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Governors Across the Nation Take On Sprawl

May 1, 1998 | By Keith Schneider
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

In their State of the State and inaugural addresses earlier this year, fifteen governors appealed to their constituents with an increasingly popular theme: preserving open space, improving quality of life, and strengthening state land use laws to stop sprawl. Most of the governors added their conviction that doing so would help solve a host of stubborn environmental, social, and economic problems.

This issue transcends party lines. There were eight Republicans -- from Arizona, California, Connecticut, Idaho, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, and Utah -- and seven Democrats, from Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Oregon, and Vermont.

Even Florida conservative Republican Jeb Bush, who attacked environmental laws in his losing 1994 gubernatorial bid, is running again on a platform that includes strengthening environmental policy and improving his state's growth management law to fight sprawl.

New Jersey Republican Christine Todd Whitman is a leader among the governors with the scope of her vision. She said in her inaugural address that she would focus her second term on rebuilding urban neighborhoods, protecting farmland and open space, and stopping sprawl.

These politicians have detected a building restlessness among voters, and have recognized that the solution lies in establishing more effective growth management for the cities, suburbs, and countryside. The dismaying march of the same old ugly buildings, cookie cutter subdivisions, giant malls, and congested roads is no longer universally viewed as an inevitable necessity of economic growth.

Redirecting the engines of economic development to point toward cities and towns instead of away from them can only come through a combination of enlightened leadership and changes in state law.

Here are quotations from some of the governors' recent addresses:

Jane Dee Hull (R-Arizona)
"We worry that poorly managed growth may damage both our environment and our quality of life. An anti- growth backlash could hamstring efforts at responsible growth, which is needed to keep our state strong. Protecting open space must be a part of any new growth strategy."

Roy Romer (D-Colorado)
"A critical component to our quality of life is protecting Colorado's extraordinary natural environment, especially in the face of growth pressures.

"Growth, if not carefully managed, can soon ruin or greatly diminish what is special and unique about a place. The most gratifying result of the Smart Growth movement has been the dramatic increase in local and regional cooperation ... around critical growth and quality of life issues such as transportation, or open space, or affordable housing.

"Our most pressing growth issue is transportation. It's harder to get to work, and the time spent stuck in traffic is time not spent with our families.

Christine Todd Whitman(R-New Jersey)
"Every part of New Jersey suffers when we plan haphazardly. Sprawl eats up our open space. It creates traffic jams that boggle the mind and pollute the air. Sprawl can make one feel downright claustrophobic abou our future."

"Spending so much time in a car seeing New Jersey roll by has given me a sense of urgency about our state's future. I have a vision for that future -- a vision for rebuilding our cities, preserving our open space, and enriching our sense of personal responsibility. I want to make our state more affordable, our schools stronger, our communities safer. Ultimately, my mission is to make New Jersey more livable.

"So I will concentrate my second term on improving the quality of life for all New Jerseyans. I want to help forge a state with thriving communities. With greater opportunities to enjoy New Jersey. With more open space preserved for all generations for all time."

John G. Rowland (R-Connecticut)
"We will improve the quality of life for all Connecticut residents by preserving more than half a million acres of open land for future generations. We have convinced Connecticut business and industry that a clean environment is in their best interest. And because we've made that cultural change, we have been able to concentrate our efforts on preserving open space, cleaning up Long Island Sound, and opening new state parks."

Tom Carper (D-Delaware)
"I've proposed a new ... infrastructure investment package that is focused on [these] objectives: (1) complement state and county land use goals by directing investment in existing communities and growth areas; (2) protect critical farmland and open space from sprawling development... .

"I propose to create a Growth Management Fund to continue our investments in farmland preservation, open space, water and wastewater systems, and affordable housing."

Benjamin J. Cayetano (D-Hawaii)
"Let me reaffirm here and now that we will not pursue economic growth which destroys the environment that has made Hawaii the most beautiful place in the world."

Michael O. Leavitt (R-Utah)
"While we're building next generation highways, we also need to build future neighborhoods and next genera- tion housing. If we're smart and forward-looking, we can find the right mix of density and design."

Howard Dean (D-Vermont)
"If we allow sprawl to continue in this state we will lose our community and become an homogenized and undifferentiated part of our larger region. Think of everything we do in terms of a short-term vision, in terms of a two-year vision, and in terms of a 100-year vision."

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