Magazine article Sierra

Taming the Toxic 12. (the Sierra Club Bulletin: News for Members)

Magazine article Sierra

Taming the Toxic 12. (the Sierra Club Bulletin: News for Members)

Article excerpt

If you'd attended a parade in Zumbrota or Stillwater or Eagan, Minnesota, this summer, you probably would have heard the marching band, waved at the local politicians, and smiled at the adorable children. You might also have encountered Asphalt Annie, three-eyed Tom the Toxic Trout, or Mike the Mutant Frog. With their "guerrilla theatre," these costumed creatures aim to highlight the poor environmental voting records of legislators from towns across Minnesota. And they've got the lawmakers running scared.

"We get some boos, but a lot of applause," says Sam Garst, the Toxic 12 Campaign coordinator for the Sierra Club's North Star Chapter. The Land of 10,000 Lakes is increasingly threatened by air and water pollution, urban sprawl, and poor management of state-owned forests. Frustrated by attempts to repeal environmental laws in the 1999 to 2000 legislative session, the chapter decided to fight back.

First, they identified a dozen state senators and representatives who had opposed the Sierra Club on legislation more than 90 percent of the time over the past few years. Next, the chapter held press conferences, sent letters to editors, rolled out a series of print ads, and, for maximum impact, made the parade appearances.

The result? Three environmental "zeros" were defeated by green candidates in the 2000 election, and another three were taken off the list after they began changing their votes. (Three more Toxic 12 members have announced their retirement.)

"One representative, Jim Abeler [R], had a zero percent rating in his freshman year. …

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