Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Leading Green: Across the Country, Mayors Are Taking Their Cities in a Pro-Environment Direction

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Leading Green: Across the Country, Mayors Are Taking Their Cities in a Pro-Environment Direction

Article excerpt

Green is the theme. With eco-friendly products, hybrid cars, and energy-cutting appliances and light bulbs, we're bombarded with new choices as consumers and citizens. But what's not as heavily advertised are the goings-on in city halls nationwide that are making a large-scale impact on the environment.

For example, the initiatives of former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson are being continued with the city's new leader, Ralph Becket, who says he'll fast-track the permit process for the construction of buildings that satisfy LEED "silver" certification.

Miami Mayor Manny Diaz began the City of Miami Green Commission shortly after he took office in 2006. The commission has goals of bringing environmentally sustainable practices to building standards, school curricula, and on the highway with hybrid government vehicles.

In Portland, Ore., Mayor Tom Potter will host the National League of Cities Green Cities Conference in 2009 to showcase Portland's reduced energy footprint and sustainable practices.

And although Meridian, Miss., is a city of only 40,000 residents, Mayor John Robert Smith is far ahead of the curve, introducing a 90-point "greening" plan on Earth Day 2008.

The mayors behind these initiatives have more environmentally friendly tricks up their sleeves than they can outline at once, but Parks & Recreation's associate editor Terrence Nowlin spoke with them about their cities, their parks and green space, and their plans for the future.


Parks & Recreation: Each of your cities has developed a comprehensive plan to focus on environmental concerns. Tell us why your plan is important to your city and what other cities can learn and apply from it.

Becker: Salt Lake City's Green Program is a blueprint for maintaining, and improving upon, the high quality of life currently enjoyed by our community. To do this, we need to ensure that current and future generations have access to abundant clean air, clean energy, clean water, and healthy open space. It is critical that cities take a broad, well-rounded approach to creating sustainable communities because our air, energy, and water and open-space resources are highly interrelated, and our approaches and solutions need to recognize and honor these interrelationships if we are to be successful.

Diaz: One of Miami's greatest assets is its natural beauty in its tropical landscapes and beaches. It is very important to the appeal of our city and to our quality of life that we combine these natural assets with clean air, clean water, and clean landscapes. This is part of the path toward becoming a sustainable city where we do not deplete or damage our natural resources. These efforts toward sustainability are reflected in the cleanliness of our air, water, and land. I think all cities should strive toward a sustainable balance between their population and their natural surroundings.

Potter: Portlanders love the physical environment in which they live. It makes it easier for the mayor of Portland to promote environmentally friendly practices when the citizenry supports and embraces the values and the direction [in which] we have been headed. As a city, we look both at programs and policies. By suggesting change, residents can embrace--from recycling to bike lanes to creating neighborhoods where a car is not necessary-the city tells a story about our values. When we update our city's comprehensive plan in the next few years, we're calling it the Portland Plan; sustainability will be one of the major values driving it. While it's a planning document, the community will be involved at every stage to give feedback on the decisions the city will face in the future. The community will be involved in the discussions about expanding the tree canopy, creating pocket parks, and increasing community gardens. By involving the community in the discussion, we have learned the community is then more likely to help make their suggestions real. …

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