Andersen: Carbondale is poised on climate action
March 21, 2016
It is rare that people in a community ask to pay higher taxes. But it's not a surprise when the community in question has a rare spirit and when the shared tax increase addresses an issue that is morally indisputable.
Carbondale is not only a cool, mountain town; it speaks to the conscience of the Roaring Fork Valley. In addition to being a hip, friendly, homespun, laid-back community, Carbondale is taking a lead on addressing climate change through an unusual citizens initiative.
A ballot measure in April will ask Carbondalians if they will support what's called the "Climate Action Tax" (ballot measure 2A). The proposed tax calls for a small surcharge placed on electric and gas utility bills for residences and businesses.
The cost for the average home would be approximately $7 a month and for the average business about $30 a month.
"For about the cost of two cups of coffee," states the proposal from a citizens group, "residents can invest in a 'Climate Action Fund' for Carbondale."
This surcharge would provide Carbondale with the funds needed to advance local clean-energy generation, improve the efficiency of Carbondale's homes and businesses, save residents money, support the local economy and help Carbondale achieve clean energy goals.
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Organizers state that the measure would be good for Carbondale beyond the obvious moral implications by providing practical benefits.
"We'll build upon and expand existing successful programs, engage community members, improve the housing stock and fuel the local economy," they say.
The idea for the Climate Action Fund was hatched by a group of Carbondale locals who believe that communities ought to act in accordance with their values if they hope to influence regional, national and international change. Carbondale is one such community.
"Our local economy and the essence of our community are predicated upon snowy winters, full rivers, fertile ranch land and a healthy ecosystem," the proposal states. "The impacts of climate change are already occurring, but we don't have to stand by and watch."
Organizers have faith that their fellow residents will take action. That's because they know how action-oriented their town can be.
"Carbondale doesn't wait on others to solve our problems. We implement our own solutions, based on our strong community values," the proposal says.
Rather than enduring a continuum of downer news on climate and wringing their hands over angst and helplessness, Carbondale residents are bringing climate into local homes and businesses, which is where it ultimately belongs. Only individual actions can address and curtail it.
Paying a few dollars extra each month may feel like a burden to some, but the psychological burden of doing nothing is far more pernicious. If Carbondale can rally support, show its willingness to invest in the future and make a small, collective financial sacrifice, then other communities might get inspired to do their part.
"I've donated money, I'm volunteering my time as campaign treasurer, and I've publicly endorsed the proposal," stated Michael Hassig in an email blast last month. "I'm asking for your support — your time, your money, your name as an endorser. Anything you can do will be greatly appreciated."
If you live in Carbondale and want to jump on board the Climate Action Fund, contact Hassig (970-366-6476) and ask what you can do to move this measure forward. The opportunity for local change is now, while the impacts of climate change will reach far into our collective future.
When the measure passes, which I believe it will, I will be more likely to spend my discretionary consumer dollars in a town that acts on its values. To echo post-911 George W. Bush, I will "go shopping" in Carbondale to support a community that looks ahead as if the future mattered.
"Change has to start somewhere," Hassig wrote. And that change is poised to happen in Carbondale. "Here. Right now!"
Paul Andersen thinks Carbondale has a sweet soul. His column appears on Mondays, and he can be reached at email@example.com.