The Hudson City Council found itself divided Monday night over what most agreed was a relatively innocuous resolution.
In the end, Mayor Dean Knudson's vote was needed to break a tie among council members and approve the "Adopting a Framework of Sustainable Community Principles" resolution.
The final vote was 4-3 with Knudson and alderpersons Scot O'Malley, Lee Wyland and Pam Brokaw supporting the resolution, and alderpersons Randy Morrissette II, Alan Burchill and Lori Bernard opposing it.
Knudson reported that the resolution came out of the Hudson-area Intergovernmental Advisory Council, comprised of representatives from the city, the towns of Hudson, St. Joseph and Troy, the village of North Hudson and the Hudson School District.
Its stated purpose is to encourage Hudson-area governments and citizens to adopt "more environmentally sound practices."
It commits the governments to strive to:
1. "Reduce our reliance on materials extracted from the earth that contribute to a buildup of pollution in our environment.
2. Reduce our contribution to the buildup of synthetic substances in our environment.
3. Reduce our contribution to the physical degradation of our environment.
4. Recognize that free markets allocate resources most efficiently and property rights must be respected."
Morrissette said he had a problem with the first goal, suggesting that it could be interpreted as calling for a reduction in the use of coal and water.
Burchill agreed with Morrissette's concern about the first goal. He said it would apply to uranium and indicate opposition to nuclear power.
Knudson replied that the goal is to reduce pollution. If a use of material isn't contributing to pollution, it isn't a problem, he said.
Bernard asked for a definition of sustainability.
"Why are we doing this?" she asked. "It's sort of nebulous. It doesn't mean anything."
Bernard and Wyland said the resolution would have more impact if it included goals for reducing energy consumption.
Knudson said the term sustainability means something "to people who care about it."
The resolution wasn't worded any stronger, he said, because the goal was to find common ground among the local governments being asked to adopt it.
"What I hear from people is, Who can object to it?" he said. "Yet they don't want to approve it."
O'Malley said the resolution provided a framework for conversation about environmental issues.
"You've got to start somewhere. This is a first step," he said.
He suggested that the third goal, striving to reduce physical degradation of the environment, could be used to encourage the village of North Hudson to ban open burning.