"I think what it all boils down to is who's got the money" says critic

Post by Daniel Fontaine in

17 comments

solarpanelsinstalled.jpg
Vancouver started a new program subsidizing solar panel installations

A lot has been written over the last three years about Mayor Gregor Robertson's taxpayer funded green schemes. For the most part, the local media have cut him a lot of slack when it comes to his nebulous mission of making Vancouver the "greenest city" on the planet. They've paid even less attention to the actual outcomes of his various programs.

Since 2008 Mayor Gregor has introduced programs supporting wheat fields on front lawns, subsidized solar panel installations and provided loans to homeowners to retrofit their homes in his quest to go green. All the while he has been receiving a lot of positive press for his efforts.

Despite the fact Vision Vancouver watered down their campaign commitment to create 20,000 green jobs in the city by 2020, they still claim to be committed to stimulating the local economy with their green schemes. Yet there has not been a single update regarding how many real jobs their greenest city plan has actually created - that is besides those funded by taxpayers at City Hall.

Robertson is by no means the only North American mayor preaching green as a means of appealing to his voter base. A couple of hundred kilometers to the south of us they've also begun their own green revolution in Seattle. However, unlike in Vancouver, their local council is getting grilled on some of the more questionable expenditures.

What follows is an article posted in the Seattle PI regarding a program called Community Power Works:

Last year, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn announced the city had won a coveted $20 million federal grant to invest in weatherization. The unglamorous work of insulating crawl spaces and attics had emerged as a silver bullet in a bleak economy - able to create jobs and shrink carbon footprint - and the announcement came with great fanfare.

McGinn had joined Vice President Joe Biden in the White House to make it. It came on the eve of Earth Day. It had heady goals: creating 2,000 living-wage jobs in Seattle and retrofitting 2,000 homes in poorer neighborhoods.

But more than a year later, Seattle's numbers are lackluster. As of last week, only three homes had been retrofitted and just 14 new jobs have emerged from the program. Many of the jobs are administrative, and not the entry-level pathways once dreamed of for low-income workers. Some people wonder if the original goals are now achievable.

"The jobs haven't surfaced yet," said Michael Woo, director of Got Green, a Seattle community organizing group focused on the environment and social justice.

"It's been a very slow and tedious process. It's almost painful, the number of meetings people have gone to. Those are the people who got jobs. There's been no real investment for the broader public."

The buildings that have gotten financing so far include the Washington Athletic Club and a handful of hospitals, a trend that concerns community advocates who worry the program isn't helping lower-income homeowners.

"Who's benefiting from this program right now - it doesn't square with what the aspiration was," said Howard Greenwich, the policy director of Puget Sound Sage, an economic-justice group. He urged the city to revisit its social-equity goals.

"I think what it boils down to is who's got the money."

Organizers and policy experts blame the economy, bureaucracy and bad timing for the program's mediocre results. Called Community Power Works, the program funds low-interest loans and incentives for buildings to do energy-efficient upgrades. They include hospitals, municipal buildings, big commercial structures and homes.

Half the funds are reserved for financing and engaging homeowners in Central and Southeast Seattle, a historically underserved area. Most of the jobs are expected to come from this sector.

But the timing of the award has led to hurdles in enticing homeowners to bite on retrofits. The city had applied for the grant at a time of eco-giddiness, when former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels was out-greening all other politicians except for Al Gore. Retrofits glowed with promise to boost the economy, reduce consumer bills and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

"A triple win," is how Biden characterized it.

By the time Seattle won the award, homeowners were battered by unemployment and foreclosures. The long-term benefits of energy upgrades lacked the tangible punch of a new countertop. And the high number of unemployed construction workers edged out new weatherization installers for the paltry number of jobs.

"Really, we couldn't have rolled out this program at a worse time," said Greenwich, who had helped write the city's grant proposal.

"The outcomes are very disappointing. I think the city has worked really hard, but no one anticipated just how bad this recession was going to be, and the effect it was going to have on this program."

City feels 'cautiously optimistic'

As of last week, 337 homeowners had applied for the program. Fourteen had gotten a loan, or were in the process of getting one.

"Yes, we're not seeing as many completed retrofits as we wanted to," said Joshua Curtis, the city's manager for Community Power Works. "While everyone would like to see more upgrades, I think we're feeling cautiously optimistic."

