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Lucille Roybal-Allard: 1941—: U.S. Congresswoman

Brought Grass-roots Groups Together

Some political observers wondered whether RoybalAllard was too calm and quiet to put up an effective fight when necessary. Being able to bring people together on issues was one thing, after all, but sometimes it was important to take strong stands. Fellow Congressman Xavier Becerra remarked to Hispanic Magazine, "She's very good at knowing when to step forward on issues [that will result in] progress at the end of the day." Soon after her term began, Roybal-Allard was given an opportunity to show her effectiveness. Her first big challenge was the proposed construction of a state prison in a residential area of East Los Angeles. The residents, mainly Mexican-Americans, were understandably opposed to having a prison in their back yards, but the project had the support of the governor, George Deukmajian. Roybal-Allard, with help from other local politicians and grass-roots community organizations, fought against the prison. The fight took six years, and it was another governor, Pete Wilson, who agreed to shelve the prison plan. But the battle also gave Roybal-Allard the opportunity to show her constituents the importance of local involvement and the power of each voice. She orchestrated the various groups, but when they achieved victory she credited the hard work of the community, a community that she noted at the time had been "once viewed as powerless."

Another major challenge that Roybal-Allard faced was a fight to keep a toxic waste incinerator from being built in her district. Once again she called on the strength of grass-roots organizations, and once again community interests prevailed. Roybal-Allard then sponsored legislation to ensure that no toxic incinerator could be built or expanded without an environmental impact study of the region. Her skill at mobilizing the community and pushing through the legislation won her the admiration of environmentalists, and the Sierra Club awarded her its first-ever California Environmental Achievement Award.

Roybal-Allard focused her energies on helping the disadvantaged. She drafted legislation that increased protection of women against domestic violence and sexual harassment. Thanks to legislation she introduced, California became the first state to enact legislation against lawyers who engage in sexual misconduct with their clients. Under the law, the California State Bar Association must take disciplinary action against any lawyer found guilty of such misconduct. She was honored by several women's organizations for her efforts, and the California chapter of the National Organization for Women named her Legislator of the Year in 1991. In part for her work in trying to increase economic opportunities in poorer neighborhoods, Hispanic Business magazine placed her on its list of "100 Professionals" in 1992.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Dudley Randall Biography - A Poet from an Early Age to Ferrol Sams Jr BiographyLucille Roybal-Allard: 1941—: U.S. Congresswoman Biography - No Interest In Holding Office, Brought Grass-roots Groups Together, Moved To The National Stage