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San Carlos slips in bid for “greenest city” title

By rgordon
Friday, June 8th, 2007 at 4:02 pm in Uncategorized.

Poor San Carlos.

Victory was close enough Thursday that they could almost taste it. They were in second place for the “greenest city” title as deemed by Internet giant Yahoo!, and we blogged as such. They only had to usurp Pelzer, S.C., a 0.2-square-mile town with a population of 100, to win the coveted fleet of ten hybrid taxis. Cake.

But alas, Hastings, Neb. snuck in from behind overnight, sending San Carlos spiraling down to third. Well, San Carlos, if it makes you feel any better, at least you were beat for the number two spot by a city of comparable population size which is apparently the birthplace of Kool-Aid.

“I was disappointed to see we’ve moved down,” said Ann Iverson, a member of San Carlos Green, an environmentally-minded citizen task force that has urged residents to participate in the contest. “I haven’t lost hope, but it is pretty much of a long shot.”

The contest ends at 11:59 p.m. ET today; the winner will be announced June 19. Will the “City of Good Living” come through in the clutch?

Remains to be seen. Meanwhile, the Insider also asked Iverson a few questions about the nature of this so-called competition.

We remind you that there are no experts here making independent judgments about which of America’s cities is undertaking the greatest effort, through reduced greenhouse gas emissions and what-have-you, to save the earth. Simply by registering and agreeing to take a pledge to “live a greener lifestyle,” you’ll earn your city 100 credits towards its “greenest city” ranking and get a free compact fluorescent light bulb. By signing up to be a citizen know-it-all for Yahoo! Answers, you’ll earn more credits if your ideas are deemed “Best Answers.” Download Yahoo! oneSearch – the company’s new Web interface for mobile phones – and use it to look-up eco-friendly terms, and voila! More points.

So isn’t this just a viral marketing scheme to get people trying Yahoo’s products, thinly disguised as some kind of real effort to save the planet?

“I can see how it would be thought of that way,” Iverson admitted. “But it also raises consciousness and if you go and do the pledge, it’s educational.”

The pledge offers a smattering of eco-friendly ideas, such as carpooling once a week or lowering your thermostat by two degrees.

Still, “everything has that side to it, doesn’t it, when you’re a profitable company?” she mused.

Iverson said that a San Carlos resident who is also a Yahoo! employee alerted her earlier in the week that San Carlos was in ninth place. She and others decided to rally the troops, sending out emails, posting a news bit on the city’s Web site and even handing out flyers at Hot Harvest Nights on Thursday. In a matter of days, they jumped to second.

“We’re working hard to try to get it out as much as we can,” Iverson said.

Then there is that question about what San Carlos would actually do with a fleet of ten hybrid taxis emblazoned with the Yahoo! logo. Who would drive them? And pay for their upkeep?

“I really haven’t had that discussion with (Assistant City Manager) Brian Moura,” Iverson said. “This just happened so fast we haven’t really discussed that, but I guess that’s up to the city.”

Iverson suggested that perhaps the taxis could be a replacement for SCOOT (San Carlos Optimal Operational Transit), the free shuttle service was shut down in 2005 after a three-year pilot. Voters nixed a $59 parcel tax for five years that would have kept it running.

She also said that, instead of the hybrids, San Carlos could take the cash equivalent of $250,000 to put towards environmental projects of its choosing. Despite scouring Yahoo!’s Web site, we could not find anything that corroborated that assertion.

But regardless of where San Carlos comes out in all of this, Iverson said, the exercise of rallying residents for a common cause was worthwhile.

“It’s brought the community together,” she said.

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