Year 3, Month 1, Day 14: Do The Right Thing?

County legislators in New York are scared to do the right thing, because they might look like they’re agreeing with (gasp!) hippies:

CANTON — St. Lawrence County legislators liked much of what they heard Monday about saving money through energy changes, but stopped short of wanting the projects included in a Climate Action Plan that was shelved earlier for discussion until at least February.

Legislators voted 7-7, with Legislator Vernon D. “Sam” Burns, D-Ogdensburg, absent, not to refer the draft county Climate Action Plan back to staff for revision and then disagreed over whether that meant they wanted to proceed with some of the measures.


Some legislators who voted against revising the climate plan — which has been tabled twice — said that the county would be wise to move ahead with cost-saving proposals but that they did not need to be part of a plan they find over-reaching.

The breakdown of the vote was almost exactly along party lines. Sent January 10:

The Republican party’s incessant politicization of science over the past four decades has led to a lot of bad policy decisions. It’s also made it harder to implement good policies. St. Lawrence county lawmakers’ unwillingness to include energy saving strategies under a rubric of climate change adaptation is an excellent example of this phenomenon.

On the face of it, energy efficiency is about the least objectionable policy goal imaginable. But because the word “conservation” has become anathema to conservative legislators and media figures, any move to increase efficiency and reduce waste must be framed in purely financial terms if it is to have any hope of success. Furthermore, any suggestion that such a fiscally sensible policy is in fact consistent with climate change response strategies is ipso facto a kiss of death in the electoral arena.

On the grand scale, Monday’s dispute in Canton may seem small — but it is symptomatic of our broader national inability to act in our own best interests for fear of political consequences.

Warren Senders