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2019 Sustainability Summit group leaders check in

Marc Lefkowitz  |  02/04/10 @ 9:23am

When Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson promoted Andrew Watterson from sustainability program manager (where he had an office at the Water Department) to Chief of Sustainability, a cabinet-level position with an office next to the mayor, it raised the profile of sustainability in a very practical sense.

The Mayor asks Watterson every day for a progress report on ideas that emerged from the city's 2019 Sustainability Summit held in August, Watterson revealed at today's initial 2019 Steering Committee meeting. On the same day Watterson was promoted, the 2019 Steering Committee and a 25-member 2019 Council was named, the latter to advise the city on ways to follow up on the recommendations of the summit.

The city's goal for the 2019 Steering Committee is to plan the next city sustainability summit, which the city would like to host in mid-2010.

"When Mayor Jackson asked me after the summit, 'What is the most important thing we can do now to get to outcomes?' I told him, 'It's simple. Announce the next summit," David Cooperrider, Faculty Director of the Fowler Center for Sustainable Value at Case and the facilitator of the first 2019 Summit said. "It makes us accountable and keeps us together."

But, before planning for 2010, the Steering Committee-a group of about 60 volunteers-wanted the city to "nurture action" within the groups, in the here and now.

"We need to hear success stories so we know why we're getting together in 2010" was typical of the concerns heard by the Steering Committee. 

Before the end of the year, the city will gather a group from the summit to figure out the tools and individuals that will raise the level of communication between the groups, share successes, barriers and manage the process, Watterson answered. The Council, which will meet in December, and the city will address the need for identifying projects that surface from the work groups and provide a conduit to the Council where they will be vetted.

To sustain momentum, some groups were calling for research assistance (cross-checking with related efforts in the city), a web-based platform and more frequent face-to-face meetings to discuss where vision and projects overlap. The city agreed to organize a meeting open to all attendees of the summit in November, with groups giving a 3-5 minute update.

During 30-second introductions, steering committee members divulged why they are devoting countless hours as volunteers to the goal of creating a green city of a blue lake by 2019.

"Seventy percent of people living in Northeast Ohio are connected to a church, temple or mosque so we're figuring out how to bring a message of sustainability to congregations," said Trinity Cathedral Dean Tracey Lind.

"I think Northeast Ohio has all the elements, we just need to connect the dots," said Mary Wells, environmental planner at NOACA and a participant in the Transportation work group. "(The summit) embodies how we close the gap between transportation planning and land-use."

Michael Rastatter, a participant in the Advanced Energy group and a staffer at Cleveland Thermal said his company expressed a desire at the summit to build a co-generation power plant that captures waste heat from power (currently the company burns coal to generate steam only).

Sudhir Ragupathy, who served on the Social Entrepreneurship in the Urban Core group, is working with community partners on reusing vacant land in Hough and Glenville for urban agriculture. He mentioned the recent Harvard Business Review article on the move toward sustainability as a corporate business model. "It says that sustainability is a driver of innovation and change."

Brian Driscoll of the Urban Community School said he got involved to give a voice to young Clevelanders who have expressed to him that they have little hope for their future.

"This is bigger than us. We're representing those children today and who aren't even born yet," echoed Mustard Seed founder Phil Nabors, who has been supporting local food growers for twenty five years.

Jennifer Ruggles, Regional Economic Development Director for Ohio Department of Development, cheered the group on. "You are all sending the message that Cleveland is taking control of its future. The state wants to help. We're ready to shape policies around what this community drives."

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