He said the residential portion of program didn't launch until April. He said there was a normal summertime lull in work and that he expected things to pick up in the fall. He was confident that the city's marketing campaign and loan partner held promise.

It will be interesting to see if some of Vision Vancouver's more controversial green initiatives end up making their way as a top issue during the upcoming campaign. Based on what I've read so far, I somehow doubt it.

If you want to read an opposing view, you should read a column by Van Jones over at Sightline.org. He has a slightly different perspective than the Seattle PI article.

- Post by Daniel. You can follow us on Twitter @CityCaucus. Or you can like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/citycaucus

 

17 Comments

I know that bike lanes and city budget on wing nut green ideas that have not proven themselves will be a hot topic on Election time. Olympic Village energy program for one. And open data ridership chart shows the ridership is not consistent enough to have bike lanes also bikers must pay for parking.

I've been reading many of the blogs, (including MSM)and there are a lot of unhappy people.

Folks have had to tighten their belts in order to put food on their tables and pay their rent, while our City Myor & Councillors find it feesible to use tax dollars to finance groups that benefit the few - and/or political associates (SPUDS/Enerpro, Graham Anderson/VACC/SHIFT)

The fact they will not release where the other $80K or so went, is irrehensible & typcially arrogant... And yet they have the audacity to claim 'transparent and open' government.

What is the real Opportunity Cost of these subsidies?

What Police Services are not being funded?

What Poverty Programs are not being funded?

What municipal sewer, road and building maintenance services are not being funded?

What Seniors Social services are not being funded?


Because wanting to be Green means being ready to de-fund other important services to make sure the Eco Rent Seekers get a chance to have their liplock on the public teat.

Mayor Moonbean isn't a real Greenie, he's a Greenie Enabler, or if you want to more accurate, he's the local Greenie Pusher, peddling his utopian eco-dreams to the gullible progressives.

"Because wanting to be Green means being ready to de-fund other important services to make sure the Eco Rent Seekers get a chance to have their liplock on the public teat." I assume irony here as it is the oil-based economy that gets the bulk of the subsidies. And if you took the trouble to read the plan, yes I did, most of this is about making different choices and does not require heavy investments. A sustainable economy is the only economy that will be able to fund your other priroties over time. You seem to the willfully ignorant of the costs of doing business as ususal.

I look forward to the fall when the NPA will hopefully come out with some clear policiy information. Simple question: "Do you plan to remove the existing structures on Burrard Bridge, Hornby and the Viaduct? If "yes" what will they be replaced with?"

'You seem to the willfully ignorant of the costs of doing business as ususal'

Of course this is rarely thought of. Everyone pisses and moans about everything this gov does but no one wants to talk about opportunities, alternatives, different ideas, solutions, etc... or like you say the costs of doing nothing. Of course that's the easiest short term solution--but often the most painful long term.

I did take the time to read the Green Manifesto and it is long on words and short on numbers. It is validated on the premise of AGW and on the assertion that present consumption of world resources cannot support a Western standard of living for the worlds population. Both of these issues,even if they are real, cannot be addressed by Vancouver alone.

Take a look at the footnotes. Most of the studies cited are pre 2010 before the first financial crunch settled out and certainly before the current sovereign debt crisis. (The report singles out San Jose as ahead of schedule in creating green jobs. That was in 2009. In 2011 San Jose just announced budget cuts laying off 500 workers and those lucky to keep their jobs face a 10% cut in pay.) Countries are getting off the AGW bandwagon in droves because they can't afford it which means any results achieved by Vancouver will count for nothing in the overall scheme of things.

Sticking to this Green Agenda in the face of fading international support for climate action is a waste of resources we do not have.

Scathing review of green job creation programs:

Never mind that in Spain — where unemployment is now at 21% — the green jobs boom has been a bust. One major 2009 study by researchers at King Juan Carlos University found that the country destroyed 2.2 jobs in other industries for every green job it created, and the Spanish government has spent more than half a million euros for each green job created since 2000. Wind industry jobs cost a cool $1 million euros apiece.
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-goldberg-green-20110823,0,4353091.column

The Thought of The Night

“Vancouver was always Number One in the eyes of its citizens. Then, Robertson’s Gang came to town… and word spread around like low flush automatic toilets.”

