All eyes are on Texas Gov. Rick Perry these days, the faraway frontrunner in the Republican race. But as the primary goes on (and on and on) more Republicans might take note of the fact that in a matchup with President Obama, only one candidate stands a chance of winning: former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
As governor of Massachusetts, Romney had a mixed record on transit and smart growth. Photo: Daily Caller
According to the most recent polling data, Obama trounces Gov. Perry. He makes mincemeat of Bachmann and Gingrich. Only one poll shows a winning Republican candidate, and that’s Romney, with a two percent edge over the president in a recent USA Today poll.
We took a hard look at Rick Perry’s approach to transportation last fall, when he was running for re-election. As Texas governor, Perry championed a mega-highway plan that would make the Road Gang blush. He blocked metrorail extensions and vulnerable users legislation.
But what about Romney? His record as a red governor of the blue state of Massachusetts is a little more complex, and worth exploring.
In a recent Boston Globe story comparing current Democratic Governor Deval Patrick with his predecessor, Romney emerges as the more inspired candidate when it comes to smart growth. (It doesn’t help that Patrick was caught driving around in an SUV last week while telling his constituents to observe car-free week.)
According to the Globe, Patrick has done away with a program originated under Romney to encourage “mixed-use, walkable, downtown-centered, transit-oriented growth” and counter sprawl.
Under the Romney program, communities got credit for green building, saving energy, preserving open space, and zoning reform, among many other categories. Those that scored highest went to the front of the line to receive about $500 million per year in grants and revolving loan funds for infrastructure including water and sewer projects. The idea was to put state funding to municipalities through a filter, and reward innovation in sustainability at the local level; previously the money was just doled out.
Romney also pioneered an interagency partnership in Massachusetts not unlike the Obama administration initiative that brought together HUD, USDOT and EPA. Romney’s Office for Commonwealth Development brought together state agencies on transportation, environment, housing, and energy — a collaboration which has served as a model for other states. To head it, he hired Doug Foy, the head of the Conservation Law Foundation and “arguably New England’s most important environmentalist,” according to ModeShift.
Romney’s administration encouraged brownfield, instead of greenfield, development and created a bond program to encourage transit-oriented development. And ModeShift says he was “for RGGI (the Northeast regional greenhouse gas emissions compact) before he was against it.” Read more…