The La Crosse City Council is moving ahead with an initiative focusing on climate change. They will now urge Congress for a tax on carbon in fossil fuels.
The resolution passed on Thursday night in a close 7-5 vote. Although none of the council members questioned the existence of climate change, some council members believe the subject should not be addressed by city government.
District Five Council Member Patrick Brever introduced the resolution regarding climate change as part of a national movement started by the Citizens' Climate Lobby.
"There are three things," Brever said. "First, the City recognizes that climate change exists. Second, that it is mainly caused by humans, and then lastly, it asks the US Congress to pass a revenue-neutral fee on carbon emission."
The resolution passed unanimously through the Sustainable La Crosse Commission; however, it was met with some resistance by other council members, being voted out of the Judiciary and Administration Committee before Thursday night's meeting.
"There was some opposition from the start, which is certainly okay," Brever said. "We get that on a lot of issues, so it did not go through committee as I hoped it would."
"We should not be debating in our forum climate change any more than we should be debating North Korea or Iran or the tax policy for the federal government, any of those things," said Doug Happel, District 12 Council Member. "We should be debating the things that directly affect what we can control."
Brever said climate change impacts La Crosse residents and should be address by City Council.
"I don't think that we should be afraid of issues in that chamber, and this had a right to be there," Brever said. "It's something pertinent to the local area. We're seeing that with flooding recently."
For Happel, the resolution overshadowed more important agenda items.
"We spent more time talking about this than we spent talking about the audit of our Parks Department which is extremely important," he said. "We spent more time talking about this than talking about our Capital Improvements Budget."
For some council members, it is about looking ahead.
"I'm a part of a generation that's going to experience climate change a lot more than some of the more veteran members of the council," Brever said.
Other describe the resolution as a slippery slope.
"Keep your focus. What's your job? And, if you keep your focus and do your job, you're going to be successful," Happel said. "When you get outside your lane, get beyond your pay grade, you're going to have some problems."
While Happel wishes Congress did more to address climate change, he doubts a letter from La Crosse, Wisconsin will make a difference.
Brever is optimistic the letter will motivate change. He believes that if city officials do not take a stand on key issues, how can anybody expect Congress to?
La Crosse joins a number of other city governments across the state in passing climate change resolutions. Eau Claire has also taken a stance, a city La Crosse officials often compare themselves to.
Next month, the council is expected to debate another political resolution regarding redistricting.