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Letter to the Editor: Couture Questions the Sierra Club's Council Endorsements

Alexandria resident Linda Couture questions the Sierra Club's endorsement of four Democratic candidates for City Council.

To the Editor:

Are you kidding me! That was my reaction when I read the Sierra Club’s endorsements of four of the Democrat candidates for Alexandria’s election: Del Pepper, Tim Lovain, Justin Wilson and Paul Smedberg. That being said, this is actually not a laughing matter at all. These are the very four folks who did nothing to prevent the BRAC from being built in the Seminary area requiring hundreds of mature trees to be sacrificed and replaced by cars and noxious fumes arising from congestion. Obviously these “environmentalists” misuse the term “smart growth.” 

Smedberg and Pepper also voted for the Beauregard plan that again will cause the loss of hundreds and hundreds of beautiful and mature trees as well as destruction of the bucolic boulevard. They both approved another development:  replacement of James Bland public housing with high-rise buildings that permitted chopping down 100 very old trees and on the same day they declared Alexandria “Tree City.”

These Sierra-club endorsees do nada, nothing, not a thing to require developers to save as many mature trees as possible. When developers wept that saving some trees will cost them too much money, these four caved. Clear-cutting is the accepted process here in Alexandria while “green” developers throughout the country go the extra mile to save as many healthy, mature trees as possible. 

Both Smedberg and Pepper do deserve credit for being on the side of closing the offensive GenO power plant. However, their support arrived on the heels of the sweat and real equity and hours of time spent by two civic activists, Poul Hertel and Elizabeth Chimento. They produced scientific data of pollution that the Council could not deny, so the Council in fact did not lead this effort, it followed.

The Sierra Club members who care about its mission should be shocked, as well. It appears that endorsements are too political. Talking “green” is easy, but walking the mission is not. These same politicians dragged their feet for years over the pollution running into the Potomac River from the former power plant on N. Lee Street until the federal government threatened “Superfund,” forcing Alexandria to avoid fines by joining Virginia’s remediation program. Even then, the city dragged its feet and the work is still not complete.

In addition to allowing developers to clear-cut, several of these candidates publicly stated they would have no problem allowing trucks and heavy equipment to use the George Washington Parkway during construction of a Metro station and are supporting a location that would allow the developer to destroy the “scenic easement.” Other green programs are also ignored by these candidates: storm-sewer wastewater continues to be mixed in some areas for lack of funding and Alexandria retailers are not required to recycle.

We should all question why Pepper, Smedberg, Wilson and Lovain got this endorsement? And, I ask, where is Andrew Macdonald’s endorsement in his bid for mayor? Mr. Macdonald has been busy for years and years leading efforts here and elsewhere to keep the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River clean. He has lobbied for more parks and green space, and open access to the river for all.  Isn’t this the mission of the Sierra Club rather than handing over political points to folks who know how to spell green, give lip service to “smart growth” and may ride a bike? Something is seriously wrong with these endorsements.

Linda Couture

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