Tag Archive | Municipalities

Nine Cities, Nine Green Ideas

Ben

The Wall Street Journal ran a nice piece on Monday looking at 9 cities around the world and steps they’ve taken to reduce energy consumption.

 Some of the highlights:

  • Chicago’s efforts to plant rooftop gardens to cool municipal buildings.
rooftop garden in Chitown
  • Amsterdam’s cool water air conditioning system.
  • London’s “localized power” concept – moving energy generation closer to users.

    [Enrgy-london.jpg]
  • New York’s tidal generation – this is my personal favourite.

[Enrgy-newyork.jpg]

The only one on the list that didn’t make sense to me was Bejing.  Apparently, in an effort to both cut energy consumption and reduce pollution leading up to the Olympics, Bejing has been focusing on closing and moving a number of cement kilns, coal mines and chemical plants.  I think the key piece is the moving aspect.  I’m pretty sure it doesn’t count as reduction if you’re just shifting the plant to another area…but I’m not an scientist, nor am I Chinese.

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This is why, this is why I’m dork

Ben 

I’m probably the worst dork ever.  I’m not dorky enough to know all the Simpson’s or Star Trek episodes, but I’m enough of a dork to make women slightly uneasy in my presence.  Frankly, I like it.

My mid-level dorkiness explains why I was giddy as a schoolgirl when I found this.

mappy.jpg

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Is this really an honour?

Ben

This kind of news story cracks me up.  I get a little update each day from the International City Managers Association with municipal news from around the world (yes, my dorkiness has been well established, thanks.)

So this story catches my eye.  What great news, Portland is the #1 green city! Huzzah!

But wait…named top green city by…Organic Gardening Magazine?  And it’s the top green city “of its size in the United States”?  The heck does that even mean?

I’m sorry, but when your illustrious list includes Burlington, Vt., Fargo, N.D., Sioux Falls, S.D. and Billings, Montana I just can’t take it seriously.  Those places are “green” because nobody lives there.  Hell, my list of “green cities” would include Wamsutter, WY and Grygla, MN.

So the lesson?  Always check the source before getting ready to write a post about how great this is for Portland.

Oh, and I totally rocked the bark quiz.

More good municipal planning news from Minnesota

Last week I highlighted a nice affordable housing complex in Minnesota that went green here.  Now there is more good news from Minneapolis, according to the New York Times.

15 years ago the Phillips neighbourhood was similar to many inner-city urban areas: abandoned, derelict buildings abounded, drug traffic was rampant, and residents were fleeing. 

Now, through the work of the Hope Community, the area is in the middle of a major revitalization project.  The group has acquired homes in the area with the help of the city, rehabilitated 10 houses, and developed a 126 affordable housing units, a playground and a community centre.  Plans are in the works for two more projects, one a mixed-use building with 49 rental units and 6,000 sq feet of commercial space.

It appears that the Hope Community has taken a “whole-community” approach to their re-development in an effort to prepare for gentrification as it pushes up from the downtown core.  By creating a mix of affordable housing and mixed use properties Hope Community seeks to develop an area that can be revitalized without forcing out existing residents.

It IS easy being green

Two U.S. municipalities offer some great examples of the relatively small and affordable steps that can be taken to both find cost savings and significantly reduce environmental impacts.

As reported in Governing Magazine, Viking Terrace Apartments, a 60-unit affordable housing complex in Worthington, MN, has made a number green improvements that have reduced environmental impacts and lowered costs for both owners and tenants.  Improvements have include low-flow plumbing fixtures, carpets made from recycled materials, and geo-thermal heating and cooling systems.  To top it off, Viking residents have had their electricity bills cut by 1/3 and water bills drop, as well.

Meanwhile, on the west coast, Richland, WA has realized $150,000 in cost savings since replacing traditional incandesant traffic lights with LED lights in 2002.  City engineers also state that the LED traffic lights are cheaper and easier to maintain as they need less frequent replacement.  Check out the news report here (warning, local news!).

So, there you have it.  Two examples of some easy steps developers and municipalities can take.  If you have a minute, ask your Mayor why you don’t have LED lights yet or your apartment manager about getting low-flow toilets.  Hell, send them a link to this post!

Leamington, Ontario BIA under fire for anti-U.S. Top Ten List

In an effort to keep shoppers from flocking to the Detroit area this holiday season the Leamington, Ontario Business Improvement Area has released a list of “Top Ten Reasons to Shop in Uptown Leamington.”

That, in itself, is find and dandy. The issue I have with this list is that it plays on stereotypical fears and racist preconceptions of the Detroit area in an effort to keep shoppers in Leamington.

You can tell there was an attempt at humor in this list – poorly executed, but an attempt. However, I take issue with one item in particular.

