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How About a "State Bank of Washington"?

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If the legislature acts next year, the State of Washington could join the "Move Your Money" campaign that individuals have been participating in over this last year, in this case moving state money from deposits in the large banks to deposits in our own newly formed Bank of Washington.

Last session Rep. Bob Hasegawa (11th LD) sponsored HB 3162 to create a state owned bank of Washington.  Co-sponsors are representatives Zach Hudgins (11th), Maralyn Chase (32nd), Geoff Simpson (47th), Mary Lou Dickerson (36th) and Roger Goodman (45th).  There was no time to address the bill last session but this upcoming session could be the time to pass this  timely bill, after which it would go to the voters for approval.

HB 3162 makes provision for a state-owned bank that would be overseen by the State Treasurer, allow the State Treasurer to fund the bank with state funds and provide the state bank with the same types of authority to operate as a private bank chartered by the state.

Washington State is one of the only states that constitutionally does not allow the state to lend money. As a result, it is also one of the states that is the least effective in providing economic development support, which becomes quite apparent in a deep recession such as the one we are currently experiencing.  This means that in additional to passage of the bill by the legislature, the voters will then need to amend the state constitution to allow a state institution such as this new state-owned bank to loan money.

Modeled after the Bank of North Dakota

BND.jpg

The bank is modeled after the Bank of North Dakota (BND), which is the only state-owned bank in the nation. BND was established by legislative action in 1919 to promote agriculture, commerce and industry in North Dakota. BND operates as a bankers' bank, partnering with private banks to loan money to farmers, schools and small businesses and purchasing municipal bonds from public institutions. After a few rocky decades, BND has bi-partisan support in a state that has voted for the Republican nominee in each of the last 10 presidential elections. The current governor, Republican John Hoeven, was the President of BND before becoming governor.

The Bank acts as a funding resource in partnership with other financial institutions, economic development groups and guaranty agencies. During the Depression, the Bank held mortgages for farmers that would otherwise have lost their farms. It allowed them to live on the farms and then buy them back when the good years returned and they could pay back what they owed. During this current recession, North Dakota has the lowest unemployment in the country (3.6% vs. 8.9% for Washington State) and the BND is credited with being a large part of that.

Leveraging Public Resources for the Benefit of the State

There are two interlocking reasons why a Bank of Washington would be a great investment in our state. 1) The debt service on the money that the state deposits in this bank would stay here rather than going to the large banks, none of which are local. 2) The money deposited in the Bank can be used and leveraged to provide low or no-interest student loans, access to capital for small businesses, investment in public infrastructure like roads, water/sewer, schools and housing, and for targeting economic development initiatives.

To elaborate on #1 above, the amount of state money spent on debt service, Ellen Brown, author of "Web of Debt" writes at Yes Magazine in March, 2009 that she estimated that various governmental institutions in the state of Michigan, i.e. the state, cities, counties, state universities, etc., paid about $1 billion in interest and at the same time had a $1 billion deficit. Hm. Wonder how we could better use that interest money?

Next Steps for the Bill

HB 3162 was given a preliminary hearing in March in front of the Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee.  Hasegawa is working to finalize the content of the bill this summer and to work with other legislators to obtain additional, bipartisan support. During the fall, there will be public sessions to raise awareness around the state.

If the bill is passed by both houses of the legislature and signed by the Governor, it will require approval of the voters of the proposed amendments to Articles VIII and XII of the state constitution, allowing the state legislature to create a state bank that may make decisions to lend, borrow, and invest state monies.

Next Steps for Organizers

  1. Go to Representative Hasegawa's website to be added to Bob's state-owned bank stakeholder list and/or to watch a short video about the BND.
  2. Order a longer PBS video to learn more about how and why the bank came to be, the hurdles encountered, and the current extraordinary role that the bank plays in the economic vitality of North Dakota today, go to Prairie Public's website.
  3. Talk about this bill to everyone you think might be interested and/or show the movie above. This bill will be good for the state, will provide support for serious economic development activities and will be a great way to get people engaged in improving our quality of life here in Washington State.
  4. Ask your legislators about their thoughts on creating a State-owned Bank in Washington. Share your thoughts with them.

