Thursday, April 28, 2011

Proposals for Sustainability in Skagit County

Project Manager for Envision Skagit -Kirk Johnson - welcomed about 50 members of the general public to a presentation at the Lincoln Center on April 28th.  This was the latest in over a half dozen community meetings Envision Skagit 2060 Community Outreach has held since the beginning of 2011.
The best attended meeting was held this week in Mt Vernon. The discussions were held in Spanish.  Obviously our Latino neighbors care about the sustainable development of their adopted communities.

Senior Resident Fellow for Sustainable Development and Environmental Policy Urban Land Institute in Washington D.C.    Mr. McMahon inspired the audience with slides of small towns around the country that had made dramatic changes in the visual appeal of their communities and subsequently their town revenues.  He had an impressive array of statistic to illustrate how aesthetic appeal is tied to the revenues of a region.    But lovely and lovable communities don’t just happen.  Town and County governments need a plan.  Without one more of Skagit county will look like Aurora Blvd in North Seattle (pictured )
and less like Fairhaven and La Conner.  Ed McMahon posed the rhetorical question with many slides of similar locals to compare: “Where are people more likely to hang out and spend money”.   He believes that with a development plan we will have the courage to say “no” to what we don’t want because we can simultaneous say “yes” to what we do want as our area expands and redevelops to accommodate a growing population.   McMahon encourages us to not to “let the multinational corporations bully us into letting them construct cheap boxes”.  His slides showed how towns across the country encouraged, cajoled and insisted that famous brands like McDonald, Loews & Target locate in restored historic structures or build smaller places with architectural designs that complimented the town plan.  We need to rethink our zoning and transportation so our lands are not totally paved over.

Ed McMahon spoke  quickly to put forth his many ideas about how to change our approach to zoning and land development.  Fortunately his slides were clear and easier to absorb than a thousand words.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Organic Trade Association Conference April 6-7.

Last Tuesday at HQ the Skagit Democrats Sustainability & Environment Committee Chairman Steve Crider reported back to members about his successful trip to the other Washington in early April. Steve attended the policy conference held by the Organic Trade Association (OTA). Although Wash DC was abuzz with tea baggers, lobbyist and those set on cutting spending and taxes, it attests to the importance of organic farmers to our health and economy that most of their requests were kept in the budget. Steve worked on the OTA’s agenda by visiting the Wash DC staffs of our Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and 2nd Congressional District Representative Rick Larsen. He also attended the meeting held by Deputy Administrator Suzanne Heinen of the Foreign Agricultural Services to promote trade in organic products.

While organic crops are a small percentage of the national food production, organic products have been a rapidly growing source of revenue and employment for almost every State in the Union including Western Washington. While revenues for conventional farm products have grown by 0.6% last year, organic farm products have grown by 16% to become a 29 billion dollar industry nationwide. Revenues for the Skagit Valley are about 12 million. The state of Washington has 1077 certified organic operations.

Two major concerns of the organic farm products industry being addressed by the trade association are regulation and enforcement of organic certification which is essential to the survival of the industry. The Organic industry also perceives a threat from organic seeds polluted by pollen from Monsanto’s GMO crops. Court challenges and changes in legislation will be needed to mitigate this threat.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Labor Union Rally in Stanwood Draws Support

Stanwood Democrats attended a  Rally for Labor Union Rights along Rt 532 across from Twin City Foods. Leonard Kelly of the Teamsters Union read a letter of support from Organized Labor in Egypt. The Egyptians told us not to give up.  We also enjoyed the signs of support from the cars and trucks driving by Saturday Mr. Kelly told me 12,000 people turned up in Olympia in support of Labor.