Local leaders from the realms of business, health care, social justice and environmental protection have joined forces to form Sustainable Sonoma to tackle some of Sonoma Valley’s toughest hot button issues.
“Whether it is the housing crisis, the wealth and education divide, groundwater depletion, preserving our rural character, the future of the Sonoma Developmental Center, or economic diversification and our tourism economy, … unless we can align our efforts and work together toward common goals, Sonoma Valley will soon become overwhelmed by the problems facing our region,” said Sustainable Sonoma coordinator Kim Jones in a press release this week announcing the new group.
“After 25 years of working with our community to take care of this remarkable place, we realized that we cannot accomplish our mission of ecological health in Sonoma Valley without systemic change that’s supported by the whole community,” said Richard Dale, executive director of Sonoma Ecology Center, which first proposed the new initiative.
“Sustainable Sonoma offers an opportunity to convene the community around important issues,” said Patricia Shults, executive director of the Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce. “Big issues require a collaborative approach. If we are truly going to improve things that are important to a healthy economy – the ability to hire and retain employees, adequate housing, economic diversification – Sustainable Sonoma can serve as a hub for solutions.”
“It takes everyone pushing in the same direction for change to happen,” said Juan Hernandez III, executive director of La Luz Center. “This initiative is a foundation for this push.”
Underscoring the need for collaboration, a new report by Sonoma Valley Fund titled “Hidden in Plain Sight” states that despite a thriving culture of philanthropy in Sonoma Valley, the increasing scope, intensity and interconnectedness of Sonoma Valley’s challenges – “the lack of adequate and affordable housing, increasing poverty, the rapid rise of our senior population and the environmental pressures created by population growth” – could overwhelm our existing network of nonprofits.
Sustainable Sonoma was launched with this data in mind. The initiative’s first step will be to engage the community to build a shared vision and agenda across the sectors of health care, economic development, social justice, housing, transportation, tourism, land use, recreation and environmental protection.
Sustainable Sonoma partners to date include Sonoma Ecology Center, Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce, Sonoma Valley Health Roundtable, La Luz Center, Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau, and Health Action.
As the initiatives matures, it is expected to take on its own identity – a standalone staff, independent funding –“so that it belongs to the whole community, not any particular organization.”
The community is encouraged to submit information about projects already underway on the “Projects” page sustainablesonoma.net/projects) and watch for a public meeting in the fall.
Community input is being collected through its “This is my vision” page at sustainablesonoma.net/this-is-my-vision.
Contact Sustainable Sonoma coordinator, Kim Jones, at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about how to get involved.