This race is tight! And the undecided vote is huge, so late in the campaign…some say the undecideds might stay home, but many, like me, will decide who to vote for while walking to the polling place.
As an Austin Environmentalist for 30 years, this is a key issue for me. I decided to check out Lee Leffingwell’s website, since he claims to be the environmentalist in the race, and has the endorsement of some enviro groups. I wanted to see Lee’s position in his own words.
I googled him ( which is legal in this state ) and found his campaign website easily. There under “Issues”, Lee posted a lengthy column on May 6, in which he “spells out how the three major candidates differ” on key issues. He discusses several issues, none of which are the environment. Down at the bottom, under the heading “other issues”, he still doesn’t use the word “environment”.
In fact, strangely enough, in an article written specifically to point out the differences, he mentions two issues where he and Brewster are the same: ” We both supported investing in alternative energy sources, like biomass and solar. We co-sponsored the Austin climate Protection Plan…” These are the only two environmental issues he mentions, and there is no difference between him and Brewster. In almost 2000 words detailing his position on key issues, only 19 ( about 1% ) are about the environment!!
In fact, the only time Lee uses the word “environment” is at the very end, and he is talking about the “political environment”, not the natural one!!! Amazing, for someone who considers himself to be the enviro. in the race.
But there’s more…
Under “My Record”, he says he is “most proud” of his enviromental accomplishments. He lists four: 1) “a new citywide conservation plan to cut water leaks…and save money”. This must refer to the EPA-mandated replacement of water and sewer pipes that is finally nearing completion. He didn’t really “accomplish” this…the Federal Environmental Protection Agency required the city to do this, at enormous cost. In fact, all of the heavy diesel equipment used to complete this project spewed pollution and greenhouse gases into the air for YEARS!!
2) Lee worked with folks to reduce the use of coal tar sealants on parking lots. He didn’t do anything to reduce impervious cover–which is the key to protecting water quality–but he changed the coating for some of the impervious cover. This is insignificant in terms of actually protecting water quality, but Lee got a lot of “Greenwashing” out of it.
3) He worked to enable developers to re-do their developments over the aquifer, enabling more impervious cover than the SOS ordinance allowed. The fact that he is claiming this highly-questionable action as a benefit to the environment shows how thin his record really is.
4) And finally, he tried to reduce the number of plastic bags going into landfills…
That’s it!! The candidate’s environmental record in his own words…check it out for yourself!
That record is anemic…pathetic…laughable!!
By contrast, allow me to mention four of my environmental accomplishments when I served on the city council:
1) Put an item for action on the agenda that began the discussion of Endangered Species in Cenral Texas, culminating in the setting-aside of 30,000+ acres of habitat…that is HUGE! And unprecedented…
2) Put an item on the agenda that directed the city staff to write a non-degradation ordinance to protect water quality. This became the SOS ordinance, which was passed overwhelmingly by voters in 1992, and later was upheld by the Texas Supreme Court. Again, this was unprecedented…
3) Together with the LCRA and the State Land Office, we did the first wind power project in the State of Texas. Now Texas is #1 in the nation, and the wind power industry is growing rapidly around the world.
4) We instituted city-wide recycling, expanding a small pilot project. Austin was one of the first cities in America with city-wide recycling.
All of those accomplishments were enormous,,,no greenwashing there.
Compare those four to Lee’s, and you get an idea of how much environmentalism in Austin has slipped in the last 12 years.
Lee doesn’t say ONE WORD about air quality! Is it because he doesn’t care, or because he doesn’t have a clue of what to do? Air quality is a huge issue…and especially this week the air is very foul…and the leading environmentalist in the Mayor’s race doesn’t even mention it, let alone offer a solution???
If you want to vote for Lee because you like your Grandpa, that’s fine…just don’t vote for him under the illusion that he is going to do anything to protect our environment.
The bottom line in this Mayor’s race: the developers have three candidates in the race, the enviros 0.
Pick your poison…