City Residents Will Vote On Climate Change Policy

Error message

  • Notice: Undefined index: taxonomy_term in similarterms_taxonomy_node_get_terms() (line 518 of /home/middleton/www/www/sites/all/modules/similarterms/similarterms.module).
  • Notice: Undefined offset: 0 in similarterms_list() (line 221 of /home/middleton/www/www/sites/all/modules/similarterms/similarterms.module).
  • Notice: Undefined offset: 1 in similarterms_list() (line 222 of /home/middleton/www/www/sites/all/modules/similarterms/similarterms.module).
MTT News's picture
Cameron Bren
Above, a City of Middleton polling location.

The referendum questions will appear as follows:

1.) Do you agree that the City of Middleton, as a local sustainability leader, has a responsibility to mitigate the risks of global warming through its policy decisions and actions?

2.) Do you agree that the City of Middleton should endorse the national effort to implement a federal Carbon Fee and Dividend (CFAD) to slow the humanitarian crises and negative economic consequences caused by global warming? CFAD will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging conservation and make renewable energy more economically viable.

MIDDLETON-Middleton residents will have a chance to show their support for local sustainability practices and national climate change legislation on the November 8 ballot. They will be asked if they support the city taking steps to mitigate climate change and if they support federal carbon fee and dividend legislation. 

The city’s sustainability committee developed the referendum questions and requested that the city council approve putting them on the presidential ballot. The council unanimously approved adding them to the ballot for a cost $2000 in August. The cost is covered by sustainability committee’s annual operating budget.

While neither referendum would have any binding effect, if widely supported they would send a message to city leaders and higher levels of government, says Citizens’ Climate Lobby member Kermit Hovey.

Hovey hosted a public forum on the referendum questions at the Middleton Library on October 23. When asked what specifically city officials could do, Hovey said it is very open ended.

“It is allowing the citizens to have a voice and say this is important, this should be addressed,” Hovey said. “As far as exactly how it is addressed, it is legitimately non-specific because it is a big issue.”

Hovey did say that local governments should be working on two levels with regard to climate change: adaptation and mitigation.

“The importance of this as a referendum question in providing advice to the city is that it gives weight to this factor,” Hovey went on. “This referendum is a chance for the citizen to tell the government this is important and it is up to our elected officials and our role as citizens following up with them to turn it from ideas and policy questions into ordinances and regulations and action.”

When asked why it was important to have a vote at the local level for national policy, Hovey said it is the job of all levels to keep the others in check.

“If levels of government aren’t taking action that should be taking action other levels of government have a role in our democracy to encourage those levels to take action,” Hovey said. “The bottom line is we need to build a livable climate for a livable world and that takes creating these opportunities for discussion… giving voice to the citizens and a referendum is about as fundamental of a voice for the citizens to be able to speak and address policy issues and concerns.”

Hovey says carbon fee and dividend legislation would place a steadily raising a federal fee on fossil fuels. The fees would be redistributed back to consumers to offset increased costs passed on to them by fossil fuel providers. This would spur innovation by encouraging businesses to develop lower carbon products to become even more competitive in the marketplace, Hovey says. 

Hovey points to the Canadian Province British Columbia as an example. The province  implemented the policy in 2008, since then fossil fuel consumption has fallen 16-point-4 percent relative to the rest of Canada. In the same period, economic growth was slightly better than the rest of Canada.

Hovey says he thinks carbon fee and dividend may be the solution that can bring parties on both sides of the aisle together to address climate change. Hovey has been attending the Citizens’ Climate Lobby international conference in Washington D.C. since 2012. In a meeting with one of Wisconsin’s climate change deniers, Congressman James Sensenbrenner, Hovey says they were able to find some common ground. 

“He was an artful dancer, every point we raised he was able to ignore and move on to a different objection without bothering to refute the facts that we were presenting,” Hovey said. “He did get to a point, and for me it was a glimmer of hope, of saying if we can find a way to address climate change without adversely impacting Wisconsin versus the rest of the region, the Midwest versus the rest of the country and the U.S. versus the rest of the world, maybe we can do something.”

“That’s what I believe we have with carbon fee and dividend,” Hovey added. “He still hasn’t come out to endorse it, but at least there was that conversation with someone who is a vocal denier.”

Middleton Chamber of Commerce executive director Van Nutt said he has not heard a negative feedback from any local businesses, but has some concerns of his own.

“On the first question on the ballot, I can’t imagine anyone not supporting the city using sustainable practices,” Nutt said. “It makes total sense and there are a lot of ways to do that.”

“The second one is much tougher,” Nutt posits. “It sounds like a great concept, but when we talk about returning net proceeds to the citizens it requires a collection service and all of that. Long story short, without seeing a lot of details a lot of questions remain and my concern is that the public is not necessarily educated on the various options to be able to make an informed decision, but that is just my two cents.”

Nutt says the idea of creating more government bureaucracy often sounds great in theory but does always live up to the intention in practice. 

“I look at it and think it is a great idea, but I also see more government and individual costs involved in recovering fees than what might actually be delivered to anyone,” Nutt said. “It’s something we need to look at and need to address as a population, as humanity, but in terms of details on how to do that it is tough to say.”

Nutt made clear he was only expressing his own opinion and not speaking on behalf of any local businesses. It is an individual issue as it should be on the ballot, Nutt said.

In a mock vote at the high school among seniors both questions received overwhelming support, with 92.7 percent voting yes for question one and 82.9 percent voting yes for question two. The students were given a presentation on the questions before casting their votes.

Hovey says he hopes the referendum in Middleton will start a trend followed by other municipalities and higher levels of government that will eventually reach a tipping point instigating national change.


Rate this article: 
Average: 3 (2 votes)