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February 22, 2005

Environmental Lobbying Day

Last Thursday, environmental groups from around the state provided an opportunity for citizen lobbyists to talk to their legislators about the environmental issues that matter to them.  Jim Dawson and People for Puget Sound did a great job organizing it – providing a space and food and bringing in great speakers and setting up appointments with legislators. This is the 14th year of the event and there were a record 400 people who came together to listen, learn, talk to their legislators and participate in the process.  Environmental groups have focused on four legislative priorities for this session and the day revolved around better understanding and articulating these issues:

·        High Performance Green Buildings

·        Sound Solutions: Saving Hood Canal and Puget Sound

·        Phasing Out Toxic Flame Retardants (PBDEs)

·        Cleaner Cars, Cleaner Air

Lisa_brown After an overview of the issues in the morning, State Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown and Governor Chris Gregoire spoke.  Brown began by voicing the reason for the importance of citizen lobbyists, saying that “the organized voice of the people is the counter-balance to the big money interests.”  She said that with the slim Democratic majority and Gregoire in office, environmentalists can play more offense than defense and provide an important alternative to what is going on in the other Washington.

I missed Gregoire’s talk since it was time for me to meet with my own state senator but Charlotte Smyth of Castle Rock filled me in later.  She said that she was deeply moved by what the governor said.  Gregoire very clearly integrated the need for environmental stewardship and economic benefit and talked about they work together.  The less disease, the less pollution we have to clean up, the less long-term expense for the government.  She expressed a passionate concern for the seriousness of the cause and the responsibility we have to take political action to make a difference.

I met a lot of folks at Lobbying Day, people who had been politically active all their lives, others who were relatively new at it or who were returning to activism because the times call for it. 

Tom Nivens of Poulsbo works with the Kitsap Conservation Voters to interview candidates about their environmental priorities.  He said that citizen lobbying makes a big difference.  He worked on educating Phil Rockefeller, formerly a Representative from the 23rd Legislative District and now the Senator from the 23rd, on environmental issues over time and says that Rockefeller became ever more willing to support environmental concerns as he saw that his constituents wanted that.  Nivens campaigned for the Representative who took his place, Sherry Appleton, who starts out as a firm supporter of environmental causes.

Cathy Farrar lives in the northern portion of Ballard and is in the 36th District.  She spends a lot of time outdoors.  She has just retired and wants to see what she can do about the reduction in quality of the waterways.  She is committed to fighting for better conditions for the ospreys she likes to watch nesting near the Duwamish River. 

Carol Poole of Kirkland was also here for the first time.  She said that she was very impressed with the level of organization for the event.  She really respects People for Puget Sound and what they do and finds it exciting to have a proactive agenda rather than have to always focus on harm reduction.

I spent part of my day with the dozen or so other folks from the 36th Legislative District.  We met in the morning with Senator Jeannie Kohl-Welles who was a co-sponsor of every bill we were intending to talk about so we mostly thanked her and asked what we could do, given we’re in a District with pretty supportive Legislators.  She suggested that we talk with friends, family and colleagues in other areas and ask them to write letters and visit their legislators.  She also suggested that we support the Seattle Monorail bill which is continuing to meet some resistance. 

Later we met with Nelda Griffiths, the longtime Administrative Aide for Helen Sommers.  We were not as convinced of Sommers’ support so we took some time to prepare by deciding who would speak on each of the four issues and how we could get a commitment from Sommers to vote for each of the bills.   It was good practice and we developed some skills in group lobbying.  Nelda, experienced as she is, made it seem as if Sommers would support us on everything.  We’ll monitor that. 

The rest of the team also met with an aide of Mary Lou Dickerson, also a strong support of environmental issues and co-sponsor of the four bills we were most interested in.  I took the opportunity to go back to the staging area and sit in on two educational break-out sessions so didn’t catch that.

Later in the day I went back for a Clean Cars Hearing.  Washblog did a nice job in their post on Lobby Day on this hearing.  I want to confirm that it was quite an experience.  The folks at Climate Solutions did a great job of organizing the Pro panels and anticipating the arguments of the Con panels.  The Democratic representatives did a great job asking questions to challenge the patently absurd statistics provided by the industry representatives.  It made me very proud that Washington State is in a position to let sanity proceed and made me even more determined to help elect more Democrats to the State Legislature in 2006. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 22, 2005 at 09:15 AM in Strategery | Permalink

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