The Sierra Club released poll numbers recently indicating that 47 percent of voters would be more likely to support a presidential candidate prepared to aggressively attack the problem of urban sprawl. Most people associate VP Al Gore with that issue, but Seattle Mayor Paul Schell has his own ideas.

Schell jumped on Bill Bradley‘s presidential bandwagon last week and told this reporter a large part of the reason was the former New Jersey senator and hoop legend’s stated commitment to balancing anti-sprawl efforts with the economic needs of growing urban areas. Schell also pointed to Bradley’s support for a stronger federal role in getting money to urban areas to create green spaces to offset ugly, sprawling, asphalt ‘burbs.

So what? Isn’t Schell just one lowly mayor compared to the reams of governors, congresspersons, and other high-grade pols throwing their weight behind Gore? Well, Schell also happens to be at the helm of the biggest city in a state that just hopscotched up near the front of the primary line, with voting now slated for Feb. 29, 2000. That’s smack in the middle of the mad rush from New Hampshire to the March 7 mega-primaries in New York and California, which are winnable only with the boatloads of free media generated by strong showings in early primary states (now including Washington).

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Regardless, Bradley’s got his mojo working these days, at least in the other Washington (D.C.), and appears to be laying the groundwork for an early season run at the veep who has had a rough time of it of late from some leading environmentalists.

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Sleepless in Seattle

Speaking of Seattle, Mayor Schell and other city luminaries worked diligently to land the gargantuan World Trade Organization gathering, which will begin Nov. 3 and bring in huge tourist revenues along with trade reps and high mucky-mucks from hundreds of nations.

For all his trouble, it looks like Schell may also play host to angry protests from environmental groups and labor unions looking to blast the WTO for what they see as the environmental depredations and labor injustices caused by the borderless global economy. A press release from Public Citizen issued a call to labor union reps and enviro activists to drop whatever they are doing this November and head for the Evergreen State.

The Gimlet Eye

Earth Day ’99 is receding into the collective memory leaving in its wake a passel of proposals and a load of legislative progeny. The question is: Now what? In the interests of accountability, Muckraker will keep its eye (hopefully with your help) on all the Earth Day-inspired efforts to see what takes and what tanks. Among them:

  • The Gore parks proposal. Looking to mend fences with angry enviros who raked him over the coals in a recent public letter, Gore wants states to come up with plans to clean up the air quality (and hence scenic vistas) in national parks. This one will be tough to track as the plan envisions success in 2064, when this column expects to be deep in its dotage. But we will watch nonetheless.
  • The GOP top 10. Repubs led by green machines Sen. John Chafee (R-R.I.) and Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.) looked to seize the Earth Day high ground with a raft of proposals, including California Rep. Brian “Surf God” Bilbray‘s bill to help states monitor the quality of their coastal waters and require them to notify beach-goers when water is contaminated by pathogens. The bill passed unanimously in the House, has a companion measure in the Senate, and looks good to go. Initiatives on the green GOP list also include permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and a handful of other items.

Names in the News

The Senate on April 19 unanimously approved Bob Gee‘s nomination to become assistant secretary for fossil energy at the Department of Energy … Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt tapped David J. Hayes as acting deputy secretary of Interior.

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Speaking of Babbitt, the secretary spent his Earth Day tromping around the Gettysburg National Battlefield Park in Gettysburg, Pa., where controversy rages over plans for construction of a new, privately operated visitor center. Historical preservation types are generally in favor as the current facilities at the park are insufficient and allow precious relics to molder away in a dank basement. The new park plan also calls for a recreation of the natural landscape encountered by Generals Robert E. Lee and George Meade when they clashed in the pivotal 1863 battle that turned the tide of the Civil War.

Local businesses and their Chamber of Commerce champions are up in arms over the proposed changes, fearing the visitor center’s new location will cut into downtown foot traffic. They have made an effort to line up enviros to oppose the landscaping part of the plan because it would require clearing some forest that has grown up over the last 135 years, but so far they haven’t had much luck. We’ll keep our eye on this environmental angle.

Finally, our Man in Texas Rick Abraham reports that four more people were arrested last week for “obstructing a passageway” outside Gov. George W. Bush‘s mansion in Austin while protesting lax emissions standards for old industrial plants in Texas.

Wax On Poets

No winner yet in the Kyoto haiku contest so keep on versifying. (Remember, five syllables, seven syllables, then five syllables.)