Friday, August 27, 2010

Clean Energy and Oil Accountability

Dear Senator Hatch and Senator Bennett:

I urge you to work to pass the Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Accountability Act (S. 3663) as soon as you return to Washington, DC in September.

If passed, the Senate bill would improve offshore drilling management and crisis response and finally guarantee funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund – an important tool for preserving and restoring habitat for Gulf wildlife and other animals. It would also invest in Home Star, an energy efficiency program that lowers consumers’ energy costs and creates jobs.

We need to hold oil companies accountable to clean up and prevent future oil disasters.

We need to encourage consumers to cut back on their energy consumption to get rid of this inversion we have in Utah. Just imagine if 15% of these cars were electric. I'd love to go for my morning run this fall and winter and not have to look towards the town where I work seeing this awful brown cloud over everything.

This bill is a step in the right direction.


Citizen Brynja

Logan, UT

This message is also available on the blog

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ban Single-Use Plastic Bags Now

Sen. Fran Pavley
Senate District 23
4035 State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Sen. Pavley,

I'm writing to urge your support of AB 1998, the Single-Use Bag Reduction Act.  AB 1998 would ban  plastic single-use bags and require recycled paper bags be sold at stores in California.

The appalling existence of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch should be reason enough to stop use of these bags, which are routinely fatal to over 200 species of marine life.  Californians use an estimated 19 million of these bags every year.  Only 5% or less are recycled.  Paper bags are not much better; they're a drain on our natural resources.  AB 1998 will quickly steer consumer habits to cloth and reusable bags.

San Francisco, Malibu, Fairfax, and Palo Alto currently ban these bags, and 20 other cities are working on bans, including my own city, Santa Monica.  Rather than taking an ineffective piecemeal approach AB 1998 will create a uniform policy and extending California's leadership in good environmental stewardship.  I encourage you to lead by supporting AB 1998.

Citizen Dylan

Monday, August 16, 2010

Preserve Wilderness

Dear Nancy Sultley,

Southeast Utah is home to some of our nation's most prized wilderness lands and cultural resources and is well deserving of federal protection. Unfortunately, instead of working for protection of these wild landscapes a 'wilderness' proposal is being developed behind closed doors by county commissioners that will create ORV access at the expense of preserving these wild lands and the cultural resources they contain.

The San Juan Canyonlands landscape exemplified by the Glen Canyon wilderness contains by many counts, the densest number of archeological sites in the world. This cultural heritage has, and continues to be, placed at risk by off-road vehicle trails that go through archeological sites, leading to unintentional damage and intentional looting.These trails also tend to be in wet canyon bottoms where the site density is the greatest, as is the damage to rare desert riparian areas.

As a Utahn, I have a stake in this legislation as do all Americans. I hope the Obama administration will take a thoughtful approach to public lands legislation for southeast Utah, and only support legislation that provides meaningful and significant protection from ORVs and other threats for the regions cultural, wilderness and water resources, and oppose any legislation that does not.

Brynja Kohler (with help from the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

My Birthday Wish: Do More to End War

Dear Rep. Bishop, Sen. Hatch, and Sen. Bennett,

Today is my 40th birthday. I always make my charitable donations of the year on my birthday. It makes me feel good and that way I remember that I've contributed. This year, I have decided that I need to focus my donations towards ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I simply cannot believe that we are still involved in these wars today.

My husband and I had our first date at a peace rally in March 2003, just prior to the US invasion of Iraq, and after US bombs had been falling in Afghanistan for years already. Since then, I completed graduate school, we got married, we bought a house, I started a job, we brought two lovely children into this world -- a girl, now 5, and a boy, now 3. And war rages on? I recall conversations with my husband's elderly grandmother about how eager we both were for war to end so her grandson (our cousin) could return from service -- but that conversation took place back in the Bush administration and since then she has passed away. She never saw an end to either of these wars! Do you remember my friend and local hero Marshall Thompson who walked the entire state of Utah after returning from Iraq to call attention to the war and pay homage to the over 500 US soldiers who lost their lives in conflict? Let us each do more. While my family prospers, should I complain? Absolutely. It sickens me to think of the inequity of bombs landing amongst people with a great deal less wealth than we have. Meanwhile, here in the US we aren't even responsible enough to reduce our greedy consumption.

Now is the time to focus on ending war. Please make this your cause in the coming year. When will you bring the reality of the human and financial cost of these wars to the public? I am determined to do more personally, and I'm glad that today I'm sharing my dollars with like-minded organizations. Here are some worthy organizations that I have found:
Brave New Foundations: Rethink Afghanistan

I would sure appreciate some efforts among you law makers to reduce our spending on military actions abroad and to do more for diplomacy and humanitarian relief.
What will you do to bring about peace?


Brynja Kohler
Logan, UT

The First Amendment: Separate Is Not Equal

Dear Rep. Waxman, Sen. Boxer, and Sen Feinstein:

I have followed the Net Neutrality issue for the last couple of years, and I've gone from proud and elated to appalled and furious.  My freedom of speech as a citizen seems up for sale to corporations.

