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Clean votes

29 July 2007

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Vote for trees!

The Federal District is holding a non-binding “consulta” — a cross between a referendum and an opinion poll — on environmental initiatives. Officially, the idea is to measure citizen support for various initiatives — and to test alternative voting methods — e-voting and telephone voting. (The ballot is here, but you have to have an IFE card to get actually vote.)

Unofficially, it is the post modern version of the old pro-governing party demonstration (and, having people only go to their local polling station or sending an email is more environmentally friendly than busing in a few thousand folks to march around, and then busing them back home after serving them lunch). It tests the governing PRD’s ability to turn out the vote, and forces opposition parties to either buy off on the governing party’s lead, or mount a losing campaign against it. I can’t say for certain, but with the Greens allied with the PRI, this looks like a great way to undercut at least one rival party within the Federal District.

The PRD-controlled District Assembly is probably going to pass these measures anyway, but all are bound to be somewhat controversial and cause someone some hardships. And they are all probably necessary measures. Consultas give some cover to the assembly. They incidentally “test drive” not just new voting methods, but party organizers as well. You might move up in your own faction by backing your guy in the next general election, but if you want to move up in the party itself, you have to prove you can turn out the votes. It’s probably less destructive and wasteful than those referendums you have every once in a while to do something like limit marriage to one man and one woman or make English the official language or rent restrictions on non-citizens. Which are immediately followed by lawsuits and do nothing but give jobs to political consultants, ad agencies and lawyers.

Anyway, pretty much like school board votes in a lot of the U.S., this is an exercise in letting the voters approve what’s gotta be done regardless. Several of the measures deal with cutting auto traffic (one I never though of — private schools are everywhere in Mexico City, and the parents all show up to pick up their kids every afternoon. One measure would allow the district to provide school buses for private schools), using alternative fuels for buses and taxis and expanding the Metro and Metrobus.

Others call for improved water treatment, restoring wetlands (don’t forget Mexico City was once ALL wetland) and waste disposal.

The most interesting to me is an idea I had a long time ago. A lot of people put gardens on their roof, or at least a plant or two. What if every building in the Federal District had a few plants? The place would certainly smell a lot better and the air would be a lot cleaner (and the roof dogs could snooze in the shade and have a real tree to pee on) . One proposal will require all new construction to include rooftop gardens.

The proposal is based on a Tokyo ordinance. Which looks more like a Mexican pyramid — Rem Koolhaas’ proposed giant coffin, or the ACROS Fukuoka from Japan? And which looks like a place you’d want to work?

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