Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Grandstanding about Washington is waste
By the Advocate Editorial Board
March 9, 2013 at 3:09 a.m.
Government plays an important role in our society. Every level from the school board up to the president of the United States has a purpose. When governments operate with a specific vision within their sphere of influence, society does well. But sometimes, government bodies can lose focus.
The Victoria City Council's decision Tuesday to not apply for a $222,000 solar-energy grant through the competitive Innovative Energy Demonstration Grant Program was disappointing. Two members of the council, Paul Polasek and Tom Halepaska, were in favor of the grant, while Mayor Will Armstrong and council members Emett Alvarez, David Hagan, Josephine Soliz and Joe Truman objected for different reasons. Armstrong said the grant was a business issue and he would not make a decision based on needing a subsidy. Alvarez said the expense could not be justified, and energy efficient light bulbs would be a better investment. But the most puzzling reason was the statement that this grant is a sign of what is wrong with our nation and the money should be put to better use.
This was a missed opportunity by the city council. It is true that solar-energy equipment is expensive, and there are still many advancements that can be made to improve its efficiency. However, this grant would have given Victoria a chance to invest in green, renewable energy with little cost to the city. The grant requires a $55,000 match from the city, but the city could offset some of that cost by applying for a $31,250 AEP grant. At Tuesday's meeting, Information Technology Director James Foote said the city could offset 6 to 7 percent of its energy costs for the building using solar panels, which could result in a five- to 11-year payback period, depending on whether the AEP grant were awarded, while the life span of the panels is 22 years. By choosing to not apply, the city lost the opportunity to not only invest in green energy but also to lead by example in encouraging others in our community to learn about renewable energy sources.
We are disappointed in Alvarez and Hagan for their decision to grandstand about wasteful habits in Washington instead of examining a program that could benefit Victoria. It is true that our nation's leaders are struggling with balancing spending and establishing a working budget, but what good was accomplished by the councilmen's statements? Taking a question of applying for a solar energy grant and turning it into a debate over federal waste smacks of the very problem that keeps today's national government in perpetual partisan gridlock.
This was a grant in which the funds are already allocated, and the Victoria council's decision not to apply does not mean the funds will be used for better purposes. It will be given to another town with a city government willing to make an investment in future energy technologies. The Victoria council does not have the authority to suggest the funds be spent for education or any other need. In fact, by refusing to apply, the council has forfeited any right to determine how the funds will be used. If councilmembers want to influence decisions in Washington, they should talk to our representatives. While they serve the citizens of Victoria, they should keep their focus on what is best for this community.
This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.