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The City of Madison is once again buffing up its reputation of being “77 square miles surrounded by reality” — a term coined by former Republican Gov. Lee S. Dreyfus — with a proposal going to the City Council this week to fine businesses that run air conditioning while leaving their doors and windows open.

According to news reports last week, the air conditioning crackdown was triggered in part by a heavy flooding incident which “severely damaged city infrastructure” last year and which the ordinance says was a firsthand example of global warming.

“Until such time as the city is supplied with only renewable energy, increased energy consumption attributable to wasted air conditioning will lead to the increase in fossil fuel consumption and the generation of greenhouse gases, which in turn will result in further climate change,” the ordinance reads.

To fight climate change, Alderman Ledell Zellers is proposing a fine of $50 for a first offense by commercial buildings that violate the ordinance and $100 and $250 for subsequent offenses. Compliance would be enforced by city police and the Public Health and Building Inspection departments.

What exactly would constitute a violation? Commercial establishments would be prevented from keeping windows and doors open longer than is reasonably necessary if the adjacent space is air conditioned.

Soooo ... customers would then presumably be able to enter and exit at a reasonable pace. Only climate-change scofflaws who insist on running their air on high and use door-stoppers to prop their doors wide open in the summer heat would presumably be subject to the fine.

Outside of the People’s Republic of Madison — and probably within its realm as well — the business owners we know already police themselves for the simple reason that if they don’t, it runs up their cooling and heating bills ... and cuts into their profits. About as aggressive as it gets is when a shopkeeper says: “Hey, shut the door.”

As the spokesperson for two of Madison’s malls put it, her company does “not expect any impact from the ordinance.”

That would put it in line with another of Zellers’ ordinance proposals which the city adopted 18 months ago, limiting the amount of time vehicles could be kept idling in winter — also an attempt to combat climate change. Since it was adopted, the ordinance has resulted in one citation.

So it goes in Wisconsin’s capital city, which 10 years ago adopted the pink plastic flamingo as the official city bird. Another feather in its liberal cap.

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