Maryland League of Conservation Voters
7th Annual John V. Kabler Award Event
October 9, 2007
Thank you very, very much, and it is great to be with friends. Isn’t this a terrific evening? I’m really proud of the people in this room and really proud of the caliber of the leaders we have in this room. And by that I mean not only those who have volunteered and been elected to serve as public servants, but also leaders that are at some of these tables -- the people who have realized that they can make difference in this world and that we have made a difference.
It’s great for me to be with you, saying thank you to Chuck Fox and the board of LCV and the sponsors. And thank you to the Kabler family for keeping this tradition and John’s memory alive in the actions and the spirit of the people that we love and the land and the water and the air that he loved. And thank you so very much for being here.
Let me also say thank you to our two former Governors. Parris Glendening, thank you for showing our state that we could be leaders again and that we could lead on growth and development and sustainability. Parris Glendening, thank you for all you have done for our state.
And to our honoree, Harry Hughes. Governor Hughes, thank you sir for the example that you have given to us; thank you for taking political power and turning it into a moral force. And that’s what you did and that’s what the people you attracted to your leadership did, in proclaiming to save the Bay. What you really did as a leader – and it’s a rare thing to ever see in politics -- is to be able to reflect [inaudible] and crystallize the ambitions that people have for themselves…and to be able to do that with political power for something as important and lasting as the Bay. It is a tremendous, tremendous accomplishment; and I just hope that in these years ahead, gentlemen, that we can live up to the high standards that you set for all of us as Marylanders.
You know I have to confess to you: I don’t feel a whole lot like speechifying right now. This is one of those weeks where you turn to the poor state trooper with you and say: “What day is this?” They say: “It’s Tuesday.” You say: “Are you sure it’s not -- it feels like Thursday.” They say: “No it’s Tuesday.”
Do we have any Star Trek fans in the house? Star Trek fan? Do you remember that episode with the two guys, and one of them -- the right side of his face was black and the left side of his face was white, remember that one? And he was always battling and chasing through a burning planet and in the last reaches of hell, another guy who had -- the opposite side of his face was black and the other side of his face was white. And to look at them, you think: you guys have so much in common -- why are you chasing each other through hell and back, when you have so much to agree on? I felt like I was trapped in that episode.
Got to laugh right?
Elections really do make a difference, and I am trying my very best every single day to make sure that the faith that you placed in all of us -- that you supported and that you voted for, and that you went out there and knocked on doors for -- that we show our neighbors that elections in fact do matter. And that when we elect people that proclaim a certain belief in our ability to make this world a better place -- and especially when it comes to sustaining and preserving the natural environment that human civilization depends on -- that we can show tangible steps toward doing that.
That’s what I think has guided Peter Franchot and Nancy Kopp and myself every single day that we’re before the Board of Public Works. And let’s revisit, shall we, I mean I know there’s some things that we disagree on and Cindy, I acknowledge very well, I know there are people that want to lobby me on the ICC. Big round of applause from all of those who want to lobby against the ICC. Isn’t it nice to have a governor who at least feels bad when you do lobby him on the ICC? Elections make a difference.
The Clean Cars Act -- we accomplished that; we did it together. We did it with the members of the House of Delegates and the Senate. You know there are people that actually crossed partisan lines and we got something done. And it was important, it was good, and it was lasting.
“Reggie,” the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative -- Maggie MacIntosh, we got it done. The Climate Change Committee, Senator Frosh, we actually have appointed a Climate Change Commission. And unlike those who live in that non-reality based world, we actually acknowledge the fact that there is a climate crisis and that we have to do something about it.
The Stormwater Management Act [applause].
During the course of the campaign, you all remember our favorite line, number 7, Anthony Brown and I promised that we were only going to use open space dollars in order to purchase…open space! And we did!
