Environmentalist Spotlight: Councilmember Gabriel Quinto

Environmentalist Spotlight: Councilmember Gabriel Quinto

October marks Filipino American History Month, a celebration of the rich history, culture, and contributions of the largest Asian American community in California. As part of our celebrations this month, MCE is proud to recognize El Cerrito City Councilmember Gabriel Quinto. Councilmember Quinto is a former board member of the San Francisco Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club, a current member of the El Cerrito City Council, and the first Filipino-American mayor of El Cerrito.

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Can you tell me about your work as an elected official in El Cerrito?

I was elected in December 2014, and this is my second term in office. I was excited to help the El Cerrito community join MCE, and was an alternate on the MCE Board of Directors. I also served on the Board of the San Francisco Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club, prioritizing climate change and championing renewable energy in our communities.

In my roles, I am looking at what we must do to prepare for climate change and rising sea levels in our communities. Many folks in El Cerrito commute to their jobs, which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector. I want my work to show that our community is serious about looking into the future of transportation and weaning ourselves off fossil fuels.

How did you become involved in the environmental movement?

I grew up in El Cerrito, which has always been known as a “green city.” I got started in the environmental movement through volunteering. Especially as a Filipino American, I wanted to make sure our community did the right thing when it came to the environment. After many catastrophes, like typhoons, floods, earthquakes, and rising sea levels back in the Philippines, I volunteered with the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) to present hundreds of signatures advocating for an end to the use of coal in the Philippines. We delivered our petition to the Consul General of the Philippines in San Francisco, urging the government to begin transitioning to renewable energy and away from harmful fossil fuels.

How has your experience as a Filipino-American impacted your work?

As a Filipino-American elected official, I believe it is my responsibility to increase representation of our community in public service. Filipino-Americans are one of the largest minority communities in California, so it’s very important for us to show some muscle when it comes to joining boards and commissions and running for office. Last year, as president of the Asian Pacific Islander Caucus of the League of California Cities, I worked to create a pipeline for more people of Asian descent to run for election across California. As civic leaders, we need not only to represent our communities but also to make the necessary changes to save our environment and make sure people have access to clean air, water, and energy.

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