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Monday, January 10, 2011

Public Trust - The Tuscon Tragedy

We cannot help but be touched, outraged and disturbed by what happened Saturday in Tucscon.  
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, was targetted for assasination by a deranged young man and she is now fighting for her life.  The attacker also killed six other innocent people and injured 20, including Fed Judge John Roll and a nine year old girl who'd just been elected president of her class..

When it happened, we were attending a wonderful workshop at Seattle Pacific University called Environmental Priorities Legislative Workshop. It was attended by several hundred dedicated citizens, lobbyists and 4 legislators who spoke to the crowd.  It was a very good, but not unusual gathering of people working to understand their government and affect positive change.

Right after lunch, we had a previously scheduled speech by Rep Jay Inslee, who made a wonderful tribute to Gabrielle Giffords, and talked about how he'd worked with her on his Apollo Energy legislation for Solar Energy advocacy.  He spoke about how she was doing what she always did, reach out to her constituents, just as he and all elected officials strive to do, if they are truly doing their jobs.
Rep Inslee speak passionately to environmental
activists at SPU this weekend
Rep Inslee received two standing ovations from the crowd and it was clear he was shaken but undeterred by the incident. He spoke about the need to take action on proactive, bi-partisan renewable energy legislation saying,
"This is real, this is here, this is now!"
He spoke about opportunities for technologies like capacitors, algae-based fuels, "green banks" and so much more and that now is the time to act, to benefit our nation's economy. 

As a former elected official myself, I am struck by one of the saddest parts of this incident. That Gabrielle Giffords was just doing her job, and doing it well. She was fearless and courageous in spite of her own previously expressed concerns about the current political atmosphere.  So many times, when I was on the local city council, I just went out to meet with people. It's what constituents expect and what is needed for a representative government to function.

It is really a part of the "Public Trust" that is fundamental to having people run for office, and voters be able to speak to their elected representatives.  If we can't feel safe in the public sphere to have these inter-actions, our government can't be responsive and our community cannot count on the services it depends upon from our government.

The speech from Jay Inslee and the opportunity to hear from four freshmen legislators really pointed to the importance of this public trust that ensures our democracy can succeed.  

Here's hoping that Gabrielle Giffords can recover and get back to her important work. She was the youngest woman ever elected to the House of Representatives. Let's hope her fighting spirit will sustain her and her family. And condolences to all the families of those killed and injured.  We hope that Arizona can weather this storm and that the spirit of "public trust" can be restored there and in the rest of our nation. 

EXCLUSIVE – Gifford’s Tragedy: What’s the Message to Young Women? 

Gabrielle Giffords sworn in by Bruce Babbit
photo credit-WMC

When an angry young man aimed his semiautomatic handgun at Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in a Tucson Safeway store on Saturday, he didn’t just critically wound her and kill or wound 19 others. He fired a shot through the heart of American democracy.
It will fall to rising leaders like Giffords—and girls like nine-year-old Christina Green, killed by the assailant’s gunfire just days after she was elected to her school’s student council—to transform our political community to one where differences can be debated safely and policies decided without fear for anything but re-election prospects.
I feel a deeply personal connection to those horrendous events that occurred during the latest “Congress on Your Corner” public meeting the third-term Democratic congresswoman has held routinely in her district.  Though I was witnessing them from New York, I’m a resident of Scottsdale, 120 miles north of Tucson, and from 1978 to 1996 was CEO of Planned Parenthood in Arizona. I know the state’s wild-west politics quite well. And I’m so familiar with violent extremist attacks upon reproductive health providers that my first reaction was to swing reflexively into “how can I keep colleagues safe and courageous” mode.
Ironically, a moment before the carnage, I was urging Arizona Democratic party activists via Facebook to stop arguing about arcane party rules and get on with fixing the state: to stand firm against roiling bigotry toward immigrants, slashing public education funds while advancing legislation to allow guns in schools, and other  retrograde policies that threaten to make the state an object of derision throughout the country. 

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