The Dernogalizer

November 3, 2009

UMD for Clean Energy Endorsements Stir Things Up

Today is our local College Park city council elections.  There’s been a lot of good press for UMD for Clean Energy, the student group I’m a part of that’s actively involved in this election.  The Diamondback has already given our endorsements and Green March to City Hall attention.  On election day, our march is plugged in regards to the logistics for the day, and our endorsements have been stirring up trouble in College Park.  Overall, I think the coverage worked out favorably for us.  Below are the excerpts from the article that discuss our group’s approach to endorsing candidates, and the disagreement a member of the community has with one of them.

“Although The Diamondback’s editorial board has always disseminated advice on which council candidates best match student interests, it is joined this year by the UMD for Clean Energy environmental group and the Student Government Association’s liaison to the city council.”

“The focus of the endorsements by UMD for Clean Energy took a different approach from either Sachs or The Diamondback, focusing mainly on each candidate’s environmental record and plans rather than their overall platform.

The group’s political liaison, Hilary Staver, arranged interviews with 15 of this election’s 16 candidates — spending well over an hour on each — to write up detailed summaries of each person’s views and ultimately name seven standouts.

UMD for Clean Energy has also lobbied at the state and federal level, but Staver said it’s easier to make a direct impact working at the local level — both by influencing the election and in dealing directly with whoever wins.

“You can work more closely with your [local] elected officials. They have more time to sit down and actually talk about these things,” she said. “Given the small margins that a lot of these races are won by, this could make a big difference.”

The group is also planning a rally on McKeldin Mall at 5 p.m. today to promote its endorsements; Staver hopes 100 students will march the half-mile to City Hall to vote or to catch a van to the city’s second polling station in northern College Park.

The three sets of endorsements included some overlap, most notably that none endorsed more than one District 2 candidate; UMD for Clean Energy didn’t endorse any of the three candidates.

But while these groups are targeting their message at the city’s student population, its permanent residents are also taking note of the endorsements.

Lourene Miovski, an environmental activist in northern College Park, said she heard from a neighbor that UMD for Clean Energy had endorsed Fazlul Kabir in District 1 after Kabir said so on his campaign’s blog.

Miovski recalled a dormant debate she and some neighbors had with Kabir several years ago over the widening of Edgewood Road and cuts to school bus service to the Al-Huda School there — she accuses him of putting convenience over environmentalism by not promoting mass transit. She also said other candidates did more “heavy lifting” than Kabir over the years in lobbying the county to be environmentally sensitive in its long-term plans.

Because Miovski thought the endorsement might have enough political clout to sway voters, she has printed and distributed about 300 flyers expressing her disapproval of Kabir’s past environment-related action and inaction.

Staver said endorsing candidates in District 1 reached beyond students, in what she called an unexpected plus for the group’s advocacy.

“We were mostly focused on students, but it’s become that far reaching. If people are paying attention off campus, that’s great. It’s going even better than we hoped,” she said. “If there’s anybody paying attention off campus, we’ve done our job well.”

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