‘Control The Rudder, Not Man The Oars’

Although the landfill/energy plant was not the primary point of my earlier comments, it seems to be the issue that drew the most reaction. I appreciate Mr. Champ’s comments on the landfill/energy plant. He did a very commendable job of highlighting the differences in our views. It really comes down to two fundamental differences, the “green” issue and the role of county government.

Mr. Champ states that the “methane to electric project is an energy initiative that should be acknowledged for what it is – an outstanding green energy project.” The opposing opinion is that the need for a landfill/energy plant is the result of a “green” failure. A successful landfill project is a landfill that can be closed because there is no waste to dispose of. The elimination of waste, whether it is wasteful use of water, excessive packaging materials on the products we buy, or what we do with items we no longer need, should be our objective. And projects like this not only fail to promote that objective, they may provide a justification for not making an effort.

I realize that some will say it is impossible to eliminate all waste, and from a practical standpoint, I agree, but very little will happen without that serious effort. As an example, all the major auto companies are working to reduce waste to the point that GM, for instance, this past June announced that their 100th plant worldwide is totally landfill free. And a recent article in the Buffalo News mentioned the fact that the West Coast typically recycles a significantly higher percentage of their waste than we do in this area.

The other difference we obviously have is in the role of county government. Mr. Champ highlights the fact that this is a county owned production facility. And the County Executive has repeatedly commented on the fact that this is the only county owned generating facility in the state. Mr. Champ also highlights the fact that economic conditions have changed since the facility was completed. Potential changes in economic conditions add risk to any business activity. These are normal factors considered when operating a for profit business, but should the county government be taking that risk by owning a basically for profit business?

I find it interesting that comments have been made that the county home should be sold because the county should not be in the nursing home business, but we don’t look at the landfill/energy plant in the same way. Obviously we are not going to shut down that operation, but maybe we should look at other options.

Basically, the role of government should be to “control the rudder, not man the oars.” Let’s get the county government out of the business of business and back to basic governance.