Kayyem and the climate gut-punch

Juliette Kayyem makes a boatload of good points on climate/energy, but here’s the one that is a kick in the gut:

Six percent of the city [of Boston] would have been inundated with flood waters had Superstorm Sandy hit five hours earlier, during high tide, officials said.

via Climate Ready Boston: Menino talks climate preparedness on Hurricane Sandy anniversary – Metro.us.

We are vulnerable right now. What happened in NYC could very easily have happened here. In fact, it probably will. There but for the grace of God go we.

Climate is the ultimate collective-action problem, and it’s hard to imagine that what we do here is actually going to make a difference world-wide. But while we’re preparing for the worst, it is indeed local action, local trust-building and local success that will make physical and economic adaptation more attractive to others as well.

Extreme weather + clean energy are the way of the future whether we like it or not. We might as well acknowledge it and start preparing as if our lives depended on it.

And in the meantime, Candidate Kayyem, whose experience includes disaster preparedness, has my attention.


30 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Last December, Ed Markey held a talk...

    …at Fanueil Hall about what Boston would have looked like had Sandy hit here. I brought my video camera and filmed it – there’s some dramatic images in these videos, well worth a second look:

  2. I guess that means...

    …we would just have to dust off those old colonial maps showing Boston before the land was filled in:)

    • Original Boston

      At a meeting to launch the revision of the Boston climate action plan, that exact point was brought up. By the end of this century, the floodwater mark will be close to what the earliest Europeans saw as Boston, minus the hills that we used for landfill (only Beacon Hill is left).

  3. Revising Boston Climate Plan

    Boston is revising its climate change plan and is hoping for 10,000 citizens to participate in the process:

    I have been impressed with the professionalism and the depth of learning of those involved in drawing up the plan and implementing it. The resilience plan Boston completed this summer is also very, very good:

  4. How a Green Candidate Could Campaign

    For years, I’ve been waiting for a candidate to campaign as an organizer, to use their campaign to get things done besides elect themselves to office. A candidate could use their ads and platform to promote renewables and energy efficiency, to promote real participation in things like solar and weatherization barnraisings. Gawd help us, one politician who came close was John Edwards with his monthly work days but that was basically a publicity stunt. Deval Patrick kept up his unique grassroots/netroots campaign style up through the public meetings before his transition team and then let all that activity die. That’s why I was not sanguine about Obama’s efforts in 2008.

    I would like to see a candidate campaign so that whether they won or lost there were tangible results left behind – and I’m not talking about simply registering votes, necessary as that is.

    I’ve done a series of solar PSAs that are available on youtube. They may not be very good but the information in them is. If somebody like, Juliet Kayyem wants to take them and run, please be my guest.

    But I won’t hold my breath.

    • Agree 100%

      OFA has actually started doing some good ‘issue based’ organizing in the second term, but was entirely underutilized during the first term. As for Deval I also agree 100%. Part of the excitement of being a precinct captain was getting in touch with those neighbors and building a network. In the 12 campaign Obama has his captains form personal relationships with 50 neighbors to get them to the polls. Imagine contacting those same voters for midterms or to just call their representatives. Evidence shows that state legislatures are significantly more conservative then their voters since the righties are the ones who disproportionately vote in smaller scale (and arguably higher stakes) elections and bombard offices. We saw that with the Colorado gun recalls. Time to get organized into a movement-beyond any candidacy. It’s how the conservative movement didn’t die with Goldwater and was waiting in the wings to be activated by candidates across the board.

  5. All for mitigation but

    Mitigation and disaster planning are no-brainers, almost to the point that I discount what Kayyem brings to the table in that department. Ditto cashing in on green industries (a slippery term btw, but there is something real going on).

    But as an environmental activist I have to say that her position paper is, to be diplomatic, a good first step on the learning curve.

    Why do we need a “bank” to finance grid improvements? Do we really want to get into the climate-forecasting business? Has the scientific community been doing such a bad job at that?