Robert Sapolsky: What Makes Humans Unique

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Six Minutes to Midnite

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Doomsday Clock Symbol.jpgThe scientists at the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists set the hand back on the Doomsday Clock from 5 minutes to midnite to 6 minutes to midnite.  That's big.  The Atomic Scientists was an organization established in 1946 by the scientists who had been responsible for building the bombs that destroyed Nagasaki and Hiroshima.  The Bulletin scientists are aiming for a world free of nuclear weapons.  The minute hand hovered at one or two minutes to midnite for most the decades of the cold war.  The scientists moved the hands now because they saw signs of cooperation amongst leaders of the nuclear states to reduce arsenals and secure all nuclear bomb-making material.  In addition, also for the first time ever, "industrialized and developing countries alike are pledging to limit climate-changing gas emissions that could render our planet nearly uninhabitable".  

They go on:

These unprecedented steps are signs of a growing political will to tackle the two gravest threats to civilization--the terror of nuclear weapons and runaway climate change. This hopeful state of world affairs leads the boards of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists--which include 19 Nobel laureates--to move the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock back from five to six minutes to midnight. By shifting the hand back from midnight by only one additional minute, we emphasize how much needs to be accomplished, while at the same time recognizing signs of collaboration among the United States, Russia, the European Union, India, China, Brazil, and others on nuclear security and on climate stabilization.
I can understand why people are frustrated with President Obama.  What I always say to people is "Watch what is happening two and three layers down, the things that don't get all that much press."  It takes years to push changes out far enough to make a difference.  This is an example of what is happening in every agency, some faster than others.  There has been little in the news about this cooperation between Obama and other world leaders, but clearly, it is occurring and occurring because of who Obama is, his style of leadership and his commitment to what he called the most important world issue - securing and limiting nuclear weapons.  

The post at DailyKos, by Plutonium Page, goes on to ask Richard Rhodes, an "atomic historian" of the highest order, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" about why, if this is so important the hands were not set back more.   His answer:

The real offender in terms of nuclear arsenals, without any question, is the United States of America. That's something we could do something about. I know the President is trying to move in that direction.
Plutonium Page goes on to say that there is already tremendous push-back from the atomic-industrial complex because they will lose money.  They will be yelling that we need these bombs for our safety.  Just watch them.  If the healthcare reform campaign has taught me anything it is that the forces arrayed against us the people are ferocious.  And they are not accustomed to losing.  


The Tragedy of Haiti

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Haitian Girl Planting Tree.jpgNoam Chomsky writes about the history of Haiti.  In the book, "Year 501", written in 1993, he discusses the interactions between the US businesses/people who made money off keeping the Haitians from ruling their own country, US Governmental actions and proclamations, and the Press. 

OMG!  This is so critical and so depressing.  We interfered so consistently, making money for companies that worked hand and glove with the worst sort of rulers - over and over.  Would we be doing it now were there a Republican Administration in power?  How much of the imperialist behavior is going to happen with an Obama Administration?  Has there been enough time to get the worse Bush/Cheney people and policies out the door?  How much more pressure will Obama be under from our Shadow Elite?

Then breathe. . . . And be reminded of how much it matters that we have Democrats in the White House and in Congress.  Consider what it would be like if we had the same set of bungler-thieves in the White House that we had in the previous 8 years?

Luckily, Chomsky is far more staid and history-like than I have been here.  And there are footnotes.  It's very timely reading. 



Why I Like This White House

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Years ago, back when I thought I was going to be a novelist, I had a writing teacher whose great rules of writing also served as great rules in life.  "Put your characters under pressure," he'd say.  "That's the only way you can see what they're made of."  

Well, sometimes life puts us under pressure, especially those people who are in the public light.  I've been impressed by the thoughtful responses of many leaders, Obama and Bill Clinton among them, to the earthquake aftermath in Haiti.  And on the other hand, we see the responses of people like Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson, people seemingly without a shred of compassion.  These are the times I am particularly glad to have Obama as President, to know that we have a government run by people who want to govern, who want to do what is right, who are connected to the world community.  

Robert Gibbs.jpgHere's a story about the way that Robert Gibbs, Obama's Press Secretary, responded to questions from the press about Limbaugh and Robertson from TPM.  He said the remarks by both men were "stupid".  Here's what Gibbs said about Pat Robertson's comments about how the Haitians had sworn a pact to the devil 200 years ago when they were overthrowing the French, the only successful slave rebellion in history  by the way.  

Asked about that today, Gibbs said:

It never ceases to amaze that in times of amazing human suffering somebody says something that could be so utterly stupid. But it like clockwork happens with some regularity.

