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Eco Facades: The wolf who cried boy

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
October 21, 2004


"Practical politics consists in ignoring facts." — Henry Adams

Two weeks in the Grand Canyon is something I would recommend to anyone. Basically a cultural time out, fourteen days surrounded by rock older than God, is a humbling experience guaranteed to change the way you look at the world. It did so for me. No longer am I filled with an impending sense of doom, because I now understand there is little we asphalt apes can do to impact the ongoing evolution of planet earth.

This is not to say, we as thinking caring, and hopefully compassionate human beings, can't have a positive impact on the communities in which we live, and a healthy relationship with the ecosystems that sustains us. A positive impact I'm committed to involves honest assessments of those making claims of sound environmental stewardship.

The Sierra Club has a proven record of environmental stewardship. Sadly the Sierra Club Chapter in San Diego County is less than it seems. In terms of policy, and long-term vision, the organization is correct in opposing the placement of a landfill on top of a river and aquifer, and the growth-inducing Transnet II tax extension.

The Sierra Club has opposed the Gregory Canyon Landfill scheme from it's inception, and is joined by San Diegans for Clean Water, California League of Conservation Voters, the Cities of Del Mar, Encinitas, Oceanside, and Solana Beach, San Dieguito Water District, Surfrider Foundation, San Diego Bay Keeper, in their support for Proposition B and the environmental protections preserving San Luis Rey River valley.

The Sierra Club is endorsing wise ecological stewardship when asking its members and others to say no to Proposition A, a multi-billion dollar tax extension. This is also a vote against shortsighted, and ultimately corrupt, political pandering. Asking voters to soundly reject Prop A, and more misguided taxation, is wise counsel.

Sadly the political subcommittee of the San Diego Sierra Club has rejected ecological stewardship in the name of political expediency and factional county politics. Over the past several years the Sierra Club endorsement of local candidates, has become of joke, made obvious by the cronyism dictating this years endorsements. Before filing periods closed and all candidates announced, the fix was in. The majority of candidates running for office in coastal San Diego County were not even asked to submit for endorsement consideration. The agenda had been set.

Some of the premature endorsements make sense. Maggie Houlihan and Robert Wilder in Encinitas, Ester Sanchez and Sherri Mackin in Oceanside, and Lisa Heebner in Solana Beach are sensible choices, and would have easily stood up in comparison to other candidates, once the field of candidates had been defined. I agree with these choices.

Proving the charges of cronyism now dictating Sierra Club electoral politics was the endorsement of Bruce Ehlers for Encinitas City Council. A wolf dressed in borrowed green clothing, does not a Shepard make. Ehlers has no record of environmental stewardship or activism. With nothing to support a Sierra Club endorsement, other than a political alliance with Houlihan, Wilder and County Supervisor Pam Slater-Price, the endorsement becomes meaningless.

Paradoxically, Bruce Ehlers has adopted the image of a mature oak tree as the symbol of his campaign. Not only is this dishonest, it is an insult to those Encinitas residents who have worked to preserve native habitat in that community.

Shortly before the 2004 endorsements were announced candidate Bruce Ehlers, in The Coast News, asked reporter Ram Wong "What's more important on a city council: regional water use decisions or land use decisions?" It would seem a candidate supported by the Sierra Club would know regional water use is a land use decision. Ehlers is also on record as one of the progenitors of the failed 2002 Community Character Implementation Program (CCIP) that cost former councilman Dennis Holz a second term.

The CCIP included a view ordinance that would have mandated against native landscaping by limiting the height of trees in Encinitas. Indigenous species such as coastal live oaks, California sycamores, Torrey pines, and cottonwoods would have violated the ordinance had it been adopted. Bruce Ehlers still supports such a view ordinance for Encinitas.

I am certain the Sierra Club would not endorse a policy that prohibits the planting of indigenous tree species. I am also certain Sierra Club members would be unwilling to vote for a candidate who does.

It's a shame, the Sierra Club, and the legacy of John Muir, deserves better representation than a political animal that hides behind trees when it's convenient.

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