How Green is Mayor Gray?
by Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network
Dear District of Columbia Environmental Community:
I am writing you today to invite you to an important discussion about the recent firing of former DDOE Director Christophe Tulou and the future of environmental initiatives in the District of Columbia.
Our discusson is scheduled for Today at Noon (1100 15th Street NW, 11th Floor) and will feature:
- Brent Blackwelder, President Emeritus, Friends of the Earth
- Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network
- Representatives from the Environmental Community, Government and the Media.
(Your presence is preferred but a call-in number may be available. Contact me if you are interested in participating in this manner.)
Everyone knows Mayors across the country can sometimes have disagreements with their appointed agency heads and no one is suggesting Mayor Gray does not have the right to dismiss an agency director. What is confusing for many in the environmental community is that from our perspective, Director Tulou was strongly representing the interests of the Mayor and moving sustainability initiatives forward in a meaningful way. SEE POST.
Additionally, a recent series of articles in the Washington Times have painted a picture that is not consistant with the official statements of the Gray administration:
- Possible illegal firing of former DDOE Director Tulou. See “Whistleblower Claims Firing Follwed Red Flag on D.C. Green Project Delay”, Washington Times, September 30, 2012.
- Evidence that former Director Tulou was doing his job. See “Former DDOE Chief Cautioned Officials on River Clean Up Delays”, Washington Times, September 27, 2012.
- Evidence of mis-handling of the process to explain the Mayor’s decision to DDOE employees. See “D.C. Environment staff Unsettled by ‘Attila the Hun’ Talk After Firing”, Washington Times, September 25, 2012.
Extremely troubling to many of us who regularly work with the talented staff at DDOE:
“One who spoke to The Times on the condition of anonymity, citing fears about job security, said the remarks had a “devastating impact on staff morale.” – Washington Times, September 30, 2012
Another concern is that Mayor Gray is stepping back from his stated goal of “making the District the cleanest, greenest, most sustainable city in the nation.” In fact one of Mayor Gray’s spokesman, Tony Robinson, seemed to put in question the central role of DDOE:
“… but Robinson [Spokesperson for City Administrator Allen Lew under Mayor Vincent Gray] also anticipates that Lew, who manages the day-to-day operations of D.C. government, will take a hard look at DDOE as new leadership is installed. “I do think it would be fair to say the city administrator is taking a look at the agency to ensure that it’s working the way it’s supposed to,” Robinson said, “in that it’s carrying out its regulatory responsibility but also at the same time it’s not overstepping its role as regulator and moving into the role of advocate.”” – Washington Business Journal, September 7, 2012
It is in this confusing environment, with so many unanswered questions and mounting concerns, that the environmental community needs to convene and discuss what we need to do in order to protect the progress we have made on many fronts. We will attempt to answer some of these questions:
- What happened and why?
- Does this signal a new direction for this administration on sustainability issues?
- Will this change impact the vision and direction of the Mayor’s Sustainable DC initiative?
- Is the Mayor still committed to his stated goal of “making the District the cleanest, greenest, most sustainable city” in the nation? Will current changes impact, for example, meaningful stormwater and wetlands regulations that are at a critical stage of development?
- What can the environmental community do to make sure we do not backslide on current environmental initiatives and keep the momentum in the District moving forward?
- Who should lead the District Department of the Environment (DDOE)?
We hope tomorrow’s meeting will start an important discussion that will help us continue moving forward in the District and region. Come prepared to share your thoughts. RSVP Here!
All are welcome.
DC Environmental Network