Stopping The "Los Angeles-ization" of Kansas City
"Sprawl can be slowed down," says Club volunteer Diane
Stewart, a leader of the Kanza Group's successful
grassroots effort to stop a proposed highway outside
Kansas City. "Even though we already have three times
as many freeway lane miles per capita than Los
Angeles," she says, "the county commissioners were
pushing for an outer beltway - the 21st Century Parkway
- since 1988. But this past winter, they voted 4 to 1
Fast-growing Johnson County boasts a low crime rate,
affordable housing, good public schools and a booming
local economy. A recent Kansas City Star series -
"Divided We Sprawl" - explored the nether side of these
prosperous suburbs. "Nowhere in the United States is
sprawl more active, more virulent, than right here," it
The campaign against the beltway was an all-volunteer
effort, says Stewart, spearheaded by the Metropolitan
Coalition for Sensible Transportation, which included
the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society, the Greater
Kansas City Greens, the Kansas Natural Resources
Council and many other individuals and groups. Stewart
and her allies set up meetings with public officials to
plead their case, created a series of widely
distributed fact sheets, wrote letters to the editor,
called local media, faxed county commissioners,
cultivated relationships with reporters and regularly
turned out hundreds of people at public hearings.
Opposition to the beltway swelled. The mayor of a city
in the proposed highway corridor announced that his
city would use legal action to fight the project.
Another city council that had backed the project
reversed its decision. The Star published scathing
editorials that added to the chorus of opposition.
"At the outset," says Stewart, "the odds of defeating
the project seemed pretty long. But the coalition
tapped into an unexpectedly large reservoir of public
sentiment. People don't want Kansas City to be known as
'Los Angeles of the Prairie.' We gained a lot of
credibility during this campaign and showed that we
won't be dismissed."
Not only did the coalition stop the beltway, but in
January the chair of the County Citizens' Visioning
Committee recruited Stewart as a member. "Now we have a
chance to play a role in the county's planning
process," she says. "And I'm finding out that there's
more consensus on sprawl than I thought."
Stewart says that when she asked for advice from the
Sierra Club's Internet Transportation/Land Use Forum on
how to be effective on the committee, she received
helpful replies from all over the country. "The forum
is a great resource for activists," she says.
For copies of the Kansas City Star's "Divided We
Sprawl" report, call (816) 234-4907.
Suburbs More Dangerous Than Cities, Study Finds
Opponents of sprawl also got a boost this spring with
the publication of "The Car and the City," by Alan
Thein Durning of the Northwest Environmental Watch. For
sheer irony, you can't beat this report's conclusion
that people who flee the city to escape crime end up
exposing themselves to greater risk in the suburbs from
automobile-related accidents. Using police department
figures from Pacific Northwest cities, and taking into
account the greater number of miles driven by
suburbanites, Durning calculated that the risk of
injury or death due to either traffic accidents or
crime was higher in the suburbs than in the city.
"People dramatically underestimate the risks of driving
and overestimate the risks of crime," writes Durning.
"Traffic accidents kill more Northwesterners each year
than gunshot wounds or drug abuse do."
Adding fuel to that fire were the recent release of
"Sprawl Costs Us All," a report from the Club's Midwest
office and "Saving Places: A Local Carrying Capacity
Action Plan," a 23-minute video produced by the Club's
Local Carrying Capacity Campaign. "Sprawl Costs Us All"
links increases in low-density development to property
tax increases and suggests "Property Tax Impact
Statements" for new development projects.
"Saving Places" refutes the argument that sprawl
development produces new jobs when, all too often,
small urban center businesses lose customers to
suburban malls and the heart of the city dies. The
video also explores the critical role of campaign
planning. Every successful campaign, says Field
Director Bob Bingaman, must have a clearly written
and detailed campaign plan, an assessment of available
resources and expertise, an understanding of your
allies and potential allies and a clear target.
To obtain a copy of "Sprawl Costs Us All," send $5.00
to: Sierra Club, 214 N. Henry St., Ste. 203, Madison,
WI 53703. For a copy of "Saving Places," call Jeff
Bocan at (202) 675-7917.