    I’m not seeing anything specific about mass transit. I wait in vain for someone to address the way that state fiscal policy promotes sprawl. Our cars are killing polar bears, destroying the cod stocks, and inflicting billions of dollars in coastal damage. Are we going to do anything about that, or just prepare for it?

    These are tough hard issues for sure, but remember how Patrick handled those in ’06? “The tax to cut is the property tax….” “It’s also our broken bridges….” PS That’s how he won.

    I didn’t want to besmirch Kayyem’s post with criticism, and there is certainly stuff to like in her policy statement. But from my point of view there is room for a lot of improvement.

    Meanwhile she has my attention.

    • Nobody's talked about transit

      And it’s incredibly disheartening. It’s the hub of all the hubs problems.

      • Congestion charges in

        Boston. T service might have to improve, and we’d have to admit that we need to tax costly behaviors.

        London has had a congest charge/tax for ten years.

        The London congestion charge is a fee charged on most motor vehicles operating within the Congestion Charge Zone (CCZ) in central London between 07:00 and 18:00 Monday to Friday. It is not charged at weekends, public holidays or between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day (inclusive).[1] The charge, which was introduced on 17 February 2003, remains one of the largest congestion charge zones in the world despite the cancellation of the Western Extension which operated between February 2007 and January 2011. The charge aims to reduce congestion, and to raise investment funds for London’s transport system.
        The standard charge is £10[2] for each day, for each non-exempt vehicle that travels within the zone with a penalty of between £65 and £195 levied for non-payment. Enforcement is primarily based on automatic number plate recognition (ANPR). Transport for London (TfL) is responsible for the charge which has been operated by IBM since 1 November 2009.

      • Hear hear!

        On a somewhat related note, i’d love for folks who don’t use the MBTA to write about *their* transit system. Worcester, Lowell, the Cape, whatever. Tell us what you got, and tell us what works, and tell us where there’s room for operational improvement, and tell us where/how that transit system could serve more riders [more frequent service, larger service territory, etc].

        We often focus on Boston because the MBTA is the biggest… and the MBTA needs lots of improvements which will cost serious loot. But the other services also need improvements, and I think the Boston-centric folks would be happy to *also* increase funding for those systems, too.

        • I could take the bus(es) to work

          I could take LRTA buses from near my house to near my work, passing through the Kennedy Center terminal in Lowell. Getting to the stop near work would take 1 hour and 35 minutes, plus at least five minutes to walk the rest of the way. Going home would take 2 hours. These are trips that I drive in well under 30 minutes unless it is snowing.

          I might do it some of the time even so, but my daughter’s schedule makes it impossible.

          • So?

            So what kinds of [not monumental] improvements would allow you to take mass transit more often? I have a hard time imagining getting a 90-120 minute bus ride down to ~30 mins with the kind of incremental improvements one might expect in the next 5-10 years… so what could LRTA do to be more attractive to the good people of Lowell-metro?

            • More intersuburban routes.

              Right now all routes terminate at the Gallagher Terminal, which is also the Lowell station for the Commuter Rail. If you happen to need to start and end on the same route it’s not bad, but otherwise there are transfers which add time and even if you hop right on a bus departing Gallagher as soon as you arrive you are not going a direct route. It is almost always easier to just hop in your own car on your own schedule and drive to your destination.

              Commuter Rail service from Lowell would need to be cheaper and more frequent. Also, it would be great to have rail service to places other than Boston. Parking should also be cheaper or better yet free.

            • A couple of things

              Express- bus routes, or at least routes that are more direct and with fewer stops, in addition to the current ones. One of the buses I would take has stops less than a quarter-mile apart on at least some of the route. Even if I had to walk farther after getting off the bus, it would be better if the bus wasn’t constantly slowing for or leaving a stop.

              More-frequent buses. The reason my homeward journey is 25% longer than the other way is because of a longer wait for a connecting bus.

              I was briefly excited when it looked like the Lowell commuter rail was going to be extended into NH. It would have had a stop a short walk from where I was living, and would have made it possible to work in Boston. It would also have reduced the crush of NH residents on Rte 3. Didn’t happen, alas.

