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Sierra Club Endorses Challenger Jack Eaton in Ward 4 City Council Race

by P.D. Lesko

The Sierra Club, Huron Valley Group, and Sierra Club, Michigan Chapter announced on June 30, 2012 that the groups had bestowed one of the most sought after political endorsements in the United States onto Fourth Ward Council candidate Jack Eaton, a Democrat challenging long-time incumbent Ward 4 City Council member Margie Teall. The Sierra Club, an independent and highly respected environmental group, is urging Ann Arbor voters who care about the environment to go to polls and toss the incumbent out on her political keister.

Meanwhile, Teall claims on her campaign website: “Margie Teall is endorsed by our community’s environmental leaders.” There are no actual endorsements from any environmental leaders on her site, just her claim that they all endorse her. Well, not all of them, evidently.

For the entire time Teall has been in office, including 9 years on the City’s Environmental Commission, the Michigan Sierra Club has stubbornly refused to endorse the politico who claims that her uber-environmentalism is the reason she “is endorsed by our community’s environmental leaders.” The spin from the Hieftje Hive Mind Collective, of which Teall is an important drone, is that the Sierra Club endorsement is withheld because of petty jealousies between Hieftje, his political allies, including Teall, and members of the local chapter of the state Sierra Club.

The real reason may this: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data and analysis reveal that the air and water in Ann Arbor and Washtenaw county are dirty. Really dirty. In fact, Washtenaw county and Ann Arbor have some of the dirtiest air and water in the state of Michigan, according to the EPA. Ann Arbor has been singled out by the EPA for its failure to meet federal clean air standards since 2005. Add to this the fact that over the past decade miles driven within Ann Arbor rose by a whopping 47,481,632, and well, suddenly the refusal of the Michigan Sierra Club to endorse Teall looks less about a personality conflict and more about the Sierra Club having standards. The EPA data also raise questions about the Michigan enviro groups whohave given Hieftje and his local, county and state political cronies awards and endorsements over the past decade.

Furthermore, it’s no secret that the leadership of The Sierra Club, Huron Valley Group, and Sierra Club, Michigan Chapter are at odds with Teall over her attacks on funding for local parks, including an accounting scheme used that has diverted millions of dollars from the Parks Maintenance & Repairs Millage, her support of targeting of over a dozen local parks for leasing and development, including Gallup Park, and most recently the her multiple votes in favor of a plan to lease Fuller Road parkland abutting the Huron River for a parking garage to be used by University of Michigan.

In addition, Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County face serious environmental issues that Teall has not worked to remedy.

For instance, according to officials in the Washtenaw County Department of Environmental Health, the county has no comprehensive surface water monitoring program. There’s no money to do it, county officials claim. Yet, in 2009 the county received part of a $1.7 million dollar grant from the EPA to the state to be used for water management programs. The Huron River Watershed Council received over $185,000 of the total $1.7 million dollar grant from the EPA. In bordering Wayne County, the Water Quality Management Group provides water resource management to that county’s municipalities. In Oakland County, the Health Division regularly monitors surface water.

The lack of a comprehensive and strategic program greatly inhibits the overall assessment of water quality in Washtenaw County.

According to data compiled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the county’s water sources contain over twice the number of contaminants found in water sources state-wide, starting with a 1,4 dioxane plume that is creeping toward the Huron River. According to the city of Ann Arbor web site, “Laboratory studies show that exposure to 1,4 dioxane over a lifetime causes cancer in animals. 1,4 dioxane may likewise cause cancer in humans. Laboratory studies show that repeat exposure to large amounts of 1,4 dioxane in drinking water, in air, or on the skin causes liver and kidney damage in animals.” Data gathered by the state and the EPA reveal that Washtenaw County, including Ann Arbor, has one of the most impaired watersheds in Michigan, with 15.3 percent of the total surface water not meeting Clean Water Act standards. In Wayne County, one of the dirtiest counties in the country according to the EPA, 17.22 percent of all surface water fails to meet Clean Water Act standards.

Between 2005-2012, Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County have been on the EPA’s list of state areas defined as “nonattainment” with respect to air quality standards tracked and measured by the organization. In fact, Washtenaw county’s air pollution is so pervasive it has been identified by the EPA for contributing to the poor air and water quality in neighboring Wayne County.

