By Cathy Cochrane, Communications Manager, Eastern Regional Office, Spokane
I used to think “public involvement” was a joke. Government doesn’t pay attention to the Little Person, I thought. But then I became a reporter for the Ketchikan Daily News, in Alaska. I covered public meetings, where only one or two people showed up, and I saw for myself the really significant influence those few people had over the issue at hand. Government officials — local and state — actually responded to those few, lone voices. They did what the “Little Person” asked! Because two people took the time to voice their concerns and their opinions, their community changed.
That Ketchikan experience is long over, but I have ever since been an impassioned supporter of public involvement. In the three years that I’ve been with the Washington Department of Ecology, I’ve seen many instances where the public’s voice changed the conditions in a permit, helped us think differently about an action or a rule, showed us that yes, the people we serve really do care about what happens to the state’s environment.
One of the reasons I love working for Ecology is that the agency truly wants the public to know what’s happening in the environment, to get involved, to exercise their voice. We invite public comment on every permit we write, and on those issues where we’re aware that the public wants more involvement, we hold a public meeting. In addition, some types of permits or regulatory actions require that we hold a public hearing and take testimony. I’m not the only cheerleader touting the benefits of public involvement. Many others with whom I work every day echo my thoughts. Watch this short video to hear their voices.
Most importantly, keep up with the many ways you can have a voice in Ecology’s activities. From this link, you can sign up to receive our news releases, tweets, and public emails so you’ll know right away about the opportunities you have to weigh in on many of the issues that really matter to Washington’s environment. You can vist our public involvement calendar anytime to find out what’s going on.
We want to hear from you. Please take the time to read the documents we post about permits and other actions, and then please comment. Attend a public hearing. Send us an email. Give us a call. Whatever form it takes — have a voice! Get involved! I’ll hope to see you at a public meeting soon.