Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Recharge the Energy Initiative

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Recharge the Energy Initiative

Article excerpt

Sarasota should explore regional approach to financing

On Monday night, Sarasota city commissioners listened patiently to one citizen after another express passionate support for a clean- energy fund. Then the board voted to kill the idea.

That's the way it goes sometimes. In the clash of municipal priorities, there are winners and losers -- mostly losers these days, as constricted budgets force the elimination of programs deemed expendable.

The clean-energy fund was never expected to be more than modest in scope. But a slim majority of commissioners concluded the city can't afford even that. They warned of citywide deficits as employee pension costs escalate and proposed constitutional amendments threaten local tax revenues.

Despite their effort to be fiscally responsible, commissioners' decision to jettison the energy fund may come back to haunt them. We say that for two reasons:

- The decision might alienate many citizens. Advocates worked hard to build consensus for the clean-energy fund, which was approved by a previous commission. Dismantling their achievement sends a "Don't bother" message, discouraging civic engagement.

- Canceling the fund deprives the city of a financing mechanism with which to jump-start improvements that reduce electric bills, lower carbon emissions and create jobs. The longer the city waits, the more vulnerable it will become to the drawbacks of fossil fuels - - including environmental and financial costs.

PACE programs

Two commissioners opposed the dismantling of the clean-energy fund but were outvoted. Disappointingly, none of the five commissioners came up with immediate motions to keep the issue alive. They should raise it again at their next meeting.

Mayor Suzanne Atwell said she would prefer a state and regional approach to clean-energy financing. If fellow commissioners agree, they should promptly initiate talks with county and state officials, Florida Power & Light and private lenders. The city's failure to put its money where its mouth is, however, could diminish the inter- government conversation. …

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