Thursday, May 04, 2006

DC Environment Director Profile

The DC government recently reorganized several existing agencies from different departments to form a new Department of the Environment (effective February 1, 2006). The idea was to coordinate policies relating to water quality, pollution control, trash and recycling, and ecosystem improvement. Creation of a single department was thought to be necessary due to the district's lagging behind other cities in handling environmental issues prior to the Williams administration.

Today's Post has a profile of the woman who is running the new department, Elizabeth Berry. She is currently its acting director; a permanent director will be established later. She has a lot on her plate in the meantime.

The department oversees policy, enforcement and regulation of the city's air, water, land and wildlife, most of which has been done by the Health Department. It will handle policy related to trees and recycling, although the Transportation Department will continue to operate its tree-planting program and the Department of Public Works will continue to run the recycling program. The agency also will oversee environmental impact statements that are required when new development projects are proposed....

But within a couple of years, the department is to absorb a massive program run by the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority to curb runoff from storm water.
One thing in Berry's favor is that she has close connections to Mayor Williams and to his probable successor, Linda Cropp. The connections may help ensure mayoral support for making the environment a priority in the coming years.
As an adviser to Williams for five years, Berry worked with him on environmental policies and legislation. She established the District's environmental task force, which oversees issues that cut across various city agencies. As an activist, she opposed allowing a tall cellular tower in Rock Creek Park. The Ward 3 resident is a native Washingtonian and former journalist who graduated from the National Cathedral School, the University of Pennsylvania and George Washington University Law School. Her father is Max Berry, who was co-chairman of the Williams mayoral campaign and is co-chairman and finance chairman of D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp's (D) campaign for mayor.
One possible cause for concern is the level of funding the department will receive. As it takes on more responsibilities, the funding will need to be there for staffing and implementation of policies. DC residents voting in the upcoming mayoral election should pay close attention to the candidates' positions on this new agency.