Limbaugh had a rash of stupid things to say, pretty much all focused on President Obama - like the administration would use Red Cross contributions to gather information about donors.  Or use the contributions for other causes,  Or that Obama was quick to focus on Haiti in order to boost his credibility with Black Americans.  

Again, Gibbs:

In times of great crisis, there are always people that say really stupid things. I don't know how anybody could sit where he does, having enjoyed the success that he has, and not feel some measure of sorrow for what has happened in Haiti. I think to use the power of your pulpit to try to convince those not to help their brothers and sisters is sad.

I like how the White House has responded to this terrible natural disaster in Haiti.  And I think the American people will as well.  This is the best of who we are.

What Have We Learned from this Difficult Year?

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I've been saying that this year has been a brutal awakening for those many of us who have worked for years to get a great Democratic President and a reasonable Democratic majority in both houses of Congress.  I expected that we would get a good Healthcare Reform bill,  a Climate Change bill, a Bank Regulation bill, an Immigration bill and a couple other progressive bills by now.  Instead, we are close to getting a so-so Healthcare bill plus a very difficult 2010 election cycle that may end all hope of getting much else done after this year.  

The HCR fight has made clear that we are dealing with an entire minority party that will not play ball.  At all.  Plus a dozen or so of the most unpleasant Democrats at the national level I've ever seen.  The progressive blogs have made the entire process more transparent to people willing to pay attention so we have seen the egotistic, greedy, and/or overly cautious responses from key Democrats to the immense needs of our time.  It has not been pretty and sometimes makes it hard to want to pay attention.

What it has taught me - when I am not frustrated - is that what we are up against is so much more interests ingrained and complex a system than I ever imagined possible.  Apparently I'm not alone.  A couple weeks ago, the Campaign for America's Future co-directors talked about what they have learned from the frustrations of this year in government and made a YouTube out of it.

Here are the four lessons that Robert Borosage and Roger Hickey shared that they have learned in the battle we are fighting for progressive change.  

  1. Change is brutal, and will always be resisted by powerful entrenched forces.
  2. No matter how popular a reform idea is, like the public option, it still faces the buzzsaw of the United States Senate.
  3. Progressives cannot wash their hands of the political process. We have to organize more, independent of the political parties
  4. This is still the best opportunity in 30 years for progressive reform.
These "lessons" make sense to me.  There is a lot to do if we are really going to take this country back.  We have just begun and my suggestion is that we organize more at the local level.  Apparently all these national phone calls are only moderately effective

Taking the Blinders Off - "Censoring Science"

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Censoring Science.jpg"Once those blinders are off, it's pretty near impossible to put them back on", my friend Sally Giovine-Kerr used to say when someone of her many, many friends or acquaintances had one of those "aha" moments about the role of women, or the Vietnam War, or race issues.  Sally of course was one of those people who helped pull those blinders away, sometimes gently, other times rather painfully.  She asked questions and then she listened to the answers and often commented and took what she heard back to what we call politics.  She brought up issues others wouldn't.  If she'd been of the right age now, she might well have been a rather outrageous blogger.

Sally asked very personal questions of people and they would more often than not reach into themselves to give her an answer that carried a truth that surprised that person as well.  She connected dots for people, in the language we use today, dots between the personal and the political.  The thing was, Sally really cared about the answers she got from people.  She wanted to know how a couple resolved differences or how it was to be the first woman working as an able bodied seaman in the Washington State Ferry System or to be an 11-year old whose parents were fighting.  Sally wanted to hear their answers.  She also had astounding stories.  She talked too about things I was not accustomed to hearing out of the mouths of any adults I knew - like about how it had been to be a thinking, political person in the fifties during the McCarthy Era.  She and her first husband, who hung out with the cool Democratic couples in Olympia, were able only to talk with one couple in Oregon, of the many dozens of people they counted as friends, about national politics, about the HUAC Committee and the many people who were losing their jobs for the wrong reasons.  For me it sounded awful but that time was ancient history and was not going to be repeated.  I came of age in the sixties when it looked for some period of time like we'd really changed the world.  We'd learned from the McCarthy era.  We had a stronger press and wouldn't allow anything like that to happen again.
Joseph McCarthy2.jpg
Ha! I've thought about those remembered conversations and my dismissals many times in the last few years, forty years after a time here in America when people were so scared that many could not talk honestly to even their friends about the craziness that was going on in our capital.  And far more people simply didn't pay attention to it.

