On the 22nd of February I participated in Carbon WA’s lobby day. The day started out at 8:30 am driving a carpool down to our meeting spot at private home which has been nicknamed “The Castle.” Upon arrival we were given pamphlets covering topics such as: How to be a lobbyist? Lobby day FAQ’s for legislators and fiscal estimates for I-732. With this information in hand, along with a cup of coffee and croissant, I and the rest of district 36, marched on the capitol.
Our first rendezvous was at 10:45 am with Senator Reuven Carlyle. The meeting kicked off with a swift introduction and recap of I-732, of which Senator Carlyle was quite familiar with. Despite his concern for the environment and a carbon tax law (of some kind) Senator Carlyl was not so enthusiastic about the revenue and fiscal implications of the bill. The main sticking point was the financials would not be back by any republicans and thus that the bill would die in the Senate and thus would not himself endorse it. These conversation sticking points, revolving around financials, were largely fielded by Joe Ryan, co-chair of Carbon WA, due to his knowledge of the complex nature of the topic. After all was said and done Senator Carlyle acknowledged that this was, in the end, an “intra-family squabble” and that the grass roots efforts of Carbon WA, and its public awareness, was to be lauded.
Our second meeting came quickly after, without a minute to spare. We met with freshman Representative Noel Frame at 11:45 am promptly. Our reception was even less warm than at with Senator Carlyle. Although Representative Frame was very engaged in the conversation, her position is a largely formed and follows, “…the expertise of her senior colleagues.” Representative Frame stated that she came into her position with K-12 being at the center of her attention. She was quite adamant that she wanted to avoid being involved in subjects that she was not familiar with and thus would not endorse the carbon tax. Representative Frame also concluded that even if she did support it that nothing would come of it. Although Representative Frame was obstinate to the matter we appreciated her candidness and that her ultimate decision was not formed by platitudes.
Our third, and last, meeting was with Representative Gael Tarleton. This was a completely different experience which began with the introduction of ourselves, a bit of our background, and why we support the carbon tax. I introduced myself as a graduate student at the University of Washington studying architecture and that our program was heavily vested in sustainable design where we are exploring new materials, such as CLT, which can replace concrete. Concrete, which is often used in vast quantities in construction, has a large carbon footprint and a relatively low recyclability. Using materials such as steel and CLT, in favor of concrete, allows for far more efficient material recycling and could provide local jobs and lower transportation emissions if sourced locally. To our surprise Representative Tarleton was quite familiar with CLT and was pushing for its use as she was previously on the “House Technology & Economic Development Committee.” The rest of the time was spent by her expressing frustration with the myopic nature of people trying to curb the effects of climate change (such as increased forest fires) without addressing the larger issue. Representative Tarleton finished by stating that she would endorse the bill and that noticed that the presidential election cycle will allow a large portion of voters to be exposed to the carbon tax that would otherwise not be due to voter apathy.
All-in-all this was an enlightening experience. Getting to know the real workings of the local government and how approachable our representatives are was -dare I say it- a lot of fun. Despite being somewhat unfamiliar with Carbon WA and unable to defend the the intricacies that have gone into the initiative. But just the act of showing up and supporting the cause, as an educated citizen, cannot be understated. Even if I-732 does not pass, our local government is well aware of how much the citizens of Washington care about this issue, and that is the most important thing.