Lawrence city leaders supportive of incorporating elements of Green New Deal into city plans

photo by: Mike Yoder

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., is pictured Thursday, July 7, 2016

City of Lawrence leaders have agreed to incorporate aspects of the Green New Deal into the city plans, including goals related to environmentally sustainable jobs and infrastructure.

As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission voted unanimously to direct staff to integrate five sustainability principles into city plans wherever possible. Jasmin Moore, sustainability coordinator for the city and Douglas County, told the commission that some of the principles overlapped with previously established goals of the commission but efforts could be more cohesive and deliberate.

“The ask is to integrate these (principles) in the Lawrence plans and policies so that they can be institutionalized and carried forward across the board, and not just held out separately,” Moore said.

Moore said that the principles were modeled after draft legislation proposed at the federal level known as the Green New Deal and that some overlapped with the city’s green energy and strategic plan goals. Last year, Lawrence joined other communities across the nation by setting specific goals for renewable energy use, with the ultimate goal of powering the entire city with all renewable energy by 2035. Moore said that the commission’s strategic plan goals regarding equity, sustainability, economic security and infrastructure also aligned with the principles.

The city’s Sustainability Advisory Board voted in November to recommend that the city endorse and incorporate the principles into city plans and functions. The five principles are as follows, according to a city staff memo to the commission.

• To achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through a fair and just transition for all communities and workers;

• To create jobs with livable wages to ensure prosperity and economic security for all people;

• To invest in the infrastructure and industry to sustainably meet the challenges of the 21st century;

• To secure for all people for generations to come: clean air and water; climate and community resiliency; healthy food; access to nature; and a sustainable environment;

• To promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future and repairing historic oppression of Indigenous peoples, communities of color, migrant communities, de-industrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the working poor, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities and youth.

Commissioner Lisa Larsen, a retired environmental geologist, has been a strong supporter of the city’s renewable energy goals and other sustainability efforts. Larsen said it was her belief that the city was moving in the direction of the principles, but not fast enough.

“In order to meet our goals, we have to keep these five principles before us,” Larsen said.

In response to a question from Larsen regarding how the principles would work with the city’s strategic plan, City Manager Craig Owens said that the plan had goals as well as commitments the city would abide by as it worked toward those goals, one of which includes environmental sustainability. As a result, Owens said specific performance indicators regarding sustainability would be set as part of the plan, as well as specific strategies for meeting them.

Other commissioners also said they supported the principles, with Commissioner Courtney Shipley adding that the process of coming up with specific action items would be key.

“It’s fine to make these bold statements, but I want to know specific programs or specific items that can help me get there,” Shipley said. “And of course, that’s what the strategic plan is going to help us do.”

Those details will be discussed in coming weeks. City staff is in the process of developing key performance metrics for the goals and commitments laid out in the strategic plan, and its anticipated that the proposed metrics will be presented to the commission in March.

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