Tampa City Council workshop on Green Jobs thin on specifics

04/23/09 Seán Kinane
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This morning the Tampa City Council held a workshop on how the city can use funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to create green jobs. Some Council members were unsatisfied with the level of specifics that City administrators could provide about stimulus funding coming to the city.

Council member Mary Mulhern placed the green jobs item on the workshop agenda. She says creating green jobs helps to solve environmental and economic problems at the same time.

“You’re giving people jobs, they’re local jobs, and that’s going to spur economic development.”

A recently-formed group called Green Jobs for the People is working to make sure that a portion of the stimulus money for sustainability jobs reaches low-income and at-risk populations. On Thursday they told City Council they want collaboration and equitable distribution of funds.

One member of Green Jobs for the People is Toni Watts, CEO of CDC of Tampa, a nonprofit that works to revitalize neighborhoods. “Green Jobs for the People calls for the City of Tampa to take advantage of funding for green jobs training and placement funding in the stimulus act to develop our community’s capacity to open pathways out of poverty,” Watts said.

Taryn Sabia is co-founder of the design collaborative known as Urban Charrette and was one of 13 people to speak during the public comment section of the workshop. She announced plans for her new business called Sunna Power to bring more than 75 jobs in solar power to East Tampa “because we know that that is a place that would really benefit from having a headquarters of this nature here in this city.”

Lisa Montelione, with Rising Force Construction, agreed that the city should hold a Green Summit to connect people with ideas with those seeking green jobs.

“So [we need to] pay some specific attention and get some specific information on how those dollars would be utilized.”

Tampa’s Director of Growth Management and Development Services Cyndy Miller says that three million dollars of stimulus funding for making homes more energy efficient has come to THAP – the Tampa-Hillsborough Action Plan, a not for profit organization. According to Miller, households that qualify – such as a four person household with income less than 44 thousand dollars – would be eligible for 6500 dollars of weatherizing. In response to City Council questions about other federal funding that Tampa might be eligible for, Miller said she isn’t able to provide specifics yet.

“It’s not that we are being silent because we’re not actively looking at things, but we are now waiting – I believe it’s about two weeks away. We’re waiting for the federal government to do their notice of availability of funding. And that is – we need to see what rules they are putting – how they are packaging these grants. So that’s going to be the first step. … But in, I believe, the first week of May, the federal government has indicated they will make this information available about what grants will be made available.”

There was confusion among council members about how much federal funding the city is receiving. Some said there is three million dollars in weatherization funding that will be administered by THAP, but Council chair Thomas Scott says the number is higher.

“With this money there’s a time constraint. And what someone told me was that with the $32 million that we’ve been allocated that’s supposed to be coming to the City of Tampa alone, really to do green jobs – that they have to spend those dollars within like 90 days.”

The confusion led Council member Mary Mulhern to make a motion asking for a report from City administration about what grants are being applied for and how much stimulus funding the city expects to receive for green jobs and weatherization of homes. Mulhern’s motion passed unanimously and Council asked to hear from administration on May 7th.

“Well, it was great to hear from all the people ideas about what they wanted to do. But I think it became very clear that we don’t know what the City is doing – what the administration is doing – to get some of the stimulus money. And I think that we need to know – the public needs to know and Council needs to know. So I think that one of the things that came out of it is we need that report that we asked for in two weeks to hear what’s happening, ” Mulhern said.

Another member of Green Jobs for the People, Rev. Warren Clark, is associate director of FUSE -- Faiths United for Sustainable Energy. Clark says he is encouraged by the public’s interest and the “whirlwind of entrepreneurialism” in the community.

“Well, I think that there is a real hunger for specifics.”

In related business spurred by comments of several members of the public, a resolution by Council member Linda Saul-Sena passed unanimously. She asked for the administration to revisit city construction rules in order to encourage cisterns and reduce fees for people installing green roofs.

City of Tampa

Tampa City Council

CDC of Tampa

WMNF coverage of Green Jobs for the People


Urban Charrette

Sunna Power

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Of course there are no specifics. They have no idea what to do with this money. How disappointing.