Benson not in attendance today, so Kerwin leads the meeting this afternoon.
Each person introduces themselves. 32 total people in attendance.
Presentation (A): Simone Lightfoot, National Wildlife Federation
Simone heads the National Urban Initiatives department for NWF. The organization’s urban work is less known, but recently and they have doubled down on that work. Last September brought to national stage. Simone stresses how conservation work can be scientific and talk in terms of data, but it is a struggle getting “black and brown” perspectives on conservation and environmental issues. In an effort to incorporate some of these missing voices, NWF organized “GREEN TALK & CHEWS” focus group events in Detroit, Cleveland, and Toledo, where residents of color discussed their local knowledge and perception of issues relating to the environment and conservation. To support authenticity, the focus groups were held at familiar restaurants with parking, avoiding white sterile walls. Rather than focus on scientific data, the point of these meetings were to hear unfiltered grass roots perspectives from all levels, to receive raw feedback. Hence, the document outlining the results from the project does not include an executive summary.
Water was a common thread and issue in the focus group discussions, relating to utility shutoffs/water privatization, lead poisoning, quality, degrading infrastructure, corruption, flooding, algal glooms, and recreation. In Detroit in particular several other themes emerged as well, including residential foreclosures, police brutality, public education being under assault, and Detroit’s community health overall. Simone stresses that it’s difficult to talk about “green” issues/things if kids in these communities are getting shot, so it is important to think and talk about guns and other issues more pressing to urban centers as well. Another issues brought up by participants was accessibility for the elderly. Things like the time length of cross-walk lights and the height of bus steps are issues. Open question of how we care for and look out for the elderly in bad situations.
Simone mentions how NWF is struggling with budget issues since under the new Trump administration. In the past the organization has had to handle changes in budget by a few million here, or a few million there, but now entire agencies are being cut.
Looking forward, while agriculture is always being pushed by cities, but there are more options than that in terms of “greenifying” a city. Infrastructure and greenways and other things are import ant too. Open question: how can green organizations help smaller local organizations? It’s important to understand shifting demographics. More and more foundations are demanding/requiring diversity in organizations, and Simone stresses that in general conservation has to become less “white”. However, it’s important to acknowledge that just putting people of color on boards and in management positions being it’s a requirement isn’t authentic and doesn’t help solve racism in institutions/organizations. Searching for authenticity and underrepresented voices is the goal of this program. Simone is trying to connected and help people, not have it all just be words.
Presentation (B): Joel Howrani Heeres, Office of Sustainability
Introduces himself. He worked at ecoworks for several years on climate change action plans, also worked at DTE for a while (private sector), now in government.
The new sustainability office is a small office within the Mayor’s, so to get stuff done we need to leverage relationships with others.
Joel is brand new on the job so things are in flux, but his current areas of focus include increasing walk and bike-ability in the city, increasing water/air quality, and increasing better quality of life.
We should think of Joel and the new office as a convener and engager with all the environmental/sustainability things already going on in the city. With the rentable bikes downtown and the new q-line, we have an opportunity to start marketing ourselves with new transit. Biggest LED streetlight system in the country is something we can highlight as well.
Open question: how do we establish and plan our common metrics to work toward together? Creating a sustainability action agenda for the city is one of Joel’s top priorities. Open question: in order rot establish the action plan, should we consider asking local people what are the issues they are facing in the neighborhoods. and what theirs ideas on solutions are? Joel wants to make it a really participatory thing, leveraging and working through established community organizations (including the task force!) to get this done. Let’s use our ears to collect valuable info to make this action plan Another goal is to create a website to track goals online and to make info easily accessible.
Joel cares about this stuff in his daily life – he is a bike commuter, collects rain water, has a garden, and wants to share this with others. He wants to build community and make people feel better economically and environmentally.
Question regarding the action plan: will you include all the work that has already been done? (Simone in regards to her work with the NWF). Answer: Absolutely. Non of this is reinventing the wheel, so they try to use everything they can. Leverage all the work that has been done. Focus on ways to measure the goals.
Will Tiny homes be part of the plan? Leverage what’s been happening before.
Open question: how to we institutionalize this work? How do we infuse this work into policy master plan? The long term plan is to make this automatic, have it fit right in.
Open question: how do we create a constituency for this work? We need to think about ways to hold politicians and adminisation down the road accountable.
Question: ought we require recycling ordinances in new developments? Answer: Institutionalize it, so all new developments start with it. We should Divert as much as we can off the bat. Another question about Incineration issue comes up, but Joel says it’s a big issue and he doesn’t have enough info or experience to answer those questions yet.
Question: In regards to green spaces, how can we/should we create accessibility for all users? Answer: this issue needs to be considered for every single new space we create. We must incorporate perspectives on diversity in the implementation of new spaces.
Question: regarding the action plan, do you see certain priorities bubbling up? And how do you prioritize them? Answer: the action plan will serve as a master plan. Collective decision making will be utilized. Some might be city goals, while others my be community based goals. Use different levels between community and city.
IV: Sub-committee Updates
Zero-Waste: Nattelie: met last month. Working on what the priorities are of the group. Create a zero waste plan for the group and how to implement that. They are trying to get municipal buildings on the recycling program. Working on policies for waste.July meeting at Depot yard. Reached goal of 20% recycling participation, so the new goal of 30% for NEXT august. Creating plans for event zero-waste and recycling. (Kerwin) PSA went out, played on TV and a few radio spots. Open questionL: is the PSA on the website?
Renee Wallace: composting sub-committee. She serves on the Michigan organics council. New legislation in process as it relates to composting. Recommendations being synthesized by DEQ to refine them to go into legislation. 29th of this month and also 29th of next month. Talk to her about joining the committee or learn more. Anyone interested in looking at these things from the DEQ, you can look at the two reports hosted on the DEQ website.
Blue-Green: upcoming meeting this coming tuesday at 1pm. 2727 case avenue. Someone from UM SNRE presenting at 2pm.
Renewable energy subcommittee: Exciting Benson has asked them to make a report for him on health and safety. Advisory group now for both sides of government between task force and sustainability office. Next meeting 71 Garfield on July 14th. Discussion about commitments to standards that building owners reduce emissions by 50% by 2030 and that all new buildings be carbon neutral by 2030.
Can the city become 100% renewable? Joel discusses how it can be an issue of haves and have-nots, and that we need to be realistic about what we could be afford and what’s best for the city. But what’s really cheapest? Regardless, our decisions have to represent our environmental as well as social values.