I just finished reading a deeply distressing book, "Censoring Science: Inside the Political Attack on Dr. James Hansen and the TRUTH of Global Warming" a new book by Mark Bowen that ripped off my blinders a couple different ways.  The story covered two different issues - rather awkwardly actually - but each topic was covered so well that I forgave the author for that lack of smoothness.  The first story is about the spreading censorship of scientists in the Bush/Cheney years, brilliant researchers and professors who worked on any aspect of climate change, whether it be oceanographers at NOAA or regulators at the EPA or the researchers at NASA who were now being prevented from talking directly about their research to the public or drawing the obvious implications about policy going forward.  Dr. James Hansen, NASA's leading climate expert, the primary example, was being harassed about providing a standard set of facts about the average temperature of the earth's atmosphere that had been provided to the press for thirty years.   This was 2005, the year that broke all previous records and threatened to make people take climate change seriously.  All of a sudden in the Bush/Cheney years it was "too policy-oriented" and there were public affairs "minders" at each agency that made it difficult for scientists, some very well-known, to get the message about global warming and climate change out clearly to the public and the policy-makers. 

James Hansen.jpgThe second is the actual set of observations and recommendations that the well-known Dr. James Hansen was writing and talking about anyway.  Hansen is the man who has been accurately talking about the big picture of climate change for over 30 years and whose predictions have been chillingly accurate.  It was Hansen's difficulties in getting his message out that inspired this book, which then widened to include scientists from other related agencies that might also be stepping the on the toes of the old energy corporations.  It was a widespread phenomena during the Bush years, that only got worse and worse until huge amounts of the budgets for basic Earth Sciences programs, data acquiring programs that obtain the raw temperature data from satellites around the earth were begin systematically shut down for lack of funds.  Of course there were few fingerprints on the censorship activities that led back to a common administration source or policy.  Reagan and Bush Sr. had done some of the same but the Bush/Cheney administration made it frighteningly systematic.

The book is well worth reading.  The future of the planet may well depend on understanding how to prevent this censoring of science from ever occurring again.  


Expanding Civic Engagement

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The spirit of involvement in government looks it might be spreading from campaigns to monitoring the sausage-making and to helping out with governing.  We would clearly not be as far as we are on Healthcare Reform without a huge amount of pressure from the nurses and doctors and Labor and the blogs and new progressive infrastructure. 

Here especially, Mike McGinn is working to get us Seattleites involved in this process of getting Seattle moving.  I was at Jeannie Kohnl-Welles' annual 36th LD post-election analysis and heard from Gov. Christine Gregoire, State Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, county executive-elect Dow Constantine, and newly elected Seattle mayor Mike McGinn.  Reuven Carlyle served as host in the absence of Kohl-Welles, who is taking longer recovering from surgery than expected.

The rest of those folks were paying attention to McGinn, the guy who won despite them, the guy who won while being outspent 3:1 because he had a great team of mostly volunteers and they kicked butt.  The other elected paid much attention to him, going out of their way to welcome him, talking quite earnestly with him before and after the panel.  It was great fun to watch and felt very genuine.  He's showing them that it is possible to do governing differently.  We can make use of the desire that so many of us have to make a difference.  And you can win doing it that way.  
 
It is an exciting time to be an active Democrat, to watch as people pay more attention to the issues and are more willing to put some effort into understanding more complex issues.  This is hugely important.  Once people will pay more attention, to go below the headlines, they will vote more progressively.  
 
I was bust-my-buttons proud of us in this latest election.  The people of this state got it so right, at least on the statewide issues.  Having those two statewide votes on, 71 and 1033, was nerve-wracking but it sure brought out the numbers of determined progressives in Spokane and Bellingham and Pierce, Snohomish and King counties.  And what margins! The 53/47 approval of R-71, which affirmed the law that the legislator had passed called "Everything But Marriage", a larger margin than anyone expected.  Only 8 counties approved so clearly progressives were out in force in those more liberal, (all west of the mountains) counties.  But the margins that voted down Tim Eyman's latest and worst initiative were impressive.  58/42 with 25 counties approving.  Wow! 

In King County, and especially in Seattle, we voted overwhelmingly for Dow Constantine over Susan Hutchison - by 59/41, a whopping 18% percentage points.   

Seattle's election, close enough to take a couple of days to count brings us to the most interesting and hope-inspiring election win since Barack Obama's win last fall.  Buoyed by a good team, a huge number of young volunteer supporters and McGinn's increasing ability to talk with and listen to the voters and then to articulate what he was learning, Mike McGinn won this election by 51/48.

