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Romney pick for development chief an unlikely choice
By Steve Leblanc, Associated Press, 12/20/2002
BOSTON -- Douglas Foy has been a reliable voice for the state's natural resources for more than a quarter of a century.
As head of the Conservation Law Foundation, Foy helped spearhead efforts to clean up Boston Harbor, protect Georges Bank from oil and gas drilling, and ban off-road vehicles from the Cape Cod National Seashore.
All of which makes Gov.-elect Mitt Romney's decision to name Foy the his administration's "Chief of Commonwealth Development" a seemingly unlikely choice.
Romney, who made his fortune as a venture capitalist and his reputation as the business leader who rescued the Winter Olympics, said there's nothing surprising naming an environmental advocate to be his top development adviser.
The two share many of the same philosophical views, Romney said.
"In many respects he's responsible for the fact that we have a clean Boston Harbor," Romney said. "He and his organization have worked tirelessly to improve our environment."
In his new position, Foy will act as a liaison between Romney and the departments of housing, transportation and environmental affairs.
Romney created the new post to help the departments work more collaboratively and make sure the administration speaks with "a single voice."
Foy, 56, of Sherborn, said he is looking forward to the chance to use his environmental skills to work from inside the government, rather than as an outside activist.
"The most important thing an environmentalist can do is to be in favor of something," Foy said. "It's all well and easy to be opposed to something, but it doesn't actually create a better place or better lives for the citizens of the state."
What Foy favors is "smart growth." That translates into better housing but less suburban sprawl, better transportation but fewer new highways.
Romney touched on some of those ideas during his campaign. He proposed cutting zoning hurdles for multifamily housing, requiring developers who build on green spaces to pay into a fund to redevelop urban centers and doubling housing permits in already developed areas.
Romney's choice of Foy, a member of the U.S. rowing team in the 1968 Olympics and a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, was praised in and outside environmental circles.
"He's just a remarkable person. He's high quality. He just inspires people to do their best," said Geoffrey Beckwith of the Massachusetts Municipal Association. "Even when people disagree with Doug Foy, they respect him."
Rob Sargent, policy analyst for the National Association of State Public Interest Research Groups, said Foy could bridge the perceived gap between business and environmental interests.
"We need to dispel the notion that there's a conflict between what's good for the environment and what's good for the economy," Sargent said. "Gov.-elect Romney is showing that he understands that."
The praise hasn't been universal. Foy has been criticized by some industry groups, including the Massachusetts Petroleum Council, which said Foy is anti-automobile.
Foy said he is not opposed to cars. He owns three. But he said he is opposed to the careless development of roadways and the reluctance to look at alternative means of transportation.
"The issue is not whether we like or hate cars, the question is how we can move people around. People don't like to sit in traffic jams just so they can sit in their cars," he said. "We can't move everyone everywhere in cars without destroying many of our neighborhoods."