              • Don't despair.

                I’m pretty sure NH is seriously and actively looking at extending the line again.

                • Don't hold your breath, either ...

                  NH has been “seriously and actively looking at extending” that line since I lived in Dunstable in 1997.

                  In my view, a significant ($5.00? $10?) toll on Route 3 south just before Route 113 — and on Route 93 south at some analogous place — might “encourage” NH to actually DO something. I don’t recall NH hesitating for a moment to impose tolls that it knew primarily impacted Massachusetts vacation travelers.

                  Perhaps MA might consider using the resulting revenue to fund our share of a regional rail system serving MA, ME, NH, VT, CT, RI, and perhaps NY.

                  • This year...

                    …there have been votes in the Executive Council to move this forward after years of being a dormant issue. I wouldn’t toll those two highways. The locals know all the tricks to cross the border other ways and would create traffic nightmares for us.

                    • The locals already use them

                      The 17 people who live in the area (the “locals”) will have a minimal impact.

                      The thousands of drivers who clog three lanes of Route 3 now (instead of two lanes before the expansion) with their great big pickup trucks that they drive from some Nashua suburb to their Boston job every day (while complaining loudly about how devastating Massachusetts taxes are to “jobs”) are the ones that matter. The toll needs to be large enough to get their attention (like a two-by-four upside the head) and make a dent in the cost of providing rail service.

                      The best way to avoid those “traffic nightmares” is to discourage those trips in the first place. The best way to accomplish THAT is a carrot and stick — convenient and affordable rail service, coupled with VERY EXPENSIVE roads.

                    • Yes on the carrot, no on the stick.

                      A toll as high as $10 will result in a sudden improvement in map-reading skills. The DW Highway, Mammoth Road, Routes 28 and 38 will all be discovered by commuters soon enough. I wouldn’t even consider tolling until AFTER the rail service is in place, and the rail service should be cheap. It’s already in the high teens to do a round trip between Lowell and Boston which to me is a deterance from using it, especially when you add $5 to park at Gallagher and $2 each way on the subway if your destination is beyond walking distance from North Station.

                    • "and" can happen at the same time

                      I’m not sure on the legalities of tolling those roads [there are some nuances involved in federal money and tolls near borders, but it's a murky area], but if there was going to be a toll, you roll it out a few months *after* you open the rail service.

                      And, whereas in more urban areas I argue against ample cheap parking, here might be an exception. Not knowing the exact geography, my sense is that the vast majority of folks will be driving themselves to the train station or driving to Boston, so build them sufficient parking and make it free [especially if New Hampshire pays for it instead of the MBTA :) ]. The price of a ticket has to be in line with the rest of the MBTA system (what’s it cost from Providence RI for example), but making sure that the train is fast, working to make it on time, and making sure there is easy in / easy out of the station by car will help people choose the train.

                      Then the toll will help them even more.

                      All of that written, I suspect [with no data!] that these schemes actually result in more sprawl. Would they help the Massachusetts government bottom line? Well, those folks living in NH would be paying MA income tax, but there’s also the challenges associated with brain drain. That part’s complex methinks. All of which is to say, I would hope Massachusetts doesn’t invest our state money on a scheme which benefits New Hampshire but not us.

                    • I favor this

                      Dad always complains whenever we go to the Granite State that we built the roads and then they tolled us for em. Time they get a taste of their own medicine. Love Tom’s comment about Nashua trucks and the taxes and jobs line. I know far too many of those hypocrites personally…

  6. Will suburban Dems let any gov do anything radical?

    Dems representing wealthy suburbs seem very reluctant to raise taxes to do things that would cut carbon pollution – build way more rail, invest in clean energy.

    • But aren't the suburbs...

      …EXACTLY the communities which stand most to gain by expanding mass transit? Plus it seems suburbanites would appreciate having and maintaining a clean environment.

      • Newton, yes, Shrewsbury, no

        I suspect this is an easy sell in a place like Newton, but a hard sell in a place like Shrewsbury. That’s why I wonder about the “wealthy suburbs” reference.

