Breathing lessons

Two years ago, Sacramento got a rude awakening: Everyone knew air quality was bad, but it was becoming clear that there wasn’t much of a plan in place to improve it. The lack of a decent regional strategy was highlighted by a lawsuit against the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) by environmental groups over the widening of the Watt Avenue Bridge, among other projects.

Two years isn’t a long time. The lawsuit is still unresolved; the air is bad and will be for a long time. And local governments are still mostly bent on getting theirs, regardless of how it affects their neighbors.

But it’s safe to say the events of the last two years got some people’s attention.

As evidence, consider the upcoming Clear the Air Forum, to be hosted by SACOG later this month. The event is billed as an opportunity for elected officials and community leaders to jump-start a much-needed discussion on how Sacramento governments can work together to solve the air quality problem.

SACOG Director Marty Tuttle added that the event will focus on regional problem solving. “Our greatest hope is that we can build a stronger coalition for regionalism. It’s a lofty goal, but it’s what we must do,” he said, adding, “And the first thing out of the gate is our air quality problem.”

The event will feature a series of panel discussions with air quality experts moderated by Assemblyman Darrell Steinberg. Earlier this year Steinberg authored the Sacramento Emergency Clean Air/Transportation plan, which is intended to use about $70 million in incentives to clean up the region’s heavy-duty diesel truck and bus fleet over the next five years.

The keynote speaker will be Neal Peirce, a syndicated columnist for the Washington Post Writers’ Group. Peirce is the recipient of the Urban Journalism Award and writes about trends in state and local governments and sustainable communities.

The forum will be held on Friday, Oct. 20, starting at 8:00 a.m. at the Sacramento Convention Center. Registration is fifty bucks, and seats are filling up fast. For more information, contact Liz Baidoo at (916) 733-3237.