An update from Doug Phelps, president and executive director of The Public Interest Network
SEPT. 30, 2021
A bright idea has just turned 25.
The Public Interest Network is celebrating the silver anniversary of the founding of Frontier Group, our in-house center for research, ideas and insight into today’s defining problems. In the tradition of Ralph Nader’s renowned 1965 automobile safety study, “Unsafe at Any Speed,” Frontier Group uses research to produce information that has concrete impact in real-world debates.
Since its inception in the 1970s, PIRG has produced timely, publicly accessible research that helped win landmark limits on sprawling development in Oregon, protection for precious places such as Minnesota’s Boundary Waters, bans on toxics in art supplies in California and federally, 100-plus recalls of unsafe toys from store shelves nationwide, and much more. In 1996, Susan Rakov, Frontier Group’s managing director, gave our research mission a lasting home and a dedicated staff.
The Frontier Group team recently commemorated their 25th anniversary by sharing stories of moments when their research has helped shape and sometimes change the conversation on important issues:
- Encouraging California to assume global leadership on solar energy.
- Shifting the assumptions of the U.S. Department of Transportation by uncovering and elevating generational differences in automobile driving.
- Adding the term “highway boondoggle” to our transportation lexicon, raising new considerations in our nation’s infrastructure debate.
- Proving that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s complaints database protects consumers.
- Bringing into the political mainstream a vision for America powered solely by renewable energy, setting the stage for California, New Mexico, Maine, Washington state, New York, Virginia and Oregon to go 100%.
We attribute much of the impact Frontier Group has had over the years to a facts-first, solutions-oriented approach.
Inherent in Frontier Group’s body of work are the assumptions that, despite our differences, the merits of an argument still matter, reason can still suffice to persuade, and careful thought and a little creativity can produce smart solutions that appeal to a broad, politically diverse audience. If we are to move past this political moment, we’ll need more of what Frontier Group brings to the conversation.
Here’s to the Frontier Group team, past and present — and to the next quarter-century of research with impact. Congratulations to Susan, Associate Directors and Senior Policy Analysts Tony Dutzik and Elizabeth Ridlington, and the entire Frontier Group team.