Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa likes to talk green at every opportunity, but most of his environmental initiatives fall flat due to lack of follow-through (no one has ever accused him of too long of an attention span), his own political incentives, or both. He pushed a charter amendment to mandate the development of solar power for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, but voters rejected in when it became clear that it was a payoff for the Department’s powerful union. He announced the Million Trees campaign for Los Angeles, but new trees have been few and far between. He hired a visionary planning director, Gail Goldberg, but has not offered her strong public support.
And now they are repaving the street outside my house.
Why is that a big environmental issue? Well, it isn’t, really, except for one thing: they are repaving it with blacktop. Really black blacktop. Blacktop that decreases surface albedo, absorbs solar radiation, and increases urban heat islands. Just adding some chalk and lightening up the asphalt could reduce surface temperatures and thereby encourage energy conservation. But that’s a lot less sexy than solar panels and doesn’t have any political payoff, so there’s no point in doing it.
Villaraigosa’s been Mayor for five years. He likes to talk a lot about environmentalism. And he can’t even get the color of the asphalt changed. Aargh.