Public interest must be basis of government

I was thirsty this morning, so I went to the sink, turned on the tap, filled a glass, and drank some water. We do this every day. We don’t worry about the quality of the water, the pipes that bring it into our homes, the reservoir where water is collected and stored, the water treatment so that it has no bacteria or viruses. We literally take our water for granted.

But it is not granted. It is the product of good public health, good regulation, good planning, good scientific research, good construction practices, good oversight, good taxes and user fees, and good public servants. All these things are the product of good government. The story of drinking water in Everett begins in the Cascades, with water collected in the Spada Reservoir, then channeled through the Snohomish County PUD Jackson Hydroelectric Plant to make electricity. The water then flows back through a three-mile-long pipe to Lake Chaplain Reservoir. Part of it is diverted and returned to the Sultan River to provide in-stream flow for fish. Most of it is treated at the Drinking Water Filtration Plant. Then it flows, via gravity into the homes and businesses of Everett.

When you get a glass of water, you are benefitting from decades of planning, dam-building, preservation of land and pipe-laying. You are benefitting from current expenditures for water monitoring, water filtration, and maintenance of transmission lines. You know your water is safe and is there for you.

Another thing we do in the morning, and, in fact, all day long, is breathe. Our health is dependent on air quality. That makes me happy to live in the Northwest. Our air is clean, the sky is blue when it isn’t raining, and you can see the Olympics to the West and the Cascades to the East. We take this for granted. But we shouldn’t. If we lived in some other parts of the world, we couldn’t see mountains five miles from our homes. Today the air quality index, which measures five major air pollutants, is 19 in Everett. That means that the air is “good.” Compare this to Hangzhou China, where today the air quality index measures 250 — officially this is “very unhealthy.” Hangzhou happens to have a beautiful lake surrounded by green mountains. But the lake is only to look at, you wouldn’t be caught swimming in it, and the mountains you can’t even see through the haze of pollution.

Fifty years ago Lake Washington was an embarrassment of bad water with sewage outflows, industrial waste and blue-green algae blooms. Thanks to voters’ approval of the metropolitan form of county-wide government for water and sewage treatment and growth planning, and thanks to federal regulations on allowable discharges, we cleaned up Lake Washington. Now we take swimming for granted, at least once the water warms up a bit. That piece of environmental good works was only possible thanks to good government.

A Republican President — Richard Nixon, and a Democratic Congress in 1970 partnered up to pass the Clean Air Act, regulating air pollutants, including auto emission standards, the adoption of catalytic converters, the banning of lead in fuel, and limiting and mitigating industrial “smokestack” emissions. The result: the number of days of unhealthy air has been reduced by ten-fold in Everett, from three weeks a year in 1985 to just two days in 2013.

China doesn’t regulate industrial emissions. Their industry and homes depend on coal-fired electricity. As a result, they are literally suffocating their own citizens. People are getting fed up. Protests against air and water pollution are even escaping through the censors’ scissors.

We expect good air and clean water and we should. It’s only possible through a government that is of, for, and by the people. We have had those governments in the past, at the city, county, state and federal level. The elected leaders from both parties took their responsibilities as public servants and public leaders seriously. They made decisions for the public interest. So when you drink a glass of water from the tap, take a deep breath, and resolve to hold our elected representatives accountable for governing in the interests of all of us. We did it before, and we can do it again.

John Burbank is the Executive Director of the Economic Opportunity Institute (www.eoionline.org). Email john@eoionline.org

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Opinion

Vote 2024. US American presidential election 2024. Vote inscription, badge, sticker. Presidential election banner Vote 2024, poster, sign. Political election campaign symbol. Vector Illustration
Editorial: Ron Muzzall’s work warrants reelection to Senate

Janet St. Clair offers key experience, but Muzzall is effective and sets an example for civil leadership.

toon
Editorial cartoons for Tuesday, July 23

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Help in efforts to save birds, wildlife

Since the 1970s, North America has lost 30 percent of its birds,… Continue reading

Say yes to saving lives by voting for Mukilteo EMS levy

The Mukilteo Fire Department is asking voters to renew the levy for… Continue reading

Kristof: What Biden’s decision not to run means for America

Biden’s selfless choice aids his party, secures his legacy and improves the world’s chances for normalcy.

G9ldberg: And just like that, Democrats find reason for joy

Following Biden’s decision to end his campaign and endorse his veep, Democrats are positively giddy.

Brooks: Democrats must provide an answer to MAGA’s promises

For Democrats to succeed, they need to offer people a future of both security and progress.

Scott Spahr, Generation Engineering Manager at Snohomish County PUD, points to a dial indicating 4 megawatts of power production from one of two Francis turbine units at the Henry M. Jackson Powerhouse on Friday, Feb. 17, 2023, near Sultan, Washington. Some of the water that passes through units 3 and 4 — the two Francis turbines — is diverted to Lake Chaplain, which supplies water to Everett. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Editorial: Amber King best suited for PUD’s 2nd District seat

Among three solid candidates, King’s knowledge of utilities and contracts will serve ratepayers well.

Vote 2024. US American presidential election 2024. Vote inscription, badge, sticker. Presidential election banner Vote 2024, poster, sign. Political election campaign symbol. Vector Illustration
Editorial: Return Wagoner and Low to 39th Disrict seats

‘Workhorse’ Republicans, both have sponsored successful solution-oriented legislation in each chamber.

A law enforcement officer surveys the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, the site of the Republican National Convention, on July 14, 2024. (Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times)
Editorial: Weekend’s violence should steel resolve in democracy

Leaders can lower the temperature of their rhetoric. We can choose elections over violence.

toon
Editorial cartoons for Monday, July 22

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Krugman: For Trump, once again, it’s carnage in America

Ignoring the clear decline in crime rates for much of the country, Trump basks in thoughts of mayhem.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.