Then he immediately names a diverse transition team with some heavyweight activists.  And asked anyone who wanted to write and give them some advice.

Change is coming.


 

Infidel - A Fascinating Look at Women and Islam

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Infidel.jpg

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a remarkable woman.  She first came to the attention of most people when it was clear that a political killing in the Netherlands in 2004 was a direct attack on her as an outspoken female emigrant Muslim who had recently been elected to Parliament.  The filmmaker Theo van Gogh was violently killed on the street, almost unheard of in that country, by a Moroccan man who left a note addressed to Hirsi Ali on van Gogh's chest, pinned there by one of the knives used to kill him.  He and Hirsi Ali had just made a film together about the horrors that Islamic women face simply by being women in a culture that often treats women like chattel still.

 

Hirsi Ali had observed and been at the butt end of the miseries common to the majority of east African women from her childhood to the time when she fled an unwanted marriage and took refuge in Amsterdam.  The book "Infidel" is a book about her remarkable life, the slow and tortuous reevaluation of her religion, her fierce fighting for refugee women's rights and her openness to a foreign history and culture that continually amazed her.

 

From Somalia to the Netherlands

 

She had been born in Somalia to a well-known father who was an early rebel leader living outside the country most of the time and a mother increasingly embittered at having to raise her three children by herself with no education or skills.  The family lived in Saudi Arabia, Kenya and Ethiopia as well, giving the young Ayaan a view of Islamic societies from several angles as she and her brother and sister struggled to adapt to each new school.  It is an astounding and troublesome look in to a society we rarely get to observe first-hand.

 

At age 24, Hirsi Ali arrived in the Netherlands as a refugee from Germany where she was supposed to be waiting to go to Canada to join her new husband.  He was a very conventional, proper Muslim man whom her father had arranged for her to marry after knowing him for only two hours.  He was of the proper lineage though and had a good job in Canada.  Why not?  After spending a limited amount of time with him in Kenya before he left for Canada, Hirsi Ali knew she did not want to spend her life trapped like almost all the women she knew. 

 

When she arrived in Germany, she sought information about Europe from family members there and then took a train to Amsterdam alone with only a small satchel of clothes and papers to "visit" another family member.  She sought and gained refugee status and slowly made use of the generous welfare and education benefits to go back to school, ultimately going for a PhD to study political science.  She was most interested in understanding why Europe had done so well while much of the rest of world was struggling.


More after the fold.

 

Steffen, McGinn and the Coming Seismic Shift in Seattle

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As I walked up the aisle after listening to the second of two evenings with Alex Steffen, I knew I was witnessing a moment that led to the future. A kind looking woman about my age remarked that she'd been to listen to Abby Hoffman back in the day and felt this evening, like that one years ago, was a milestone in the nation's history.

It was like that, people talking to strangers, wanting to share notes, get confirmation that others felt like they too had bumped into the new, new thing, that there is hope.

Alex and His Story

Thumbnail image for Alex Steffen2.jpg

Alex Steffen is a bright Seattle light who is more known in other places, I'd guess, than here, at least until now.It might be an age thing. No one I talked to about going to this had heard of him.I'd read WorldChanging.org a few times so I at least knew who he was although I hadn't been a blog groupie. I suspect I will be from now on out. Steffen co-founded the site and edits it and the 600-page book by the same name, "Worldchanging". He is this era's Buckminster Fuller, alive in an era where the technology can move things along more quickly and in a time where we have a huge need for people to articulate what's happening and then lead us in the right direction. We haven't much time and there is much resistance.

Luckily, this man knows how to tell a story.And it's a catchy one - the story he is telling is the story about our survival as a species. He gives us facts about how the world is now (on that "worst case scenario" path, basically) and about what needs to happen to forgo certain calamity. Think I'm joking?Afraid not. His talks were both sobering and, strangely, optimistic - an analysis of the state of the physical, cultural and political earth right now, the slippery slope we are headed down and the "bright green" options that we can choose to pull ourselves out of what would otherwise be total collapse. He provides a goal and a timeline - drop our net per capita greenhouse gas emissions to nothing by 2030.We need a model of how to live that is climate-neutral, non-toxic, closed loop and ecologically restorative .That model has to be up and running in the developed world by 2030 and then widely adopted globally by 2050.