One of the biggest boons to humanity in the last twenty years has been the internet and the rise of the world wide web.  It's injected new life into our ability as citizens of the world to connect and exchange information.  When there were rumblings that the big telecom companies wanted to extract even more profit by creating a faster, parallel internet with corporate gatekeeping of communications, I grew concerned -- but then Obama pledged he was a steadfast champion of Net Neutrality and would make sure the FCC adhered to this principle.

Since then the White House has gone silent and it seems backroom dealmaking is afoot for corporate takeover of the net.  The "proposal" from Google and Verizon is nothing but a sly play to spout principles of Net Neutrality while stripping these same principles from wireless, the unquestioned future of the Internet.

The proper reaction should be an absolute rejection of this nefarious plan and very strong legislation ensuring that all speech can remain equal in the digital world.  The First Amendment has already been assaulted enough with the Citizens United decision, and I'd hate to see more of what I value as a citizen given away to giant corporations.

I will be closely watching your actions on this issue.

Citizen Dylan

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Border conflict

Dear Rep. Waxman and Rep. Harman:

I am flattered to find that I'm in the middle of something of a custody battle between you.  I live on the very border of Santa Monica and Los Angeles and find that sometimes I'm told I'm in Rep. Waxman's district (CA-30) and sometimes in Rep. Harman's (CA-36).  Currently both of your websites chart me in Rep. Harman's, but this hasn't always been the case and it still varies in other databases.

I'm personally torn, myself.  On the one hand, my political leanings tend to align more with Rep. Waxman's, and logically I'd guess I'm with him since his district covers all the rest of Santa Monica -- my side of the street, where I actually live and pay taxes.  But on the other, I'd be less likely to be preaching to the choir with Rep. Harman, and so perhaps I would be more useful to her.

I look forward to your resolving this and to your response.

Sincerely (one of) yours,
Citizen Dylan

Update:  A staffer from Waxman's office called me back, and verified that their webpage and that of the House of Representatives mistakenly directs me to Harman's district when I in fact am in Waxman's.  (The Country Registrar site is correct and the last word.)  He said my communication was getting through (I have to fake the zip+4 to do so), because they had many letters in their file from me.  (I have a file!)  And he said he'd tell the right folks.

Fast track the new track

Dear Rep. Waxman, Sen. Boxer, and Sen. Feinstein:

Mayor Villaraigosa has restored a little of my hope in the potential of our elected officials to effect progress with his 30/10 initiative for mass transit in Los Angeles. I've been following this issue closely (my friend Daisy works the transportation beat for AP) but after clearing many hurdles it seems the process is now stalled somewhere in the bowels of Washington D.C.

This would be a landmark step in the right direction for L.A. and it's a win-win-win for jobs, electoral politics, and basic quality of life here.  At a time when similar amounts of money simply go unaccounted for in pointless wars, this would restore faith in what government can do.  I encourage you to do match the mayor's leadership by putting loan approval for this project on a fast track, and I look forward to hearing from you on this.

Citizen Dylan

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Dear Representative Matheson:
Thank you for your recent emailed newsletter expressing your concerns and ideas about reducing the national debt. I am pleased at the invitation to respond and express my feelings about how we should pay down the debt. Many of your ideas in my view miss the mark of what truly is responsible for our government's slide into over-spending. What we need to do to reduce government spending while still providing necessary services is to end war and reinstate taxes on the wealthiest Americans.
I read a fantastic opinion article today in the Christian Science Monitor that laid out the facts around taxes for wealthy. ( Be a hero and talk to some financial advisors to find out exactly how much revenue would be saved by keeping taxes for those making over $250,000 at 39.6%. In my opinion, it would be wise to raise it up to 50%, or higher. This is exactly what we should expect while fighting two wars. I would like to know what percentage of military families fall into this tax bracket. I doubt that it even matches the national percentage. I would bet that the military families who have had to make extraordinary sacrifice to fight overseas against an ill-defined enemy and with little in the way of clear plans for an end to this battle, fall firmly in the group of Americans that earn less than $250,000 a year. Can't the rich people pay up a little? Afterall, they are likely the ones profiting the most from this conflict.

End war.
Reinstate fairer taxes on wealthy people.
Then, we won't have any more debt problems.

Thank you for your attention on this important matter,

Brynja Kohler


Dear Sen. Feinstein:

You're quoted as "probably not" wanting to change the Senate rules that require any vote to gain a 60 vote filibuster-proof majority.  Given that you're a lifer in the big house, I can see why you get nervous about changing its traditions.  I'd like to point out a couple of things, however:

  1. This particular 60-vote formula has only been in effect since 1975, so it's far from a tradition, and
  2. Gridlock is the wonderful new tradition you're embracing (see diagram).  

Don't be a sucker.  You're being played.  Americans don't give a crap about the rules of the Senate -- we care about results. Quit being part of the problem.  Fix the filibuster abuse.

Citizen Dylan