Monday, March 4, 2019
How To Attack Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the Environment
Over the past week it came to the attention of Republican operatives that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's staff seems to use rideshare services a lot even though her office is close to the subway.
For those of you who have trouble keeping track: The score is now as follows in the GOP vs. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez mash-up:
GOP: 1 point
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: 6,392 points
The GOP has a point - one point - with the recent New York Post story about AOC's serial use of rideshare.
I am not an AOC worshipper or serial retweeter. I think the Green New Deal is a joke for a very specific reason I'll get into in a moment. But let's strip away the fact the GOP desperately wants to bring AOC down because she hails from the generation The Party of Reagan has given the middle finger two for nearly four decades - and go to the core of the story through the lens of a person who wants to make more environmentally-friendly choices when getting around.
Yes, I am sure there are opportunities for AOC and her staff to use transit, walk and even bike for meetings, appointments and assorted constituent services (In fact, if they want to jump on the e-bike craze, there isn't a better place to do it in New York City than NYCeWheels - a shop in Manhattan far from my home but close to my heart).
Everyone is free to write their own New York Post attack story about themselves and their own travel habits. I could write one about myself. You could write one about yourself. No matter how many bumper stickers with pictures of the planet on them one owns, everyone has an opportunity to better their environmental footprint with transportation choices.
But here's the rub: I've ridden a bicycle in the Bronx. I'm familiar with using a Rube Goldberg-style system of public transit that robs one of time to get where you want to go. I am aware that cars are regrettably often the fastest way to get a lot of things done - and sitting down and calculating how to use this train or that train or if you can bring your bike on Metro North during this hour or not is a time-consuming exercise that takes much longer than punching your destination address into Google Maps or Lyft.
Let's suppose Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez decides to issue e-bikes or Bromptons to her entire staff (the photo op if she did the latter would be breathtaking). They'll be places they can get to easier, cheaper and faster than a rideshare, sure, but how much bike infrastructure is between her office and her destination? How many streets are what I call Ghost-Bike-Waiting-To-Happen? How many buildings refuse entry to bikes - even folding ones? How many roads don't even allow bicycles passage in the first place? How secure is bike parking where her staff goes?
The GOP has scored one point against AOC using this angle - but they are forfeiting the rest of the game with their follow up - this time attacking her for using a 'gas guzzling' minivan (that gets 17 miles per gallon) to get to a destination.
That's a gold medal jump-over-the-shark for me. I own an SUV that causes the Tesla-worshipping class of California to frown but I am far better for the environment than any Tesla or any Prius because I don't use it a lot!
No, GOP - the way to attack Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez is to throw your support - including taxpayer dollars - behind more frequent transit, high speed rail, complete streets, tax credits for bike commuters and post photos of yourselves and your staffs riding on newly minted bike lanes and hanging the bikes on buses and trains as you merrily move cheaper, faster and easier to your destinations. At the same time, you publish all of the hidden subsidies cars get with the same toddler-tantrum vigor you use to scream at AOC.
After you have done those things, after you have invested in transit, bike and pedestrian infrastructure and acceptance, then check back with AOC's staff on their Lyft and Uber usage. If it is at the same levels as now, then you can attack her and not look like a child upset that he has to put on his pants at the table and eat his boiled vegetables.
Attack the Green New Deal for doing absolutely nothing to wean Americans off car usage. Attack it for not being bold enough to suggest that maybe, just maybe, it is no longer a great idea for single-family homes be the ideal image of an American Dream. Attack it for not disrupting the status quo of bizarre and car friendly zoning laws that sentence Americans to a life of begging and insecurity for the unpardonable sin of not owning a car.
And yes, attack Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez today on her staff's probably excessive use of rideshare - but if you're not following up with some ideas on how to make it easier for people to make the transit choices you insist her staff makes, you can just hold that one point you made - and hold it close - because that's the only one I see you scoring for the foreseeable future.
That's all I've got - but before I forget be sure to go see the #100BlockSJ murals that went up last month - and make a donation to have Gemellos Murals paint a mural at Marijane Hamman Park. Remember that #ArtLiftsCities and when this rain ends, let's be sure to have colorful places to go.
Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.