October 28, 2019

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Pushing Forward the City’s Green New Deal

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To the Editor:

There is concern among a number of us who support the goals of the city’s Green New Deal but watch the city advance development that is inconsistent with the necessity to reduce — not increase — local greenhouse gas emissions.

The latter concern is exacerbated by the comments of several alder persons who voted for the GND but now question even the extraordinarily minor budget commitment to make their pronouncement substantive.

Months ago in the wake of the contention over Cornell’s North Campus Residential Expansion, the Planning and Economic Development Board wrote the Common Council asking for training to competently analyze projects for their greenhouse gas and climate change implications — a request which has apparently been ignored. Recently, the director of planning and economic development admitted that she and her current staff could not produce a substantive GND.

Moreover, we all know that it has taken existing staff and local consultants three years and running to create a Green Building Policy with codification and implementation still months off. All credible scientific information says the pace of response to sky-rocketing GHG-induced climate change must dramatically accelerate.

Given that the current personnel admittedly can’t do what needs to be done and that time is of the essence, we believe that the Common Council and Mayor must demonstrate a real commitment to their own rhetoric by budgeting for a multi-year GND plan and adding sufficient new staff to cause this to happen.

More specifically, we respectfully request the following:

  1. That the design and implementation of the Mayor’s GND be the primary responsibility of a full-time, senior level, experienced, permanent staff person with the office to be located within the Mayor’s office; that the current Sustainability Staff position be increased to full-time; that at least one support person be assigned to support these two positions.
  1. That in addition to creating and implementing the Green New Deal Climate Action Plan, this new, senior staff person be given the charge and authority to coordinate the GND work of staff in all departments to achieve renewable energy for city operations and reduction of fleet emissions.
  1. That each City Department should be required as part of the current budget process to state in narrative form, how each Department’s programs, projects and responsibilities can act in support of the GND Goals and Actions starting as soon as possible and no later than the beginning of the upcoming fiscal year.

Joseph M. Wilson