Sometime you should come through -- and as I look out at Shari Wilson, our great Secretary of the Environment and I know that John Griffin is here, Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, also Margaret McHale from our Critical Areas Commission who is doing a terrific job here -- I encourage you and I invite you to sometime come down and just sit and watch a BayStat meeting as it rolls out.
It’s a remarkable thing -- isn’t it governors? -- what happens when, with your executive power, you force adults to do things that are unnatural and non-consensual. Like actually coordinate and communicate with one another about the things that they do. We’re actually getting to a point where, by God, years and years after John Smith made one, we might have one map of the Bay that all of us coordinate our activities off of.
So I know it sounds like a little thing, but if you come and you watch BayStat, you’ll see emerging dialogues, people from Agriculture actually speaking civilly with people from DNR and Department of the Environment…most times. And we’re actually getting things done and it could well be a model, we could become that leader in the end, in measuring performance, the scientists know that it works [inaudible].
The efforts to restore the oysters, to protect the diamondback terrapin At the Board of Public Works we rejected the Four Seasons Project and I think sent a very solid message [applause] [inaudible]. And we are trying to help Maryland take charge of her own energy future with new incentives for solar, probably some of the most aggressive incentives for solar of any state in the union, Senator Garagiola. We’ve set the EmPOWER Maryland goal of reducing electricity consumption by 15% by 2015. We have a new and improved Public Service Commission, where there’s actually competent people that have a background in energy we’re working with…[applause] [inaudible].
You know I listed all of those things -- and some of them with a little bit of humor -- but it’s not a laughing matter. We have very, very serious challenges ahead of us. And as we talk and try to bring the various departments and agencies together, the three big challenges -- as we try to pull these silos together to work better for you, because it’s your government it’s not mine, and I’m employed temporarily with one renewable term, but its your government, it’s your government …the work that your government does is going to effect what sort of quality of life your kids and your grandkids have in our state.
But our three unifying strategies: one of them is Workforce Creation, creating a workforce that is ever more skilled, more healthy and more mobile.
Secondly is security integration, not only Homeland Security and traditional public safety, but also all of the countless human service agencies that should be able to help us save more lives in our state. We’re the wealthiest state in the union, and we’re the 4th most violent -- that’s appalling, it’s unacceptable and we’re going to change it.
The third, which I want to [inaudible] a specialty of mine, is Sustainability. And I want to talk about it in two terms. I want to talk about sustainability in the sense that all of you understand it, and I also want to talk about it in the political sense.
You know we have seen our population increase since the 1970’s by 30%, and we’ve seen the consumption of our land increase by 100%. The other day, I had occasion to fly across our tiny little state, in a Blackhawk helicopter of the Maryland National Guard. And we left from Annapolis, we went out towards Gaithersburg, up through Frederick, then across over to Garrett County to look at the Gypsy Moth and also the wind turbines that are up in the Pennsylvania, and other sites proposed and the like.
But you know, I wish I could get all of my fellow citizens to ride in the Blackhawk with me. I almost became ill by the end of that trip and it wasn’t because of the air turbulence; it was because I looked down at this precious ground, and I saw mile after mile after mile after mile of development and consumption of the land happening at a pace that is appalling, that is shocking, that is unnerving, and that really makes you almost want to cry for your kids. And it’s a wonder that farms and God’s natural beauty can even continue to exist in our state when you look at the ground from 500 feet…mile after mile after mile.
What a sad irony that because of growth, we’re destroying the very things that are attracting growth -- the natural beauty of our state. We have a lot of solutions, and you know what, we’re working on all of them. And we have the science, and we have the know-how, and what we have that need of is the courage and the political will to put it all together. We are bringing back our Office of Smart Growth. We have the Smart Growth subcabinet. And despite things you’ve read in the newspaper, while it’s true we have not rolled out that aggressive sustainability agenda…don’t think for a second that we’re not working on it every single day, and don’t think that we don’t understand the perils at hand.
