Environmentalism is rearing its "green" head in the city elections.
Leaders of 11 local environmental groups have formed a political action committee that plans to work for -- and against -- candidates for city offices this year.
The newly formed Baltimore City League of Environmental Voters is inspired by similar "grass-roots" political efforts last year that ousted incumbents and elected pro-environment candidates in local races in Frederick, Montgomery and Worcester counties.
Terry J. Harris, a Sierra Club activist who is chairman of the new league, says the group plans to interview and endorse candidates for mayor and City Council.
"I think we can make a difference in some of the races," said Harris, a southwest Baltimore resident and a physicist who works at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.
Others on the league's board of directors include leaders of the city's recycling coalition, the state conservation council, the local chapter of Clean Water Action and members of the city's forestry board and a group fighting childhood lead poisoning.
Unlike state and national leagues of conservation voters, the city league has no plans to issue a "report card" on the environmental records of current council incumbents and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, Harris said.
But the local league is distributing questionnaires to incumbents and challengers, quizzing them on issues such as the Pulaski Highway incinerator, trash recycling, lead poisoning, reforestation and parks maintenance. And Harris made it clear that the league will not automatically endorse incumbents, even if they face little or no challenge.
"The city has been talking a good game, but they still have that nightmare Pulaski incinerator, which they stil haven't been able to deal with," Harris said. "And the recycling program, we've heard how it's going to be citywide by the end of the year, but we haven't seen yet the educational effort we think it's going to take."
Based on the candidates' responses and interviews held over the next three weeks, Harris said, the league hopes to issue endorsements by early August.
Meanwhile, another environmentally oriented group already has issued its first endorsement.
The Baltimore Greens, an offshoot of the international Green political party first formed in Europe in the 1980s, has announced its backing for one of its local members, Edwin L. Smith, for a 6th District seat on the City Council.