Club bolts ADOT panel
Input team refutes 'sham' claim
The Arizona Republic
Feb. 25, 2006 12:00 AM
The Sierra Club has withdrawn from the South
Mountain Citizens Advisory Team, citing concerns that the Arizona Department of
Transportation-led process has become a "sham" that silences the
Michelle Pulich Stewart, the club's representative, announced her resignation at
the outset of the group's Thursday night meeting. The club's local leadership
instructed her to withdraw after the team agreed to stop reading public comments
aloud at recent meetings.
"We can't participate in a process that's not allowing for the public
component to be there," Pulich Stewart said after the meeting.
Her withdrawal leaves the group without an
environmental representative. The team discussed air quality at the meeting
after Pulich Stewart left, and agreed to appoint another environmental
representative after panel members vote on their preferred West Valley
alignment, scheduled for March 30.The freeway would complete Loop 202 and link
Interstate 10 in the West Valley to I-10 near Ahwatukee, bypassing Phoenix.
The Sierra Club was also frustrated with what they perceived as ADOT's
unwillingness to consider transportation solutions other than freeways. The
Sierra Club generally does not support freeways, Pulich Stewart said, and felt
that ADOT was steering the group away from a "no" vote on the freeway.
"In addition to limiting the public's ability to voice its concerns in
these meetings . . . it has also become increasing(ly) clear that the process is
intended to rubber stamp a foregone conclusion on the part of the Department of
Transportation," a statement from the Sierra Club read.
The Sierra Club has held a seat on the team since the volunteer advisory
committee was formed more than four years ago. Pulich Stewart took the seat in
Though they applauded Pulich Stewart for her service, members of the group
disputed her characterization of its position.
"The no-build (option) is not off the table. This group can evaluate the
no-build, and will evaluate the no-build," moderator Theresa Gunn said
after the announcement.
The group has been asked to vote on a preferred West Valley alignment before
voting on the whole project to help alleviate the frustration of property
owners, developers and governments that have suspended plans pending a decision
on the location. ADOT has proposed connecting the western portion of the freeway
at 55th Avenue, 71st Avenue or Loop 101.