Council took proactive action on climate plan

Jan 10, 2017 | Uncategorized

Here’s a scenario for you: A neighbor enthusiastically approaches you with an idea he says will improve the community. With great verve he espouses his grand vision of the future. You notice several things: The level of enthusiasm is off the charts, the details are numerous but oddly vague, the costs are eye-poppingly high, and the benefits are not at all clear. Then comes the real zinger: He wants you to “invest” a significant amount of your family budget in all of this for decades to come.

Would you do that?

Probably not. At least not without significant conversation and a lot more detail.

Now apply this to the city of Fort Collins’ Climate Action Plan. We have well-meaning neighbors who strongly support using massive public resources — money and regulations — to fight global climate change.  Over the next couple of decades, they see the need to regulate and tax residents to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars for the cause.

To that end, advocates were eager to use the city’s two-year budget process to do just that. When the council finally adopted the 2017-18 budget, it had $7.2 million of new spending for climate action, a lot of money in the eyes of most people.

Climate advocates disagree, decrying the amount and blaming the Chamber of Commerce for lobbying against CAP.

This came out last week when activists were lobbying the City Council to sign onto a letter to President-elect Donald Trump about climate change. An advocate claimed that the chamber had single-handedly killed CAP.

Interesting. And untrue.

What happened is that we asked the same common-sense questions you would ask your enthusiastic neighbor:

  • What is being proposed, what are the expected results, how will those results be measured and how much will various CAP policies and programs really cost?
  • Will these policies and programs benefit the environment or are they meant to be symbolic?
  • Who will pay for the recommendations and in what form? Fees? General fund? Special taxes? Utility rate increases? New regulations on homeowners and businesses?
  • What will happen to utility rates?
  • How will the policies impact jobs and the economy?
  • How will these recommendations affect housing affordability and transportation mobility?
  • Will new CAP programs come at the cost of funding police, fire and other basic city services?
  • If there are offsetting savings, what are they? Are there examples in our local government or other communities where such savings have actually been documented?
  • Will the savings being claimed take place in a reasonable period of time such as a decade?
  • If a policy or program is being budgeted on the promise of future savings, where will the money come from to make the upfront investments?

In the end, CAP is quite alive and the City Council made a generous commitment to climate programs but in a measured, prudent fashion.

A path forward for advocates who want more is to develop a specific climate action proposal and bring a tax measure to the ballot for their neighbors to consider.

Originally posted January 6, 2017 in the Fort Collins Coloradoan