The following appeared in The New York Times. Looks like protecting open space with public money is important to the voters!
A Resounding Vote for Open Space
Published: November 18, 2008
Almost unnoticed in the election results was some very good news for the environment — and for land preservation in particular. Despite the financial crisis, voters made it clear that they want to increase spending on preserving open land, even at the cost of higher taxes.
Across the nation, voters approved $7.3 billion in new spending for parks and open-space preservation. Sixty-two of the 87 referendums to acquire or otherwise protect open space were approved. And the support came in rural, Republican areas, as well as in those that lean toward the Democrats.
California and Florida said yes to more than $700 million in new spending on open space. In Minnesota, voters increased the sales tax by three-eights of a cent to generate $5.5 billion over the next 25 years for land preservation and environmental protection. It was the largest open-space state referendum in the nation’s history.
Despite especially tough economic times, New Jersey voters showed that they feel strongly about acquiring open space before it is all eaten up by strip malls and McMansions. The state is reeling from high property taxes, unemployment and a budget deficit. But voters still approved 14 of 22 county and municipal referendums to increase or extend property taxes dedicated to acquiring or preserving open space.
These votes are an explicit rebuke to President Bush, who failed miserably to honor his 2000 campaign promise to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the government’s main vehicle for buying open space. They should give Congress a strong push to approve a public lands measure that, among other things, would grant permanent wilderness protection to two million acres of public land.
We had hoped that Congress would approve the legislation in the current lame-duck session. On Monday, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, withdrew it from the calendar after Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, threatened to filibuster the bill. Mr. Coburn called it a waste of money and an unnecessary expansion of federal control over public lands.
Mr. Reid said the Senate needed to focus on the economic crisis, but he promised to bring the measure up for immediate action early next year.
Old business tends to get lost in the early days of a new Congress, especially when there is a new administration. Come January, we will remind Mr. Reid of his promise and of the voters’ clear commitment to preserving open spaces.