Monday, December 22, 2008

Cockrel Unveils Green Efforts

I was away from the blogosphere for most of last week.

While I was away, Interim Mayor Kenneth V. Cockrel, Jr. announced the creation of an Office of Energy & Sustainability last week. This new office, which will exist within the Mayor's Office itself, will be responsible for a variety of green initiatives in Detroit.

Some of the ones that Mayor Cockrel has identified include:
  • Cut energy costs borne by the City that could be as modest as changing the type of light bulbs;
  • Create a "Green Council" comprised of representatives from City agencies to find ways to improve energy use in City buildings;
  • Start "Green Thumbs Up," which will launch by this spring to provide parcels of City land to community groups for urban gardening; and
  • In July, if Mayor Cockrel is still in office, the City intends to implement a pilot curbside recycling program for 15,000 west side households and 15,000 east side households.
I have two criticisms about this effort - ones that admittedly seem contradictory at first glace.

First, while it's great that Mayor Cockrel is launching this new effort, I'm disappointed that we haven't heard anything from him in months about how he is going to improve the Detroit Police and Fire Departments. I don't think we have to chose between improving our environment impact and strengthening our police and fire departments. It's possible to do both.

My second criticism has to do with how little the Cockrel Administration is doing as part of this Green Initiative. The City of Detroit might start using compact fluorescent light bulbs, but we're still demolishing vacant buildings instead of deconstructing them - something that would lower our costs, create a couple thousand new jobs and result in less debris ending up in a landfill. (For more information on deconstruction, please click here.)

The Cockrel Administration might convene representatives from every City agency and call it a "Green Council". However, they're still needlessly reinventing the wheel when the U.S. Conference of Mayors has already outlined a strategy for cities to improve their energy usage.

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