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St. Pete City Council takes bold stand on Green New Deal, Equal Rights Amendment

Megan Holmes



City Council member Gina Driscoll

The St. Petersburg City Council took two steps towards the progressive Democratic agenda Thursday, taking stands in support of two hot button progressive issues: the Equal Rights Amendment and the Green New Deal legislation.

In all, seven speakers spoke in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment and six in favor of the Green New Deal, representing organizations like the Athena Society, Progress Florida, the League of Women Voters and the Eckerd College Democrats.

Council member Gina Driscoll submitted both agenda items for Council’s consideration. The Green New Deal resolution is the latest in Driscoll’s move to own the sustainability issue. Driscoll also spearheaded the “No Straws St. Pete” legislation, banning plastic straws in restaurants and bars by 2020.

Each agenda item passed, the only “no” vote coming from Council member Ed Montanari on the Green New Deal resolution.

The Equal Rights Amendment resolution urges the federal delegation to support the Equal Rights Amendment and asks Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state legislature to take steps toward ratifying the amendment.

“I think it’s time for us to stand up as a city and ask our state to join the 37 other states that have passed this,” Driscoll said of the Equal Rights Amendment. “We need Florida to be that 38th state and make this happen for our country. It is long past due. It’s unbelievable to me that in this day and age I’m not seen as quite as important as a man. It’s time for that to change and I want that change to come from St. Petersburg.”

The Green New Deal resolution also urges the support from the federal delegation, and asks the delegation to enact implementing legislation for the plan, which combines economic justice and climate measures to address the multi-faceted nature of climate change.

Both measures are largely symbolic, much like the resolution passed earlier this year in support of federal “Medicare for All” legislation.

“As a city we’ve been quite proud of leading the way when it comes to addressing climate change,” said Driscoll, touting St. Petersburg’s record on climate issues. “As the first city [in Florida] to commit to 100 percent clean renewable energy and as one of just 25 cities chosen to participate in Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge, we really have made a name for ourselves as a leader. I think we should use that wisely. We can’t solve the problem on our own, we’re one city.”

Council member Darden Rice, an environmental activist before her election to City Council, agreed with Driscoll. “Like you, sometimes I pause with some of the resolutions that ostensibly don’t seem to have a lot to do with our immediate sphere of responsibilities and City Council powers,” said Rice. “But it is important for us to take a stand and for us to show our leadership. On climate change in particular, our city has been a leader.

“The science is clear,” Rice said. “What is very unclear – the uncertain part of it all – is political will. What are we doing politically to curb the inputs of carbon into the atmosphere? The leadership that this city takes is actually very important.”

Montanari defended his no vote for the Green New Deal resolution.

“I’ve read House Resolution 109, that makes up the Green New Deal,” he said. “I just want to say at the outset that there are a lot of things I’m for when it comes to the environment, but I can’t support this resolution at this time. I do believe in climate change, I oppose offshore oil drilling, I supported our biosolids to energy project, I supported the sea grass mitigation project, I supported the ISAP report, I’ve supported infrastructure investments across the board to reduce overflows into our waterways. I support and want to be proactive in protecting our tree canopy and planting more trees. But this resolution and the bill in Congress is just a bridge too far for me.”

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