Op-Ed | Vote yes on Prop 1 for clean water, clean air, and quality jobs

Aerial view of Manhattan in New York
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We all need clean water to drink and clean air to breathe. Regardless of our background or occupation, these are undeniable necessities. That’s why such a diversity of groups, from environmental advocates to labor unions, have come together in support of Ballot Proposal 1 – the Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act – which will appear on the ballots of New York State voters this November.

When voters hit the polls this election, they will have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to protect clean water by replacing aging pipes and sewage systems, upgrade infrastructure to withstand a changing climate, and invest in clean energy for a sustainable future. This will ensure that our state is a safe and healthy place to live for generations to come. It is imperative for all of us to vote “yes” on Prop 1.

The environmental benefits of the measure are far-reaching: we will repair natural buffers to stop runoff from polluting bodies of water, electrify school buses to give our kids cleaner air, create green roofs to absorb urban heat, support sustainable agricultural practices, and bring clean energy to public facilities – just to name a few. Projects made possible by the Bond Act will help New York State achieve the goals of improving water quality, mitigating the impacts of climate change, reducing flood risk, and conserving open space. But to add on to the environmental and public health benefits of Prop 1, these projects will also be a boon for the economy.

Investing now in projects that will mitigate environmental disasters down the road will save the state billions. Conservation projects have a great return on investment – for every dollar spent, 7 dollars are returned to the local economy. A recent economic impacts report found that the Bond Act would support over 84,000 jobs across the state. Thanks to provisions in the legislation, we can trust that these jobs will be high-quality, reliable, and paid at family-sustaining wages.

Union workers are eager to see this influx of good, local jobs. Members of District Council 9 will paint steel bridges with the most advanced anti-corrosion materials, which will help new and reinforced bridges withstand extreme storms and flooding. Across the trades, union brothers and sisters will retrofit public buildings to bring them up to the highest energy efficiency standards, replace lead pipes, upgrade sewers and water treatment facilities, fix roads, build culverts and shoreline fortifications, and expand parks. These union jobs will strengthen local economies and work to better our entire state’s quality of life. It’s a win for everyone.

We have reached an urgent moment to protect our natural resources and safeguard against environmental crises. Much of our drinking water infrastructure is over 100 years old and past its useful life. We have over 350,000 miles of lead pipes, the 4th highest in the United States. Our water systems desperately need an update. And as storms that were thought to be once-in-a-lifetime flood our streets regularly, and summer heat waves hit record highs year after year, we must act to withstand the next lethal challenge climate change presents.

When you head to the polls this November, be sure to find Prop 1 on your ballot. For the good of the environment, the economy, and the health and safety of New Yorkers now and in the future, make that vote a “yes” on the Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act.

Joseph Azzopardi is the Business Manager/Secretary Treasury of District Council 9 of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades. Julie Tighe is the President of the New York League of Conservation Voters. Both of their organizations belong to the Vote Yes for Clean Water & Jobs Coalition.

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