It was inspiring to meet Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson yesterday. She made her first ever visit to Oregon, to speak at the River Rally conference being held at the Lloyd Center DoubleTree this weekend.
Administrator Jackson made a memorable, funny, and endearing speech about the 40th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act and the importance of clean rivers. Then she said she had to take an early flight this morning to get back to D.C. to be present at events for her two teenage children. In other words, she is a real person with values many Portlanders embrace. I was very impressed. See this interview with the Oregonian's Scott Learn for more - I hope you agree.
Before the evening events at the River Rally, Administrator Jackson visited Harvey Scott School, where the students and community have created a rain garden. She said the children were asked who had heard of the Clean Water Act? No response. The National Estuary Initiative? More blank stares. The Columbia River? She said the room lit up with enthusiasm.
Rivers are essentially local. We care about them because they are the Commons, belonging to all, in places we love. That was the core of the River Rally opening speech by Waterkeeper Alliance leader Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who talked about suing polluters to clean up the Hudson, and about the inequities in impacts of pollution for people of color and less affluent communities.
I am proud that the Office of Healthy Working Rivers staff did such a great job of working with the River Network and Waterkeepers Alliance to conduct the conference in Portland. Thanks also to the City's Government Relations staff for helping to coordinate Administrator Jackson's visit. And to Patti Howard in my office, for staffing me at the event. Rally Ho! River advocates like to yell that, at frequent intervals. I tried it at the end of my "Welcome to Portland" speech, and received a highly satisfactory response from the 700 participants.