Proposed for consideration of adoption by the Rock County Board and Janesville City Council:
“Whereas, automobiles provide significant pollution into our atmosphere.
“Whereas, automobiles are dangerous, causing residents to be killed or maimed every year.
“Whereas, automobiles cause the city significant difficulties in clearing snow when parked on the streets.
“Therefore, be it resolved that the city of Janesville seeks to have all residents surrender their privately owned vehicles and participate only in public transportation by the year 2030.”
I bring this completely ridiculous proposal to you to demonstrate what I have noticed recently within our local governing bodies.
There is a distinct shift from trying to resolve conflict and problem-solve for all residents to a political and sometimes dictatorial posture by some members of county boards, school boards and city councils.
That might not be intentional, although it appears to me that it is. In any case, it should be obvious by now that one cannot lead an entire group of residents by appealing only to those who share an officeholder’s interests.
The latest example is the resolution passed by the Janesville City Council to add the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050 into the city’s master plan.
As in my example above, council members spouted facts to back up their position. As in my example above, there was no evidence-based study to suggest the goal was attainable (an important aspect of goal-setting)—only emotion tied to opinion.
Such actions by public governing bodies and individuals have a name now: virtue signaling. In my view, such actions only serve to divide communities.
The city of Janesville is already adopting environmentally friendly policies in many areas, which at least one council member I spoke to acknowledged. Is there any way, other than guessing, to develop a strategy to reach the council’s goal? We have no way to know the cause-and-effect relationships of reducing our carbon footprint through many possible methods. But I can tell you that you should re-read the resolution at the top of this column. While it might show up as a resolution forcing you to drive an electric vehicle or dump your gas stove or fireplace, I guarantee that would have to be part of any plan to reach the council’s goal of carbon neutrality.
The Rock County Board has passed similar resolutions that, again, have no direct impact on operations or policy and procedure. Rather, they are political statements that accomplish nothing more than driving a wedge between those who support them and those who prefer different goals and outcomes.
It’s time to ask those running for leadership positions important questions about how they view public service and how they suggest we measure their dedication to resolving issues for the entire community instead of just the politically active members.
My question to you, council members who supported the most recent resolution, is what are you really accomplishing with your resolution? Is it significant and meaningful change? Or is it a signal that your views and opinions are superior to the residents (as one council member suggested, the uneducated residents) who disagree with your nondefined approach?