It is time to question whether Greater Louisville Inc., the city’s chamber of commerce, is a shell organization, a facade for opposition to progressive city government.
It does little to advance the city’s progress. It is either functioning as a conservative political lobby under camouflage, or a group blind to the realities of urban America.
GLI has a chance to prove me wrong.
It can do so by reversing its efforts to undermine science and arguing that research doesn’t justify new rules — which it did in a letter back in August, leveling baseless attacks against the findings of Louisville’s heat-management plan. Their illogical argument concluded that the study didn’t demonstrate a cost-benefit analysis for new regulations. So therefore the science is bad?
GLI — a hodgepodge group of local business leaders, not science leaders — get out of the science-debunking business. Do your job and support any proposed tree ordinance by Metro Councilman Bill Hollander, and actively market the city’s new efforts to improve public health.
Picking up on my point last week — that society makes its own progress, not the government — the seeds are already being planted: In response to Louisville’s heat-island problem, this community responded with an anonymous $1 million donation for trees. At the announcement, Hollander said he would propose a (long-awaited) tree ordinance in the coming weeks.
GLI acknowledged it had spoken with Hollander about this ordinance “several times over the course of the year,” and it would oppose any new rules, other than those that call for education and incentive.
Hey GLI, here is your incentive: You get to breathe. Education and incentive are not enough.
Perhaps GLI got to Hollander, who told The Courier-Journal that the ordinance would involve only those trees on public rights-of-way, while giving private property owners voluntary measures for protecting trees — a largely symbolic proposal that only politicians would consider a victory.
Look at the cities that you — GLI — point to as models. All have taken steps to save and restore their trees. Not coincidentally, they also have a younger, healthier and better-educated workforce, and robust economies. Let’s just look at the three most recent cities GLI selected for its annual trips: Austin, Texas, Charlotte, North Carolina and Portland, Oregon. All have tree ordinances with some form of a tree heritage protections, remove-and-replace rules with penalties and public rights-of-way requirements.
Additionally, Austin requires 1 percent of construction costs of new roads projects be directed to plant and care for new trees. Charlotte calls for new commercial developments to replace up to as much as 150 percent of trees removed, green roofs and other tree planting requirements. They also provide incentives … but they don’t start and end with incentives, because that’s not enough!
The point is, other cities are years ahead of us. What does GLI do? Last year, it sent a letter to the mayor opposing a tree ordinance. Was that letter from GLI’s environmental expert? No, it was from a local lawyer for energy companies.
Instead of opposing efforts to save and restore Louisville’s tree canopy, GLI needs to aggressively support and market all public and private efforts. According to Forbes’ best places for business, Portland (No. 5), Austin (No. 11) and Charlotte (No. 19) all somehow lead Louisville (No. 54), despite the heavy hand of their burdensome tree rules. It is clear that regulations that improve quality of life do not come at the expense of business… and GLI is wrong.
This is an appropriate time to disclose that LEO is one of GLI’s 1,600 member companies. GLI claims to represent its members — but it does not represent our views any more than does Donald Trump. LEO belongs only to participate in GLI’s community engagement events, which we are happy to support.
If GLI wants to reclaim its role representing our interests, it needs to put the longterm interests of the community before the short-term perceived interests of business. If GLI wants to prove me wrong — try to defend the indefensible — we’ll offer them a page.
Until then, GLI means: Get Lost Immediately.