Making alliances count
By Linda Hale, VOTMA
Recently I had the pleasure of reading a graduate paper in the field of city planning and land use. The focus of the paper was about the struggle to protect coastal access along California beaches in Southern California. The fascinating part of the paper was that it showed how local community groups came together to help affect policy and ensure that land use laws were being applied fairly. This allowed for coastal access under California law. The community members and local groups who came together were able to resolve a big issue that affected landowners and private citizens. And they did it by making alliances.
The Valley of the Moon Alliance (VOTMA) has been working with community groups for a while now. We work with community organizations from Sonoma Mountain in the south to the Dry Creek Valley in the north of the county. We have a representative on the newly formed Wine & Water Watch that has representatives from Napa, Sonoma, Lake, and Mendocino counties. We even have a representative on the county-wide MOAG (Mother of All Groups,) a gathering of community groups that research and advocate for community and environmental issues county-wide. Alliances can come from small groups such as newly formed men’s groups who have taken Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment to heart, as well as working with large nonprofits that take on projects to protect community resources. We are even allied with folks who earn their living in the fields of composting and waste disposal. And we continue to work with our neighbors and community groups in Oakmont and Sonoma.
So what does this mean for Sonoma County and the Valley of the Moon? VOTMA has been able to work with county agencies more effectively because we have done needed research and continue to collaborate with other organizations confronting the issues of cumulative impacts of development on the environment. Everyone now agrees that resources are finite in a closed system and we need to work to manage them for the benefit of the community, agriculture, and business. The five county supervisors are tasked with the job of monitoring growth, enforcing zoning, and protecting open space. We have an obligation to inform them, especially if advertising and marketing are promoting uncontrolled growth that is not sustainable. People in the 1970s stepped up to preserve rural Sonoma County. The late Bill Kortum made alliances and informed people in order to stop PG&E from building a nuclear power plant in Bodega. Then he took on the task of getting voters to approve urban growth boundaries. These boundaries protected, and continue to protect, the open space we enjoy today.
We all need to realize that there are a lot of positive things happening. Small growers and farmers want land to be affordable so that they can make a living. Fire chiefs, grocery owners, water companies, and school districts want safe road access and clean water. And we have a community full of members with expertise and resources to share. VOTMA’s gathering at the Kenwood Depot on Jan. 9 brought together professional gardeners, retired engineers, lawyers, writers, business owners, and teachers. Kathy Pons, VOTMA president, reminded me that the original study on events on ag land that was updated in 2014, and presented to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors in 2015, was done by the same mix of community members. Kenwood, Oakmont, and Glen Ellen residents came together to document issues by interviewing local agencies and business owners and collecting data. That data is now helping to shape policies, particularly in Sonoma Valley.
There is still a need to provide information about traffic patterns, the impact of water usage, events on ag land, and growth in areas that may not be protected in the future. Working with our County Board and First District Supervisor is the first rung of governance. We are a voice for the residents of the unincorporated area of Sonoma Valley where folks cannot vote for representation. We appreciate the folks who continue to come out to support us. We would also like to thank the many donors who made donations to VOTMA during the holiday season. Stay tuned to our columns in the Kenwood Press for updates on what’s happening in Sonoma Valley, more about what happened back in the 1970s, and a few aphorisms from Abe Lincoln, who knew a whole lot about community organizing.
Join us for a live update and general mingling at our next Valley of the Moon Alliance meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 7 to 9 p.m. at the Kenwood Depot. We’re making alliances that count.
The Valley of the Moon Alliance was formed to promote the preservation, protection and maintenance of the agricultural character, natural resources and rural beauty of Sonoma Valley. We are committed to providing a forum for research, information, education and recommendations on projects that affect the environmental qualities of the valley communities.