Today, a coalition of 10 San Diego environmental organizations released its second annual Environmental Quality Report Card, which grades Mayor Sanders and city council members on decisions related to environmental health in 2010. The report speaks with one voice about the importance of environmental health in the city of San Diego. The purpose is simple: hold elected officials accountable.
Taken at face value, this year’s report card offers hope. It should be noted, however, that city officials voted on a relatively small number of environmentally important issues in 2010, which made for an easy year and accounts for the marked improvement of this year’s grades. The real measure of the city’s commitment to environmental stewardship will be graded this year as we tackle game-changing issues like transportation, climate change mitigation and the green energy economy.
Most council members took positive steps toward improving their environmental scorecard, while others continued to give our environment little or no consideration in their decisions.
For the second year in a row, Councilman Carl DeMaio received the worst grade of all, despite a relatively light environmental docket. His grade reflects a persistent failure to recognize the environmental stewardship that voters have entrusted with him.
The San Diego region faces a broad variety of environmental challenges. Residents here rely on the mayor and city council to be proactive rather than reactive and create policies that enhance and protect our natural resources and improve our quality of life. A healthy, sustainable environment is crucial to every aspect of our region, from the health of our families to our economic prosperity.
Many council members earned positive marks voting for Indirect Potable Reuse (IPR), a plan to recycle wastewater into highly purified drinking water, though a pilot project is proceeding as a result of a broad-based coalition of advocates. IPR is a sustainable policy proposal that address San Diego’s critical water shortage.
The council also showed consistency in the areas of green energy and climate change by opposing Proposition 23 and establishing an Environmental and Economic Sustainability Task Force to oversee development of the city’s Climate Mitigation and Adaptation plan. These moves should lead to the creation of a green energy and green-collar jobs initiative that will bring new economic opportunities to our region.
On the downside, a majority of the council was marked down by voting for a plan that sidestepped a court order that protected San Diego’s vernal pools, an extremely scarce wetland habitat type occurring only where certain soil conditions are present.
The mayor also lost points for supporting the proposed Regents Road bridge project, which would build a destructive road through Rose Canyon Open Space Park Preserve, an important area for wildlife, recreation, water quality protection and environmental education.
In the coming year, the environmental community will monitor a number of key votes that will affect the long-term sustainability of the region. While these will not be the only issues of environmental importance for the city, officials can maintain and improve their grades by supporting the following issues.
- Take a position on the SANDAG Regional Transportation Plan that implements transit first.
- Approve a programmatic approach to storm water maintenance that preserves public involvement and protects water quality.
- Preserve the city’s remaining vernal pools and approve strong wetland delineation determination.
- Adopt an aggressive Climate Mitigation and Adaptation Plan that will reduce San Diego’s carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
- Adopt a green-collar job development initiative that leads to local hire.
Our elected officials must recognize that environmental stewardship, moving to a green-collar economy, and becoming a more sustainable city offers the greatest opportunity for San Diego to right our economic ship and bring new opportunities to our communities.
Strategic Community Consulting, which provides consulting services from the UCSD Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IR/PS), conducted the independent analysis for this report card.
The City of San Diego Environmental Quality Report Card Coalition includes The League of Conservation Voters San Diego, Surfrider San Diego, San Diego Coastkeeper, San Diego Sierra Club, California Native Plant Society, Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation, Environmental Health Coalition, Friends of Rose Canyon, San Diego Audubon Society, and the Cleveland National Forest Foundation.
Colin Parent is a board member of the League of Conservation Voters San Diego.