[Editor's Note: James Mink shared this letter to the City Council related to . Albany Patch welcomes guest columns and letters to the editor. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your contribution.]
Dear Council members,
Because I will be unable to attend the City Council meeting next Monday, May 21 due to a prior commitment, I wanted to write to you with my thoughts regarding , which is listed as Item No. 8-1 on the . Resolution No. 2012-34 would have the Council urge the University “to establish a space on the where the Albany schools and community can participate in gardening education and/or farming.” While this language seems unobjectionable on its face, by committing the City in advance to one possible outcome out of many, it works at cross-purposes with the City’s Climate Action Plan and the work of the . The conflict can be seen by looking at the next item on the Agenda.
is a staff recommendation to direct the City’s Sustainability Committee to “evaluate potential growing sites within the City, including the Gill Tract, for additional community gardens and urban agricultural activities[.]” This is an important idea, and something that is being done in nearby communities. See, for example, Oakland’s survey of its potential urban agricultural land (available here). Folks from the University helped to prepare that report, and might provide assistance in putting together something similar for us. Before voting on a resolution such as No. 2012-34, and adopting one option as Albany’s “preferred” option for the Gill Tract, it would make sense to let the Sustainability Committee do its job, with a fairly tight turnaround time, and see what the Committee recommends.
Letting the Sustainability Committee evaluate the Gill Tract, along with other potential growing sites, would also help to bring the greater Albany community back into the discussion on urban farming and food issues in Albany. Many participants in the “Occupy the Farm” action have said they felt stymied by earlier discussions of the Gill Tract; many other Albany residents have said since that they felt disenfranchised by the occupation, since they were not consulted or informed before the action took place. Now that the issue has been raised, the community at large should have the opportunity to make informed choices about the Gill Tract and other sites. Prioritizing and accelerating the evaluation of all sites through the Sustainability Committee would help the entire community to come up with a shared vision for what we want to see, both at the Gill Tract and in Albany more generally. Like other successful urban agriculture programs, ours should spring from and be guided by the community, based on a review of all of our options. Committing the City in advance to one particular outcome seems likely to hamper that process.
It makes sense for us to press forward with our work on the , and to direct the Sustainability Committee to work toward preparing something like what Oakland has done. If the Gill Tract requires special, separate consideration, then perhaps the subcommittee discussed in Agenda Item No. 8-3 makes sense. In either event, the Council should consider tabling discussion of Resolution No. 2012-34 until the Sustainability Committee issues the report called for in Agenda Item No. 8-2.
Thanks for your time and your commitment to working for Albany. Best regards,
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