the comparative risk process was extremely valuable because it brought together agencies, citizens, and organizations to focus on the city's problems and to agree on what matters, what goals the city wanted to achieve. The mayor and city council adopted some of the recommendations in subsequent city budgets. The technical committees agreed that the number-one risk and the number-one priority was the automobile's contribution to both air pollution and runoff to surface waters. The people of Seattle took that ranking seriously enough to invest in planning an $8 billion, three-county commuter rail system. After lengthy debates about the technical merits of the proposed system, voters recently rejected the proposal.
The story is a reminder that it is possible for a fairly representative group to agree on the nature of a problem, agree on a general goal, and disagree on specific strategies to achieve the goal, even when the strategies appear perfectly rational and well founded. Public opinion—and hence, public policy—will never be rational, although both can be better informed. The conflicts that arise when a public process frames problems carefully can foster useful public learning, though the line from goal-setting to strategy and implementation will not be straight or simple.
Out of the Seattle comparative risk project flowed an ambitious comprehensive planning process, and more recently, "Sustainable Seattle," an entirely volunteer effort to strengthen the community from the inside. Sustainable Seattle has adopted indicators of success similar to Minnesota's, though with an additional community-building aspect: one indicator of the city's sustainability is how many neighbors each individual knows by name. The participants in Sustainable Seattle include many of the people, companies, and organizations who were involved in the formal city government efforts. Here, as in Minnesota, the personal connections and learning that these processes establish endure beyond the process and probably contribute more to decision-making and the incorporation of technical expertise into policy than do the committees' formal plans and reports.
Across town, as it were, states have been increasingly active in setting goals and policies for the cooperative development of environmental technologies and focused environmental research. As noted in Enabling the Future, solving the nation's long-term environmental problems will require a long-term effort to understand the problems and to develop appropriate technological tools to mitigate, eliminate, or solve them. Several states have responded to that challenge as a market opportunity: a way to create jobs while contributing to the general well-being of the nation and the world. Their efforts have been more opportunistic than goal driven, however. States appear to be setting up processes to identify and