Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Sierra Club Remains Nuetral

The Inyo Register

Sierra Club remains neutral on immigration
Immigration controversy brings out the voters in the recent Sierra Club election

By Emily Bazar
Sacramento Bee Tuesday, May 18, 2004 11:12 AM PDT

Immigration controversy brings out voters for Sierra Club election

Sierra Club members issued a resounding and decisive "No" to suggestions that they take a public position on limiting immigration, the environmental group's officials announced Wednesday.

Across the country, including California, a record number of Sierra Club members turned out for the annual election, one that promises to have a lingering effect on the organization and on environmental debates.

At issue was control of the group's 15-member board of directors, and whether candidates advocating curbs on immigration and other non-traditional environmental positions would prevail.

They didn't.

The five winning candidates were nominated by an internal Sierra Club committee, and espouse issues that have long been embraced by the organization.

Sanjay Ranchod, a consumer attorney in San Francisco, said he would like to use his first term to focus on global warming and over-consumption, among other issues, during his three-year stint on the board.

This year in particular, he said, he wants to expose what he calls the "horrific environmental record" of the Bush administration.

"Are members going to elect directors who want to impose their own agenda on the club? Or, are members going to elect experienced Sierra Club leaders who listen to them?" Ranchod asked. "The results today are clear."

But the debate about who controls the club isn't finished.

The election results already are being disputed, and could be overturned by a lawsuit pending in San Francisco Superior Court, said Marcia Hanscom, a current board member.

According to Sierra Club officials, 171,616 members cast ballots by Internet, mail and fax, representing almost 23 percent of the club's membership.

Californians, who make up the largest chunk of membership, made up 29 percent of the vote.

The top five vote-getters were Ranchod, Lisa Renstrom of North Carolina, Jan O'Connell of Michigan, Nick Aumen of Florida and David Karpf of Pennsylvania.

Hanscom, who has joined Club Members for an Honest Election, believes Sierra Club leaders unfairly influenced the election in favor of status-quo candidates.

She and others charge that club officials wrongfully used resources to bias members against independent candidates who got on the ballot by petition.

"It's very clear that while the election results have been announced, these may not be the results for the next three years," said the Southern California-based Hanscom, who is executive director of the Wetlands Action Network. "They'll be lucky if they even get seated."

Hanscom said the issue is not about immigration, it's about allowing members to challenge positions long-held by the group. She charged that club leadership used the immigration issue as a scare tactic to divert attention from independent candidates' attempts to move the club in a different direction.

"The (independent candidates) are for stronger policies than the club has been willing to take in the last 10 years or so," she said.

Frank Morris, a former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, was one of the candidates who urged the Sierra Club membership to reconsider the issue of immigration. The membership voted in 1998 to remain neutral on immigration.

With 8,247 votes, Morris came in 15th out of 17 candidates.

On Wednesday, Morris, who is based in Texas, warned that conservation and population control are inextricably linked, and that immigration must eventually be confronted by the environmental community.

"Whether the Sierra Club ever deals with it or not, if you're going to deal with sustainability, you're going to have to come to grips with American immigration," he said.


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