City of Madison

Former City of Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz

Former Mayor Dave Cieslewicz's Blog

...and Laying Off It

June 22, 2010 9:15 AM

Yesterday I wrote about the importance of continuing the successful national and local economic stimulus projects. Now is the time to be ambitious about making long-term capital investments lest an ill-timed fiscal austerity plunge us back into a deeper recession. But while it's the right time to hit the metaphorical gas pedal, it's also the right time to ease up on the literal pedal in our vehicles.

The oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico is repeating an Exxon Valdez sized disaster every four or five days and it has been going on now for almost two months with no quick fix in sight. I'm all for going after BP. There's evidence that this mess is part of a pattern of disinvestment and corner cutting at the company: President was right to force the company to put up at least $20 billion to compensate fishermen and others for their lost businesses and jobs.

But there is a danger in all this well-placed criticism of BP. The danger is that we'll miss the bigger picture. Our thirst for oil is pushing exploration and production into more and more places that are environmentally, politically and militarily dangerous. Part of the answer might be to hold BP responsible for its actions, but more fundamentally we need to reduce our oil dependence.

It has been said that we shouldn't miss the opportunity to take advantage of a good recession. Let's use the recovery to transform our economy to one less dependent on the fossil fuels that are the cause of global climate change even when an oil-related disaster isn't being covered on the news every day.

At the local level, these seemingly disparate things (capital investments and oil dependence) come together. With the help of federal stimulus funds, we're making investments in weatherizing our own buildings and the homes and businesses of people throughout the community. We'll take delivery on 14 hybrid Metro busses later this summer and we're working on an ambitious plan to improve bike commuting through safer bike lanes and intersection crossings and dedicated bike routes.

It's time to invest in a new, more environmentally friendly, more sustainable and more secure local economy.


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