It's a common pattern that is sad to watch: great strides toward more sustainable and environmentally-friendly practices are made during economic boom times, only to be all-but-undone when municipalities start cutting their budgets and freezing spending. Is that the fate for New Paltz Village?
Like every level of government, the Village of New Paltz is struggling with the realities of the current economy. Terry Dungan initiated a controversial spending freeze last month, and there can be no doubt that the fiscal crisis is at the root over bickering about the solar panels on Village Hall. It's funny how government officials act, isn't it? During boom times they spend like nobody ever loses money and during a crisis they think that no spending is okay ever. The rest of us have to budget for good times and bad, but governments somehow are allowed to act surprised no matter what happens.
So for the Village, this surprise manifests in ways like spending freezes and fights with the Town to get more money. Since we apparently never think of saving money when the economy is good, can we think about how to use innovation to save a little money in the long term now that times are tough? Many environmentally sound practices, like the 2005 solar panel installation, cost a bit of cash up front but provide environmental and economic benefits down the line - they save us money in the long run. Does it make sense to spend money during a freeze to save money later? Probably - I for one have no faith that our elected officials will plan for a rainy day during the next boom time, so why not now when we're thinking about how difficult things are?
I was looking at various ways that roads can create energy, and honestly I think forward-thinking isn't nearly enough to finance a solar road network or anything close to it. However, the idea of speed bumps that power street lights is actually pretty cool - they're almost certainly cheaper than a road, we use or could use speed bumps in various locations, and I'm guessing that there's a grant out there somewhere that could help us finance these things.
The question is, can our mayor and our town supervisor play nice with each other for awhile and look into some serious changes, or would they prefer to continue defending their fiefdoms and use that as an excuse for not doing something exceptional with their jobs?