As planners and most allied professionals know, the federal government lacks cohesive urban and environmental policies, and especially during the tenure of the current Bush administration, there has been a relative lack of investment in cities, public transportation systems, and alternative sources of energy. With the ongoing war in Iraq and perennial issues like social security, healthcare, and immigration dominating the political landscape, important domestic issues like affordable housing, public transit, and compact urban growth seem little more than a microscopic blip on the radar screens of potential 2008 presidential candidates, if they discuss these issues at all.
(Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program recently outlined such a vision before a House subcommittee, but last I checked he isn't running.)
While none of the candidates has the urban planning/smart growth credentials of a Tom McCall or Parris Glendening, Bill Richardson, Democrat and Governor of New Mexico, stands out as someone with a relatively strong record on these issues and a decent shot at winning (at least as the only governor left on the Democratic ticket). I've come across the following Richardson-related planning statements/initiatives -- which lean more toward environmental protection than urban reinvestment -- and would be interested to hear if others have more detail on these, or feel that a different candidate has done more for cities and the environment. Richardson:
- Has identified energy independence as the number one issue facing the country
- Has signed executive orders on:
- Declaring New Mexico the "Clean Energy State," creating a Clean Energy Development Council and directing state agencies to support and participate
- Climate change and greenhouse gas reduction (including creation of a Climate Change Action Council and a Climate Change Advisory Group)
- Requiring increased use of renewable fuels in New Mexico state government (cabinet-level state agencies, public schools, and institutions of higher education must acquire at least 15% of transportation fuel from renewable fuels like ethanol and biodiesel by 2010, and 75% of new vehicles acquired by these organizations must use alternative fuels or be gas-electric hybrids)
- Energy efficient green building standards for state buildings (requiring large-scale new construction to achieve LEED Silver status, and other new buildings and renovations to meet high energy performance standards)
- Continuing the task force on "Our Communities, Our Future" (which produced a 2004 report called "Livability!", outlining New Mexicans' land use values and proposing planning strategies for the state) through consultation with relevant state agencies on furthering these goals and making more detailed recommendations to the Governor
- Created Governor Richardson's Investment Partnership (GRIP), a $1.6 billion statewide transportation expansion and infrastructure improvement initiative that focuses on highway improvement projects, but includes the New Mexico Rail Runner Express, a commuter rail in the Albuquerque region
- Dedicated over $2 million to the expansion or creation of state parks, including funding for Mesilla Valley Bosque Park, Horse Springs Ranch, and Santa Fe Railyard Park and Plaza
- Is in a position to approve major minimum wage increases in New Mexico
Granted other politicians have done more for planning and the environment, but might Richardson be the one most likely to put these issues in the national spotlight?