Face to Face with Congressman-Elect Kratovil

Posted by: Mike Dunmyer

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Being a part of the Ocean Champions team has many rewards, including the great feeling you get from doing important work to help preserve the oceans, and the pleasure of meeting other ocean enthusiasts at OC events.  Another big perq is having the chance get to know our Champions in Congress, and finding that they are exceptional leaders, with integrity and a commitment to serve their country. Last Thursday, Dave Wilmot and I had the pleasure of sitting down with Maryland’s First District Congressman-Elect and his Chief of Staff Tim McCann.  The conversation ranged over a number of topics during the two hour meeting.  After some “get to know you” small talk, Mr. Kratovil asked for OC’s view on the Ocean Conservation community’s priorities, and what our own were for the next legislative session.  As we went through a short list of issues and strategies (can’t disclose them here – that’ll be content for another blog!), Mr. Kratovil asked a number of good questions and listened well – clearly this is a man who cares and wants to learn.  We also talked about some of the challenges he’s facing as he transitions into his new role while closing out a heavy workload in his former role (State’s Attorney for Queen Anne’s County).  We wrapped up by talking about some of the challenges facing the First District, and some potential solutions.

In the end, I came away very impressed.  Frank Kratovil cares about the environment and the oceans, and he truly seems to understand the needs of his constituents.  He is intelligent and ready to listen, and I believe he will govern with great integrity and the with best interests of Maryland’s First District at heart.

Date Posted: December 23, 2008 @ 2:57 pm Comments Off

Calamity and Woe. That’s Hot

Posted by: Mike Mishler

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I am, for the most part, a glass half empty kind of guy. Why? Because when I go to the movies the tallest guy in the theater sits in front of me, and the people behind me won’t stop talking. At the gas pump, the grocery store, or ATM I am inevitably stuck behind the person who must have been in a coma for the last 30 years and has no idea how to pump his own gas, bag his own groceries, or enter a PIN number to get his money. On top of that, it seems as though the guy in the coma has been running our economy, fighting the fight against global warming and waging a war against, well everyone. (Guys in comas can be pretty cranky.) On top of that with the economy tanking there’s a story about bank executives drawing $1.6 billion in bonuses. I’m pretty sure that’s a total and not per executive, but I’ll have to read the piece again.

But today as I was reading about the race between whether the Colorado River will dry up, or become too toxic from shale oil, and uranium production to use, it dawned on me that it was time to turn that frown upside down and get a new outlook on life. So I stood on my head for twenty minutes until the headache made me pass out.

After I woke up, still feeling dizzy and slightly euphoric, I realized that pessimism is the new “hot” thing and that like any fad it will grow and grow until the country is engulfed in a frenzy of pessimism. I can see it now. Banks and industries will compete with housing and energy to show how bad things truly are. Economists will predict even worse times to come and claim they saw it coming when they were just babies. Universities will offer (Masters of Business and Depression Administration (MBDA). Pundits, in a show of “you think that’s bad-ism,” will vie for ratings by predicting even more depressing conditions. Of course eventually the bubble will burst and we’ll find out that in spite of the experts we are actually optimistic about things.

But before that day, when we gladly stick our heads back in . . . let’s say the sand, we have an opportunity to look at the way things are and maybe, make some changes. So let’s look at the bright side of being down.

Soon I will have no television.
Not having cable or a satellite, the soon to come switch to digital TV gives me the opportunity to turn off my TV and do something better with my time. So instead of watching another show produced by Ashton Kutcher that involves people being stupid for prizes and the chance to be on TV, maybe I’ll have more time to something useful.

I have a job.
Well okay, I have two jobs, one allows me to work with preserving history and the other allows me to contribute to a cause I believe in, (Duh!) Although neither pays me enough to hang out with bank executives on their private planes as they haul bailout money from D.C. to secret vaults on Fantasy Island,I do love my jobs, and I don’t have to worry about the odd federal indictment or developing an addiction to massage oil.
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Turns out not all politicians are crooks.
Hard to believe but its true, I found while doing research for Ocean Champions that there are actually politicians at all levels of government who want to make our country a better place. I won’t name them because, the list is too long and unless there’s a scandal involving them you wouldn’t read the list anyway but, if you start with the Ocean Champions list of candidates, you may find that even if you don’t agree with everything position he or she takes they seem to be good people. (Disclaimer: In the event of a scandal involving any politician I will of course claim that I meant other politicians and not that one who was obviously a crook who I never trusted.)

When the going get tough. . . Blah, blah, blah.
There are signs that some good things are happening. Locally there’s the Save Trestles movement that demonstrates that community activism can work. Also, there is the story of the Mission Bay Aquatics Center’s conversion to solar power. The conversion, took place while other upgrades were being done and will help lower the operating costs of the center as well as provide additional power to the grid.

Nationally, well, let’s see. We’ll soon have a new administration led by a man who doesn’t act as though he learned everything he needed to know in kindergarten and again we have more people in Congress and the Senate who can find the oceans on a map, people who seem to understand that clean resources are better than dead and polluted ones.

