People in the community disagree about the Gateway Pacific Terminal coal train project. Now what?
Many community leaders are worried that this debate will follow our broader political culture of polarization, disrespect and extremes. This debate will continue in the community for at least two years while the scoping process takes place.
Many community leaders on all sides of this issue believe that this could lead to harmful, long-lasting divisions within our congregations, between community institutions and in the community at large. This has happened before on other high-stakes issues.
We want to be less isolated and less siloed. There are other big challenges facing our community where there is unity. We don't want this issue to block collaboration. The mission of the North Sound Alliance is to build sufficient people power to work for the common good with enough clout to get results. We are made up of community institutions: churches, unions, locally based non-profits, and civic organizations, and together, over time, we develop our definition of the common good based on shared concerns and shared values of our organizations.
A gathering for civil sector institutional leaders -- primarily clergy, union presidents and directors of community non-profits signed an agreement about how we want our community to act during this difficult season -- as neighbors first, who treat each other with respect, even when we have different points of view. The draft was written by Rev. Jonathan Weldon, St. Paul's Episcopal Church, and Chris Johnson, business manager of the Laborers Union Local 276 with minor refinements by the whole group.
We the undersigned represent religious communities, labor unions, and community based non-profits in Whatcom County gathered to confer on the matter of the proposed Pacific Gateway Terminal project. As this proposal makes its way through the democratic process, our interest is in encouraging each other to engage the debate on the issues in a way conducive to healthy relationships. To this end:
We are committed to the proposition that we are first and foremost neighbors, that we share an interest in the long-term viability of our community and neighborhoods, and we commit to working together now and in the future for a healthy economy featuring both family-wage jobs and a clean and safe natural environment for all.
We are committed to engage the upcoming scoping process with an open attitude, listening carefully in an atmosphere of mutual respect for each other and honoring varying points of view in a way commensurate with respect for human dignity. We commit wherever possible to find common ground, and to express concerns and disagreements with fairness, candor and transparency.
We invite all members of our community to join us making this commitment to civil discourse on this very important matter before us, and to hold us accountable to this high standard of conduct.
To date these community institutions have signed the statement: St Paul's Episcopal Church, Bellingham, Laborers Local 296, Bellingham, Sustainable Connections, NW Washington Building Trades AFL-CIO, Saint James Presbyterian Church, Protect Whatcom, Congregation Beth Israel, Zion Lutheran Church, Ferndale/Custer, Nooksack Indian United Methodist Church, Community Partners, League of Women Voters, Bellingham, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 191, and First Congregational Church of Bellingham-United Church of Christ.
INVITATION TO ACT
The strength of our organizations to act individually within the community is limited, however, collectively we can help influence the future economic vitality of our community. For too long we have isolated ourselves. No matter the outcome of the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal project, we have the ability to start the dialog today on how we as community institutions can work collectively for a stronger community that everyone can share. Come join us!
The North Sound Alliance plans to host a locally based, sustainable economic development forum focusing on family-wage jobs on Jan. 17, 2013. For more information or for institutional leaders who want to sign on the Neighbors First agreement, contact Christie Stewart Stein of the North Sound Alliance 360-424-1999 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Christie Stewart Stein is a small-scale organic farmer at Riversong Farm in Skagit County. The Reverend Jonathan Weldon is Rector of Saint Paul's Episcopal Church in Bellingham. Craig Jones, business development director International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 191, lives with his family in Bow.