Arlington, VA - If next year's election follows the pattern set in this year's mid-terms, we should be very happy indeed. The Sierra Club made major commitments up and down the ticket, across the country, and there are four major victories that I'd like to highlight and share with you.
In Northern Virginia, the Club provided major get-out-the-vote support for our candidates for the state Senate, two of whom won. The third race has been is subject to automatic recount, as the Club-endorsed candidate only trails by 91 votes. In the end, Governor Tim Kaine has a majority in the state Senate for the first time -- a majority he promptly used to call for greater investments in environmental protection.
In Oregon, voters voted to restore common sense and community rights to land use regulation by drastically reforming an anti-environmental "property rights" initiative adopted 3 years ago. Measure 49 was supported by farmers, the governor and environmentalists, while the greatest resistance (and funding of that resistance) came from timber companies.
The state of Washington saw the Sierra Club lead the successful charge against Prop 1, which combined a highly desirable transit-funding package with a very bad set of highway projects that would have increased traffic and transportational global warming pollution by 40%. A number of environmental groups supported Prop 1, arguing that the road projects were the necessary price to get the transit. Club leaders, however, argued that the transit proposal, given a chance, would stand on its own, and that voters deserved a chance to vote for a new future. They got it.
And in Charlotte, North Carolina, voters overwhelmingly rejected an attempt by far right-wing elements and the John Locke Foundation to derail the city's newly built light rail system, the first leg of which is scheduled to open before Christmas. Organizer Chatham Olive led the local Sierra Group in opposing repeal of the half-cent sales tax which supports public transit in Charlotte. The opposition sought to repeal the tax in order to cripple the system and encourage more auto-based sprawl. Of the 24 percent of citizens who turned out, 70 percent voted to maintain the tax, which brings in 70 million dollars a year.