Column, Op Ed

MIKE DROP: New York State should take the lead in combating climate change, by Michael Racioppo

When I was first offered this column about a year ago, my intention was to focus on local politics as a member of the progressive Democratic Left, and to only occasionally, when appropriate, tie these issues in with national politics.  I, like most of those around me as well as the pundit class, believed that Hillary Clinton would be the next president. Lest we forget, it wasn’t just that more people thought she would win, it is also true news that 3 million more people thought she should be president rather than her opponent. I surmised that with Hillary in the White House, and at least one branch of Congress   (the House of Representatives) controlled by Republicans, we’d have a stable continuation of the policies that the Obama Administration’s was able to negotiate.

Clearly I was wrong, and seemingly every day there is a new piece of bad news (ranging from horrifying to the merely incompetent) coming from a Trump administration that can’t be ignored, even here in this column. In response to the administration, as I’ve stated before, the central thrust of the the Democratic opposition will be “No,” and that is as it should be.Thankfully, the federal government is not the only government we have, and right now state and local government is more important than ever.

It needs to be the contrast that shows how government should and can be operated.

In a 1932 dissenting opinion, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis noted that the benefit of America’s federal structure is that “a single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” In the recent past, many states were the bastions of reactionary racism. Now, enlightened states can clear a path to a better future.

Now the country is at risk, and New York State should take the lead. It’s been doing a good job – steps towards free college, expanding universal Pre K-  but more must be done. And nowhere is this “more” necessary than on environmental and climate change issues (sadly people have to March on behalf of science in 2017).

A great example of this is a bill currently in the New York State Assembly (A06694 for those keeping score at home) which would task the the Public Service Commission (NYS’s overseer of utilities) with devising and implementing a plan for all energy sources in the state to be renewable in 35 years (by 2052).

I got to speak with one of the bill’s co-sponsors, Assemblymember Robert Carroll, about his support for it and where it goes next.

He told me: “The state needs to aggressively push towards producing more renewable energy to meet the goals set forth in A6694. The bill requires the Public Services Commission to design a program to make New York run on 100% renewable energy by 2052.  If we are serious about climate change and sea level rise we must make sure that we make the proper investments in wind, solar, hydroelectric and geothermal power.”

I agree with Assemblyman Carroll 100% on this- yet I’m sure some will read this and think about crossing that bridge when we get there a few decades from now – assuming that the bridge hadn’t already been washed away.

Well, this effort will have immediate positive economic impacts. Devising and implementing such a plan will require new sectors to grow and jobs will be created for this century, unlike Trump’s futile, nostalgic, and detrimental obsession with coal.  Let us recall and act in accordance with the Greek proverb that “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit in.”

Side Shout- On May 10th, at John Jay High School (7th Ave btw 4th and 5th Street) Assemblymember Carroll, in partnership with Comptroller Scott Stringer, is having a Town Hall focused on Trump’s proposed budget and its potential impact across New York City and State. If you can attend please call (718) 788-7221 or email

Michael Racioppo is the Executive Director of the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation and the Vice Chair of Community Board 6

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