Once the dust settles, however, you still need to govern – to get the day-to-day business of the people and the community done. There are new players or new coalitions, certainly new circumstances and new ideas that need to be reflected (or deflected). Throughout, there’s always the need to bring your issues and concerns to the political powers-that-be – however they may have changed – to seek action and address needs.
Advocating for the coast requires all this and more, since coastal concerns can get lost in the larger battles at hand, or be muddled by jurisdictional or geographic issues since what happens here has a major impact there – wherever “here” and “there” may be.
However, the coast also has a lot going for it in terms of getting some political attention… and maybe even action. Here are just a few of the coastal verities that can register with elected officials at every level:
If you’re looking to boost the economy, look no further than the shoreline. There’s probably no greater economic engine than a healthy coastline, to build tourism and communities by bringing jobs, trade and people.
Investing in infrastructure should include our natural infrastructure. Maintenance matters to beaches and bays as much as it does to roads and rails, and a crumbling coastline has as much negative impact to a community and its economy as broken bridges and ragged roadways.
The old saw is right: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to coastal protection from storms and rising tides. Wide beaches, high dunes and prudent coastal development protects people and property, true – but it also helps communities bounce back from storms faster and keeps their economies (and the revenues they produce for government at all levels) on an even keel in the face of whatever nature throws at it.
The federal government (and the state and local, too) must stay engaged in protecting our coast. Not just with funding, which has such a good return on investment as to be nearly a no-brainer… but also with reasonable regulations, sound science and prudent oversight to protect all interests involved.
Coastal communities don’t necessarily need coastal leadership from politicians of all stripes. They need cooperation to help get things done – a partnership with government where local knowledge takes a lead, not a dictatorship designed for top-down dictums. Most of all they need reliability – in funding and focus, in permitting and planning.
Coastal protection is also a big-picture issue, since nothing along the coast happens in isolation. Decisions made upstream or inland can have consequences on the coast, and minor changes in habitat or hydrology can have massive impacts on creatures and shoreline stability.
To protect the coast, science matters, as do decisions based on factual reality rather than partisan politics. If science is based on the predictable and politics is grounded in the expedient, which would you want making decisions about our coast and its waters?
Now is the time to bring your coastal concerns to elected officials, whether newly minted or old hands, to ensure they are part of the discussion in whatever happens next. You should ask them what information you can prove that will help them advocate for your position. Plan to meet with your new (or old) Member of Congress, your state legislators, your community officials – anyone who can make decisions that will make your coast healthier.
Don’t wait for them to come to you. Bring your concerns straight to them.
The election is over. Let the governing begin.
Founded in 1926, the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) is a nonprofit that advocates for healthy coastlines by promoting the integration of science, policies and actions that maintain, protect and enhance the coasts of America. For more information on ASBPA, go to www.asbpa.org, Facebook or www.twitter.com/asbpa.