Today, our town is going to celebrate receiving a plaque, which cost something like $50,000. Many of the achievements the plaque celebrates are impressive, starting with this big, fat greenie: The Half Moon Bay Library powers itself. On many days our library generates more solar power than it can use! City staff and our elected representatives worked hard to make this happen. We all should applaud this inspirational example of good government. 

The $50,000 plaque means very little. Our library received 80 points out 110. Seventy-three percent earned us the top grade. Of the 80 points earned, 22 relate to building the library where it already was, because it is near public transportation, and because bike racks were installed. Four points were awarded for using materials that don’t stink. Three points were scored because the windows allow daylight. Only two of four points were tallied for specifying water-efficient landscaping, but a bonus regional point was added for effort. One point was earned because we used a LEED-accredited official.

The way I do math, more than 27 of the 80 points we earned signify … nothing.

While many of the points earned are for valuable features, spending something like $17,000 to prove to the world we earned them seems wasteful. If the goal was to encourage Green Think, spending that money on interactive displays showcasing green technology would have been far more inspirational. Heck, an oversized analogue power gauge that flashed green whenever it ran backward would have served the cause better. 

Of course, the plaque cost only $50,000. To many who are reading this, that is not all that much money. San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley, Half Moon Bay Mayor Rarback, and a host of Coastsiders will no doubt wax eloquent about the important symbolism of the plaque. I expect the plaque will really be something.  

During the speechifying, maybe somebody will boast about the real-world benefits of building green. Maybe they will brag on the library energy bill for the months of April, May and June. We can do the math and conclude that negative $1,400 portends a great investment. 

Next time, skip the plaque. Frame the energy bills. The Achievement speaks for itself. 

— John Ullom, Half Moon Bay

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