Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Debate over candidate's green positions highlight complexities of green decision making in urban jurisdictions; Seattle, WA

Strains in the green-growth coalition
The battle for candidate endorsements reveals some ideological divides between local environmentalists, developers, and independent thinkers who wonder if all urban growth is good.
By Knute Berger
People in Seattle are green green green. We're a leader on Kyoto, we hate plastic bottles and shopping bags, and our politicians often jockey over who is more green than the other. Candidates for office vie for key endorsements from groups like the Cascade Bicycle Club, Washington Conservation Voters, and the Sierra Club.
But candidates also need business support too, and Mayor Greg Nickels has led the way over the years in forging a lamb-and-lion coalition of green and development interests. You'd think these two would be more at odds, but part of the secret to Nickels' success has been exploiting an urban green paradigm that essentially equates urban development with the true green agenda.
Making Seattle into a denser city will save undeveloped outlying lands from growth; in-fill is more carbon-friendly than sprawl. In this world, high-rise office and residential towers are the way to save the planet. Density, walkability, transit-friendly, and sustainability are the watchwords. Whether a bigger, denser, light-railed Seattle will actually result in less sprawl in our region is still mostly theory, but it's accepted as gospel by many. A pro-development stance pleases greens, business, and the labor unions. And politicians."

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