Some days, The Spike just wants to cry.
Like last week, when the National Audubon Society announced it had hired former Scottsdale mayor Sam Campana to head a new statewide effort by the group, one of the largest and most prestigious environmental organizations in the country.
Huh? A pro-development, staunchly Republican, business-circle mover and shaker to run a conservation organization?
Talk about your missed opportunity. Especially in a state that for years has been crying out for leadership within a so-called environmental movement that is limping along at best.
The Spike still hasn't forgiven the "movement" for its naive and, ultimately, idiotic handling of Proposition 202, the growth management initiative, in the works for years and finally on the ballot in 2000. First there was the failed effort in 1998 to gather enough signatures even to qualify for the ballot. Then, two years later when they finally got that act together, the conservationists let a proposal that started out with overwhelming public support be eviscerated by business and real estate interests.
The pro-development crowd had money, sure. And sleazy commercials. Meanwhile, the green groups were conspicuously lacking any kind of a political defense, even failing to put up roadside signs until just days before the election. (Actually, The Spike saw one nice sign several weeks earlier -- on a storefront in Bisbee.)
Let's review for a minute what constitutes practically the entire environmental community in Arizona. There's Sandy Bahr. The Center for Biological Diversity. And, to be generous, we'll throw in Carla, the one-name, one-hit activist who champions the McDowell Sonoran Land Trust.
Sandy Bahr, the Sierra Club legislative lobbyist, is one of the smartest, most dedicated and hardworking people The Spike knows. She is well-schooled in a wide range of conservation issues, she's politically savvy and her integrity should be the envy of a lot of other people who haunt the halls of the state Capitol.
But she's virtually all alone under the dome, and has been for years. Sure, other enviro groups like The Nature Conservancy have a minimal presence. But in other legislatures across this land, environmental groups field numerous lobbyists for the political slugfest known as The Session. In other parts of the country, the state's environmental protection agency does not hire a former legislator noted for his anti-environmental record as its lobbyist. Mining and farm interests are forced to present actual reasons they should be allowed to strip the land and pollute the water.
The Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity has become a powerhouse in the courtroom, successfully challenging long-held but questionable development and industry practices. The group is even taking on the cause of killer whales, which are dying off the coast of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, possibly because of chemical contamination.
There's certainly room for another player. But Sam Campana isn't it.
In other areas, the National Audubon Society is -- and should be -- a leader. Its Everglades restoration campaign is a model of environmental good deeds. Ditto the San Francisco Bay restoration program. And the Living Oceans Campaign. In Alaska, the very small Audubon staff is deeply involved in watchdogging the collapse of the Bering Sea ecosystem, which is falling like a string of ecological dominoes as species after species disappears or moves on.
In Arizona, Audubon says Campana will work to establish the organization as a "leader in habitat preservation and conservation action within the state."
Get real. This is all about money. Audubon is hoping it's found a major fund raiser in the politically well-connected former Scottsdale mayor. Word is it wants her to concentrate on reeling in dollars for a statewide network of educational centers.
Campana cleans up better than the average tree hugger and she describes herself as an avid hiker. The Spike is sure her closet is full of designer hiking boots. Perhaps that's what one longtime real conservationist meant when he recently described her as a "closet environmentalist."
He was trying to be nice.
Self-described computer software geek and Tempe City Council wanna-be Brett L. Scott sees nothing wrong with buying up Web site domains featuring the names of two competitors in the March 12 primary -- incumbent Len Copple and challenger Pam Goronkin.
Scott says he was "surprised" to see that neither Copple nor Goronkin had registered their personal names under the multitude of .orgs, .coms and .nets now available. So he bought five of the monikers -- Pamgoronkin.com, .org and .net, and Lencopple.org and .net.
"They don't take this job seriously enough to plan for their own campaign," Scott says. "We are halfway through the election cycle and they have not yet registered their own domains."
Well, not quite. Both Goronkin and Copple have campaign Web sites. Neither can figure out why Scott is buying up sites with their names.
"Damn if I know what he wants to use them for," says Copple. "He just threw his money away as far as I'm concerned."
Goronkin calls Scott's domain raid "immature" and that "the way he runs his own campaign has to be between him and his own conscience."
Scott has spent a good deal of time the last couple of years plowing through obscure Tempe government files and attending scores of public meetings. He garners some support from leaders of the Tempe failed recall effort to oust Mayor Neil Giuliano.
Scott says he made a small fortune in business and now he wants to turn to politics. In his spare time, he operates several Web sites -- including AZCorruption.com and TheDome.com -- that feature far right political rants. For instance, the Sierra Club is the "Green Taliban."
While Scott is making an ethically challenged run for office, incumbent Hugh Hallman is suffering from an identity crisis.
In the aftermath of Arizona State University's decision to nix Hallman's plan to build the Cardinals' stadium on ASU property, Hallman revealed to a horde of reporters his role in pressuring legislators led by Representative Steve May to threaten to pass a law forcing the university to take the stadium.
At first, Hallman told reporters that neither Giuliano nor anyone from the city lobbied legislators to ram the stadium down ASU's throat. When pressed, Hallman acknowledged that, yep, he did meet with the House and Senate leaders, but only "as a private citizen" to discuss the matter.
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That set off a hoot of laughter from the press gallery.
Hallman, who tried to end-run his way into the mayor's office through a legal challenge that failed in the Supreme Court, will be a private citizen come July when his council term ends.-- As told to Patti Epler
With reporting from John Dougherty.
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