SAN FRANCISCO — In an atmosphere of marigolds, trees swaying in a brisk wind and a view of San Francisco Bay, the state's largest environmental organization Wednesday endorsed Democratic candidate Tom Bradley for governor.
At a press conference at Aquatic Park, Sierra Club spokeswoman Michele Perrault spent as much time criticizing Republican Gov. George Deukmejian as she did praising Los Angeles Mayor Bradley.
Perrault said water and toxics were the issues that mainly explained why Bradley received the endorsement of the club, which declined to support him four years ago.
The club praised Bradley for his "willingness to learn, to grow, to listen and to change." Deukmejian, Perrault said, "unfortunately, has not." She cited the governor's opposition last year to an extension of a moratorium that had prevented offshore oil drilling.
Deukmejian "has taken the side of the oil and chemical companies," Perrault said, in opposing Proposition 65, an initiative supporters say would strongly restrict release of toxic chemicals into drinking water.
Deukmejian on Tuesday said he opposed the measure, saying it would place "an unbearable burden on farmers and small businesses. . . . It won't result in one single glass of cleaner water. It is poorly drafted, unfair and transparently political."
Bradley has sided with environmentalists in supporting Proposition 65. Top Bradley aides helped draft the initiative, and Bradley has made Deukmejian's record of handling toxic waste a centerpiece of his campaign.
Many GOP activists, particularly Deukmejian supporters, believe the initiative is a thinly veiled attempt to attack the governor in this election year.
The toxics initiative is just one of the ways that Bradley has, in recent months, begun forging a closer coalition with environmentalists. Last year he called for greater water conservation and storage in Southern California, which he said would reduce the need to import more water from Northern California.
Bradley's tilt toward more conservationist views was emphasized last week when he said he favors increasing the flow of water into Mono Lake on the east side of the Sierra Nevada. Doing so would reduce the amount of Owens Valley water available for shipment to the City of Los Angeles.
Mono Lake Position
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has for more than 40 years diverted water from streams that feed Mono Lake. Those streams and other sources in the Owens Valley system provide a major portion of Los Angeles' water.
Lawsuits have been filed against the city by environmental groups seeking to protect the fish life in the lake, which has been threatened by diversion of its water sources.
"In the past, Bradley showed no great signs he wanted to do anything about it," said Carl Pope, the Sierra Club's political director.
"He's listened to us now, and I think to people who don't have that insider L.A. perspective, who realize the state extends beyond L.A.," Pope said.
He mentioned Deputy Mayor Tom Houston, former Bradley campaign manager Mary Nichols and campaign chairman Tom Quinn, all former Sacramento-based state officials appointed by then-Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., "who probably have had something to do with the change."
Pope added that there are "still areas of disagreement" with Bradley, such as his approval last year of oil drilling in Pacific Palisades and the city's dumping of sewage into Santa Monica Bay. Bradley "is not (naturalist) John Muir," Pope said. "But I'm not sure John Muir would have made a very good governor."
But while environmentalists are pleased with Bradley's gradual shift in policies, the change is not welcomed by some of the business people who have worked closely with Bradley in Los Angeles. "The water community does not respect the mayor's views on water," said E. Thornton Ibbetson, chairman of the board of directors of the Metropolitan Water District.
"The mayor's saying what the environmentalists are saying but that's seen by the water community--the Chambers of Commerce, a lot of the water commissions and the businessmen and others who own or use a lot of public utilities--as anti-growth."
Kristy Flynn, Deukmejian campaign spokeswoman, scoffed at the Sierra Club endorsement of Bradley, saying that Southern California club members had been critical of Bradley's handling of sewage spills into Santa Monica Bay and his approval of oil drilling in Pacific Palisades.
"If that record has earned the endorsement of the Sierra Club," Flynn said, then the club might lose "respect" from those "who would hold it to a higher standard."