What does one do when faced with the images of destruction coming out of the East Coast? For me, it was to steal a little extra hug from my two daughters when I had the chance. I feel lucky to be in La Mesa, away from the destruction. I left lower Manhattan five years ago looking for a place to raise my daughters and have loved our town since my first drive down La Mesa Boulevard.
I find myself glued to the reports from New York and New Jersey. I worry about friends I haven’t been able to get in touch with, and friends I’ve lost touch with. I am encouraged by Facebook posts from friends who are making the best of it. It is simply amazing to me that the intimidating city I fell in love with 27 years ago could be, ultimately, so fragile.
The scientists at NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) deserve high praise for their excellent work. They saved countless lives, no doubt, with their accurate prediction of the size and unusual path of this storm. These and other scientists have been warning us for years now of their projections for bigger and more destructive weather patterns should we continue to increase carbon in our atmosphere. More carbon means warmer air. Warm air holds more moisture, and that means more destruction. Add to that the melting Arctic ice cap and northward march of the plant hardiness zone, and other indicators, and we are seeing our future getting bleaker and bleaker.
I am astounded at the power of the climate change deniers (read: fossil fuel industry) to sway public opinion to make the issue sound as if it is undecided science. I don’t believe that. What’s clear to me is that there is a very different future in store for our children than we could have imagined a short while ago.
So what could that possibly have to do with a city council race?
Quite a lot, I would venture to say. Fundamental changes need to be made at the local level. We need to reduce the electricity we use in our homes, reduce the waste we produce and improve the transportation choices we make. All of this will require a national effort. All of it will ultimately happen at the local level. I want to work with my friends and neighbors here in La Mesa to maximize our efforts. I see the City Council as the place where the rubber meets the road. What and where we build, what we eat and buy, and how we prioritize our spending on transit are vital to mitigating the effects of climate change. Sea levels will rise, but what we do now can determine how long the crisis will go on. We owe it to our grandchildren’s children to do all that we can.
We need people to make fewer trips in their cars. Let’s start with more and better bicycle lanes. Paint is cheap. The harder part comes when we need to convince our neighbors that this is worth giving up some parking or lanes of traffic. Let’s think big. I dream of a La Mesa that is the most bike friendly city in San Diego County. There are a lot of people who would love to give up their cars for a bike commute to work. Better health outcomes and less money leaving our economy would result, in addition to the carbon reduction. We may even slow down drivers in some neighborhoods that chronically complain about speeders in their neighborhoods. (This is easily the most common complaint I hear as I’ve been knocking on doors during this campaign). The city council should be pushing SANDAG and the MTA (where we have seats on the board) for more and better public transportation. Ultimately, one day, we need to put trolleys back on El Cajon and University. Let’s start agitating for that now. I know it’s a long shot, but wouldn’t that be nice?
There will be growth in La Mesa. People are moving to San Diego and many will end up here in La Mesa. Where will they live? We need to find a way to build housing that the people who work here can afford to live in. Homes that are walking and biking distance from transportation. This will mean bigger buildings (though not eighteen stories) around the main drags. This can be done in a way that compliments our village and commercial areas and makes them stronger economically. Money spent driving in cars doesn’t stay here, money spent on public transportation does.
I have been astounded that the topic of climate change did not come up in the presidential debates. The closest we came was a race to affirm how strongly the presidential candidates were for expanding our coal mining. It has me baffled. It did come up in one of our candidate forums. Here is the starkest choice between myself and the other candidates for city council. I truly believe that this is an important issue for local government to address. How do my fellow challengers feel? This is how they answered the question:
“That’s not a priority for La Mesa.” -Laura Lothian
“It happened 30,000 years ago with no human emissions of carbon to speak of, I don’t think it’s a council issue” -Shannon O’Dunn
“I think that the federal and state governments have enacted plenty of laws that address the effect of global warming as seen as climate change from carbon emissions, and I don’t think that the city needs to be enacting additional laws on top of what we’re already facing to address those issues.” -Kristine Alessio
And here’s the video should you care to see for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WH3ChTZtcKY
I love La Mesa. I am grateful to have found such a great place to raise my family. I love that we live in a well run city that prides itself on sound fiscal stewardship. Let’s show the same discipline when it comes to minimizing the cost of the troubles ahead. Money spent now to make La Mesa a more livable, walkable, bikable and transit-oriented place will be money well spent. We can do this. A smart city government will factor the cost of climate change into its decisions. I will promise to make that a priority at city hall. It is an economic issue, a public safety issue and a moral issue. We can’t afford not to make these changes.
This is a big reason why I am running. Elect Patrick Dean to the La Mesa City Council. I will make your best interests my highest priority.