Sunday, July 29, 2007

Forced to go carfree?

A lot of people consider Greens to be a bit like members of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) instead of typical people who don't mind chatting on their deck while drinking a cold one. Having spent a year now working with members of the local Green Party, I understand many are a bit quirky - but not loony. Their political ideas are also more extreme than members of the DFL - but the DFL can be more extreme than Greens.

I won't go into details at this moment about every issue. But one issue I feel strongly about is promoting a carfree lifestyle. We all know what Bush said during his 2005 State of the Union Address: "America is addicted to oil." CNN likes to repeat that quote quite often. But that is only the first step in dealing with an addiction - and few can quit addictions cold turkey. Therefore having Americans go carfree won't involve outlawing driving - but it may include things like a carbon impact fee and support for carfree infrastructure.

Mallard Fillmore may annoy me at times, I have mixed-feelings about this particular strip. I think it great that the creator is more green than your average Democrat. Conservatives typically portray themselves as actually living by what they believe in. Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised he thinks that supporting a carfree society is wrong. Or does he just oppose government intervention, taxes, and partisan tactics with regards to this issue? Unfortunately the government already favors cars more heavily than the anti-car mantra now gaining momentum.

If you look at the Green Party of Minnesota platform you will see in line H that:

1) We support more efficient gasoline consuming vehicles
2) tax incentives for alternative energy vehicles
3) more bicycle lanes and racks
4) free transit in downtown areas of Minneapolis and Saint Paul
5) automobile free zones

in line C:

1) That we want our government to prepare for Peak Oil and focus on relocalization efforts

Nowhere in our platform does it say that we will force everyone to give up their cars. When a society is addicted to a substance, it is quite difficult to ban it. Though contrary to common thought, the prohibition of alcohol was a success ( it took 30 years for alcohol consumption per capita to reach its pre-prohibition levels). It would be better to support the post-carbon infrastructure.

Before any carbon tax is enacted, it is best to start with simple measures. Oil producers should lose lofty tax breaks. Car owners should pay the actual costs for using roads and other subsidies. Then it becomes easier for users to see their actual financial impact. CAFE standards should be increased at a certain rate for the rest of the century. Putting 10 times more money into energy research and development would yield amazing results as well. These are ways Congress can deal with our oil addiction right now, in a bipartisan manner.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Instant Runoff Voting

The July 27, 2007 edition of Almanac covered all 4 active political parties in Minnesota. The primary topic seemed to be instant runoff voting ( IRV). The Green, Independence, and DFL parties have endorsed IRV, while Republicans remain ignorant and/or afraid.

Most partisan Republicans are scared of IRV. After all, Norm Coleman thought Jessie Ventura would be a "spoiler" to the DFL by inviting him to the 1998 gubernatorial debates. Conservatives only vote for their party - but liberals tend to be less partisan to Democrats. Thus the elections of 2002 and 2006 went to Pawlenty because the Independence and Greens appear to have taken DFL votes ( because without IRV, no one really knows). Some even consider Ross Perot to be a spoiler that elected Bill Clinton.

Republicans claim that America has the most successful democracy, and we should not tinker with it. They question IRV's Constitutionality. The worst argument is the claim that IRV forces people to "vote against their values." Personally, I think IRV has served Ireland and other nations well since it was adopted. ( Ireland's economy has boomed since IRV's adoption there )

If IRV does anything, it will make all political parties more conscience of voters needs and wants. It will increase those able to participate in debates, and broaden the discussion of issues. IRV will bolster civic involvement beyond the 2-party system - towards a more equal system. The Republicans, being the last third party to break that threshold, seem the most adamant at keeping the status quo in place.

Does America want to continue voting and thinking in binary? Or do we in Minnesota want to reform our elections to improve our local democracy? I see nothing wrong with IRV as I supported it passing in Minneapolis. Now our twin city is contemplating it also. I urge you to support the Better Ballot Campaign in Saint Paul! The only obstacle are a few conservatives and MCCL. But it will still take effort to complete.