Encouraging words. Shh!
Maybe, now that things seem so bad, we can get to work on new solutions and do something crazy like build more sustainable infrastructure or lead the world in clean energy solutions instead acting like Scrooge.
So chin up, and remember these words of holiday inspiration.
Just put one foot in front of the other.

Happy Holidays

Ca

Date Posted: December 22, 2008 @ 7:49 pm Comments Off

Surfers, Environmentalists Score Another Victory in the Fight to Save Trestles

Posted by: Mike Dunmyer

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Woo Hoo!  The U.S. Department of Commerce has rejected the proposed 241 Foothill South Toll Road extension!  As most of you know, the extension would have posed a serious threat to the environment around the sensitive San Mateo watershed, impacting the balance and natural beauty of the area, local water quality and the world class Trestles surf break.  The California Coastal Commission (CCC) first ruled against the proposal, forcing the Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA) to challenge the ruling at the national level. The Department of Commerce, which includes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) had jurisdiction to hear the challenge, and thankfully upheld the CCC’s earlier decision. The TCA can still appeal or litigate, but their options are running out and this last decision may bring an end to their misguided plan to pave a watershed.  You can get the full story at the save Trestles web site.

The victories that have been won are the result of a strong coalition of environmental groups. The coalition was led by the Surfrider Foundation, and included the Friends of the Foothills, the Sierra Club, major surf industry players, and many, many committed individuals. The campaign has included grass roots activism and heavy engagement in the political process, and as such, underscores two important lessons:

  1. To win major victories and to project and sustain them, ocean activists MUST engage in the political process. This is why Ocean Champions works so hard to elect pro-ocean Congressmen and women and then to build strong, credible relationships with them.   The objective of consistently passing legislation that will ensure thriving coasts and oceans won’t happen unless ocean enthusiasts can maintain and amplify this voice on Capitol Hill.
  2. The interests that are aligned against long term ocean and coastal health have deep pockets and are relentless. To beat them, ocean environmental groups MUST work together.

On a personal note, Trestles isn’t easy for an east coast surfer like me to reach. Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to get there three times, but one session was all it took for me to realize that it is a unique place that must be protected.  Beyond the perfect waves it produces, Trestles has a magical feel to it – an aura – that I believe comes from its unspoiled, unexploited, raw beauty.  To me, surfing there felt different and more special than any other place I’d been.  The unbelievable support the “Save Trestles” campaign generated shows that many of you feel the same way.  So in closing, I want to thank all the people who’ve worked so hard in this battle for so many years.  This was an incredible win for an incredible place, and truly, an early holiday gift!

Date Posted: December 20, 2008 @ 4:02 pm Comments Off

Slater did it again

Posted by: Chris Laughlin

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Kelly Slater has won the .  He had already secured his 9th ASP World Title a couple months ago at the Billabong Pro Mundaka – the ninth event of 11 on the 2008 ASP World Tour.

Slater’s 2008 crowning comes 16 years after securing his first ASP World Title. He is the oldest (at age 36) and youngest surfer (at age 20) in ASP history to win a world title. The now nine-time ASP World Champion joined the tour in 1991 and won his first ASP World Title in 1992.

Other highlights of this year’s Billabong Pipeline Masters include – only the second perfect heat total in ASP history under the two wave format.  Guess who nabbed the first perfect heat total in ASP history…  In May 2005, in the final heat of the Billabong Tahiti Pro contest at Teahupoo, Slater became the first surfer ever to be awarded two perfect scores for a total 20 out of 20 points under the ASP two-wave scoring system.

If only we could translate these incredible surfing victories into ocean health and protection victories, we’d be rockin’!

Date Posted: December 12, 2008 @ 9:22 pm

Who Will Run the Agencies?

Posted by: Jack Sterne

We spend a lot of time thinking about who will be in Congress, who will be President, and who will be Cabinet Secretaries.  But there’s another level of personnel that can make just as big a difference as those high-profile positions, and that’s the choice of who will run NOAA and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the two agencies that have the biggest influence on ocean policy.

Now that we know that New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson will be the Secretary of Commerce, we can begin speculating about these lower-level appointments (NOAA is within the Department of Commerce, and NMFS is housed within NOAA — I know, don’t get me started on how crazy it is that the oceans agencies are located within Commerce, as if the oceans are just there to make money).

For those of us working these issues in D.C., the rumor-mill is swirling.  Would somebody high-profile like Leon Panetta or Bruce Babbitt take the NOAA slot?  While that would be great, most of us think it’s unlikely that Richardson could have someone of their stature under him — the politics are just too complicated.

Rep. Tom Allen of Maine, an Ocean Champions endorsee who just lost a bid for the U.S. Senate, is also reportedly making a serious push for the NOAA job, and could be a good choice.

The Washington Post had a this week speculating about potential names, but as with everything in this sport about who will lead what, it’s all speculation (even if it is informed speculation).  These are important appointments, though, and they bear watching.  We’ll certainly do what we can to weigh in.

Date Posted: December 11, 2008 @ 11:56 am Comments Off