Greenest city on the planet by 2020. LMAO! The arrogance these people are showing is unbearable… The biggest bullshit perpetrated by any gang visiting this parts of the world actually… ever!

Check for more:
http://twitter.com/#!/glissandoremmy

“Vancouver’s City Hall Is Trying To Push The Green 2020 Agenda On The Citizens Of #Vancouver The Same Way Nicolao Ceausesco Tried To Pay Off His Country’s Debt On The Backs Of His People, Not on His Corrupt Apparatchik Though! He Got The Message In The End.”

Also when I listen to the Gregor-Geoff duo doing their karaoke number in public, i don't know why, but Milli Vanilli pop duo comes to mind... if you catch my drift.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFWngq2L99o

We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

Nonsense. It is a right wing fantasy that ecological sustainability is going away as a core economic driver. Go talk to the CEOs of large manufacturing companies about what they are doing. Or construction companies. Or transportation companies. You are out of touch with the actual business decisions being made. But government should not have specific job-creation programs of any type as these almost never work. Government should support a level playing field and not try to pick winners. But this means undoing the massive subsidies that currently support the status quo. And ecological services have real economic value. Not charging for them is a subsidy. Externalities have real economic costs.

Harvey Enchin, writing in today's Vancouver Sun, addresses your comments much more thoroughly than I could. The only hope the developed world has for getting out from under the massive public debt is economic growth which is the opposite of the Green agenda.

Steven:

Several months back I attended a Tech Conference for 'Super Angel Investors'.

For those unclear - Super Angel Investors, invest roughly 10% of their earned income into start-ups.

'Green technology' was third on their list of considerations as far as importance.

These gentlemen were both Canadian and American.

"The only hope the developed world has for getting out from under the massive public debt is economic growth which is the opposite of the Green agenda."

Economic growth does not equal opposite of green agenda (Whatever the hell that's supposed to mean).

Seems high to me. I participate in such groups in both Boston and Vancouver. I assume that any venture I invest in will need to have a green/sustainability strategy and that in many cases there will be green sustainable value drivers (I use this in the technical sense of Nagle in Economic Value Estimation) but I don't really look at companies that position themselves as pure 'green' plays. Green/sustainability is, for me, part of the underlying economic assumptions and not the foreground that I would try to build a business on.

As 'boohoo' said this is an outdated mischaracterization of the 'Green Agenda.' I won't pretend to speak for others, but my 'Green Agenda' is pretty simple:

Realize that the eocnomy is embedded in and depends on the ecology.

Capture all costs, including externalities, so that markets send the correct pricing signals.

Make decisions while taking into account the long-term consequences.

Accept that noone has a right to a disproportionate share of the world's resources.

This defines a design space in which much healthier and sustained growth is possible.

To pretend that one can ignore or postpone paying environmental costs, or that resources are infiinite, is to ignore reality. It is exactly the kind of thinking that has led to the current massive deficits, which are even larger than we think when you consider infrastructure, social and environmental deficits.

Ignoring real costs is not a way to make rational economic decisions.

"Economic growth does not equal opposite of green agenda"

The City of Vancouver’s Green Manifesto quotes the Stern report as saying it will cost the world 1% of global GDP to fight climate change. This might not seem a lot but given the anaemic outlook for growth in the developed world’s economies, 1% is a significant reduction.

But what about all those Green jobs that will be created? Solyandra, the solar panel company President Obama called the “company of the future” a few months ago, just filed for bankruptcy laying off 1,100 employees and leaving the US government stuck with a $535 million loan guarantee. Perhaps the President meant this was the future for solar energy companies since Solyandra was the third bankruptcy to hit the industry in the past month.

The rationale for the Green economy was based on the assumption that greenhouse gases were causing climate change. CERN just released the results of experiments establishing that cosmic rays influence cloud formation, affecting temperatures. It is the cycles of the sun that regulate the number of cosmic rays striking the atmosphere. While not conclusive, it is highly likely that the solar cycles have a greater impact on climate than man-made activities.

Implementing the Green Manifesto will cost Vancouver much more than the riot ever could. I hope that NPA will come out with a strong position against it.

What Bill said!

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