The politics of green

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click to enlarge HER GREEN MACHINE: Mayor Iorio and her Toyota hybrid. - City Of Tampa
City Of Tampa
HER GREEN MACHINE: Mayor Iorio and her Toyota hybrid.

If going green is a no-brainer, how come so few local governments in Tampa Bay have made substantive progress in either going green themselves or encouraging their residents and (more important) developers to go green as well?

The environment has never been much of a winning campaign issue in this region, except in Sarasota County, which is one of four local governments in the state that offer incentives for green-building.

In Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, however, no such incentive programs exist, despite the designation of St. Petersburg, Pinellas County and Dunedin as certified Green Local Governments by the Florida Green Building Coalition. Tarpon Springs is applying for the designation.

That's nice PR, but it's still up to the governments themselves to decide how they will encourage, reward and/or require green living in their communities. There are some interesting developments over the past year — St. Pete painted some bike lanes green to make them more visible to drivers, and the first office skyscraper set to be built in downtown Tampa in a decade is planned as a LEED-certified green building — but these are baby steps, not giant strides toward reducing the Bay area's carbon suburban-print.

Two of the hottest political battles over green are going on in the area's two largest cities: St. Petersburg and Tampa. A local blog has been stirring up activists over the longstanding omission of a curbside recycling program in St. Petersburg, prompting a reply from city officials that such a program would cost the city millions and (allegedly) not cut down the waste stream. In Tampa, City Councilman John Dingfelder took matters into his own hands to write a green-building ordinance after believing that Mayor Pam Iorio's administration was dragging its feet. His proposal includes incentives for builders; Iorio's green-building ordinance, released a month after Dingfelder's draft, does not.

Iorio, who was slow to sign the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, has not shown a zeal for green — except when it came to publicizing how much fuel her new, city-provided Toyota Camry Hybrid has saved over the past 10 months (330 gallons of gas, according to a city news release). And last week, she named a "Green Officer" for the city; it's a designation for an existing manager, not a new office.

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