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SustainableWorks may draw stimulus funds

Spokane Alliance Assembly
Spokane Alliance Assembly January 26 opening

After small group sharing on the economy, the environment and jobs, more than 300 participants at the Spokane Alliance Jan. 26 Assembly heard leaders confirm commitments on clean air, asbestos, school contracts and SustainableWorks.

Cathy Gunderson of Highland Park United Methodist Church learned at Kaiser about the danger of asbestos, damaging lungs and skin.

She and Mike Campbell of the Spokane Education Association said the public needs to be aware of the asbestos violation history of contractors, who cut corners while removing asbestos.

County Commissioner Bonnie Mager agreed to work with the alliance to post the violations history of contractors on the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency website by April.

“We cannot limit posting to asbestos, so we will list businesses that pollute the air,” she said.

The alliance will evaluate results after six months.

Cathy said the alliance helped pass the 2003 school bond so schools would be built up to new energy standards.  She said the school bond on the March 10 ballot will include doing asbestos removal right, creating green-collar jobs and continuing discussion on spreading use of 15 percent apprentices evenly among the crafts.

Mike said schools can teach about environment in curricula and by building green schools.  Screening asbestos contractors will help meet standards.

Contractors with three serious violations in three years will be banned from bidding on school contracts.  Those with two in three years will need to pay to have their work monitored.

On behalf of the alliance, Mike encouraged participants to help promote the levy and bond by distributing fliers, knocking on doors and doing phone banks.

Mark Anderson, assistant superintendent, said Spokane Public Schools would use the standard for contractors if the bond passes.

School Superintendent Nancy Stowell agreed to continue to collaborate with the alliance and to spread apprenticeships.

The bond, he said, will rebuild older schools—Ferris High School, and Jefferson, Hutton, Finch and Westview elementary schools. 

Neither the levy nor bond will raise taxes, he said. They are renewals.  The bond will put $300 million into the local economy, and the levy, $60 million.

“They will stimulate the economy,” said Mark.

Co-chairs Kolby Hanson of the Sheet Metal Workers Local 66 and the Rev. Andrea CastroLang of Westminster Congregational United Church of Christ then guided discussion of efforts to create jobs and preserve the environment to stimulate the economy through SustainableWorks.

David Sproull, project manager, said SustainableWorks includes doing energy audits of how efficiently homes or businesses use energy; offering recommendation of changes; providing evaluation of costs related to reduction in energy bills, and providing reliable contractors.

Kolby said SustainableWorks now plans to focus on neighborhoods, providing services for 100 to 300 buildings.  That approach, he said, will provide 30 permanent, living-wage jobs, while reducing tons of emissions.

Participants  in Assembly
Participants in Spokane Alliance Assembly

Representatives of member institutions came forward to express their commitment to recruit apprentices, provide training, offer funding, raise funds, do public education, support creation of living-wage jobs, encourage youth to become apprentices, provide leadership for the alliance, to serve as examples and share their experience in audits and retrofits.

Several pastors said that the efforts at reducing energy usage is in line with their churches’ belief in environmental stewardship, as is working together for the common good.

Colleen Daniel of Liberty Park United Methodist Church said her congregation’s support of recruiting apprentices “arises from our belief to respect all people as children of God.”

The Rev. Dale Cockrum, superintendent of the Inland United Methodist District, said the mission of SustainableWorks is in harmony with the church’s mission.  He spoke on behalf of Catholic Bishop William Skylstad and Lutheran Bishop Martin Wells to say that “churches share a commitment to environmental stewardship, justice, shalom and caring for the earth. 

“Oikos—God’s household—is the root of economics and ecology.  Stewardship of the ecology and the economy relate in the concept of shalom, peace and wholeness that are central to what SustainableWorks seeks to do in Spokane to add to shalom: help us use our resources efficiently and create jobs that help the economy,” Dale said.  “I challenge alliance members to take stewardship to the next level to their homes, churches and offices, to challenge young people to be apprentices to find careers for the ecology and economy of Spokane.”

Mike Edwards of Banner Fuel then agreed partner with SustainableWorks efforts and listed 13 contractors ready to participate.

County Commissioner Bonnie Mager said:  “As an environmentalist all my life, I support SustainableWorks for its environmental value.  As a homeowner of a 1911 house where I feel the wind blowing through, I’m interested in comfort and savings.  As a county commissioner, I’m interested in seeing living-wage jobs in the community.  I will present ideas to the other commissioners and invite you to meet with us.”

Beth Thew, of the Spokane Regional Labor Council, agreed to partner.

Tom Lienhard of Avista Utilities said the “nexus of our goals is to save energy, so I don’t need to go out to buy energy at higher rates.”  He backs the energy savings and job creation the alliance promotes so “the number one export of Spokane County will not be our children leaving to find good paying jobs.”

Promising to make personal sacrifices himself, he challenged everyone to help bring change, by changing to “the culture of using energy wisely.”

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner said SustainableWorks fits her goal to have a green city.  She agreed to continue to collaborate, believing SustainableWorks puts Spokane in a unique position to create good jobs with good pay, to train apprentices, to save money by saving energy,” she said.

She endorsed reducing carbon in Spokane by seven percent, and said the city would  take a package that includes SustainableWorks projects to Congress and the President to request federal economic stimulation dollars.

SustainableWorks plans a door-to-door campaign and phone calls, and members will educate by living the values as a witness to neighbors and friends.

Lance Morehouse of The Arc of Spokane introduced the alliance’s 2009 state legislative agenda for sustainable jobs; workforce development; homeowner protection; environmental protection; early childhood, high school post-secondary education; health care reform and tax equity.

The Spokane Alliance’s advocacy day will be Wednesday, Feb. 18, in Olympia. Members will meet with legislators.

For information, call 532-1688.

Copyright © February 2009 - The Fig Tree