This is the second of two posts about the possibility that Springdale will pass some sort of ordinance making it illegal for a vehicle to sit with the engine idling. (Read the first post here.) In the first post, I pointed out that a 2010 movement to get this kind of ordinance passed throughout Utah resulted in a very good web site at Idle Free Utah and that scientific evidence proves that simply turning off vehicles when the engine isn’t doing anything saves a lot of energy and prevents even more pollution.
In my first post, I argued against trying to solve this problem on the local level, but that was before I attended the August 14 Town Council meeting where Kathy LaFave made the case for an ordinance.
I was wrong. Other things being equal, a local ordinance would be a good idea. Kathy convinced me. But other things are not equal. There are two things wrong with Kathy’s argument.
1 – As I wrote in part one, the Utah Legislature has made an ordinance like that illegal. During the Town Council meeting, Kathy asked the Springdale attorney (she was joking), “Can’t we be just a little bit underhanded?” Our attorney said (he was not joking), “No.” The Springdale Town Council directed the Planning Commission to work on an ordinance anyway. Good luck to them.
2 – Kathy continues to insist that any ordinance must apply across the board to all vehicles. Bad move! This gets right to the heart of my argument last time. It just doesn’t make sense to try to subject every one of the millions of vehicles that go through Springdale to this kind of, well, bizarre restriction … even if the Utah legislature would permit it … which they won’t.
The reason Kathy convinced me that this is actually a good idea is that what we have is a very tightly defined problem: Tour busses idling their engines. (Stan Smith also said that RV’s running their generators constantly is also a problem. But it’s really just a variant of the tour bus problem.) The Town Council burned up a good forty-five minutes knocking around non-solutions to the problem. What we have is a unique local situation and recognition of that fact points to the solution.
This whole issue came up because a Springdale resident (we’ll call her “SR”) noticed a whole group of tour busses running their engines with nobody in them and they were stinking up the whole neighborhood. SR recorded it on her cell phone and sent the whole thing to the Council members. She also complained directly to the bus drivers, who brushed her off with the explanation that busses had to run for an hour before boarding “for the comfort of passengers”.
Stan Smith pointed out to the council that he doesn’t have the problem at his hotel because he just doesn’t allow it. RIGHT ON, STAN! Someone else pointed out that Zion Park simply doesn’t allow it either.
A tour bus has to park somewhere. They’re not going to idle their engine for an hour on a public street. All we have to do is contact the hotel owners, one by one, and convince them to do exactly what Stan has done at the Bumbleberry. Simply don’t allow it on their premises. A direction to Springdale staff in the form of a resolution would be plenty and completely legal. Our hotel owners, in the main, are a very cooperative lot and we have a strong association led by the inimitable Dean Cook. (Dean received the “Citizen of the Season” award from Springdale at the same meeting, but he left before these fireworks started.) If this doesn’t solve 100% of the problem, I’ll bet it gets 95% of it.
This is where Utah’s mania for private property rights will work to our advantage. Utah’s legislative antedeluvians will defend private property rights down to the last rattle on their tails. Hotel owners can get the tour busses to do whatever they tell them to do. The one thing this won’t do is impact Billy Bob Tourist and his ’63 Merc with a busted starter motor, which Kathy’s solution would.
I would have suggested this solution during the Town Council Meeting, but we aren’t allowed to speak.
But maybe I’m all wrong. What do you think?