We are updating our Critical Areas Act. I’ll tell you a true story. After we rejected the Four Seasons development, I called Governor Hughes. I said: “Governor, we rejected the Four Seasons today.” And he said: “Well that’s good, you should have done that.” And I said: “Well sir there’s like 152 other ones waiting in line, what do we do now?” He said: “Well I guess you need to go back and look at the law.”
So we’re going back and we’re looking at the law. And we’re going to look at the Critical Areas Act where we had a tremendous amount of consensus thanks to Governor Hughes. We are crafting and advancing a sustainable forestry initiative -- going over to Garrett County the other day in the helicopter also the amount of damage the Gypsy Moth has done, and the defoliation that’s happened there and what that does to the streams, not to mention the carbon footprint and everything else. We will have legislative recommendations coming from the Climate Change Commission. I compliment you, I applaud you, I urge you to continue to advance the cause of the Green Fund and [applause] [inaudible].
And I also encourage you to stay engaged in every way, shape and form to what we’re doing in terms of our Transportation Trust Fund. I know that the decisions that have been made in the past about things like the ICC and other road expansions are not what you see for the future. What you see for the future is more mass transit, right? You see more development in our established areas where there’s already the infrastructure of sewage and roads and mass transit. You see better MARC rail that’s connecting all of this.
You know what? None of that stuff happens for free. It didn’t happen for free for any of our parents or our grandparents; it’s not going to happen for free. We have to invest in it if we want to preserve what’s precious about our state, so stay involved in these transportation discussions as well.
And that brings me to kind of a final wrap-up point and I know, Cindy, I’ve probably talked too long here. I need your help to remove the obstacle that’s in front of us, of this $1.7 billion structural deficit in a $15 billion budget. And the sad thing about our state -- because of our strength and because of our resilience I guess, and maybe also because of our wealth -- so many of us believe that the things we care the most about are never at risk in these discussions. I’ve seen it time and time again.
I’m sure that most of you as you look at these dire predictions, you see polar bears hanging onto little pieces of ice and you hear some of the crazy people at Fox -- I shouldn’t mention their name, Fox and the other networks -- and they’re just saying things that are absolutely contradictory to the reality. You ask yourself: my goodness, do they know what’s at stake? Do they know what’s at stake? These folks who think that human civilization can’t consume itself into extinction are ignorant of history. Human civilizations, very often in our past, have in fact consumed themselves into extinction.
And I, in a smaller and more transient and temporary way, almost think the same thing about us as a political people in Maryland. You know political sustainability is really, really important. It’s important that we are able to continue to make more progress than the last administration made…which, I’m sure was motivated by trying to make more progress than the former administration made. But as we talk about these issues in front of us…you know I was the former Mayor of Baltimore, and what I found there was that we had no problem reaching consensus but very often lacked capacity. As governor, I find that we have a tremendous amount of capacity, but by God consensus sure is elusive.
And I think they’re both connected in a way. You know we talk about sustainability and the sustainability agenda, there was a lot of damage done in the past four years to that sustainability agenda. There was damage done when we diverted open space dollars away from open space. There was damage done when we diverted dollars away from the Transportation Trust Fund. There was damage done when we raised taxes, fees and tolls and everything else, in disproportionate ways on the backs of working people and then delivered to them a government that worked less effectively than it did before they were asked to pay.
There was a tremendous amount of damage done. But you know what? We also continue to do damage to ourselves, and this too is a sustainability challenge.
When, despite our political differences, we continue to consume in a ravenous way the land of a common ground that exists between us despite our differences of opinion….
When we continue to waste and fritter away the waters of similar discourse that should be able to bring us together…
When because of vitriol and personal attack and hyperbole we pollute the air of compromise and consensus…
We do damage to a very important thing that sustains us as Marylanders. I had a responsibility to run -- to get us back on track to being that Maryland we carry in our heart. I had a responsibility and still have a responsibility to advance the tangible budget plans that allow us to move forward. But we all have a responsibility to find consensus and I really, really need your help.