    • Which wealthy suburbs?

      I’m not sure which “wealthy suburbs” you’re talking about. My perception from Belmont is that legislators from the really wealthy 128 belt suburbs West of Boston are pretty progressive and most would be fine with raising taxes for better transit and greener policies. But the opposition is coming from the more conservative much more middle class outer suburbs in the 495 belt.

    • Agree with rickterp

      Super-prog Jamie Eldridge represents a few of the super-wealthy suburbs (Sudbury, eg), and some less-super-wealthy ones. Super-prog Michael Barrett represents “post-materialist” (iow $$$) places like Carlisle, Concord, Weston, parts of Lexington, etc. They love them some environmentalism there.

      The resistance comes from people who don’t want to pay higher taxes — at all — but especially to pay for things they don’t use, and which have a reputation for bureaucratic bloat, ie. public transportation. So, less rich + further out = no interest in transit.

      Now, Bob DeLeo I can’t figure out, since in addition to Winthrop he represents Revere, with its three Blue Line stops. You’d think he’d be an enthusiast. But noooooo ….

      • RE Bob DeLeo

        Keep in mind that Winthrop is anti-MBTA. Which is to say they have a bus that runs to- and fro- the Orient Heights Blue Line stop, but it is *not* MBTA. It’s run by Paul Revere. It means that a bus-subway combo pass does nothing to reduce costs; folk pay the ~$1 each way for the bus, and then use a subway pass to get on the T. It costs daily commuters about $20/month in extra expenses.

        I have no idea why Winthrop isn’t an MBTA community. They clearly benefit from the Blue Line, and there’s no doubt that MBTA buses could replace the Paul Revere routes.

    • A very real problem

      I think thegreenmiles understates the political work that needs to be done, if anything, and not limited to suburbs either. Small wonder a Gubernatorial candidate treads cautiously. But the crisis demands boldness.

      No one can do it alone, but I hope that the next Gov can provide some paradigm-shifting leadership on climate change and our mutual complicity in it. Some of which needs to happen on the campaign trail.

  7. Skeptical but listening

    I am interested in learning more about candidate Kayyem’s professional experience and policy positions. Being associated with Homeland Security and disaster response is not an automatic (+) for Ms. Kayyem given the bureaucratic bulge at the enormously top-heavy and slow-to-change climate of inefficient response in the department. It is only through death, destruction and yes, increased frequency and severity of climate change induced natural events that Homeland Security has improved its performance as a government entity.

    Okay, so the good news is there has been improvement in the past two years from the onslaught of Joplin, MO tornadoes to Super storm Sandy. When NYC and NJ were impacted by Sandy, President Obama issued emergency declaration prior to the storm’s onslaught. Sure looked different than the lower 9th ward of New Orleans in response delivery.

    So what part of that improvement did candidate Kayyem personally initiate?
    What policies and initiatives did candidate Kayyem create, develop and implement at HS? Being a good bureaucrat does not translate into a CEO skill set. If however, she created improved systems in what is primarily a good ‘ole boy culture, I would be impressed.

    What about the fact that Cape Cod is a flood zone? That disaster is a matter of when, not what if…….

    What about the counties other than Suffolk and Middlesex with communities that have volunteer or call responders? Urban populations with significant vulnerable populations?

    The Boston bombing response on April 15, 2013 was well executed because the political funding streams to the commonwealth’s “sweet spot” have been pouring in over the past decade since 9/11and because the mistakes and errors of the 2011 western/central MA disasters were painful lessons from which the unprepared EOPSS apparently learned a few things . The MA story is a microcosm of the national story with residents of other ravaged regions still waiting for recovery and necessary mitigation.

    There is tremendous patronage in the state and federal systems as well as billions of dollars spent on equipment (toys) that has never been used.
    Now, if her proposal was to turn the funding upside down in EOPSS sending funds to local communities, first line response including: education on climate change impacts, infrastructure, zoning and environmental (ex., green construction, water, soil, wind, open space, etc…) protection, then I would be willing to suspend my skepticism.

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