By Cody Petterson and Tommy Hough
Five years ago this week, long before the endorsements, meetings, press conferences, forums, and canvassing that followed, San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action held its first organizational meeting at the San Diego County Democratic Party office in Kearny Mesa.
The idea was to establish the county's first Democratic club specifically dedicated to the promotion and preservation of our environment. Little did we know, at the time, we were only the second county Democratic party in the state to do so, after the Green Democrats of Sacramento County.
We initially met to elect our founding club officers, adopt our first bylaws, and develop a consensus about the character of the club. Those present shared their environmental priorities and hopes for the club. All agreed the time was long overdue for an affinity club in the county Democratic party to debate and advance environmental policy within the party, to endorse and help elect environmentally committed candidates, and to hold our elected officials accountable.
The vision of the club was informed by the time founding president Tommy Hough spent managing communications for the wilderness advocacy organization Oregon Wild. Again and again, Tommy saw how Democratic policymakers in Oregon made poor, tone-deaf decisions on old-growth logging, reckless clearcuts, and wildlife management that failed their constituents, and failed the earth. Upon his return to San Diego, Tommy resolved to ensure there was a place where environmental policy could be debated, developed, and utilized to win elections, and where constituents, activists, policymakers, and staff could go for answers.
Over the last five years, San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action have taken stands on matters ranging from fracking, ocean desalination, environmental justice, public lands, land use, renewable energy, transit, housing, and climate action, which have often been at odds with where the party itself was being driven by corporate donors and Wall Street. Those fights continue today.
As a club, we also resolved early on to facilitate opportunities to hike and visit threatened areas, like the El Monte Valley, Chollas Creek, or the Del Mar Mesa Preserve. These intimate experiences with San Diego's threatened natural heritage have given added passion and impetus to our efforts to preserve our county's unrivaled biodiversity.
As we head into our club's third full election cycle, we strive to maintain the most rigorous, fair, and transparent endorsement process of any Democratic club in the county, because we know how valuable our seal of approval is for San Diego voters, for whom the environment is a perennial priority. Any candidate who has been through our endorsement process knows our forums are well-moderated and well-attended, and that our club's decision is the product of a lengthy, demanding process of inquiry and deliberation.
We look forward to the next five years, which promise to be just as much of an adventure as the first. To those who've been a part of our journey, thank you for sharing the burden. And the joy.
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