One issue we've talked about here on several occasions since the unfortunate events of November 8 is the role that local governments -- especially a large, inclusive city such as Philadelphia -- can play in resisting the worst that the Trump administration has to offer.
And so far, under the leadership of Mayor Kenney, the city has for the most part risen to that challenge. Philadelphia has been steadfast in resisting pressure to abandon its status as a "sanctuary city" where immigrants are willing and able to cooperate with law enforcement without fear of President Trump's deportation force. Nor has the police department abandoned efforts to clean up its act and reduce brutality and other past sins -- despite the worst intentions of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the national FOP. When it comes to resisting "Our Dishonest President" in the Oval Office. I'd give Philadelphia's municipal government a solid "A-/B+".
Why not an "A"? Because one of the worst and most regressive efforts coming out of Trumpland is the war against climate science, giving Big Oil and its allies the unfettered right to burn fossil fuels even as the rest of the civilized world forges ahead on clean energy. For sure, Philadelphia's track record is not bad on the environment -- look at all the bike lanes -- but we can do better...and we certainly shouldn't take any steps backward. Remarkably (or perhaps not), City Council moved today to do exactly that.
My colleague Inga Saffron has been all over the sad saga of politicians willing to shut down a revolution in pollution-free electric cars in order to end a few loud neighborhood squabbles over parking spaces:
It turns out that Philadelphia’s City Council marches to a different band, one led by the gas-guzzlers. On Thursday morning, its members voted, 11-6, to approve a bill that would roll back a small, but symbolic, piece of the city’s green infrastructure.
Cosponsored by Councilmen David Oh and Mark Squilla, the bill would impose a moratorium on setting aside new on-street parking spaces for owners of fuel-efficient electric cars. Even worse, it would make it more difficult for current permit holders to access their reserved charging stations during business hours to juice up batteries. Because the moratorium has no end date, the bill would effectively kill the 10-year-old electric-car program, tarnishing the city’s reputation for green initiatives.
As her story notes, people with electric cars aren't reducing the number of parking spaces -- just creating jealousy because they're not circling the block to find their valuable piece of asphalt real estate like their neighbors have to do:
To hear Oh and Squilla tell it, the moratorium is urgently necessary to give the city time to figure out how to manage the rapidly growing number of electric cars. As the vehicles become more popular, the councilmen fear a massive privatization of Philadelphia’s curb space. They want to explore whether it’s possible to establish a network of charging stations in garages or other locations.
Oh and Squilla are certainly correct that we will soon see more Teslas, Chevy Volts, and Nissan Leafs cruising the streets. Prices are dropping fast, making electric cars a better buy than their gasoline-fueled siblings. But let’s be honest: The real driver of this moratorium isn’t where to locate the charging stations. It’s parking envy.
This bill came into being after several residents grumbled that their neighbors were getting the equivalent of free parking simply for buying an electric car. The early adopters were mocked as wealthy takers who “steal spots” from everyday folks.
Such ill-informed talk appears all over the web these days. What’s astonishing is that Oh and Squilla would put that ignorance into law.
I don't know...I wasn't that astonished. This is Philly. Although it is weird that we would take one of those half-true stereotypes about the city -- that we'd kill each other over a parking spot -- and codify that in a law. What's next -- a December resolution condemning Santa Claus and making it legal to throw snowballs at him? I actually think we're better than this bill.
I definitely think Mayor Kenney is better than this. He was the sponsor of the law that created electric-car charging spaces in the first place. That said, there've been moments since he entered the mayor's race back in 2015 when I've wondered about his steadfastness on environmental issues, particularly when he supported the ill-advised push to make Philadelphia and energy hub.
Let's make a statement on this. The measure only got 11 votes -- meaning that Oh and Squilla may not have the juice to override a mayoral veto. Saving these parking spaces is a way to help save the planet and resist the backward thinking that's ruling the day in our nation's capital. Mr. Mayor, use your veto pen to kill this ridiculous bill.