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Balancing the Economy and the Environment

by Patrick McCrory

June 6,2007

Last year, my brother, sisters, and I had the difficult job of cleaning out my parent’s house, due to my mother’s passing. While cleaning out a dresser drawer, I came upon a 1962 political brochure from my father’s city council campaign in Worthington, Ohio. One quote in the brochure sticks with me to this day: "We must walk the fine line between the growth and the preservation of values and the environment which brought many of us here. In this way, we can be certain that new families and desirable industry will continue to be attracted to Worthington."

Because Charlotte is one of the most dynamic and fastest growing cities in the nation, I often return to my dad’s words as I consider long-term economic and environmental policies. Over the years, I have stepped on the toes of the fringe elements of both the political left and the right who believe you cannot have both economic and environmental policy working in tandem.

Many on my political right criticize our efforts to implement mass transit, long-term land-use planning, and green building initiatives. To those on my right, I say they are wrong.

On the other hand, many on my political left fight to stop new zoning for manufacturing, Brownfield development liability waivers, and they won’t implement, much less discuss, an energy policy that includes clean coal technology and nuclear energy. To those on my left, I say they are also wrong.

Like cities across the nation, Charlotte has been on the forefront of leading the environmental change across this country. Our efforts have been deliberate and have focused on all aspects of the environment including air, water, and land.

A few highlights of Charlotte’s environmental efforts include: A residential tree ordinance that requires developers to save 10% of the tree canopy; Enhancing our stream buffer guidelines; A sidewalk policy that requires sidewalks in residential and industrial areas; Increased bike lanes in city road projects; An expansion of the City’s hybrid bus system and development of mass transit.

More than just looking at environmental issues in isolation, we also understand that environmentally sound energy helps to fuel our city’s economy. We continue to have strong job growth due in part to companies wanting to locate or expand their operations in North Carolina because of lower than average electricity prices, a skilled workforce, and a great quality of life.

North Carolina currently ranks 6th among 31 states with nuclear capacity and this is the key reason why we have lower than average electricity prices. Nuclear energy is currently our nation’s largest source of emissions-free electricity. Another potential source of emissions-free electricity is renewable energy. In North Carolina, our generation mix currently includes 4.4% of hydroelectric power and 1.5% of other types of renewable power.

Mayors across the country realize there is no quick fix to solve our environmental or energy challenges. A recent effort by the U.S. Conference of Mayors to get Mayors to sign onto a Climate Protection Agreement, which came out of the Environment Committee that I chair, has put the Mayors in the middle of the debate on federal environmental policies as well as energy policy to reduce consumption and dependence on foreign oil. This effort too has reengaged the debate between the political left and right. I did not sign the U.S. Mayors agreement, but supported a recent resolution adopted by the Charlotte City Council that focuses more on continuing our positive action steps to support the environment, rather than make political statements.

In cities across the country, soccer moms and NASCAR dads, just like Mayors, clearly understand the environmental message, because it directly impacts their children today. The rising price of gas reminds us that we do need to have balance with both our economic and environmental policies –which is why I hope others will also keep the words of my father in mind as they work to promote environmental issues and seek to find that “fine line between the growth and the preservation of values and the environment.”

Together we will continue to find that balance and work in the best interests of Charlotte by creating jobs for our citizens, reducing energy consumption and protecting our environment for future generations.

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