Wednesday, May 17, 2006

CGF Political Breakfasts

With the wonderful support of the Peninsula Community Foundation, the Committee for Green Foothills was able to put on two "Political Breakfasts" where community members could talk with two respected community leaders about environmental issues. Below is a brief write-up on the Breakfasts, and we intend to add more information to other parts of the CGF website.

Political Breakfast: “Ethnic Diversity and Environmental Opportunity”, Tuesday April 4th, with featured speaker, Santa Clara County Supervisor Blanca Alvarado. Supervisor Alvarado talked about the importance of environmental issues to all communities, regardless of ethnicity. She referred to the statewide problem of the “fiscalization of land use” where governmental land use decisions do not further the interest of the represented communities. She discussed the proposed Santa Clara County General Plan Initiative to reduce sprawl and protect watersheds, modeled after a similar voter initiative in San Mateo County, and indicated she would likely endorse the Initiative. She discussed how Initiative supporters could get support from ethnically diverse communities by conducting outreach to churches, community centers, and non-English newspapers. She discussed how technically-challenging policy positions, such as CGF’s legal analysis showing inadequate legal compliance on restricting the increased paving-over of the County, could be tied to flooding issues with press releases and press conferences that would be read in ethnically-diverse communities. Supervisor Alvarado made recommendations for key people to contact in the Hispanic community

Following the meeting, environmental groups agreed to continue with outreach and set up a subsequent planning meeting in May.

Political Breakfast: “Water Rights and Water Wrongs: Lessons in water protection from an environmental perspective,” Tuesday, April 25th, with featured speaker Santa Clara Valley Water District Board Member Rosemary Kamei. Board Member Kamei discussed the history of the Water District and how few people understood that the Peninsula and South Bay still derive an extensive amount of their water from local groundwater sources. She discussed how groundwater overdrafting has caused serious problems and how the Water District has attempted to address them. She emphasized the success water conservation has had in recent years, keeping water demand nearly flat even as population has substantially increased in the County. She pointed out the global problem of climate change could have local environmental effects by increasing flood potential from increased sea levels and inadequate levees along the Bay, as well as reducing water supply. She emphasized the need for greater participation by the public on environmental issues. She discussed the importance of protecting local open space in the context of the County General Plan Initiative, but has not yet decided whether to endorse it. Other elected officials in the audience, Larry Wilson of the Water District and Jim Foran of the Open Space Authority, added their comments.

Board Member Kamei challenged environmentalists to increase public participation in water protection, and suggested environmentalists turn each April into an “Environmental Awareness Month” that culminates in Earth Day. Many audience members participate actively in environmental organizations, and following up these suggestions will be an important next step. The legal issue of impervious surfaces paving over the County was also discussed as one that will be further pursued, especially as CGF first analyzed this issue through a Water District Grant, and has had further opportunities to publicize it at Political Breakfasts sponsored by a subsequent grant from Peninsula Community Foundation.

PCF was expressly mentioned and thanked for its sponsorship at both Political Breakfasts, and in supporting materials.

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