Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Unsustainable Committee

Watching the Oshkosh Common Council meeting this week I was intrigued by Councillor Tony Palmeri's efforts to delay approval of weed removal in Millers Bay. Tony was upset that the issue didn't go through the city's Sustainability Advisory Committee first. I bet you didn't know the city had a Sustainability Advisory Committee. It's Tony's argument that many at City Hall don't know about it either--since their input isn't being sought very often. In fact, Councillor Palmeri stated it was time for the Council to determine what--if any--role the Committee was going to play in city politics.

I agree--it is time to determine that--because what is the use in having a committee if no one knows what it is there for? I would have actually enjoyed watching the committee consider the weed removal plan. As soon as the word "chemical" was used, an immediate vote would have been taken to oppose the plan. That would have been followed by a three hour discussion on how boating and fishing in Millers Bay is an "exploitation" of the lake--and where in the Kyoto Treaty the issue of fishing tournaments is covered.

And why stop with just issues in the parks? Why not run all of the city's development plans through that committee? I'm sure that every aspect of life is covered somewhere in the all-encompassing term of "sustainability". Is having a Sonic on the frontage road contributing to sustainable food growth? How "eco-friendly" is the new Oshkosh Corporation painting facility? Should people living in the new residential sub-division be required to have rain gardens? Ditto for street projects and utility improvements. And let's not forget the tree planting program. At this pace, the Sustainability Advisory Committee will have to meet almost every day to keep up with all of its agenda items.

And then the "advisory" part will become too limiting. How can we expect the committee to truly "make a difference" if they don't have authority to place requirements or restrictions on projects? The power to levy assessments would be next--we need to be able to fund our "sustainability efforts" you know.

All of this newfound power and responsibility would all be for naught, however--as the Common Council would continue to ignore their recommendations. You see, they are the ones who actually have to face the voters who have the boats that get clogged with weeds or would be the ones to pay the added assessments to include bike lanes on rebuilt streets and who work at the major industries upon which this community depends.

I liken the Sustainability Advisory Committee to Stephen King's character "Carrie". Would you rather not be asked to the prom--or have the pails of pig's blood dumped on you when you get there?

1 comment:

  1. J-Man. You've done it again.

    "As soon as the word "chemical" was used, an immediate vote would have been taken to oppose the plan."

    Ron Hardy, SAB chair was in attendance and spoke during that portion of the meeting. He appeared to be ok with the chemical application as a short term remedy for this season. How did you miss that?

    I am very aware ot the SAB and agree with Mr. Palmeri that the long range plans should be reviewed by the SAB for recommendation.

    In addition, I appreciate your suggestion that the SAB review the city's development plans, but that would not be completely workable. Requring a SAB representative sit on the development board would be a move in the right direction.

    On of the problems we have with our current city boards and departments is the lack of interdepartmental communication and cohesiveness. The right hand does not know what the left hand is doing. There is a lack of department integration. That's called inefficency which translates into wasted tax payers dollars.

    The last director of community development basically tied the hands of the SAB by creating a 4 year plan to create a plan. Yes, that's what I said.
    A 4 year plan just to create a plan. Flippin' ridiculous (or should I say manevolently genius?) That basically disabled any single process, policy or step that could be implemented now.

    The old community development director is gone now. The SAB should invite the new director to attend meetings with the expectation that he or one of his representatives will be present at least once a month.

    The SAB is supposed to develop advisory policies and create sustainability awareness both within city operations and the city proper. They need more tooth than they have been given.

    Time to scrap that plan and start by implemting small changes, currently effective. Bring proposals for resolutions and policy before the council. They direct the city manager and have the authority to make things happen.

    p.s. If you didn't know Ron Hardy is on the SAB you didn't do your homework, again.