Thursday, June 12, 2008
It seems like the little organization that could. At only 2 years old, Sustainable Pacific Grove has taken up a big public presence: hosting eco-booths at Good Old Days; running green cleaning and worm composting workshops; developing criteria for the new P.G. Farmers Market; lobbying for a regional ban on polystyrene take-out containers; and outfitting the eco-hub known as The Green Spot with an edible garden, fog collector and cisterns.
But it’s hard to tell whether SPG’s power stems from a broad base or a couple of strong leaders. The group has hundreds of supporters on paper and draws dozens to monthly meetings, but the bulk of its work appears to be done by two women, Joy Colangelo and Annette Chaplin.
“People come in; we never see them again,” Colangelo says. “There’s just not a lot of people with initiative.”
The discrepancy between SPG’s big presence and small volunteer pool has caught the attention of P.G. sisters Pat and Sally Herrgott. “I’m confused about what kind of an organization they are,” Pat Herrgott says. “They’re just a loose group of people with similar objectives. To me, they seem more like a political action committee than a nonprofit.”
The SPG website describes the organization as a “grassroots, volunteer group undertaking projects to help Pacific Grove become more self-reliant and sustainable,” under the umbrella of the nonprofit Sustainable Monterey County.
Herrgott notes the strong links between SPG and P.G. leaders: City manager Jim Colangelo is Joy Colangelo’s brother, and Mayor Dan Cort sits on SPG’s steering committee. “I’m not against banning Styrofoam or recycling,” Herrgott says. “I just think they go through the back door to have more political access than the rest of us have.”
Joy Colangelo brushes off the insinuation. “The city manager, my brother, is in no way connected to SPG. There’s no cahoots,” she says. “The mayor is on the steering committee but is not otherwise very involved.”
Chaplin says community green groups are nothing new, citing eco-activism in Carmel Valley, Monterey, Big Sur and around the world. “P.G. has a lot of controversy in little groups that like to snipe at each other,” she says. “We think the time has come to address water issues pretty seriously, and plastic in the ocean. In terms of our ability to influence the council– wouldn’t it be nice?”
SPG meetings are usually held at the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History on the first Tuesday of the month. www.sustainablepg.org.