If the city wants to be a leader in reducing global warming, it needs a new blue-ribbon task force to help guide its environmental practices, city commissioners will be told tonight.
City commissioners will be asked at their weekly meeting this evening to create a new Mayor's Task Force on Climate Protection to help the community create a plan for reducing its greenhouse gas emissions.
"We're really looking for a group that hopefully will help us create a road map," said Tammy Bennett, who is working on the project as an assistant director of the city's Public Works Department.
The group is an offshoot of a 2006 decision by the City Commission to sign the Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement, which is a voluntary program under which cities commit to reduce carbon emissions by 7 percent before 2012.
Part of the agreement involves creating a specific community plan for reducing carbon emissions. Bennett said the new group, if created by the commission, could be a major asset in creating the plan.
As proposed, the group would include: one city commissioner; the CEO of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce; a manager of Westar Energy; an executive of The World Company, which owns the Journal-World; a member of the medical field; an environmental leader; a member of the construction industry; a leader of USD 497; a Kansas University leader; a Haskell Indian Nations University leader; a representative of one of the city's larger private employers; an architect or engineer; a citizen advocate; and a member of the Sustainability Advisory Board.
Some of the members might serve dual roles because the commission would have no more than 12 members, as currently proposed.
The task force is being recommended by the city's Sustainability Advisory Board. Richard Heckler, a long-time member of the city advisory board, said he envisions the task force talking about a variety of issues including new building codes that promote better energy efficiency, landscaping guidelines that would require less energy be spent on mowing and chemicals, and ways to make the community more walkable.
City Commissioner Boog Highberger - who was mayor when the city signed the climate protection agreement - said he originally didn't think such a task force was needed, but now is supportive of the idea.
"I've been really disappointed at the rate of progress we've made on the issue, and this might help it move ahead," Highberger said.
Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. tonight at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.