wildlife Protection Act, which requires the California Department of Transportation to create more crossings where needed when the agency builds or improves highways.
Hope for homelessness and housing. Three events this year may together transform L.A.’s fight against homelessness and housing affordability: The election of Bass, the creation of a new county agency to preserve and build affordable housing, and the victory of Measure ULA on the city’s Nov. 8 ballot, which will raise millions of dollars each year for affordable housing.