Number 7 on the list states that “If you’re going to downtown Detroit and you speak English … good luck.” The humorous intent behind this statement is unclear. It would appear instead that this is one of two things: A reference to the high proportion of African Americans who live in downtown Detroit, or a reference to the general intelligence of Americans as a whole.

As someone who’s had an opportunity to spend a good deal of time in Leamington I can surmise that is the former option. In fact, last I’d checked Leamington still had a by-law on the books from the 1800’s that forbids a “negro” from entering the city limits after dark (Note: I have not been able to substantiate this recently, so it may have been rescinded in the past 5 years – way to go, Leamington).

The fact that the BIA resorts to this sterotyping is both typical and trite. Rural Ontarians near the U.S. border all seem to have “horror” stories of getting lost in Detroit, invariably on their drive down to Florida. It’s as if I-75 is some Bermuda Triangle for Canadians that sucks them to the worst parts of Cass Corridor.

None, however, seem to find the time to actually visit Detroit. If they are crossing the border they are either going south or heading to the the suburbs to shop. And yet these stereotypes persist.

I have had the great (mis)fortune of spending a substantial amount of time in Leamington (most weekends between the ages of 16-19), and I can see little of value in shopping there rather than Windsor, let alone Detroit. Last I recall, Leamington was knows for three things: The Worlds Largest Tomato, having a Heinz plant, and having a dock from which the ferry to Pelee Island leaves from for half the summer.

So Leamington, why don’t you spend less time discriminating against Detroit in particular and America as a whole, and more time actually figuring out how to develop an economy that is based on more than greenhouses and cheap imported Mexican labourers.

Here’s the list as reproduced in the Windsor Star:

  • 10. U.S. Customs won’t believe you’re picking up Aunt Elsie at the airport for the third time this week.
  • 9. Distance from parking space to Somerset Mall entrance further than your house to Erie and Talbot.
  • 8. If you’re going to downtown Detroit and you speak French … good luck.
  • 7. If you’re going to downtown Detroit and you speak English … good luck.
  • 6. U.S. stores sooner ship to Guam than Essex County.
  • 5. American cashiers keep asking what Helen Mirren is doing on the Canadian $20.
  • 4. No need to wear that new gown under your sweats coming back over the Ambassador.
  • 3. Being strip searched at customs should not be part of your holiday shopping tradition.
  • 2. With the gas and time you’ll save why risk it in a crazy foreign country.
  • 1. Uptown Leamington has over 200 unique shops, restaurants and other attractions, takes your loonies and has the best service in North America.
Note: Thanks to Sandy for the tip on this one.

San Francisco converts city fleet to biodiesel fuel

The New York Times is reporting that San Francisco has just completed a year long project which converted all city vehicles to be able to run on bio-diesel fuel.

The fleet of city vehicles have been converted to run on B20, a mix of 20% soy-based fuel and 80% petroleum based diesel fuel. 

This fleet switch over has also been coupled with a new “SFGreasecycle” program designed to collect fats and cooking oils from city restaurants for conversion to bio-diesel fuels.

While there are obvious benefits to using bio-diesel fuel, the method is not without critics.  Some argue that bio-diesel fuels have the possibility to create food shortages while the positive overall impact on the climate is questioned.

However, do I think this is better than a strict fossil fuel diet?  Can’t hurt.

Off-duty Police Officers Shoot and Kill 17-year-old in D.C.

Here’s an interesting tie-in to my earlier post on the “ShotSpotter” that was being set up in Boston.

Apparently, Washingon D.C. has also rolled one out a while ago, and it is playing a part in the recent shooting death of a 17-year-old by two off duty police officers.

At first glance this seems very cut and dry: officers a pursuing a robbery suspect are fired upon and return fire, killing the suspect.  This, however, doesn’t appear to be the case.  Apparently these two officers were off duty when they discovered that one of their motorbikes was stolen.  So, they do what any good cop would do – they go vigilante.  After driving around the neigbourhood they eventually spot  DeOnte Rawlings.  After giving chase, the officers claim they were fired upon, after which they climbed out of their SUV and shot Rawlings.

There are three unsettling things here.  First, the officers were off duty, out of uniform, and acting on their own.  Second, no gun has been recovered, although according to ShotSpotter .45 caliber was fired.  And third, the officers NEVER IDENTIFIED THEMSELVES AS POLICE.  So, all this guy knew was that he was being chased by two guys in a SUV.

Futhermore, the police are relying on the evidence of ShotSpotter and its anlysts, none of which is allowable as evidence, nor is there any public oversight of this private organization.

Just some more food for thought for everyone who feels like the police can never do any wrong.  Check out the article here.

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