In May 2011, a piece in Forbes by writer Kai Petainen, a local who pens a column for the mag., addressed the green elephant in the living room:

After losing the local paper newspaper, environmental issues in Ann Arbor get very little press, and are sometimes narrowed down to a paragraph or two.  Stereotypes about a city can be rather misleading.  Ann Arbor is supposedly known for environmentalism, but it doesn’t take long to find a town that is not known for its environmentalism, doing much more with alternative energy than Ann Arbor.  When one drives to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, a first impression of the city can be one of steel plants and paper mills.  Drive outside and around the city, and one finds a number of alternative energy sources.  It doesn’t take long to notice that the Soo is becoming a hot place for clean energy, as it has large-scale wind and solar power facilities, a hydro plant and progress on biomass power.

Petainen then goes on to write about the green elephant in the aquifer:

Does Ann Arbor have any other pollution issues?  Yes. Although I focused in on a smaller unsolved spill, Ann Arbor has a much larger ‘spill.’  There is a 1,4 dioxane plume that has entered the groundwater and residents are clearly upset with the cleanup effort.

In October 2011, the Sierra Club endorsed against incumbent Second Ward City Council member Stephen Rapundalo, who went on to lose his seat to independent candidate Jane Lumm. In the press release accompanying Lumm’s endorsement, the Sierra Club’s local chapter ended the announcement with a promise: The Sierra Club will lend its volunteer strength to Ms. Lumm’s campaign. ”We pledge to do all we can to help ensure Jane Lumm is elected to council.”

The group’s endorsement did, indeed, help Lumm dislodge a member of Council who had been in office for six years. Will anti-environment Hieftje crony Margie Teall pay the price of voting in support of parks as “profit centers?” Will her many votes in support of using fragile river front parkland on Fuller Road as a construction site for a 1,000 car parking tower—despite strong opposition from the local chapter of the Sierra Club—mean an end to her political career? Can The Sierra Club, Huron Valley Group, and Sierra Club, Michigan Chapter shoot down yet another of Ann Arbor’s faux environmentalist politicos?

While Ward 4 incumbent Margie Teall claims that all of the city’s environmental “leaders” endorse her, but has no actual endorsements on her campaign website, Jack Eaton’s campaign website includes several endorsements from respected local environmentalists. Treasurer of the Michigan Sierra Club Political Committee, Former Ann Arbor Parks Advisory Commission member Gwen Nysteun penned this: “I have known Jack Eaton for several years now. In that time, he has been a staunch advocate for our city’s parks. Jack is an exceptionally well-informed and reliable leader who has tirelessly attended innumerable City meetings representing the concerns of his own and other city neighborhoods. He has made information on City laws, ordinances, planning process, and procedure much more accessible and frequently advocates for neighborhoods before Council. Without question he is most highly qualified to be on Council, and will be an outstanding member. I am pleased to support him and ask you to do the same when you vote on August 7th.”

Ann Arbor Environmental Commission member Dr. Rita Loch-Caruso has this to say about Eaton’s support for sound environmental policies: ”It has been my pleasure to know and work with Jack on neighborhood and environmental concerns, including several related to watershed management and protection. In particular, Jack demonstrated outstanding leadership working with the neighborhood to protect Dickens Woods. He is an outstanding listener, a tireless advocate for citizen involvement in city actions, and strongly committed to environmentally sound city policies.”

If you’d like to to know more about Eaton’s support of the environment, you may download his answers to the Sierra Club Endorsement Questionnaire (PDF).

Eaton, in announcing the endorsement at a June 30th campaign event, told supporters he was “very proud of the support of the The Sierra Club, Huron Valley Group, and Sierra Club, Michigan Chapter.”

He’s in excellent company. In Michigan, the Sierra Club endorsements for 2012 include President Barack Obama and Senator Debbie Stabenow. The Sierra Club endorsed against both incumbents on Ann Arbor City Council running for re-election. Then again, both Teall and Ward 2 Council member Tony Derezinski have voted repeatedly against the environment and parkland, including the opportunity to green up the new downtown underground parking garage (another project Teall enthusiastically supported which will, potentially, keep miles driven in Ann Arbor rising) by topping it with a public park. 

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2 Comments for “Sierra Club Endorses Challenger Jack Eaton in Ward 4 City Council Race”

  1. money&buildings

    @Nancy Shiffler – Could you let us know where you disagree with A2Politico’s interpretation? It would be much appreciated, at least by one regular reader of this site. Thx in advance.

  2. Nancy Shiffler

    While we very much respect A2Politico’s efforts to delve into local issues, I want to emphasize that the above interpretations of our endorsements are those of A2Politico and are not speaking
    on behalf of the Sierra Club.

    Nancy Shiffler
    Chair, Huron Valley Group, Sierra Club

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