Sunday, January 6, 2008

Excellent Comments from Derek

1. I would recommend we replace the word 'green' with some more tangible descriptor and that we set a more tangible goal than being the greenest city in the U.S. Here's why:
a. The word 'green,' may be very unattractive to potential partners in this venture since it may carry hippie or liberal connotations, whereas 'sustainable,' or even issue-specific terms like 'water-wise' may be less ideological-sounding to people whom we would want to become involved.
b. Striving to be the greenest in the nation means that our goal will change if other cities in the nation change. Instead of referencing our goal to other cities, we should reference our goal to the tangible needs of our city.
c. By stating specific, measurable goals, we may make it easier to determine whether we are succeeding.

2. I think we should examine various specific environmental issues that we might want to address and ask for each issue, "What are the most effective geographical and civic levels from which to address this issue?" For example, reintroducing timber wolves to southern Wisconsin is an issue that would require participation on the parts of dozens of other communities and jurisdictions; we probably don't want to make that one of our key issues if our focus is to be on Port Washington. At the other extreme, getting the garbage picked up on time at my house is probably a little too narrow of an issue for a Port Washington-focused initiative, since it deals with only one household. We want to find the issues that are between those two extremes -- the issues that can actually be impacted at the civic level of a city. This doesn't mean that we pick only issues that impact only Port Washington. Obviously, we will hope to serve as a model for other communities so that the movement can take hold throughout Ozaukee County, Wisconsin, the Midwest, the Great Lakes, the United States, and the World. But we have to start where we are and ask what we, here, can tackle.

3. I would suggest the following as some issues that we could focus on and some examples of tangible goals:
a. Water quality -- Port Washington as at the bottom of a small watershed of the Sauk Creek, and the water that flows through our community carries excess sediments, nutrients, and toxins to Lake Michigan. We could set a goal to reduce our city's pollutants so that the water quality where Sauk Creek enters the Lake is as clean as the water that enters Port in Sauk Creek and other small waterways. By stating this as a goal, we could focus on the causes within our city limits -- our yards, our streets, etc. Of course, if we want to set a goal to make the water entering the Lake absolutely clean, then we have to address the whole Sauk Creek watershed, which extends, I think, into Sheboygan County. An initiative to get rain gardens, rain barrels, restored and created wetlands, and other technologies used in our city would be tangible and, I think, very popular with the press, funders, and the public.
b. Food -- This issue connects everything. If we ate better as a society, and as a city, our economies would be healthier, our nation would be more secure, and our water would be cleaner. Reachable goals might include establishing community gardens, getting the school to serve locally-produced foods in the lunch program, and striking up relationships with farmers in the area, we would reduce the distance food travels to our plates (an energy and climate issue), strengthen the job security of everyone who is involved in producing, marketing, and preparing the food (an economic issue), create incentives for area farmers to try different crops (economic and ecological issues), and get people to start to think about the food they eat (public health issues). This seems to me like a potential issue for us as a city to address.
c. Open space and recreation -- Here's an issue that a city can address relatively independently of what surrounding communities do or don't do. Port Washington could make it a priority to create a community in which a child can get all over town safely on a bicycle. This would result in setting aside lots of open space, restoring ecological communities, and creating incentives for people to lead more healthy lifestyles.

4. Finally, we should ask as we go how our actions can be channeled into and bolstered by more regional initiatives. For example, there are many large initiatives attempting to improve the ecology of the Great Lakes. There are groups offering technical and financial support for Great Lakes-focus activities. We should learn from them, since there are many things that have been tried by other people, some of which have succeeded and some of which have failed.