This is a post by Tracy Sabetta:
This week, I had the opportunity to represent Ohio’s environmental coalition in standing with elected officials and leaders of the state’s largest labor unions in support of clean air. Groups who have historically been on opposite sides of regulatory issues found their common ground on two fronts: not only did every speaker agree that we can have both clean air and a strong economy, but every speaker was also a woman!
They followed one another to the podium—women who have logged fantastic accomplishments in their professional lives. They came as leaders, mothers, caregivers, and most importantly, concerned citizens ready to speak out for something they believe to be critically important. They came to tell the stories about how those they represent are also standing in support of cleaner air.
Petee Talley is the first woman to hold one of the two top offices in the history of the Ohio AFL-CIO, being elected to the position of Secretary-Treasurer in 2002 and re-elected in 2006. She explained to those in the audience and reporters that in the last year, 50 local unions and other union-affiliated organizations passed resolutions in support of the EPA regulating greenhouse gases in power plants to ensure we have cleaner air and to make the U.S. more competitive globally. These organizations represent 70,000 Ohioans supporting cleaner air and good jobs.
But the remarks of Samantha Trueblood, City Director for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1, rang true for everyone in the room. She said that she had received an invitation to participate in the event because she was the leader of a local labor union. However, she accepted the invitation because she is the mother of a 3 year old. She sometimes lies awake at night worried about how she will pay for her child’s college tuition, how will he find a good job to support a family, and how can she help ensure that he will live on a planet with a healthy environment as he grows older.
Listening to these vibrant speakers made me think about my own journey into environmental protection. Growing up on the shores of Lake Erie in the small town of Ashtabula, Ohio, I rarely thought about the quality of the air I was breathing. The area was home to coal-fired power plants and a broad array of chemical factories. These businesses were the life-blood of this blue collar town, and everyone had family who worked for one of the companies. I left Ashtabula for college and a career as a political and campaign consultant in Columbus, but I carry a small piece of my hometown with me everywhere I go.
Most of my work has focused on public health and environmental policies, issues that are certainly of critical importance to those still living in the shadows of polluters. As I learned more about air quality in Ohio, I was appalled to discover that Ohio ranks first in the nation for the amount of pollution being spewed in the air by coal-fired power plants. We rank second for the amount of mercury being emitted. While I love this state and cannot imagine ever leaving, these facts led me to question why I was raising my 12 year old daughter in Ohio.
Fortunately, work is being done in the state and across the nation to reduce the amount of mercury, arsenic, benzene, and other harmful chemicals in our air and water, and I am extremely proud to be a part of it. I am a member of the Moms Clean Air Force, and I have the pleasure of representing the National Wildlife Federation and serving as the state lead for the Clean Air Act Defense Campaign. For the past few years, my work has kept me engaged in a campaign to support stronger EPA air and water standards at the federal level. We have met with members of Ohio’s Congressional delegation, worked with the media across the state, and encouraged concerned citizens to speak up in favor of a cleaner environment. Work is continuing with new partners joining the movement every day.
Hearing the motivational words of these women only served to remind me that mothers are truly a force to be reckoned with. Whether we are elected officials, environmentalists, factory workers, or business owners, we are first and foremost moms. A mother’s love is fierce, and our commitment to protecting the health and well-being of our children knows no bounds.
We should all be proud of these women and their resolve to reduce pollution and ensure future generations have cleaner air to breathe. We should subsequently honor their commitment by following their lead and speaking up for our own children and their right to breathe clean air I do it for my daughter and that small town in northeast Ohio that I love.
Tracy Sabetta is the co-founder of Initiative Consulting, a campaign consulting and public affairs firm in Columbus, Ohio. Tracy conducts lobbying and media relations work for non-profit organizations that focus primarily on environmental and health care issues. Prior to starting IC, Tracy was the Vice President of Government Relations for the American Cancer Society, Ohio Division, where she served as co-chair and spokesperson for a 2006 ballot initiative that resulted in smoke-free public places and workplaces in Ohio. Sabetta has worked in both the Ohio Senate and the Ohio House of Representatives as a legislative aide and budget analyst. She has also served as campaign manager and staff on a number of US Senate, gubernatorial, legislative, and local political campaigns. She is married and the mother of a 12 year old daughter.