|Sustainability Plan / Municipal Expenditures / Introduction|
Economist John Maynard Keynes once wrote, “The important thing for government is not to do things which individuals are doing already, and to do them a little better... but to do those things which at present are not done at all.” The City of San Francisco, through its actions and by example, is now in a position to create a new trend. It can set a realistic course toward sustainability in both the public and the private sectors. Municipal expenditures must go beyond collecting and allocating tax dollars to become part of a larger governmental policy which has sustainability as a foundation, and which encourages and enables the fulfillment of this goal throughout the community.
The paramount question repeatedly asked by our city officials is,
“How should the government allocate its $2 billion annual budget
to improve the quality of life in San Francisco?” An integral
part of the answer to this question is to establish resource-efficiency criteria
for all municipal expenditures. These criteria should affect all aspects of governmental
activities, both internally and as they relate to the public at large -- it is only through a collaborative effort that sustainability
can be reached.
Full-cost accounting not only gives a clearer picture of the long-term direct costs to the City of purchasing and maintaining supplies, equipment and facilities, it includes the indirect costs such as landfilling and hazardous waste disposal. These indirect costs represent very real municipal expenses, which are often ignored when purchasing decisions are made. Full-cost accounting is essential for prudent long-term fiscal management.
This so-called “cradle-to-grave” approach to municipal spending
can be facilitated by environmentally savvy managers who are motivated by peer esteem,
and by the accomplishment of sustainability objectives through performance requirements.