Government Technology

Weighing the Value of Green Outcomes



Stephen Goldsmith
Stephen Goldsmith

March 16, 2011 By

"The goal of a clean environment is laudable. But public health benefits and costs have to be part of the equation." --  Stephen Goldsmith, deputy mayor of operations for the city of New York and former mayor of Indianapolis

Even a decade later, I still recall a conversation I had as the mayor of Indianapolis with a regional Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official about the challenges of dealing with combined sewer overflows (CSO). I asked him if the measure of our success would be how clean the river was or how much money we had spent reducing the overflows. He admitted it would be the latter.

While citizens today care about a green, sustainable environment more than ever, too often regulators pursue unthinking enforcement without regard for the level of public health risk and cost. City officials have quite a different perspective. Every day we have to deal with competing risks and public needs with limited tax dollars.

Today, as deputy mayor of New York, it is my job to execute Mayor Michael Bloomberg's commitment to going green. We pay attention to everything that impacts the environment -- how we build, how we make transportation decisions, how we produce clean water and dispose of waste.

Green is not free, however. We have to make public decisions with an eye toward how to accomplish our environmental goals in a way that compliments and does not threaten essential services. If we prematurely commit to expedite expensive school renovations in order to mitigate against "risks" that aren't risky at all, that $1 billion expense would result in layoffs for teachers. View Full Story


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