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Sustainable Willits: unanimous vote for economic localization

A statement calling for sustainable local production of necessary goods and services including food was unanimously endorsed by the city council Wednesday night.

"I think it's wonderful," said Mayor Tami Jorgensen. "I'm excited to see a number of (sustainable) businesses coming out of the woodwork." She mentioned one by name: the biodiesel outlet at the Energy Park just established north of Willits High School.

"People are coming back to Willits, the mayor continued. They want to raise their children here."

Councilwoman Holly Madrigal agreed: "It's an exciting time to be on the city council."

The statement, prepared primarily by Dr. Jason Bradford, founder of the Willits Economic LocaLization (WELL) group, and presented by city Community Development Director Alan Falleri, recognizes the reality of climate change, fossil fuel depletion, the growing gap between rich and poor and the shortage of jobs causing local youth to leave the area.

The depletion of fossil fuels, Bradford writes, including those needed for transportation, creates uncertainty when nearly all of the basics we depend upon are shipped here from elsewhere.

Willits City Manager Ross Walker, agreeing with the analysis, offered facts from an article in Western Cities magazine:

"Ninety percent of the populace can't afford houses where they work, he said, adding the risk of death in city-suburban commutes is now greater than the risk of death from inner-city violence. Some major societal shifts are going to have to take place."

The solutions, according to Bradford's statement, are in returning to small, local community enterprises. Prominent among the enterprises would be localized non-polluting transportation systems, farms and gardens, and renewable energy. Actions in that direction are to include education on the whys and hows of reorganizing the economy and solicitation of related new ideas from area residents.

The City of Willits was the first local entity to sign the statement. Council members made clear their endorsement does not commit them to an investment of staff time or funding. The statement, however, may help direct city actions on a number of fronts, including support for related grant applications and possible policy adjustments to guide new development.

Among the groups expected to sign the statement in the near future are the Willits Chamber of Commerce, North Coast Opportunities, Willits Active Living Congress, the countywide Economic Development and Finance Committee, and the Willits Action Group. Other organizations and service clubs have the item on the agenda of upcoming meetings.

Editorial Notes: Sounds like a chapter from Ecotopia Emerging by Ernest Callenbach. The book describes how the West Coast, horrified by the anti-environmental and militaristic direction of the rest of the US, seceeded to form the green nation of Ecotopia. The first signs of the movement were in the small towns of N. California. More power to Willits! For a good article on Willits, see Past the Peak. -BA

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