Guest opinion - Getting Ready to Tell Tall Tales Overseas; Mayor Ly Readies for Taiwan Smart City Summit

By D.J. Blutarsky It was with a shocked sense of irony that I read in the January 22nd edition of the Elk Grove Citizen, that Elk...

By D.J. Blutarsky

It was with a shocked sense of irony that I read in the January 22nd edition of the Elk Grove Citizen, that Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly has been invited to speak about the City's environmental work at the Smart City and Expo in Taipei, Taiwan on March 24-27. As if the Coronavirus in Asia is not scary enough, now the Asian intellects will have to endure a big, tall tale from the leader of Elk Grove, California!

How on earth did Elk Grove get invited to this summit? In the Citizen article, Mayor Ly surmises that, “There is an interest in Elk Grove, because we’re one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States.” The common interest by, I suppose, human beings, inhabitants of the Earth, is that we grow smart.” Okay, hold that thought...

Ever since the City incorporated in 2000, it has systematically encouraged suburban sprawl by granting environmental waivers (Overriding Considerations) for critical environmental factors such as air quality and traffic congestion. In return for allowing developers to overbuild their properties and to expand the city boundaries by 8,000 acres, the City has ignored the full scope of the environmental impact on the basis that economic development is more important. Yep, those big stucco homes and retail jobs justify increased incidence of childhood asthma and fossil fuel exhaust fumes.

In the Citizen article, the Mayor goes on to state, “Things I think that we are doing in an effort are bike plans, the approach by students in Elk Grove about (banning) Styrofoam,” he said. “These are efforts that I think are worthwhile to share, and the fact that our city government embraces the dialogue with students that are very conscientious of the future.” 

Excuse me? 

In June, 2019, a large group of concerned students approached the City Council to urge the banning of styrofoam containers. The City Council, Mayor included, voted to kick the proverbial styrofoam cup down the road, and created an informal committee to do further study on the issue. In January, 2020, those exasperated students spoke again about how nothing was being done and they felt their concerns were not being addressed. Not one City Council or the Mayor responded to their concern. Got that Taipei?

The Mayor is proud of the bike trails in the city. The sad truth is that no meaningful bike paths have been built without "free" grant money being awarded to the City. I cannot recall one dime of City budget funds being used for expanding bike paths, except for green spray paint on the pavement because some cyclists have been killed while riding in the bike lanes. I have also heard advocates ask the City to create more bike paths that are separated from the curbs of major roadways, but the developer interests to not give away more land has prevailed. 

In the Citizen article, the Mayor also states "The need to reduce carbon emissions through alternative transportation. This involves our efforts to try to increase our public transportation use to ultimately bring light rail to Elk Grove.” 

If memory serves me correct, the City had snubbed the Regional Transit (RT) District ever since incorporation, started its own bus system to exclusively serve Elk Grove, and officially took an anti-light rail position to keep "those kind of people out of our town". 

Fast forward to 2019, the City's bus system had been hemorrhaging cash for too long and RT was finally brought in as a partner, and other cities in the region have gained an economic development advantage because they have light rail. By being to the party too late, the City will now have to compete with Natomas and the planned light rail extension to the airport. 

I personally pity the poor speechwriter for the Mayor, because this Smart City gig is going to be one heckuva tall tale! 

Copyright by Elk Grove News © 2020. All right reserved.


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