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North Adams Council Approves Resolution Backing Climate Accord
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
02:19AM / Friday, August 25, 2017
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday approved a resolution to support the Paris Climate Accords.
The resolution, based on a request submitted by Vincent Melito, a former city councilor, passed 7-1, with City Councilor Keith Bona voting against. 
The accord, a voluntary agreement among nations to reduce carbon emissions and to aid developing nations in meeting goals, is being backed by consortiums of mayors, governors and business leaders in the wake of the president's announcement that the United States would withdraw.
"I feel as though the city of North Adams has a very small part in addressing this monumental problem," City Councilor Eric Buddington said. "Sometimes it's hard to figure out the right perspective because we are such a small part of the world but what we do matters just as much as anybody else in the world."
The document was recommended by the Public Services Committee. It does not commit the city to any specific environmental goals, other than committing to continued exploration of "potential benefits and costs of adopting policies and programs that promote the long-term goal of greenhouse gas emissions reduction while maximizing economic and social co-benefits of such action."
Mayor Richard Alcombright said passage of the resolution is one of the criteria for his joining the Climate Mayors, a group of nearly 400 mayors of various-sized cities across the nation. The coalition is able to speak on national issues and provide certain support and technical help for smaller administrations with the goal of creating shared initiatives.
"I've been working with the Climate Mayors for about three months," Alcombright said. "Part of the three things that we have to kind achieve for me to become part of that program to represent the city ... one of them is the adoption of the resolution ... the other part is meeting certain standards with respect to our commitment to the environment."
The mayors' group hasn't come out with specific standards, but the city's designation as a Green Community, and its commitment to the Complete Streets program, plus its municipal solar array, green buildings and other factors, made it a fit.
"I think our voice is important if nothing else to support the other mayors in this coalition, so I think the council has taken a very good progressive step with this," Alcombright said. 
Bona, the single voice against the document, said the lack of specifity regarding North Adams was a major factor in his decision to vote against. While voting to recommend at the committee level, he felt the other councilors had been too quick to jump onto the idea without laying out what the city's role should be. 
"There's really only one section that points to North Adams about what we're doing," he said. "I would feel more comfortable if the resolution was about what we would be doing as a city."
Bona repeated arguments he'd made against the resolution in committee, saying he had had no calls or emails from constituents about the issue and that it felt like a protest against the president, more than anything. Plus, he said, the state and national representatives the resolution would be forwarded to are already behind the accord. 
"Yes, all of these people are already in favor of this but I have no problem ... for them to hear from the city of North Adams that we, along with whoever else in the 351 cities and towns in our state, are behind this," City Councilor Lisa Blackmer said. "I'm all for it and I'm voting for it."
She and others said they had heard concerns and questions about what could be done regarding the accord at the local level. 
Council candidates Roger Eurbin and Rebbecca Cohen also spoke to the issue, with Eurbin pointing that the nation has not withdrawn yet and that he, too, would prefer to see more on the city's responsibilities to be greener. Cohen said it was very much a local issue as climate change is already affecting the region, pointing to ticks and greenhouse gases. Mayoral candidate Thomas Bernard also spoke in favor of the resolution.
Councilor Robert R. Moulton Jr. also wasn't sure why it was before the council but found it a nice statement that wasn't binding and felt he could support it. 
The mayor was quizzed on why the city was supporting a resolution but not buying a new non-hybrid police cruiser. The purchase of a new public safety vehicle was approved two weeks ago.
"Not one of us asked are those the most efficient vehicles we could buy," Bona said, adding the council needs to consider those things if it was supporting this resolution. "If we're going to go by the standard then we need to ask those questions, too, and we have to be willing, are we willing to spend an extrat $5,000-$10,000 on something to make it be better on our global warming."
Buddington and Councilor Joshua Moran said the resolution did not require the city to do certain things or deplete budgets, but rather to work with other communities on ways to reduce its carbon footprint. Both said the document would help start conversations surrounding future purchases. 
Alcombright said the Green Communities program is informing the city's fleet replacement schedule but at this time, certain vehicles, like public works, are exempt or hybrid or electric models are not available. A new hybrid gas/electric police cruiser was made available this year but the administration felt it wasn't prudent to buy the first model off the line. Next time, it will be part of the discussions, he said. 
(Ford announced a hybrid, pursuit-rated Responder sedan this past spring; the city, however, has been moving to Ford sport utility Interceptors.)
After a half-hour of debate, Blackmer moved the question, which was approved, and then the resolution was passed. 

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