Gerald Winegrad: Pittman will protect environment and quality of life in Anne Arundel County

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The conservation of our natural heritage, the restoration of our rivers, creeks and the Chesapeake Bay, and our quality of life are inextricably linked to the quality and commitments of our elected officials. That’s why your vote in the current election will determine how the things we cherish will be enhanced and safeguarded.

The political system has been polluted by too many elected officials enriching themselves or their campaigns with the money of the coterie of special interests whose elected officials are supposed to properly regulate environmentally destructive activities.

In the United States, land use decision making is largely left to the states and they defer to local governments to make most land use decisions. In 50 years of environmental advocacy, I’ve learned that the most abused power in the United States is this local land use authority. The destruction of forests and wetlands, the degradation of air and water quality, the displacement and extinction of wildlife, the clogging of highways with massive traffic jams and the overcrowding of schools all have their rooted in poor local land use decisions.

Too many local leaders have been blindsided by greed and campaign contributions. Seeking development at all costs becomes an objective. A classic case now before voters is Jessica Haire’s candidacy for county executive. In reviewing his campaign contributions and anti-environment votes on the County Council, I must warn those concerned about the environment and our quality of life of his candidacy.

She is awash with campaign money from the land development industry, raising more than $1 million, much of it from those who reap the benefits of the county’s land use decisions. Individuals and corporations poured money into his campaign coffers to defeat current County Executive Steuart Pittman because of his tough stances on the environment and proper land use.

I went through the same thing when, after my first term in the General Assembly, my strong pro-conservation stances and my 100% voting record from the League of Conservation Voters led developers and other anti-environment special interests goading my opponent in the state senate with campaign money. He racked up more PAC money than any of the other 800 legislative candidates in 1982, including the incumbents. I won but it was not easy. Now Ms Haire has similar funding and is opting to use scare tactics, warning that re-election of the Pittman County executive will lead to more crime despite fully funding public safety and has been approved by the Fraternal Order of Police.

His campaign donors include all sectors of the development juggernaut – paving, asphalt, concrete and excavation companies, land development companies, real estate speculators, industry lawyers and lobbyists, and the agent CAP real estate. An unusual coalition of community groups in the county called on her to return $250,000 in campaign contributions she received from Halle Companies, a major developer in the county, and related entities. Citizens fought for decades to stop Halle from building a huge rubble dump in Odenton.

When the public was alerted, Ms Haire falsely denied knowing of the landfill plans. She accepted the money even though the developer had circumvented the legal $6,000 cap on individual contributions a person or company can make. The developer split the $250,000 over 40 contributions, mostly $6,000, from seven other companies listed on the developer’s Silver Spring address and from employees and relatives, including eight people named Hall family! None of them lived in this county.

Ms Haire loaned $522,000 of her own money to the campaign. Her husband Dirk — chairman of the Republican Party of Maryland and an attorney “ranked among the District of Columbia’s top construction law attorneys,” according to his DC firm’s website — also loaned the campaign about $50,000, which have already been refunded. . Perhaps these debts have been or will be repaid through developer donations. We’ll know more when the campaign finance numbers are released later this week.

A close look at Ms. Haire’s donations also shows other development interests overturning the $6,000 limit with the same tactics as Halle. His county council voting record shows why the development community has spent so much to fill its campaign treasury. She has been a consistent anti-environmental vote, voting to remove vital forest protections from the Pittman County Executive’s Forest Conservation Bill aimed at protecting our declining forests from development. She also voted against stronger development protections for the Critical Zone’s most sensitive resource conservation areas. Twelve other times she voted against environmental initiatives.

That’s why the Maryland League of Conservation Voters gave it a D for its anti-environmental record. Steuart Pittman received an A. The LCV concluded that “his outstanding record and broad support in the environmental community led us to rate his performance A”. It has also earned Sierra Club endorsement for its strong environmental achievements. Mr. Pittman was endorsed by the Anne Arundel County Teachers’ Association, representing more than 6,000 educators in the county: “County Manager Pittman promised us in 2018 that he would support teachers and education – and he kept his promises.

The Baltimore Sun gave Mr. Pittman a ringing endorsement of Ms. Haire, noting how he “has been socially progressive but also fiscally prudent…putting the county on a path to balanced budgets and much-needed improvements to school and school infrastructure. public. … Pittman’s commitment to greater public participation in government, public funding of political campaigns, and dedication to environmental causes – and the fact that his successful 2018 candidacy was his first-ever bid for a civil service – could earn him the title of chief “reformer” too. »

Ms Haire’s main Republican opponent, Herb McMillan, took an extraordinary step in a Capital newspaper column by urging voters to elect Steuart Pittman because “integrity matters. An untrustworthy and dishonest county executive cannot lead. … Pittman is principled; and like Aaron Burr, Haire has nothing but self-interest. Republicans must choose between draining the swamp or simply feeding their party’s alligators. Ms Haire won a victory over McMillan by 44% to 39% of the vote, without securing a majority.

Steuart Pittman has done a great job addressing the biggest challenges facing the county – how to manage growth while maintaining and restoring the health of our environment. In March, Moody’s Investors Service gave the county its highest AAA rating for the first time ever. It’s the benchmark stamp of approval from this top financial institution, showing how well Anne Arundel is running under Steuart Pittman despite her opponent’s misguided attacks. And Mr. Pittman did it while making great environmental progress.

He was born and raised on his family farm in Davidsonville where his love of nature and animals was rooted and where he raised a family of three children. He’s not your typical politician and is kind of a Mr. Smith going to Washington.

If you care about the Chesapeake Bay and its creeks and streams, if you care about our forests and fields, if you care about our quality of life, if you care about the education of our children and If you care about the fiscal integrity of our county, I urge you to vote for Steuart Pittman for county executive.

Sunrise over Oyster Creek.  Your vote will decide whether we move forward or backward on the creek and the water quality of the Bay.
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