Council has once again deferred a decision on what to do with LEAF money, officially terminating the plan without distributing the nearly $3 million that’s left.
And while council won’t make a final decision on how to use the funds until January, this newspaper agrees with Mayor Carl Zehr and others that the remnants shouldn’t go into the city’s tax-stabilization reserve fund.
Once environmental funding is repurposed, it rarely finds its way back to its original lofty intentions. And since the Local Environment Action Fund was started in 2007, city hall has marketed it as a way to “green” our community.
There is still a lot of dispute over the best use of those remaining funds, whether it is improving local parks and trails or saved for the eventual purchase of the Hidden Valley lands.
But if those funds end up in the tax-stabilization fund the pressure would be on local politicians to lessen the burden on taxpayers, and since we’re passing the midpoint of this council’s term, that pressure will only grow.
Coun. Scott Davey was right to say it would be distasteful to have the money used for any other purpose. But it ain’t easy being green when economic matters seem to trump everything else.
It takes a real effort to stay committed to making an environmental difference. But even if the gesture is symbolic, it must be done, to start the change in how we interact with the natural world.
That’s why it is important for this funding to satisfy the original intentions of LEAF — protecting and conserving the environment.
The city needs to keep faith with this public commitment, and everyone will be watching to make sure it does so during the budget process.