groups band together
Dawn Pillsbury - Sonoma West Staff Writer
- What better place for an environmental activist to work: two
blocks from Whole Foods and 20 steps from a coffee shop. Three
environmental nonprofit groups, Northern California River Watch,
the Town Hall Coalition and the Community Clean Water Institute
have banded together in a new home, the Redwood Empire Environmental
Center in Gravenstein Station at the east entrance to Sebastopol.
groups will celebrate their new home with an office warming
holiday party from 5 to 6 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 10 at the center.
Mike Sandler, program director for the water institute and director
of the center, said that while the 300-square-foot office is
modest, it suits the needs of the nonprofits' four staffers,
plus an intern. "The Town Hall Coalition was in Occidental
for five years, where a lot of the founders lived," he
said. "But recently we increasingly felt the need to be
closer to more people, and Sebastopol is the hub of West County
the Redwood Center a block from the new GE-Free Sonoma campaign
office at Highway 12 and Morris Street, "the northeast
area is happening now," he said. "Sebastopol already
has a lot of environmental action. Hopefully this will increase
it." He said the center's location will let the groups
extend their reach. "We're looking to reach out to all
types of people, not just the environmentalist core," he
said. "Since the election, we see that environmental values
are mainstream values - every town should have an environmental
center." Sandler said the new location, right across the
parking lot from Coffee Catz, will be host to small events,
though the groups will still have to find other locations for
events that draw more than 20 people.
said it made sense to move, given that many of the coalition's
fund-raisers are held in Sebastopol. He said the move will help
the nonprofits' staffers to walk their talk.
"I can walk to work now," he said. "That's something
I've been encouraging for a while."
Town Hall Coalition and Water Institute board member Lynn Hamilton,
an Occidental resident and former Sebastopol mayor, said the
location will make the groups' actions more accessible to people
who want to participate in their missions. All three groups
are supported by fund-raising and donations, she said. The Town
Hall Coalition, which started in 1997 to oppose forest conversion
to vineyards, formed the water institute in 2002. "It was
the Town Hall Coalition water committee," said Hamilton.
"We formed it as its own nonprofit because it got so big."
Watch, formed in 1996, and its attorney, Jack Silver of Santa
Rosa, have sued cities from Fort Bragg to Santa Rosa over illegal
sewage discharges. The proceeds of the suits have gone to pay
attorneys' fees and to fund grants for watershed groups. The
group has archived its legal history at www.northerncaliforniariverwatch.org/archive/index.html.
said the water institute is working on a first flush campaign
for Humboldt Bay, giving scholarships to university students
who study water quality issues, a water quality monitoring regime
for the lower Russian River and on plans for an international
conference on the effects of climate change on water for next
year. The coalition has been involved in the Sonoma County General
Plan update and is lobbying for a ban on conversion of forest
to other uses. "It's so dangerous to every aspect of our
lives," said Hamilton. "We're focussed on protecting
the commons and the common good and part of that is respecting
and protecting nature." The coalition is also focussed
on elections, she said. "We/re working with other groups
nationally for paper ballots and having every vote counted by
hand," she said. "And doing away with electronic voting."
said the center is mentoring upcoming environmentalists.
"We have trained and mentored people who went on to bigger
things," she said.
The center will host The First Redwood Empire Environmental
Center Extravaganza: Post-Election Political Comedy at 7:30
p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 29 at the Sebastopol Community Center.
The event will feature two members of the San Francisco Mime
Troupe, Amos Glick and Ed Holmes.
"They'll portray Dubya and Cheney," explained Sandler.
"They'll do a humorous interpretation of the inauguration
and they agreed to do a question-and-answer."
For more information, call 824-4371.
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