Tchaikovsky Sounds Funny: Book Review: "A Walk on the Downhill Side of the Log"

Is this where I put in key words such as sex, lesbians, vampires, Christopher Lloyd and others things to which this blog do not pertain, but by putting them here, I may get hits from all the Christoper Lloyd lesbian vampire fans (and you know who you are)? This is the primarily humorous and occasionally rambling writings of Leon Tchaikovsky, humor writer. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Book Review: "A Walk on the Downhill Side of the Log"

Tchaikovsky Sounds Funny

A biography has been written on Maurice Goddard, a longtime environmental leader who spent 24 years as a member of Governors’ Cabinets. Brought into public service to head the Forest and Waters Department by Democratic Governor George Leader, Goddard successfully transformed his responsibilities from patronage havens into professional and skilled services during an era when this was a new and harshly resisted concept.
The book chronicles the growing awakening of environmental concerns.

We read the efforts of using millions of seedlings to improve mine reclamation efforts, how the Commonwealth learned to make timber sales profitable, how aircraft was introduced to fight forest fires, and how urban residents gained closer access to parks. Some of the projects Secretary Goddard worked on included the Independence Mall in Philadelphia and the Point State Park in Pittsburgh.

This book provides examples of how the Administrative branch can work with the legislature in advancing projects. Secretary Goddard showed legislators that constituencies in all their districts benefited from wilderness and water protection efforts. Prior to this, many viewed these as strictly rural issues. We also see how some efforts failed, such as initial attempts to create civil service with the Forest and Waters Department. Yet, Governor Leader then implemented civil service by Governor’s Order.

People interested in the beginnings of Project 70 recreation projects will be interested in this book’s descriptions of the early politics surrounding Project 70. Governor William Scranton retained Secretary Goddard, despite Goddard’s criticizing Scranton during the campaign, and together they unified to fight for the conservation and historic preservation projects served under Project 70. Eventually, Governor Scranton would describe Maurice Goddard as “the best public employee in America”. Other political battles during the 1960s are described, including Secretary Goddard’s efforts at combating his fears of an emerging water supply shortage. Goddard’s fight for a dam at Tocks Island would become a notable failed battle.

Some of Maurice Goddard’s struggles were won after long campaigns. It took Secretary Goddard six years to get the legislature to create the Susquehanna River Basin. The book notes that Goddard won this effort by getting opponents to withdraw their objections, even if he could not win their support.

The late 1960s saw increased public recognition of the environmental movement. Secretary Goddard assisted in developing eight major pieces of environmental legislation, including, the creation of a Department of Environmental Resources. Maurice Goddard became that Department’s first Secretary.

Maurice Goddard faced and survived six months of a confirmation battle after Governor Milton Shapp named him Secretary of Environmental Resources. Goddard’s support of dam projects divided the environmental movement. The Environmental Council supported Goddard and the Sierra Club opposed him. As Secretary, Goddard worked on sanitary inspections of schools, nursing homes, and migrant farm camps, took actions reducing mining deaths, and improved the quality of many miles of streams.

Secretary Goddard’s era as a Cabinet member ended upon the election of Governor Dick Thornburgh. Governor Thornburgh did appoint him to two River Basin Commissions. Yet, even as a private citizen, Goddard remained active, even successfully pointing out abuses in the use of oil and gas lease funds.

Maurice Goddard had a long and interesting career in state government. It is fitting that a biographer has captured his life. While the early years of his life are perhaps understandably sketchy and while his death, perhaps a suicide, remains mysterious, this book provides excellent descriptions of his very public life. Readers wishing to learn more about the details of state government operations will find this book highly instructive.


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