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Thursday, Oct. 8, 2009 12:00 am

Town meeting aims for green consensus

Since the Green Movement began to kick into high gear about three years ago, we are becoming aware of the importance of protecting the earth’s fragile ecosystem. Mayor Tim Davlin has pointed with pride to Springfield being rated fourth in the country among medium cities in the National Resources Defense Council’s Smarter Cities project. Cited in this designation is the 2006 agreement between the Sierra Club and the city for the construction of the new Dallman 4 power plant, heralded as the cleanest in the country. Other reasons given were the city’s refrigerator and TV recycling and downtown recycling containers programs.

Also, the city is receiving $1.2 million from U.S. Department of Energy’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which will be used for conservation projects and job creation. And the City Council is funding a feasibility study for the development of a CWLP photovoltaic solar farm.

We applaud these developments, but there’s much more that can and should be undertaken regarding the improvement of our local ecosystem. Springfield can learn from Normal, smaller than Springfield, that in 2002 adopted an Environmental Stewardship Policy: “The Town is committed to reducing its use of natural resources, to investing in green buildings, vehicles and materials, to saving taxpayer dollars through wise energy use and resource conservation, and to improving the overall quality of life in the Town.”

If Normal can implement this plan of action, what’s stopping Springfield’s local governments from doing the same?

Have municipal offices begun the establishment of “Green Teams” to improve their own office environments? They only have to learn form the practices incorporated at the Bunn Corporation and the newly created Sustainable Springfield Business Forum.

Have the governments thought about “Smart Growth” and building walkable communities in order to reduce urban sprawl?

Has there been any effort made to make home construction and retrofits more energy conscious? Has there been any thought to adopting the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED building rating system (or a similar program) for both commercial and residential construction? Is there any discussion about improving Springfield’s building codes to include sustainable practices?

Have our governments thought of innovative projects such as the placement of rooftop gardens on the city’s and county’s buildings, thus helping to alleviate the “heat island effect” and provide for less water runoff as is the case with Chicago’s many green roofs? There are grants available for these projects from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation.

These are only some of the opportunities that can be discussed at a town meeting, Saturday, Oct. 17. While other town meetings have given an opportunity for participants to speak their minds about issues, this one is designed to produce actions.

The meeting will be facilitated by Dave Kiliman, the former executive director of the Springfield Sangamon County Regional Planning Commission. The format will include small brainstorming groups and a discussion of the general body. An address by Mercy Davison, the Town of Normal’s city planner and author of its environmental stewardship policy will take place during lunch. Smaller groups will then meet to decide on action steps, and then report back to the larger group for consensus. Committees will then be established by the participants to determine actions to be presented at a followup meeting in December.

The town meeting will be 10a.m. Saturday, Oct. 17, at First Presbyterian Church Commons, Seventh and Capitol. The event will close at 3 p.m. with a reception. There is no admission fee, and registration is by e-mailing info@sustainablespringfield.com.

Jim Johnston is an architect, founder and president of Sustainable Springfield Inc.
Contact him at jimjohnston9@comcast.net.

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