By Maria Saporta
We now know at least three gubernatorial candidates who will be seeking support from the environmental community.
At Wednesday night’s Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper’s Annual Patron Appreciation Dinner, two Democratic candidates for governor and one Republican candidate came — each making sure to work the room among some of the region’s top environmental leaders.
The first candidate I saw upon entering the upstairs of the Pak Tavern for the reception was DuBose Porter, a Democratic representative from Dublin who serves as the House Minority Leader.
Standing close by was Jeff Chapman, the newest entrant in the crowded Republican field of those who have announced they’re running for governor. But it was telling that Chapman, a state senator from Brunswick, was the only Republican to attend the fundraiser. Chapman has developed credibility among environmentalists for questioning the ambitious redevelopment plans of state-owned Jekyll Island.
The other gubernatorial candidate in attendance was former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes, a Democrat from Cobb County.
While he was governor, Barnes did work with environmental leaders on the acquisition of vulnerable properties in metro Atlanta for green space. Barnes also was a strong advocate for smart growth practices during his first term.
But Barnes also alienated some environmentalists for supporting the “Northern Arc,” a major highway project that would have connected I-85 to I-75 about 10 miles north of I-285.
In recent weeks, Barnes has made some controversial statements that could diminish his support among environmentalists.
He has advocated for an elevated light rail system that would be built over Atlanta’s interstates so that people could reach outlying suburbs. Such a system would encourage sprawl rather than mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented developments that are served by transit along city streets.
Barnes also has said he would like to spread out the state’s operations from the government center area near Five Points to locations across the metro area and the rest of the state. That would be an unsustainable and transit-unfriendly policy for a governor to adopt.
Still, Barnes appeared to be among friends at Wednesday night’s reception.
(Interestingly, none of the candidates running to be Atlanta’s mayor appeared at the reception).
The patron dinner honored Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin with the River Guardian Award. Other award winners were Elachee Nature Science Center with the River Education Award; former Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Stacy Shelton with the River Awareness Award; and the Coca-Cola Co. with another River Guardian Award.
The Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper also received a $75,000 Leadership Grant from RBC Bank and the RBC Blue Water Project. The grant will be support an outreach program to help educate citizens, elected officials and business leaders about the causes of North Georgia’s water crisis as wells as promote sustainable land use, water and energy efficiency.
The $75,000 check was presented at the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper’s annual dinner.