February 3, 2009 - Priorities and Christmas Trees

Good news for me today, I got my first by line with a guest editorial published in the Seattle P-I. If you'd like to read my suggestion for saving the state $2,795,000 and getting a better grip on what priorities of government should mean, then I invite you to read along at:
I'm blogging now, but I've been writing letters to the editor for over 40 years. My very first letter to the editor (I was in the 5th grade) was also a suggestion on how government could reconsider priorities and show some fiscal restraint. I suggested the federal government plant a tree to be the National Christmas Tree instead of cutting and shipping a large tree at great expense each year, thereby saving both money and trees. I copied the letter to Congressman Tom Foley and Sen. Warren Magnuson, who both sent respectful and encouraging replies. I was hooked, and have been writing letters to the editor ever since.
In an interesting twist of fate, my first roommate in traveling with my AgForestry class was a Christmas tree farmer who is justifiably proud of having once supplied the National Christmas tree from her family's farm, Bear Canyon Tree Farm. She produces a renewable crop, creates jobs in an economically depressed rural area and cares for the land. I'm now convinced there are good reasons to have a new National Christmas tree each year, and although I've decided that's not the place to save a few dollars or one tree, I'm still working for fiscally and environmentally responsible government.
Evaluating decisions for economic, environmental and and social sustainability is more complex than I realized in grade school, and it is still the toughest part of government. Our legislature has to stick with the typical campaign pledge to "go through the budget line by line" and do it with a critical eye, knowing that every decision will make someone unhappy. We can't afford a budget decorated like a Chritmas tree with pet projects and programs. Our responsibility as citizens is expect the job to be done carefully, following our state constitution as our collective mission statement for government, and understanding we might have to give up a few things we've been accustomed to. That's what setting priorities of government is all about.