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Mayor Jackson on sustainability: Incentives not regulations

Marc Lefkowitz  |  04/26/10 @ 2:00pm

At his Earth Day address at Cuyahoga Community College, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson offered that the city's sustainability agenda is to support innovation and jobs creation. That is consistent with the mayor's view of sustainability; it's a tool to build a 'self help' economy.

The mayor's appearance at Tri-C definitely points to a need to ramp up Tri-C's Green Academy, which is aiming to "train students in the principles of sustainability, green construction, new energy codes, improving energy efficiency in residential construction, and interpreting green bid specs."

The mayor's Chief of Sustainability, Andrew Watterson, added that the city will provide support for high-leverage green ventures such as the Evergreen Cooperative. Watterson's vision is for the cooperative's employee-owned start ups, such as the Ohio Solar Cooperative, to one day serve as a green collar jobs pipeline for the Green Academy, which has a heavy focus on re-tooling manufacturing jobs.

During the audience Q&A, the mayor was asked what he's doing to make industry more energy efficient, and is that a green jobs opportunity?

The mayor responded that he doesn't view regulation as the correct path, but he's willing to prime the pump with incentives and programs, such as directing $10 million (from the Stimulus Act) to start up the Cleveland Energy$aver Program, which will pay for home energy audits and for upgrades through a revolving loan fund – and, of course, drive the local market for green jobs.

"We don't want to require it," the mayor said, "we don't have a code that requires a company to convert to CFLs. We think the market will drive it, and we're willing to support it (financially)."

Another example of the city directly supporting a triple-bottom line venture is using its control of its municipal power company, Cleveland Public Power, to create a market for (and lure) Chinese LED-light manufacturer Sunpu-Opto's American headquarters to Cleveland, which is expected to create up to 350 jobs. The project would create an LED streetlight design for Cleveland, help reduce the City's $12 million streetlight bill and help create a city-wide energy conservation program for homes and businesses, the mayor said in his 2010 State of the City address.

Cleveland wants to be the first city in Ohio to establish a 'solar special improvement district', Watterson told GCBL, since Senate Bill 223 now allows communities to create SIDs for weatherization projects and wind, geothermal and other alterative energy initiatives. The mayor and Watterson also talked about the potential of the Sustainable Cleveland 2019 process.

"This is using my ability to capture cost savings and create economies of scale that make good business sense," the mayor concluded.

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