How Green are We Really?

Hudson has opportunities and we have a storied history of bold moves that we have made stick on some green issues like pesticides. But, we’ve somehow lost our ability to act, to embrace and to empower complex and especially controversial forward looking changes.

I’m trying to think big ideas for our future, but think we need to start by implementing small logical steps leading in the correct direction. Also, I would like to promote ideas that more of our citizens might feel comfortable supporting with a comment or like so that council might get a sense of security or comfort to allow them to implement small changes.

We’re intending to revise a bunch of bylaws and zoning, so I thought I’d start to throw some of my own thinking in from way out in left field. I’ll start one green tidbit at a time in baby step form, copy Council and see if they bring any of these ideas forward into a resolution that can be stated in one or two sentences plus the required raft of Whereas clauses to make it legal and binding.

I’ll start with the smallest of greenhouse gas reduction initiatives that could be adopted by council resolution at next council, if there’s will. It doesn’t require a committee, it doesn’t require consultants, public consultations and it fits with our loosely adopted, mainly for appearance of green, but already ignored by our own Council, Green House Gas Reduction planning. Yes, we paid a consultant to have a greenhouse gas reduction plan and then later installed a replacement oil furnace in a town building and it might have been the correct decision.

Green Baby Step One: No more fossil fuel powered new buildings will be approved.

Yes, that’s the whole bylaw or resolution. And no, it doesn’t really change much, except it shows a clear direction by closing less green doors. Just outright ban oil, natural gas and hybrid wood fired furnaces and water heaters for new construction.

That makes electric and solar the only approvable HVAC and water heater systems for new builds in Hudson. In Quebec virtually 100% of our electric power is renewable hydro-electric, wind or solar, and we have virtually no input from oil, coal, natural gas, or nuclear.

Do not ban replacement oil or natural gas furnaces for existing structures; because the cost and complexity to retrofit old oil fired heating systems with new electric can be very high relative to the value of the home. That’s basically the reason Hudson retrofitted a town heating system with a new oil furnace, and while it wasn’t exemplary of green intentions, it was the correct decision due to current financial constraints. Besides, the new oil furnaces are so much more efficient than the old ones that if an existing furnace is more than 10-15 years old it would pay you back quickly to replace it and save a bunch of fossil fuel and the resulting greenhouse gases. Call your favourite local oil furnace guy and ask him how much it would cost and how much you can save.

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Reign of error

The Town of Hudson’s reign of error continued at the June council meeting with the revelation this administration won’t hold a byelection to replace the ailing Mayor Ed Prevost. Councillors appeared to be divided on whether to hold a byelection to replace dissident councillor Rob Spencer.

Neither Spencer nor Prevost have attended the last three council sessions. Article 317 of Quebec’s cities and towns act says a municipality MAY hold a byelection to replace council members if they miss four meetings and if more than a year remains to the end of the current mandate. That would be in November 2017.

But Article 317 is rife with weasel words and wormholes. The town is under no legal obligation to replace the missing council members if the remaining councillors agree it would be in Hudson’s interest to continue as is. Town clerk Vincent Maranda told residents he checked with the municipal affairs ministry (MAMOT) to nail it all down and they said it was kosher. I checked with Quebec’s director-general of elections and got referred to MAMOT. I asked the legalists at MAMOT whether citizens had any say. They told me I could file a complaint. Translated, there’s screw all anyone can do. In Quebec, municipal democracy is an oxymoron.

I get that the mayor may need the medical insurance that comes with the job. So be it. But what’s it say to you if this administration opts to keep Prevost on the payroll out of mercy and guns Spencer because he took Prevost before the Quebec Municipal Commission?

Likewise, I’m struggling with the word to describe this administration’s statement that Hudson’s business sector supports the installation of water meters in the commercial sector. This prevarication was delivered during question period by councillor Ron Goldenberg and town manager Jean-Pierre Roy, who as far as I can determine, attended none of the meetings where this was discussed. It was in response to my accusation the town has done nothing to prepare for this summer’s incipient water shortage and the inevitable ban on all lawn watering other than to restate its determination to stick it to Hudson’s hapless commercial sector yet again.

One of the local rags subsequently reported the exchange verbatim without fact-checking. In fact, businesses had reluctantly agreed to  water meters back in 2014 as a concession to arrive at a solution to the water tax crisis (engineered by the current council). Not that most residents care, but businesses were (and still are) being grossly overcharged for water in comparison to residents. (How many businesses have bathtubs? Swimming pools? Automatic lawn sprinklers? 2.5 bathrooms? Dishwashers? Laundry rooms?)

In 2014, Goldenberg gathered a water tax committee which consisted of both business owners and residents to review and make recommendations with regards to installing water meters. From the outset, business owners and commercial landlords were led to believe the entire town would eventually be metered and that they were to be the first step in the process. So the consensus was that businesses would be the guinea pigs. In exchange, the town would agree to meter some 50 residential properties to establish a comparative sample to properly measure consumption. Furthermore, public buildings would also have to be metered, including schools, churches, town buildings, etc. (Basically anything that is not residential).

The only part of those 2014 discussions to have survived was “businesses agreed to be metered.” The rest? Conveniently forgotten.

Also conveniently forgotten was council’s vow to post details of the litigation embroiling the town (50 grand this month, I’m told.) There was a Gazette story reporting the vow in early March. There was a repeat at last week’s council meeting. Unless they’ve artfully hidden the list somewhere on the town’s expensive new website, it’s still not there.

 

All this to say there’s a good reason why transparency and accountability are nowhere to be found on the town’s $5,000 mission statement. Old-fashioned virtues have no place in Hudson’s new branding. Take solace in the growing assurance that meters are no more likely to this inept administration of dreamers and schemers than the Mohawk performing arts centre or the wholesale giveaway of public greenspace. Fair trade, my ass.