Greenify… the Economy or the Environment?

March 4, 2009

There’s a battle shaping up in Florida right now. Call it “Greenification versus Employment.”  And it’s struggle that’s going to be shaping up in other locations around the country.

To light a fire under the Sunshine State’s frozen economy, some legislators are seeking to "streamline" a slew of environmental and growth regulations.  They are proposing everything from erasing or weakening protections for wetlands and wildlife to cutting requirements that developers improve roads to handle the traffic glut involved in building new projects.

One proposed law that is already drawn up could have major implications for urban counties like Miami-Dade and Broward as it virtually eliminates state oversight of new mega-developments. Other proposed measures could bar Miami-Dade County from enforcing its own environmental rules which are tougher than the state’s standards.

Advocates argue a regulatory overhaul, which is backed by builder and industry groups, could spur growth and jobs by making "duplicative" permitting processes for homes, offices and other buildings cheaper and faster.

These days, with the current economic “contraction,” we are all worried about the economy. We are all worried about jobs.  But the choice isn’t employment or environment; it’s as President Barack Obama says “doing the right thing for right now, or making the tough choice for long term benefit.”

As for the proposals in Florida, Charles Pattison, executive director of 1,000 Friends of Florida, an advocacy group that promotes "smart growth" policy, said he supported encouraging construction in cities, but said the bill's definition of "urban" could wind up promoting more sprawl.

"This is like trying to build our way out of the problem," Pattison said. "What we did in the past didn't work, so let's do it again, only more of it."

We know we’ve made the short term choice in the past and we’re not in a good spot now.  So maybe it’s time to try to do both: Greenify the planet and green up our economy, too. 


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