Although Mayor Jackson and Cleveland Public Power's push to develop a waste to energy facility is a big gamble-and his quiet way has been taken by opponents as a go-it-alone strategy similar to the ill-fated LED street light plan-we should not knock the mayor for his impulse to introduce bold new ideas into how the city operates. But, the opponents have a point-if the mayor's plans are to be truly sustainable, they must reduce the city's waste and improve its quality of life.
We share some of the concerns of opponents that there may be cheaper and greener ways of reusing yard and food waste and recyclables. We wonder, why not 'go bold', Mr. Mayor, on your commitment to recycling and composting? Compare the $180 million for an unproven technology that burns waste to a recycling program for all of Cleveland's households. Look at what the city of Seattle is doing to reach its goal of 75% recycling. Look at the small city of Huron, Ohio's curbside composting (as a way of exploring a pilot project). Add incentives for Clevelanders to do the right thing if changing behaviors is a barrier.
If Mayor Jackson has the urge to break out of the mundanity of running the city and sees sustainability as the pathway, let's encourage him to set big bold goals. Rather than start with one-off projects-he could set targets for citizens and the city to reduce its carbon emissions. Then, tie those goals to everything you do, like Atlanta's young Mayor Kasim Reed who has set out to make that sprawling metropolis into one of the top ten most sustainable cities in America. Reed started by doing what Mayor Jackson's team in the Office of Sustainability must do first-finish the Carbon Footprint Analysis and Climate Action Plan.
Reed's goals for Atlanta include:
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions within the city of Atlanta's jurisdiction 25 percent by 2020, 40 percent by 2030, and 80 percent by 2050 (now that's bold!)
- Reduce energy use for existing municipal operations 15 percent by 2020, 40 percent by 2030, and 80 percent by 2050. Make renewable energy five percent of total municipal use by 2015
- Bring local food within 10 minutes of 75 percent of all residents by 2020
By 2010, Atlanta reduced its carbon footprint by 12.5 percent (again, the city couldn't have made this level of progress without first determining its municipal carbon footprint which it did in 2008).
"The biggest obstacle to making the top ten most sustainable cities is probably transportation options," Sustainable Communities reports. Mid-range goals include creating more bike paths and shifting city subsidies for employees from parking to transit. Among the long term goals is to build the Atlanta BeltLine, a multi-modal transportation system that provides a network of public parks, multi-use trails and light rail along an historic 22-mile railroad corridor. The city is working with the county to introduce a 1 percent sales tax hike to pay for it.
Explaining why the bold goals and investments are the path for Atlanta, Reed says that cities who don't get this the way the younger generation gets it will be left behind.
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· Due to concerns that it will add a new source of air pollution and because of the apparent lack of understanding of the Japanese system of burning waste to turn it into energy pellets, the city of Cleveland has added a public hearing on Thursday, January 19 about its proposed trash burning-for-energy pellets facility. Councilman Brian Cummins who is leading the opposition to the $180 million facility is trying to get Ohio EPA to extend the comment period.
· Jenita McGowan-former Sustainability Chief Andrew Watterson's able second in command-has been promoted to fill her old boss' seat. Mayor Jackson appointed McGowan Chief of Sustainability-a cabinet-level post-yesterday in a ceremony in his Red Room.