Local GOP faithful pulling for environment
It sounds like an oxymoron to some, but a growing segment of right wingers are proving they can be just as mindful of ecology as they are of the economy.
Many from that ilk live in the Northshore area, where politics tend to be purple rather than red or blue.
It’s a place where residents elect Democrats to the state legislature while voting for city councilmembers who have ties to the Republican party.
Out here, local activist groups like People for an Environmentally Responsible Kenmore (PERK) and Kenmore Neighbors for Responsible Growth have proven effective in shaping municipal policies.
The mostly Democratic members of these organizations often find themselves working alongside staunch conservatives.
Take Lewis Harder, for example. He’s the harbormaster at Kenmore’s Harbour Village Marina.
The self-proclaimed Republican has been coordinating with PERK to pressure local governments into stricter development regulations and a clamp-down on violations.
The goal is to stop sediment from entering Stream 0056, which feeds into Lake Washington near Harbour Village.
Development has brought increased stormwater runoff in recent years, filling the creek with pollutants and silt. This makes the stream unsuitable for fish, and also clogs the harbor with mud.
Harder had the marina dredged to a depth of 10 feet about a year ago. Now it’s at 2 feet, thanks in large part to heavy rains late last year.
“You had to take a kayak to my office after the big storm in October,” Harder said. “It’s basically because of cities not conforming to their laws.”
Harder’s environmental efforts aren’t limited to Stream 0056.
He helped Harbor Village earn a five-star rating in the Department of Ecology’s EnviroStars program by implementing measures aimed at waste reduction and pollution prevention.
Harder also enlisted a volunteer from the Master Gardener’s Association to replace noxious weeds with native plants, and he’s using bats rather than pesticides to rid the marina of bugs.
The main thing to keep in mind, he says, is that it was all voluntary — both the work and the regulations.
“We don’t need government interference,” Harder said. “We can take care of ourselves.
“Boaters are more environmentally concerned than most, and they can do a better job of getting the job done.”
Down the road in Woodinville is Brendan Woodward, a 24-year-old Republican who brokers cap-and-trade offsets through his start-up business, Standard Carbon.
He claims the GOP has allowed Democrats to write the political playbook on climate change by trying to debunk the issue rather than responding with solutions.
“As Republicans, we have a win-win situation,” Woodward said. “We can solve this major energy problem and do something about climate change. There’s no way to lose, and the sacrifices are minimal.”
Even if global warming is a natural phenomenon, he says, it can’t hurt to clean up the environment.
Woodward was on hand when GOP presidential hopeful John McCain visited North Bend on May 13 for a roundtable discussion on the environment with the likes of REI President and CEO Sally Jewell and former Washington Governor Dan Evans.
The Arizona senator promised to implement stricter regulations on carbon emissions and enhance the now-voluntary cap-and-trade system.
He also pledged to invest in renewable energy and the development of technologies that can deal with climate change.
Those plans represent a change in rhetoric for Republicans, who have largely opposed such policies in the past because of their potential impacts on the economy.
“I just firmly and steadfastly reject the notion that somehow this is going to be something that is harmful to our economy,” McCain told listeners during the roundtable discussion. “I’m willing to have this debate all over America.”
Woodward’s said he’s optimistic about a potential cap-and-trade system because it would force the largest polluters to find innovative ways of reducing emissions.
It also helps his business.
Woodward is an equal-opportunity broker who is willing, in practice at least, to help anyone concerned about the environment.
That means Democrats and Republicans alike.
Woodward has been inviting political candidates to work with his company to make their campaigns carbon neutral.
Republican Larry Ishmael, who plans to run against U.S. Sen. Jay Inslee in the next election, has already signed the pledge.
Inslee is yet to respond, Woodward said.
“A lot of people play politics with the environment,” Woodward said. “That’s why I’m willing to send this out to Democrats and Republicans. I’m willing to help them put their money where there mouth is.”