That will wake one up. And, the world is listening to him.Steffen is speaking twice in Copenhagen, once to the world's mayors, the other to businesspeople.

Women's Rights is the Key Sustainability Technology

Here's an example of his ability to tell stories and weave stories together. He managed to link the two issues I am most passionate about: climate change and the criticality of changing women's lives for the better around the globe. Women's rights are the most powerful sustainability technologies that we have. He says it's critical to the future of sustainability and our planet that we educate girls and give women property rights, legal protection and job opportunities. They will have fewer children and those children will be better taken care of.Sustainability is fundamentally about making sure that all kids have a wonderful childhood. How cool is that for something we might be willing to work for and, in addition, it saves the planet?

Going Beyond Sprawl

Copenhagen by jimg944 under CC.jpg

Suburban sprawl is our Travant, that sad little car that got the East Germans through the 50's and 60's and 70's and 80's and then, when the wall fell, they saw how far behind everyone else they were. The technology that they thought was up-to-date turned out to be a costly, heavy dinosaur. Density is our goal - well-designed, community-oriented density. Dense places around the globe require less energy and give off less CO2. And the people who live in dense, well-designed cities, like Copenhagen, are much happier.

The Introducers

Did I mention that Richard Conlin, famously liberal city council member, just re-elected with enough votes to be Council President again, introduced Alex the first evening? Or that newly-elected mayor Mike McGinn introduced him the second night? Or that there was a large crowd of young people in attendance? There's a movement afoot, me thinks. On a side note, McGinn took the opportunity of his first appearance after the results were known to share his observations with us:

1) People want something different and they are willing to work to get it. A lot of people came into contact with Mike McGinn and decided they wanted to volunteer on his campaign. They liked that McGinn listened to them and that he thought that together they could solve the problems they see.

2) The voters shaped McGinn because they want to shape the future. They want good jobs, safety, especially for their children and a way for their children to advance in the world.

3) People won't help you solve the problems of the future unless you are helping them solve their problems of today.

Then McGinn said something about Alex in introducing him that I hope we can say about McGinn in a year. Alex understands that to get to the future, you have to offer people hope.

Seattle skyline by jdnx under CC.jpg

This is the Seattle Moment

After the first evening's overview and the second evening's introduction by McGinn, Alex talked about Seattle and how we could lead the nation and the country into a sustainable future. He said this was a really important time and place. We need to come up with a level of prosperity that doesn't ruin our planet.He also noted that there is an enormous advantage for being the people and place that does this first.

First he debunked Seattle's reputation for being the city in the sky, the place where everything works and we live ever-so-well. He said in reality that Seattle is in a sprawling, poorly built region and the city itself is poorly designed - too many cars, bad building, and too much stuff. It's only because of our region's rain and mountains and the hydro power we get from that accident of nature that we appear to have a higher level of sustainability than other places. Take that away and we're like everywhere else.

But, he pointed out, we gain a lot from having this reputation.Let's use it.

Density, Young People and a Car-free Urbanism

So, how do we become a carbon-neutral city? Well, we begin by becoming denser. Alex thinks the population of Seattle will double in 20 years because our climate is likely to be more stable than it is in other places, young people will want to come here (although we've got a lot of competition from Portland) and we will have figured out the trick of being both sustainable and prosperous.

Then we aim for car-free urbanism. He says we should judge every new development by that standard. Does it work for people without cars? A vital street life becomes our second living room. I am really liking this.

Active Street Life by epSoS.de under CC.jpg

Alex went on to talk about the advantages of our ambient technology, which is changing the way we live, use things, understand the world and get active in it. He mentioned a site in Europe that began posting information about who the farm subsidies went to in the EU. The information had been terribly difficult to access. Once the website, farmsubsidy.org, began making it available, all hell broke loose.

Alex talked about how we turn all that technical capacity and cultural enthusiasm toward the civic realm.I had to laugh when this video came out from Mike McGinn and his transition team the next day because this is exactly the kind of thing that comes to mind. And this is why I think we are in for a much needed revolution in this city, an exciting and perhaps sometimes bumpy one.

He ended by saying that democracy is about showing up .And, we just saw what can happen when people show up in the civic realm, twice in the last year. Then, perhaps my favorite saying of the evening: Bureaucracies use boredom like skunks use smell. It's how they keep people away. If we're going to beat them, we're going to have to create our own civic infrastructure. And it's going to have to be fun. If boredom is their weapon, fun is ours.

Come on, Seattle. This is our time!

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