In letter to his daughter not long after the United States won its independence, Benjamin Franklin branded the bald eagle a “bird of bad moral character.” He wished, he wrote, that it “had not been chosen as the representative of our country.”

Long venerated by native cultures, the majestic bald eagle lives only in North America, a distinction that suited a young republic eager to assert a uniquely American identity separate from Europe. Therefore, in 1782, the Continental Congress did put the bald eagle on the Great Seal of the United States. Since then, the bald eagle has reigned as symbol of national unity and strength.

Despite Franklin’s disparaging views of the bald eagle, Americans immediately began displaying its image in public ceremonies and on organizational regalia. Yet they simultaneously targeted the living bird for eradication, as they did other predators, such as wolves and coyotes. Newspapers, government officials and ornithologists wrongfully accused the species, which primarily eats fish, of carrying away sheep, calves and pigs: all livestock that exceed the bird’s lifting power. Throughout the 19th century and beyond, an eagle seen was an eagle shot. Thus, once abundant across the county, the persecuted bird began disappearing from increasing numbers of states.

In 1940, a year before declaring war against fascist tyranny, Congress passed the Bald eagle Protection Act to preserve a “symbol of the American ideals of freedom.” Harming an eagle brought fines and a prison.

Yet five years later, when eagles were poised for recovery, DDT became available for general use. Collateral victims of the pesticide’s widespread applications included countless fish and birds, and by 1963, the bald eagle’s nesting population in the contiguous United States had fallen to a paltry 487 pairs — far fewer than the number that could be found in a single state before the revolution.

At the same time, Americans had fouled their own nest, tainting their food, water and air with waste products from factories and automobiles. Recognizing that their quality of life, even survival, depended on the same healthy environments that nonhuman species required, 20 million Americans nationwide participated in clean-up and tree-planting campaigns and protest marches on the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970.

Congress responded in swift order with a series of landmark environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act and Endangered Species Act. In just one year, 1972, the Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of DDT, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service imposed harsher penalties for harming eagles, and Congress gave decisive bipartisan support to the Clean Water Act. Celebrating its 50th anniversary this coming October, the CWA helped revitalize our rivers, lakes and coastal waters, the majority of which were unsafe for fishing and swimming. Nothing would be more essential to the eagles’ comeback than the CWA’s restoration of their watery habitats.

As we embark on our mandated housing numbers we must not forget our environment, our waterways, air and our transportation. For more than 30 years in this state, the need for housing has been an ongoing problem. No one can deny the cost of the housing has risen so high that most can’t afford to buy. In our wonderful city of Foster City, approximately 46% of our residents are renters.

On April 21, the City Council and Planning Commission met to talk about the Housing Element Update. Statutory requirements for the Housing Element, which are delineated in California State Government Code Section 65580-65589.9. Per State law, the Housing Element has two main purposes:

• To provide an assessment of both current and future housing needs and constraints in meeting these needs; and

• To provide a strategy that establish housing goals, policies, and programs.

This Housing Element includes goals, policies, and programs that guide the community to meet these new requirements. The Regional Housing Needs Allocation is a state-required process to ensure each California jurisdiction is planning for adequate housing to accommodate their “fair share” of the state’s housing needs. For this Housing Element cycle, the California Department of Housing and Community Development provided the Association of Bay Area Governments with a Regional Housing Needs Determination of 441,176 units.

Foster City’s RHNA for 2023-2031 is 1,896 units. Please go to fostercity.org to review the proposed sites.

As councilmember, I am concerned about the same things you are: safety, traffic, infrastructure and climate resiliency. Before making decisions, I will look at all environmental reports. Foster City is our community and together we must preserve and protect this crown jewel that we love by working together hand in hand. Then, together, we can soar like the majestic and beloved bald eagle.

Patrick Sullivan is a member of the Foster City Council.

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(2) comments

Terence Y

Hey Mr. Sullivan, people are probably more interested in how FC is going to handle the geese poop problem than in building more unaffordable housing. Although I don’t live in FC, I’m sure residents would like to know how much it’ll cost to solve the problem in the short, and long, run. Is this issue within your wheelhouse?

Jeff Regan

This is ironic. Foster City residents should remember that it was June of 2021 that Councilmember Sullivan tried to force a vote before every Councilmember had been able to discuss the proposed redevelopment of the Mariners Point Golf facility into high density apartments. Councilmember’s Sullivan, Hindi and Awasthi seemed to be in a big hurry to force this vote without ANY outreach or notice to the thousands of residents from Foster City and San Mateo who use the facility for recreation. Councilmember Sullivan, you and the above mentioned Councilmembers are inauthentic and hypocritical, showing a lack of transparency and interest in representing your constituents priorities. That is politics, not leadership.

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