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Local Elections : Sierra Club Supports O’Connor for Mayor, Cites Developer Stance

Times Staff Writer

Encouraged by her vow to shun campaign contributions from developers, representatives of the San Diego Chapter of the Sierra Club on Monday endorsed mayoral candidate Maureen O’Connor in the June election.

The environmental group said it would conduct an independent campaign to help the former port commissioner defeat her opponent, Councilman Bill Cleator.

The Sierra Club, which held off endorsing anyone during the mayoral primary campaign, announced its support for O’Connor because she has refused to accept political donations from developers, chapter officers said.

They also said she has promised to consult with the Sierra Club before making any recommendations or appointments to city boards and commissions.

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“I really perceived an attitude shift in her in the way she looks at the issues now,” said Jay Powell, the chapter’s conservation coordinator, at a press conference. “We felt earlier in the primary that her responses . . . (displayed) almost a patronizing attitude. I think there’s been a shift in the recognition that she wants to sit down with us, she will be consulting with us on environmental issues.”

In 1983, the club endorsed County Supervisor Roger Hedgecock over O’Connor in the mayor’s race.

In rejecting Cleator, chapter officers said they were heartened that the councilman, long considered an advocate of growth and a foe of environmentalists, has been trying to strike a more moderate stance by embracing Proposition A, the city’s slow-growth initiative.

But Powell said it was difficult to forget that Cleator helped anger environmentalists and incite passage of Proposition A by offering the motion at a September, 1984, City Council meeting to approve the La Jolla Valley development. La Jolla Valley, which was repealed by Proposition A, was a controversial issue because it called for construction of a Christian university, homes and an industrial park on 5,100 acres that the city’s Growth Management Plan had designated as off limits to development until 1995.

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Powell said Cleator has “got to bear the responsibility for that. . . . We’re increasingly convinced that he’s getting religion, but we don’t know how much.”

Ruth Deumler, the chapter’s chairman, said the local Sierra Club’s political committee has raised $4,000, which could be used for literature and radio advertisements supporting O’Connor, but purchased independently of the candidate’s election committee.

O’Connor said she was “ecstatic” about receiving the Sierra Club’s endorsement, but a spokesman for Cleator tried to downplay the political significance of the announcement.

“I think there is a segment of the population that listens to the Sierra Club positively, and I also think there is a segment of the population that listens to the Sierra Club negatively,” said Dan Greenblat, Cleator’s campaign manager.

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