Town hall meeting on sustainability in local government

04/10/07 Seán Kinane
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This morning at the Children's Board of Hillsborough County in Ybor City, U.S. Representative Kathy Castor convened a town hall meeting to discuss sustainability and energy conservation in local government. Many local leaders participated; including Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio who said that light rail is crucial to making Tampa a green city.



But in the City of Tampa it is critical that we change our land-use plan in the next 24 months to support light rail. And that’s going to mean higher densities in key areas. …


 Representative Castor says that Floridians are being “socked” by property taxes and one main reason taxes are so high is because of development that is sprawling into rural areas.



“Well, it directly relates to the growth pattern in this community. Because as long as we continue on the path of sprawling outward and consuming our ag [-ricultural] lands, it’s going to cost us more. Because it’s more expensive to build those roads, it’s more expensive to lay those pipes, April, it’s more expensive to build those schools in the outlying areas. What makes greater sense from an energy conservation point of view, an environmental point of view, public health, is the in-town redevelopment.”


 Robert Hunter is the Executive Director of the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission. He echoed Castor’s warning about the unsustainability of sprawl.



“I’ve seen a huge corridor coming through the center of Florida. [panel: ‘Bad idea.’] Undeveloped Florida. Now, is that what the general public has said they want? [panel: ‘No.’]  My concern is: once they start building that road, you know they will come. And it will certainly not be a sustainable Florida that I think a lot of us who presently live here and I expect those people coming here, want.” 


First-term County Commissioner Rose Ferlita, said that environmentalism and energy sustainability are not issues of one particular party, in contrast to what one of her colleagues thinks.



“I have to share a story with you that happened to me yesterday after the Tribune announced Rep. Castor’s summit. An acquaintance of mine at the County came up to me and said, ‘Hey I see Rose where you’re going to be on that.’ And he gave me a very puzzled look. And I said, ‘What’s the matter?’ He said ‘What are you doing? Environment and energy are Democrat issues.’ [laughter] I looked him. I want to tell you I want to keep my comments acceptable, so I will call his comments naïve, just to say the least.”


 One reason that local politicians are beginning to get serious about the environment is because of the danger of human-caused global climate change due to greenhouse gas emissions. Dr. Steven Mulkey is the Director of Research and Outreach/Extension in the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Florida and is an expert in climate change and sustainability. One of his slides showed how much of Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties would be underwater during a storm surge based on predicted sea level rise - about a meter by 2010. Temperatures have already increased by 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit and could increase by as many as 8 degrees by the end of the century. He said that about 30 percent of species will go extinct but that number is likely to be higher in Florida. Mulkey feels that in addition to helping the environment, acting now to reverse emissions will result in a huge economic windfall.



“We need to cut emissions 60-80% by mid-century. Can we do it? I believe the answer is solidly ‘yes,’ but as Rep. Castor pointed out we need the will. … One third of Florida’s energy needs can be met by 2023 and save $60 billion.”


 One way to reduce emissions is through sustainable construction, also called green building. Buildings that incorporate such design improvements as water conservation or renewable energy can be documented as sufficiently sustainable through LEED certification.Mark Smith is the Florida President of the American Institute of Architects or AIA.  He emphasized the economic savings of green buildings.



“How many spare planets do we have? … An up-front investment of 2% of the green building design on average results in life-cycle savings of 20% of the total construction costs. More than ten times the initial investment. A four-dollar investment per square foot in green building nets 58 dollars per square foot over 20 years.”


 Mickey Jacob from AIA reminded attendees that Mayor Iorio has signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement that pledges to comply with the AIA’s 2030 Policy that will require that all new construction reduce energy use by half this decade. By 2030 each building must generate all of the energy it requires.



“[What we would like to see is a 50% reduction in all of the energy used to construct, build and operate buildings with a benchmark of 2003 costs for the same building type.] So any building built starting in 2010 would have a 50% reduction against the benchmark of 2003 [energy] costs. With a continued reduction of 10 percent every 5 years until the year 2030 in which we would be completely carbon neutral with any building designed in the United States.”


 During a February candidate forum covered by WMNF, first-term City Council member Mary Mulhern promised that all new City of Tampa construction would meet LEED certification. Today, her fellow City Council member, Linda  Saul-Sena pointed out a similar policy enacted by the city of Boulder.



“In Boulder CO, in 2001, the City Council adopted a policy that all new or significantly renovated city facilities are built to a LEED-Silver level. That’s the kind of thing that we can do.”


  But buildings are not the only places where the city can go green. Saul-Sena promised to address sustainability in all of the purchases made by the city.



“Working with the administration, I look forward to making sure that all of our purchases, whether for buildings, for cleaning supplies, for carpets, all of the different things that in running a city you have to purchase, are made with an idea toward sustainability. To make sure that our choices are the non-toxic choices that they’re the choices that were made in a way that treads lightest on the planet. And we can do this.”




You can make suggestions to The Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission by calling 813-272-5940 or by visiting their website, THE-PLANNING-COMMISSION -dot- ORG.






The Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission


Phone: 813-272-5940






Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners 


 Dr. Stephen Mulkey


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