Tuesday, September 25, 2012

WEC: “Holding Ourselves and Public Officials Accountable for Carrying Out Commitments and Enforcing Laws and Regulations”

Many readers received Washington Environmental Council executive director Joan Crooks’ gracious message yesterday announcing the transition of People For Puget Sound’s policy, advocacy and grass roots work to WEC upon the shut down of the once-preeminent Puget Sound conservation organization.

I still feel terribly betrayed that People For Puget Sound’s management took it upon itself to shut down the 21-year old organization without a word of asking for help from its members, volunteers, past board members and past staff. Shame on them.

But I’m glad that Washington Environmental Council is expanding its focus on the protection and restoration of Puget Sound.

Joan’s message didn’t provide details but I’m sure it will become evident in the weeks and months to come how WEC will expand its role in Puget Sound policy, advocacy and grass roots action.

I expect them to demonstrate in word and deed one of the fundamental ways People For Puget Sound sought to save the Sound, by “Holding ourselves and public officials accountable for carrying out commitments and enforcing laws and regulations.”

At this time of transition, it might be good to take a look at what guided People For Puget Sound in its two decades-- its Mission and Vision and Core Values.

That’s the banner passed on to Washington Environmental Council, that’s the bar that’s set for their meeting the challenge of protecting and restoring Puget Sound.

I wish us all well.

--Mike Sato

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The End of People For Puget Sound

At the end of August a year ago, I was laid off after working 20 years for People For Puget Sound— for budget reasons.

Yesterday, on 9/11, the board and executive director of People For Puget Sound announced they were shutting down what was once the premier Puget Sound conservation organization at the end of this month— for budget reasons.

"This is shocking and sad," founder and recently retired executive director Kathy Fletcher told the Kitsap Sun. "I never would have imagined that this would happen."

I’m angry, disappointed and sad.

I’m angry because what we worked so hard for over 20 years has gone down the toilet in a year. I’m angry because all the work we did in strategizing the executive transition and People For Puget Sound under new leadership never took flight. I’m angry because we went through many tough financial crises during our 20 years and worked our way through to survive. I’m angry because People For Puget Sound will not survive.

I’m disappointed because those of us who loved and cared for People For Puget Sound were never asked to help in this past year, never consulted, never told how bad the situation had become. I’m disappointed that an organization based on engaging people never turned to the very people who made up its membership, its volunteers and its donors. I’m disappointed that no other alternatives were openly discussed before announcing an end to People For Puget Sound.

And I’m sad because Puget Sound will no longer have a watchdog and advocate focused exclusively on the Sound’s well being. I’m sad because we won’t have activists and volunteers — the real people of Puget Sound — speaking in one voice for the land, waters and critters of the Sound. I’m sad because I, too, never would have imagined that this would happen.

I’m sure the board of directors and executive director of People For Puget Sound believe they’ve made the right decision. And the decision’s been made: they’ve brought about the end of People For Puget Sound.

--Mike Sato

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Mr. President, I Was Listening

I listened to President Obama carefully last Thursday but it wasn’t until the end of his acceptance speech that I was moved the way I was moved four years ago.

I went back to the transcript to find what resonated so strongly:

We, the people, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which only asks what's in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense.

“As citizens, we understand that America is not about what can be done for us. It's about what can be done by us, together, through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government.

“So you see, the election four years ago wasn't about me. It was about you. My fellow citizens- you were the chang

I’ve always believed that it is ‘we’ and not ‘me’ that forms the fabric of our lives, and four years ago I heard it clearly articulated as the vision of change. The conflicting visions of ‘we’ versus ‘me’ are what is at odds today, inflamed by political firebombing.

Mere rhetorical flourish? I think not. “When the people lead, leaders will follow,” Gandhi is quoted as saying.

So often, it turns out, the real victory in local conflicts come with winning hearts and minds, not territory.

How often has a cause or an idea, championed by a charismatic leader, fizzles away when the leader passes or the charisma fades? How often does a cause or an idea take on a life of its own and is then described as an idea, a cause ‘whose time has come’?

As an organizer, an activist and a communicator, I’ve spent most of my entire adult life working towards building constituencies around causes and ideas, to nurture and shepherd a culture of ‘we’ as opposed to ‘me.’

Folks who voted for the president four years ago and thought he’d take care of everything so they could go back to their lives are naturally disappointed. He never said he would or could.

Last Thursday, he threw us back upon ourselves: “So you see, the election four years ago wasn't about me. It was about you. My fellow citizens- you were the change.”

And the change was that ‘we’ are the vision that will guided our way forward. That’s what resonated with me four years ago and last Thursday resonated with me again.

To work to move forward with inclusiveness as a guiding principle is such a daunting task, so much harder a challenge than pitting me against you, us against them. But unless we figure out how to do it as ‘we,’ there will be no real change.

Thank you, Mr. President.

--Mike Sato