Thursday, July 23, 2009

Council Members Ranked on Environmental Issues

Crowley, Ulrich Dismiss Scorecard’s Poor Results

By Conor Greene

The League of Conservation Votes has released its scorecard grading each city council member based on how they voted on 13 bills related to the environment.

Two borough council members, Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside) and Thomas White, Jr. (D-South Ozone), obtained perfect scores. Others, including Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) and Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) – who has made environmental initiatives a major focus of her first year in office – scored poorly due to certain votes.

Crowley, who has taken steps regarding the environment including holding a public session on “going green” in the home, received a 22 percent score. She said the scorecard “is flawed without a doubt” because of its narrow scope. “It wasn’t because I voted against something, it was that I didn’t put my name on the legislation yet,” she said, adding that some of the bills they were graded on haven’t even come up for a full vote yet.

She argued that she is actually one of the more environmentally-conscious council members and pointed out that she has been driving a hybrid vehicle for almost three years – “before it was popular” to do so. “I think I am probably one of the greenest members of the city council. That’s why I think the scorecard is flawed. It’s not just how I live my life, but my leadership on the city council and in the community.”

Other green initiatives Crowley has led or participated in include starting the Glendale Green Civic Organization, sponsoring the “go green” event in Maspeth Town Hall and heading “It’s My Park Day” in Juniper Valley Park.

Ulrich, who received a 17 percent score, had harsher words for the scorecard, which he called “legislative extortion” since council members must support certain bills to receive a high score. “They claim that because I did not sign as a cosponsor that I am in opposition to ecofriendly bills they support,” he said. “The fact is I have not voiced any opposition or support. I haven’t done anything yet because the bills have not come to the floor. I don’t co-sponsor or vote on bills I haven’t read yet.”

He added: “No other group holds legislators accountable for that which they have not voted or assumed the opportunity to take a position. If you want to judge me, how do you justify a score that is based on what I have not done?”

Among other Queens council members, Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills) had the biggest jump in score, going from an 11 percent in 2006 to an 83 percent this year. Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), who chairs the council’s Environmental Protection Committee, received an 83 percent score. The sole vote separating him from a perfect score was the controversial congestion pricing bill, which the scorecard weighted heavily.

Dan Hendrick, communications director for the LCV, said that emphasis was placed on whether members sponsored bills because it “really signals that they are behind the bill. They can say they will support it when it comes up, but it’s another thing to put your name on it, which creates more momentum.”

Overall, Queens council members ranked second behind Manhattan. “I think for us that really hammers home that the environment is become a more mainstream political issue,” said Hendrick. “The political dynamic behind environmental issues has changed a lot… A lot of people have taken [the environmental movement on the federal level] to heart and see it as part of their own political playbook as well.”

Recognizing that the scorecard focused on 13 specific pieces of legislation, Hendrick said the ranking “isn’t the be-all-end-all, but it’s certainly a useful tool.”

No comments: