Concert brings in green for environmental organization - Published Monday, April 23, 2001, in the Herald-Leader Posted: April 23, 2001
By Jack Brammer
HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU
FRANKFORT When Kentuckians see the redbuds in bloom on a reclaimed mining site or a babbling brook free of pollution, they should give a nod of thanks to Tom FitzGerald.
So says Jeanette McDermott, who helped organize a benefit concert last night in Louisville for the financially-strapped Kentucky Resources Council, which FitzGerald directs.
``The work Fitz is doing is invaluable for preserving the environment,'' said McDermott, who is director of the Kentucky Theater Project, a regional arts center in Louisville. ``He has given so much over the years to those concerned about the air, water and land. We thought it was time to give him something.''
Last night's concert was in conjunction with the 31st annual Earth Day, a celebration that started in San Francisco by environmentalist John McConnell and has spread around the world. About 200 people gathered in the Kentucky Theater on Louisville's South Fourth Street at $25 a ticket to raise money for the council's efforts.
Once referred to as ``an environmental MASH unit'' by a public television commentator, the council provides legal and technical guidance to any person or group affected by waste or the destruction of the environment. The goal of the non-profit, membership organization is to protect the state's natural resources.
It spends much of its money on engineers and scientific consultants to pay for technical information. But it has struggled financially in the six years since the death of Louisville philanthropist Mary Bingham, who provided much of its funding, McDermott said.
FitzGerald, 46, a lawyer and lobbyist from Louisville, has been with the council since 1984. He is its only full-time employee. Becky Raff manages the Frankfort office on a part-time basis.
For the last eight years, FitzGerald, recognized last year by the state Environmental Quality Commission, has received a $60,000 annual stipend for his work at the council. Its annual operating budget is about $140,000. (He also teaches environmental law at the University of Louisville.)
He was embarrassed when friends of the council approached him about the Earth Day concert, McDermott said.
FitzGerald has been involved in nearly every environmental bill considered in the state legislature since the mid-1980s. This year he successfully pushed passage of a bill to clean up polluted ``brownfields'' industrial sites, but was disappointed when the legislature failed to enact a program for statewide trash pickup.
McDermott said ``fund raising is not Fitz's strength,'' but he agreed to go along with the concert.
The council's board is planning a campaign to raise more funds. ``Fortunately, God looks after his fools, so we plan to keep this group going as long as possible,'' FitzGerald said.