Friday, April 15, 2011

Local Government Sustainability Conference

Thursday, April 14, I traveled with fellow Mount Rainier resident Nick Williams to the Local Government Sustainability Conference organized by my friends at Maryland Sierra Club with support from Maryland Department of Natural Resources and  ICLEI (local governments for sustainability network).  I work daily with "green" issues and sustainability for local communities but as a candidate for city council I wanted to learn more about specific local government initiatives that could be applied in Mount Rainier.  Conference agenda (PDF)

The conference was opened by my friend, Mayor Adam Ortiz of Edmonston, who I like to call "The Anacostia's Mayor."  The Northeast Branch of the Anacostia divides Edmonston in two, and the town has done much to be good stewards of the river.  After experiencing flooding four times in ten years the citizens of Edmonston realized that as a low-lying community along the river, they were bearing the brunt of generations of stormwater mismanagement.  Edmonston flooded not once from the river itself but rather flooded due to stormwater runoff from the roads, parking lots, and roofs of areas upstream that were developed without adequate stormwater management.
The Anacostia River appeals in the Edmonston seal
Not long after this flooding, the city realized that its main street, Decatur, was in need of replacement and Mayor Ortiz convened a conversation with town officials and citizens.  This group decided that stormwater was public enemy number one in Edmonston and that the city was going to do its part to manage stormwater responsibly.  The result is incredible - a small, diverse, working class community in Prince George's County has the greenest street on the east coast.  Mayor Ortiz says the lesson is: "If we can do it, anyone can do it."

For a cost no greater than a traditional street rehabilitation, Decatur Street:
  • manages 90% of all stormwater on site
  • LED streetlights use just 30% of the energy as traditional streetlights
  • Clean Currents wind power for remaining electricity needs is 25% cheaper
  • created 50 jobs (70% of firms located within 25 miles, 60% minority or women-owned)
  • contractors learned how to do it so now they have "green capacity"
  • created a bike lane and safer sidewalks
  • looks really good!

I am hoping that the other presentations from the conference will be made available online so that I can share them as well.  Of particular interest was the Non-Profit Energy Alliance, a Montgomery County group that pools resources and expertise to negotiate green energy rates and answer questions to encourage non-profits to purchase green energy.  Since May 2010 26 non-profits are saving 10-20% on energy, for an estimated total of $250,000 and with 5000 metric tons of CO2 saved.  This is definitely a model that we should look in Mount Rainier for our town and local organizations like Joe's and Glut.

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