Goldman Prize Honors Environmental Heroes
The Goldman Foundation announced the six 1996 winners,
one from each continent.
This year's award-winner from North America is Mexico's
Edwin Bustillos, who has already survived five attempts
on his life since he launched a campaign to protect the
rich biological diversity of the Sierra Madre
mountains. Founder of the human rights and
environmental organization CASMAC (Advisory Council of
the Sierra Madre), Bustillos has already stopped a
number of unsustainable logging operations - both legal
and illegal - and is working to establish a 5-million-
acre bioreserve in the western Sierra Madre.
It's not just the usual commercial loggers who are
trying to stop him, but drug traffickers, who have
forced the indigenous peoples to clear-cut the forests
and grow fields of marijuana and opium poppies for
export, and murdered some who have resisted.
Other Goldman Prize winners - each of whom will receive
a $75,000 no-strings-attached award - include Brazilian
Senator Marina Silva, a colleague of slain rubber
tapper Chico Mendes, who has developed and promoted
sustainable extractive reserves; Mahesh Chander Mehta,
a public interest
attorney from New Delhi, India, who has argued and won
over 40 landmark environmental cases in India's Supreme
Court since 1984; Bill Ballantine from New Zealand, who
has successfully established "no take" marine
bioreserves both in New Zealand and internationally;
Amooti Ndyakira, who as the sole environmental reporter
in Uganda, single-handedly developed the country's
and helped stop wildlife smuggling; and Bulgaria's
Albena Simeonova, who has mobilized citizens against
the construction of nuclear power plants and in support
of environmental protection. Last year's winner of the
Goldman Prize for Africa - Nigerian environmental and
human rights leader
Ken Saro-Wiwa - was executed six
months after he won the award by the government he
The Sierra Club is actively seeking nominations of
grassroots activists from the U.S. and abroad for the
1997 awards. The deadline for submissions is August
To nominate an activist, contact Stephen Mills at (202)
675-6691, or e-mail:
1996 Staff Awards
The Michael McCloskey Award, which honors an employee
with a distinguished record of achievement in national
or international conservation causes, went to Jim
Blomquist, current Director of the Office of
Educational Programs for the Centennial Campaign, for
his nearly 20 years of service.
Jim Price, Senior Regional Conservation Director for
the Southeast, received the Community Service Award in
recognition of his many years of active work on social
justice issues within his community of Birmingham,
Jim McDaniel, Regional Director of Major Gifts in the
Southwest for the Centennial Campaign, and Melanie
Griffin, Public Lands Director in the Washington D.C.
office, received the Virginia Ferguson Award for their
demonstrated commitment to the Club and inspiration to
the rest of the staff.
The Special Achievement Award went to the TRAIL Team,
specifically, John DeCock, Dave Simon, Tony Rango,
James Bullard, Steve Heathcock, Laura Vacco, Mark
Maslow and Charles Hardy, in recognition of their work
to benefit and streamline the work of the Club by
designing and implementing a new operations system for
the national Outings program.
The Club also honored Paula Carrell, state program
director, and Jim Cohee, senior editor at Sierra
Club Books, for their 20 years of service.
New Chapter and Group Committee
Joan Brasaemle reports on the formation of a new
committee dedicated to helping revitalize chapters,
groups and sections - the Chapters and Groups
Committee. Brasaemle is chair of this new committee,
which also includes George Hague, San Gorgonio Chapter
delegate; Drusha Mayhue, Houston Group chair; Amy
Potterfield, former Hawaii Chapter chair;
Bonnie Sharpe, Angeles Chapter chair; Lois Snedden,
newly elected Club director; jonathan stoke, Council
chair; and Jan O'Connell, Western Michigan Group chair.
Material World Takes Flight
A new exhibit of 158 photographs from Sierra Club
Books' "Material World" opens in June l996 at the
International terminal of Chicago's O'Hare Airport and
runs for a year. An opening celebration is planned the
week of June 11 to tie in with the annual American
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