Op-Ed on Sustainability

Since July 2011, I have been working with the Hoosier Environmental Council as the organization’s PR/media consultant. During the summer, HEC Executive Director Jesse Kharbanda led an effort to unite several advocacy groups and not-for-profits with an interest in sustainability. The coalition made every attempt to insert sustainability issues into the conversation surrounding the race for Mayor of Indianapolis.

The most recent effort is perhaps the most visible – an op-ed appearing in The Indianapolis Star on behalf of HEC and its coalition partners: American Institute of Architects-IndianapolisEarth Charter IndianaFriends of the White RiverGreen Broad RippleGrowing Places Indy, Health by Design, an Alliance for Health Promotion InitiativeHoosier Chapter – Sierra ClubImproving Kids’ EnvironmentIndiana Citizens’ Alliance for TransitIndiana Public Health AssociationIndiana Recycling CoalitionIndyCogIndyHubIrvington Green InitiativeLeague of Women Voters-IndianapolisLocal Initiatives Support CorporationMidtown IndianapolisThe Earth House Collective, and U.S. Green Building Council-Indiana Chapter.

I’m proud to have played a role in the publishing of this piece, doing much of the research, writing and melding of ideas together. I had a great deal of help too, especially from Jesse.

The op-ed can be found on I’m also pasting it below.

Our View: Take us to next level with vision of sustainability

November 4, 2011

Months before the first debate between the leading mayoral candidates, an unprecedented coalition of organizations convened with the determination to make sustainability — for the first time — a core theme of the next Indianapolis mayoral administration.

With all of the public debates in the rearview mirror, the race for mayor is near the end. Our organizations believe that sustainability — issues such as air and water quality, energy use, land use, recycling, availability of locally grown food, and lower impact transportation options — lies at the heart of Indianapolis’ future prosperity. It intersects with many of the aims that are core to the mayor’s role, including job creation, economic development, neighborhood development, public health and public safety.

We recognize a bipartisan commitment to making our city more sustainable exists. We appreciate Mayor Greg Ballard for his support of the Office of Sustainability and its initiatives in energy efficiency, urban gardens and bike lanes. We also appreciate Melina Kennedy’s “Sustainability Vision for Indianapolis” and her graduate training in environmental science.

Whichever candidate emerges as the victor — and our groups are not making endorsements — Mr. or Ms. Mayor has a unique opportunity to accelerate our movement toward sustainability in Indianapolis, and use the mayor’s “bully pulpit,” as President Theodore Roosevelt was fond of saying, to rally the public.

As part of a multiyear vision for Indianapolis, we urge our next mayor to embrace specific measures for how Indianapolis stacks up to its peer cities on various sustainability measures, such as bike lane density, proximity to farmers’ markets and recycling rates. We urge our next mayor to develop a compelling, fiscally responsible plan that underscores a commitment to make Indianapolis a city that truly rivals our peers in sustainability. At stake is the competition for talent and investment, which — in a tough economy — becomes even more challenging.

According to research by CEOs for Cities, “Two-thirds of mobile, educated, young adults are choosing the places they want to live before they choose their jobs. College-educated 25- to 34-year-olds want to live in cities that are clean, attractive, green and safe.”

As a great city, we can no longer be satisfied with the view that improving transit is important; we need a champion who will say, “We need dedicated funding to expand transit and I’m prepared to fight for it.” We need a message from the mayor’s office that not only is air quality important, but it’s worth committing dedicated resources to enhance our city’s ability to fight air pollution. We need our next mayor to not only fight for clean energy jobs, but to push for policy change at the Statehouse that empowers our city to invest more in clean energy.

We need a mayor who not only is committed to increasing and improving bike-friendly infrastructure, but will provide safeguards for bikers, pedestrians and motorists. We need a mayor who not only supports urban farming, but also expands the scope of urban agriculture to enhance food access and encourage food culture entrepreneurship. We need a comprehensive approach to assessing and remediating brownfields in such a way that encourages neighborhood revitalization and fosters economic development. We need a mayor who will not only repair the broken process for responding to illegal dumping, but also seek tougher penalties for dumpers and work with the health department and neighborhoods to prevent dumping and effectively enforce dumping laws. We need a mayor who will look seriously at best practices in building a sustainable infrastructure and create incentives to put those practices into action.

A few decades ago, Mayor Bill Hudnut made a commitment for Indianapolis to dust off its undesirable reputation as Naptown and transform the city into a vibrant, clean and dynamic city that delights its residents and pleasantly surprises its visitors. Indianapolis has largely achieved that thanks to vision and commitment.

Our next mayor, whoever prevails, has an opportunity to allow sustainability to play a key role in taking our city to the next level. And we believe that with focus, fiscal discipline, and a passion from the bully pulpit, he or she can harness the energies of our community to give our peer cities a run for their money, and continue our city’s upward climb.

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