SPEECH President's Message
by Janine Gates
Over the next twenty years or so, Thurston County's population is projected to be more than double what it is now. Where are people going to go?
I'm an optimist, and I am sensing a cohesiveness starting to occur as more constructive discussions about growth rumble throughout the region. Recently, I interviewed new Thurston County Commissioner Karen Valenzuela for another local publication and the conversation was heavy on impact fees. The bottom line is we need to make it less desirable for developers to build out in the county, and encourage greater density within the cities.
My own understanding of growth and sustainability issues has benefited tremendously from the last three climate action forums hosted by The Evergreen State College. These well-facilitated, early Saturday morning forums have generated a truly unprecedented level of participation from city, county, and community leaders. Just getting these folks in the same room at the same time in a non-threatening environment is a success.
Our county commissioners, and city representatives, along with community members have gathered to address issues of common interest around climate change. They've worked at fostering discussions regarding carbon regulation, financing the local government switch to clean energy, and local transportation issues. These forums have been co-sponsored by the Thurston Climate Action Team and Thurston County Progressive Network.
Meeting on neutral ground to find common ground. What a concept. Let's keep it up.
It's good that these conversations are happening now: a kickoff to update Olympia's Comprehensive Plan will be scheduled sometime this fall. As Keith Stahley, city community planning director, mentioned the other day at a meeting, the current Comprehensive Plan contains only three pages in the Environment chapter. Yikes! You know we'll have a lot more say on our environmental priorities this time around. We have our work cut out for us.
Conversations also continue around downtown housing. Providing housing downtown means people will spend more time and money downtown. Of course, housing needs to include all economic abilities. How do we generate local financing opportunities? We have no shortage of underdeveloped areas downtown that could accommodate the kind of housing we really want to see, and need.
On June 9, various downtown strategies will be presented to the city council by a consulting firm selected to assist the city in its efforts to synthesize current downtown plans and offer solutions. I think we're on the verge of progress. Critical conversations are happening now, so come add your ideas and your voice!
On another note, many people noticed that our last issue, "Farming for Social Change," was a nearly double-the-content issue. Thank you for noticing and your continued membership support! SPEECH volunteers love producing the Green Pages. We would greatly appreciate your help with distribution. Please consider adopting a distribution location or keeping your eyes on one of our green distribution news racks (those formally belonging to the Sitting Duck) somewhere in the Thurston County community. If you'd like more information, please contact SPEECH.
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