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I’ve received quite a few inquiries questioning why the Sierra Club would endorse Steve Francis. So I’d like to share the process we use — because that process is what determines the result. Our endorsement is not based on a whim or negotiations with any campaign. I’ve learned over the years that a process with integrity produces a result with integrity.

We send out questionnaires to candidates who are viable or ask for consideration. This year’s questionnaire included 15 multi-part questions covering the wide range of topics important to the environment: growth/development, planning, parks, canyons, fire safety, habitat/open space, water, energy, transportation, and waste/recycling. We also ask a few personal questions such as what do they recycle; when was the last time they took public transit; what do they do for outdoor recreation; what books are they currently reading; what are their favorite inspirational quotes. Having candidates on the record privately and publicly is an important part of the process.

Their written answers are used to screen for the next part of the process: in-person interviews with the all-volunteer Chapter Political Committee and interested club members. Both Francis and Sanders gave good interviews and both left with a “to do” list of follow-ups for the committee. This year we also hosted a public forum at the EarthFair in Balboa Park where the news coverage focused on the now infamous “f-you” remark by Sanders to Francis. Not exactly what we hoped for in terms of coverage of the issues. But it did demonstrate a remarkable loss of cool for a former cop.

Then the debates began. The Political Committee did consider an endorsement for Morrow. While his questionnaire was good, his interview was poor. We considered waiting until after the primary.

Volunteers spoke with each campaign for the follow-up work. Francis and his staff were most responsive and willing to learn.

Initial responses from Sanders’ staff provided some follow-up, but then we hit a dead-end. You’d get an answer to one question, ask a follow-up and get nothing.

In the end, the frustration of members who have seen good working relationships with city staff deteriorate beyond the pale, led to the motion to recommend an endorsement of Francis in the primary.

To the surprise of many, a more than 2/3 vote required for an endorsement was the result and the recommendation was forwarded to the Chapter’s Executive Committee comprised of ten members who are elected at-large by the Chapter membership. This also resulted in a 2/3 vote recommendation. This was then forwarded to the Sierra Club California Review Committee where a 2/3 vote to endorse is also required.

You already know the end result. A 2/3 vote is not an easy threshold to meet at every level. So we have confidence based on the process that this result is worth supporting.

— RICHARD MILLER

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