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KSU seeks Urban Ecology researchers; Cleveland under spotlight for sustainability this week

Marc Lefkowitz  |  09/21/11 @ 1:28pm

· Kent State University and the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative have created four new tenure-track faculty positions in the field of Urban Ecology and Hydrology. This could put Northeast Ohio on the map as a research center for re-using vacant land as a way to restore ecological systems in urban areas.

The key will be establishing a set of metrics as soon as possible, for example, how many vacant properties will it take to provide green stormwater retention so that big pipes are no longer the only choice we have? The research will certainly inform the Sewer District's big Green Infrastructure pilot projects where it plans to spend $44 million to convert large plots of vacant land into green infrastructure projects. And it can serve up data to support more municipal governments like Cleveland Heights who are updating their zoning to include green infrastructure.

· The city of Cleveland convenes 400 people for its third 2019 Sustainability Summit this Thursday and Friday. Mayor Jackson's Chief of Sustainability Andrew Watterson says: "Sustainable Cleveland 2019 is hitting its stride. At this year's summit we aim to reconnect, learn what others are dong, inspire new action, and leave with a renewed focus on what we hope to accomplish individually while understanding better how it connects to the vision of SC2019."

Invited attendees of the summit can expect on Thursday to have an opportunity to hear from and speak with many of the active working groups and initiatives that have emerged as a result of SC2019. "We will also be focusing our conversation on how to accelerate Energy Efficiency in our region. On Friday, we will shift our dialogue towards the Local Foods movement and explore how we can accelerate the local foods movement here in our region. We will spend time on developing a strategy and approach to harnessing the year of local foods in 2012."

· Watterson was a guest on WCPN Sound of Ideas this morning, talking about the city's 2019 initiative, the summit, and the 2011 Year of Energy Efficiency-the annual focus area.

Host Mike McIntyre fired some tough questions at Watterson about what has been accomplished in the Year of Energy Efficiency and what will make the 2019 initiative more than just talk-what actions and goals is the city taking. Watterson replied that Mayor Jackson has set an energy reduction goal of 10% for the city. And that he hopes the city will lead by example with street and building lighting replacements and new investments in water pumping (two of the largest items in the city's $40 million annual electric bill). He cited the Cleveland Clinic's Energy Star Partner of the Year award (with targets of 20% energy reduction and a large scale LED lighting replacement program) as leading examples from the private sector.

In this post, we weighed in on the challenges Cleveland faces and the spotlight its under for establishing metrics around its sustainability initiatives.

Cleveland's energy efficiency goal is on par with the city of Youngstown, which completed a Climate Action Plan and set a goal of 10% energy reduction as part of its greenhouse gas reduction targets of 10% by 2020; 20% by 2030; and 30% by 2050.

McIntyre asked if a city should mandate reductions? Watterson said reductions will happen in steps. Perhaps one early step and a way of leading by example could be set in how the city manages its portfolio of buildings-it could set a goal to achieve EnergyStar or LEED ratings for all city owned and operated buildings. As it did with its green building standard tied to residential tax abatements (which Mayor Jackson deserves credit for and should be counted toward a community-at-large energy efficiency target), Cleveland can plant a flag and say it will be the most energy efficient city in the state of Ohio. To be fair, Cleveland is pursuing LEED for its Collinwood Recreation Center, but as the city of Cincinnati is doing pursuing EnergyStar with all 80 of its buildings, Cleveland needs to think in terms of Holly Harlan of E4S' Big Hairy Audacious Goals if it wants to focus the attention of the private sector.

· The Sewer District and the 2019 Water Group are forming a Water Sustainability Council that will "work on and support efforts that promote the goals of clean water, responsible stewardship of our waterways, and sustainable lakefront development." They will convene their first meeting next Tuesday (9/27) at 5:30 at their office at E. 40th and Euclid.

· Miss Ohio is touring the state by bike this month, including a stop at Cuyahoga Falls.

· Policy Matters Ohio released a report that shows how all forms of transportation require public subsidies. Out of Ohio's $5 billion annual transportation budget for roads and highways, only 4 percent comes from tolls, the equivalent of a transit fare, while 34 percent come from a state gas tax, 14 percent from license and registration fees, 22 percent from federal funding, 10 percent from local government general revenue funds and property taxes, and 8 percent from a variety of other state and local taxes. An additional 8 percent is borrowed.

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