Strange customs

Last month, many in Sacramento celebrated Earth Day 2001 by touring local vernal pools, planting trees or ditching their cars and taking a bus out to California State University, Sacramento, for music, meat-free comestibles and a heaping helping of pro-environment propaganda.

But the city of Elk Grove put its own spin on the internationally observed homage to all things green.

It may have been Earth Day weekend for the rest of us, but inside the city limits of Elk Grove, the weekend of April 22 was officially proclaimed “Elk Grove Auto Mall Days.”

The local holiday was announced in recognition of the auto mall’s financial success and its important contribution to the community. And also probably to drum up a little more business—most of the dealerships had a sale coinciding with the city’s proclamation.

Council member Mike Leary said he introduced the resolution after he was asked by an advertising agency to make some formal recognition of the auto mall. The council unanimously approved the proclamation. Leary saw nothing ironic or inappropriate in the council’s action.

“None of us even knew it was Earth Day,” Leary said.

Had they known, would it have made a difference? Was there any possibility that the auto mall gala could be moved to another day?

Probably not, and no, said Leary.

“It’s unfortunate that the dates coincided. But the auto mall is the main provider of revenue to our community.” Leary added that the city gets about $3 million a year in sales tax revenue from the auto mall.

The irony of Elk Grove’s retail revisionism was lost on many, but didn’t escape notice of Elk Grove resident Mike Monasky, who blasted the City Council’s action during a council meeting. He presented the council with the litany of ways in which cars pollute the air and discourage public transit and decried the elevation of an auto mall to city hero.

“I think the Elk Grove City Council has decided to become the laughingstock of environmentally friendly, forward-thinking California,” said Monasky.