Cambridge —Cambridge hosted part one of the 2009 Cambridge Climate Congress at City Hall Saturday. The purpose of the Congress is to recommend ways for citizens and city to respond more effectively to climate change.
The organizers of this event include John Bolduc, Joanna Herlihy, John Pitkin, Minka vanBeuzekom, Steve Wineman and Quinton Zondervan, Patty Nolan and Leland Cheung and many others. Participants were solicited from all parts of the city, and at least one “delegate” from elsewhere was invited for his expertise.
About a hundred delegates attended. The format was to break into small groups and come up with ideas that might be effective in changing residents’ behavior and help the city be more productive .The event started in the usual fashion of city officials patting themselves on the back for a job well done. In this case the patters were Mayor Simmons and Councillor Davis (who by the way is off to Copenhagen with a couple of staffers). The fact of our presence was a clue that all is not well. So too is the fact that city’s 2002 Climate Protection Plan aspired to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions produced in the city to 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2010 but they have instead increased by 27 percent. Perhaps only the good side was being presented. Deja-vu all over again...
That is not to say that the city’s activities have been a failure. Far from it. The city fleet is going hybrid, new city construction is much greener, and there are compact fluorescent bulbs in some fixtures in City Hall. Two things struck me while going over the 2002 plan. The first is that it looks very good. Second, its implementation has been very spotty. Clearly, the City Manager has failed to carry out many of the recommendations in this policy document and get the message through to many of his employees. In at least one case the Council is responsible. When Alexandria Real Estate Equities was given somewhere around a half billion dollars’ worth of development rights over what zoning had previously allowed, the city only got a vague commitment to build only to the LEED silver standard. My understanding is that level of “green” is pretty much standard in new large-scale buildings built these days. Most of the breakout groups came back with a request that some kind of honest evaluation be done of the progress and lack thereof toward reaching the goals stated in this plan.
Here are a few items pulled from the 2002 report that seem to lack follow-through.
Optimize building design and the use of vegetation to shade buildings and reduce the urban heat island effect. Use geographic information systems to map the city’s tree canopy coverage and assess the environmental services provided by the urban forest; maximize the tree canopy cover, particularly over parking lots and air-conditioning units; install roofs with high reflectance or “green” landscaped roofs; incorporate reflectance and shading standards in designs for parking lots and building construction.
I know of no green roofs that have been created in response to this plan, and the city seems not to do a good job or maintaining or replacing its trees.
Promote Transit Improvements. Support extension of the Green Line, acquisition of alternative fuel buses, and plans for the Urban Ring.
To date, I have only seen one Green Line Extension meeting at which our city had official representation.
Improve facilities for walking and cycling. Install more bicycle lanes and parking; create; improve off-road paths including railroad rights-of-way; expand efforts to retrofit streets and intersections to better accommodate bicycles and pedestrians.
Monitor Progress. Indicators such as energy use, transportation factors, and waste volumes should be tracked and reported at regular intervals to assess progress toward the emissions target.
Establish a Coordinating Committee. The City should establish a committee to monitor progress and advise the City Administration on implementation of the plan.
These two seem to have suffered the common fate of plans to monitor and report on city activities.
A section titled Why Waiting is not an Option
What can I say?
Strategy 3: Increase Use of East Cambridge District Steam
Community Preservation Act
In November 2001, Cambridge voters adopted the Community Preservation Act (CPA). The CPA allows communities to increase their property taxes and devote the funds to open space protection, affordable housing, and historic preservation.The City of Cambridge allocates the minimum allowable of this money to be spent on anything except “affordable”
housing. I have nothing against providing people with a place to live, quite the contrary, but the allocations should be adjusted to allow for significantly more dollars for open space acquisition.
Strategy 4: Promote the Design and Construction of Green Buildings
Maybe the policies formulated by the Green Building/Zoning Task Force will help here, but that won’t be in front of the Council until next year.
Part two will be in January, when our recommendations will be consolidated and forwarded to the City Council for their consideration.
I hope we do better over the next decade. Stay tuned.
- Antonio R., Cambridge "A combination of ingenuity & commitment; a true leader"
- Joshua Z., Area 2 Leland, I am so glad to see an Asian-American representing our community!"
- Steve Grossman, Massachusetts Treasurer “This leader who he has become in just one term on the Cambridge City Council has a vision for the
- Robert, Civic Journal “He’s a proven activist. In his first few weeks he filed more initiatives than some incumbents d
- Harvard Crimson “Cheung, unlike many politicians, is in this business to get things right. For Cheung, facing his
- Cambridge Day "Cheung is a pragmatist, not an ideologue. As a councillor he has been effective in getting things d
- Lesley, Central Square “ In his first term Leland was able to eclipse the records of every single other councillor, most
- Ted M., North Cambridge “Leland Cheung has made Cambridge’s community his #1 priority, which is why he is receiving my #
- Russ, Neighborhood 9
“ The City
- Frank, Avon Hill “Leland Cheung's extraordinary leadership and dedication to our community is why I am voting for h