Outstater: The Rachel Maddow School of City Government

June 7, 2017

MY MAYOR is the fellow you would like living next door — cheerful, thoughtful and civically involved, and his family until recently owned a tavern. So some of us were conflicted this week reading his uncharacteristically strong statement on the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord.

He opposes the decision, we learn, because he is “deeply concerned” about saving the planet. Frankly, it didn’t sound like him at all. His friends at the Green Frog Inn might have said he was reading from a memo sent out by the Rachel Maddow wing of the Democratic National Committee.

Please understand, most of us are all for problems being solved at the neighborhood level (or even the tavern level) but this seemed to be one that should be left to people who have some expertise. Planets are difficult things to manage, and international agreements are complex matters with multiple conflicting agendas and shifting elements, not all of them being moved forward with good intentions. Indeed, the executive branch has an entire department — they call it the State Department — filled with people paid big salaries to disagree about the best policy.

Again, our mayor is a great neighbor but there are sharper knives in the drawer on a topic as thick as this one. His statement did not mention the disproportional share of the costs of the accord being paid by the United States. And it assumed, without citing any particular science, that the incentives written into this particular document actually work to improve any particular person’s environment let alone those of us so distant from any decision that we will see Paris only on a postcard.

Specifically, the mayor’s statement committed our city to continued “sustainability” as seen in new systems of storm-water removal and traffic-signal lighting, that is, congratulating himself on keeping the streets from flooding and the intersections passable.

These are routine functions of any well-run municipality, what mayors are paid to do, which raises a question: Could the mayor’s time be better spent worrying about things within his purview, say, areas of the city where crime makes daily routine impossible, or a business personal property tax that discourages hiring, or a municipal bonding level that will turn our grandchildren into serfs?

“Saving you first, then the planet,” would be his bumper sticker. — Craig Ladwig


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