On Saturday evening, from 8:30 to 9:30, many people in Spokane joined Mayor Mary Verner, the City of Spokane and millions worldwide to turn out their lights for one hour for a display of international cooperation towards climate change solutions and conservation. Near the entrance of City Hall in downtown Spokane, 40 or so people gathered to discuss this issue and more. By 9:45, those still around probably wondered what the hell just happened.
If you read the Spokesman story or the nearly 100 comments following it, you get the sense that ONE rowdy environmental protester caused a whole lot of commotion - enough so to bring police and "high drama" on an otherwise pretty peaceful Saturday night. Or you might think that a group of "counter-protesters" nearly "came to blows" with global warming deniers or that they came packing a heavy artillery of laser pointers to blind the opposition.
Let us be the voice of reason in all of this and tell you the only thing blinding on Saturday evening was anger, stupidity and the lack of critical thinking.
We know so because we were there, on the sensible side, and this is what we'll remember.
Sure, there were instances that we're sure neither side is particularly proud of, but there was one instance that we ARE proud of. During a particularly heated portion of the evening, shortly after 8:30 as Mike Fagan stood atop a UN flag and began reading aloud a prepared speech about UN conspiracies and sustainability being a farce, one of the full-on leather clad Tea Party protesters got awfully defensive about the ONE laser pointer that a certain someone on our side had. That Tea Party protester then preceded to use a wooden poster holder to strike the man who "most aggressively confronted" him in the face, drawing blood. In response, he did not return physical violence just verbal aggression. Given the situation, we can't imagine many people taking that road.
Meanwhile, upwards to 20 people repeatedly interrupted Mike Fagan's slandering speech against the Mayor, not just one "environmental protester".
There are stories to last a while from Saturday night, from Tea Party protesters running the gamut of issues from abortion to obesity and gun control to freedom to the repeated and completely inaccurate claim that the city's Sustainability Action Plan is costing the city money. Which is inaccurate because the sustainability action plan was never budgeted, however the Tea Party folks were sticking to their guns that Mayor Verner lied to us on this one, with Fagan claiming that it was costing taxpayers "millions of dollars." But you know what - rarely did the issue of climate change and energy conservation come up. Isn't that why we were there?
For our part, there were some 20 books laid out on the curb for anyone to read - books like Peak Everything from Richard Heinberg to A People's History of the United States from Howard Zinn. We were ready to educate and ready to think critically. But most importantly, we were there to simply support the Mayor who wants a future for Spokane, a future that begins with common sense. We were there because we like Spokane enough that we want to sustain the reasons that keep us here - simply put the quality of life and the natural environment. What's so wrong with that? We heard repeatedly that sustainability infringes on freedom - however, the idea of enduring and remaining diverse sounds pretty free to us. Maybe the other side was confused, maybe the expectation to achieve many things with one word got the best of them.
At the end of the evening we walked away feeling proud to support a great cause peacefully and respectively and encouraged by the youth turnout who simply want common sense to prevail. And as one commenter put it, "we hold our heads high and wait for small changes to amount to great ones."
Mild winter: great for your bike commuting, horrible for your local farmer. Just how bad are the low snowpack levels in our mountains? Governors in Washington, Idaho and Oregon are considering drought declarations for certain parts of their states according to a story by KUOW.org. And if spring rains don't produce water flows necessary for a prosperous growing season, declaring a drought could at least secure some financial aid flow. Read more about this HERE.
Smart spending, sustainable infrastructure, and a good reputation - Portland does it again. Wouldn't it be great if in a few months we were able to look back at the recent string of pedestrian and cyclist deaths and our work on Complete Streets and marvel at how far we've come? Wouldn't it be great to read our mayor giving an op-ed to the S-R where she says things like, "the more we can successfully develop the skills and solutions to make our city more sustainable, the more we'll be able to sell those skills and solutions to other cities and regions, building our economy and our reputation." ? Yes and yes, and maybe we're not far off. The preceeding quote was from an op-ed Portland mayor Sam Adams wrote in The Oregonian last week - read more HERE.
Montana cashing in on coal. A good friend of ours JP Kemmick, who among many other things writes on a blog called It's Getting Hot In Here: Dispatches from the Youth Climate Movement had a great post last week about Montana cashing in on coal mining and about the reaction from a high school group from Missoula who tried to protest the deal. “For what price are you willing to sell a piece of your children’s future?” Missoula Big Sky High School student Allison Lawrence asked the Land Board... “We are the ones who must live with the emissions (with) which you leave our great state.” Read Kemmick's post HERE, and read the story about the debate from the Billings Gazette HERE.
The return of light rail. Recently DTE had the pleasure of taking the Seattle light rail to and from Sea-Tac Airport/Downtown and you couldn’t of picked better timing: Right now, as our regional transportation agencies consider an electric bus rapid transit line, we're asking what gives? Why not just go for light rail?
Image courtesy of lnland Rail.
K.C. Traver, board president of Inland Rail, had a great editorial in The Spokesman. He was on The Light Rail Steering Committee that studied high-capacity transit between Spokane and Liberty Lake. It contains some important background information:
The committee’s detailed analysis indicated a 15.5-mile, 14-station light rail system operating on single track with 15-minute frequency could be built for $263 million, an average cost of about $17 million per mile. Even more important, the committee felt the system would serve as a powerful economic engine for the region…
…The Light Rail Steering Committee was subsequently disbanded in December 2006 despite conceiving the lowest- cost-per-mile light rail system in the United States. The low cost was possible because it was based on a modest system that met the region’s needs but which was planned for expansion as the population grows. This strategy should prove much cheaper than waiting as Seattle did, until the cost of their system, now under construction, is more than $180 million per mile. Moreover, construction costs are expected to grow much faster than the region’s population, so the relative cost per individual will increase over time.
His argument is that bus rapid transit doesn’t provide the economic boost that light rail does. STA is in discussion for securing land in the University District and Spokane Valley; the electric bus system will cost 1/6 of light rail.
Also, check out some awesome light rail simulations for Spokane HERE.