Thursday, December 11, 2008

"Peak oil"--- when will we plan for it?

I have posted before on the subject of "peak oil" and the lack of attention that this city has paid the matter. Now, in my in box was the latest newsletter from Post Carbon Cities and the entry for how, in the past year, a growing number of communities have instituted planning for the possibility(probability) of a declining source of petroleum products. This coming situation is not even on the Lexington radar. I keep seeing short mentions in the local press and more on the forums and chat rooms that I have occasioned. There is no lack of access to the information on "peak oil", relocaliziation, sustainable farming or a myriad of similar topics. The only place where it is not discussed is in the public meetings of the city fathers.

Lexington has a growing number of farmers markets and and increasing system of "organic" and "sustainable farming" growers. The PDR program head keep touting ,that the family farm is the "factory floor" of our agri-business or the hoped for agri-tourism. (Has anyone thought of how tourism will still be possible after peak oil?) The city has pushed for walkable and bikeable communities, yet still approves subdivisions without real connectivity, thereby limiting the real ability to provide sustainable communities.

These are just two of the shortcomings of the city leadership. Some others in the city have also seen a lack of leadership and have blogged about it, only they see a failure in another direction. One of these is Transforming Lexington run by Eric Patrick Marr. He seems to want the City Council to make us more like the cities that continue to deny that "peak oil" will occur. Those are the cities more concerned about image than real progress. Those who believe that a Disney-esque circulator trolley is better than a fixed guideway streetcar or tram system.

Eric and I have traded some comments and he says that, in principle, he can agree with statements I have made on his posts, yet he still confuses the "flash of bling" with the real bang of sustainable progress. I don't see applauding the current council for the continued scatter shot approach to finding solutions. Some of the attempted projects counteract others to the point that progress on both is so difficult, as to appear ineffective, and one then the other is discarded for a new "wonder project".

I also don't care for the individual grandstanding of council members, showing that they have the leadership qualities to move the city ahead. This starts to pit member against member or faction against faction, and makes for some strange alliances just to get their pet projects on the table(which may get unfunded by the next election). A number of these projects spend more funds than they bring in in the long run.

I would call for the city to go back to the original charter, reinstall the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), have the Council set policy and guide the direction of Lexington. In other words , have the "part-time" legislators allow the "full-time" administrators run the day to day efforts of the city. To borrow the analogy from Eric, have the Council steer the vehicle and the department heads apply the gas and brakes as necessary.

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