By Valeria A. Gheorghiu
This past Thursday, the Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) hosted a Public Visioning Session on August 19, 2010 to plan implementation of the recently passed Climate Smart and Green Jobs Community Pledge. With public participation, the Pledge aims to reduce Kingston’s electricity use by 15% by 2015 while simultaneously developing a green economy.
The Public Visioning Sessions are quarterly community-wide stakeholder meeting soliciting public input and encouraging community leadership to help draft and implement a Climate Action Plan, as per the collaborative model of the pledge. Additionally, Meredith Neirenberg of NYSERDA gave a presentation on her work with the Focus on Local Governments program for Kingston and the work she is doing to create a baseline implementation report using the Wendell Energy Study, an energy audit of City properties conducted in 2007. Jennifer Schwartz-Berky from Bard College also presented the work of student research in support of the Pledge. The meeting was held at the Common Council Chambers in the Kingston City Hall from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM.
The Public Visioning Sessions feature break-out sessions in six focus areas for group brainstorming so as to provide impetus for action and to facilitate community leadership. The focus groups include Recycling and Solid Waste, Energy Demand Reduction, Renewable Energy, Community Land Use Planning, Planning for Climate Change, and Green Innovation. Each focus group will be encouraged to meet on their own in between quarterly public meetings and will eventually pick two members to serve on the Climate Smart and Green Jobs Taskforce. The Taskforce will work with the CAC and city employees, including a Climate Analyst, to reduce the city’s carbon footprint. The next Public Visioning Session is in November.
Ideas discussed by some of the 17 participants for the Climate Action Plan on Thursday included:
More bike paths
More efficient trash pick up
A tree inventory to keep up with our Tree City USA status
More farmers markets for midtown and downtown to support the local food economy
A right to farm law
Renewable energy use by city buildings
User friendly energy audits
Public education campaigns
The purpose of the Public Visioning Sessions is also to help coordinate environmental efforts currently underway that are already accomplishing the goals of the Pledge, such as “Pay as you Throw,” “Leave it on the Lawn” (Kingston), Healthy Kingston for Kids (Cornell, KLT, Kingston), and Green Storm-water Infrastructure (Clearwater).
The CAC and the City will spearhead reducing the carbon footprint of municipally owned properties, while the community and business owners are encouraged to work to reduce their own carbon footprint in Kingston. Creativity is welcome. “In order for an initiative as cross-cutting and ambitious as the Pledge to work, the Pledge needs a democratic process and community leadership. The emergent needs of the environment and our economy require us all to pool our ideas, resources and cooperative spirit together to safeguard our economic and environmental future,” said Valeria A. Gheorghiu, an active Commissioner of the CAC.
The Common Council passed the Climate Smart and Green Jobs Community Pledge in early October of 2009. While the City of Kingston pledges to lead by example, with the aid of the CAC, the pledge also requires collaboration with the communities, institutions and businesses in Kingston. The CAC aspires to achieve community wide participation through quarterly Public Visioning Sessions over the next year until a Climate Action Plan has been drafted. Any supportive member of the community is welcome to attend and participate in the development of the Pledge.
If groups wish to receive information or a presentation, please contact Julie Noble, Chair of the CAC at (845) 331-1682 x 7339 or JulieLNoble@kingston-ny.gov.
About the Conservation Advisory Council:
The Conservation Advisory Council is a City Agency comprised of community volunteers appointed by the Mayor and the Common Council. It was created in January of 2009 and its goal is to further the conservation efforts of the City of Kingston by advising the Common Council and conducting outreach to the public and City Agencies on environmental measures. It helped draft the Climate Smart and Green Jobs Community Pledge.
Julie Noble, Chair (845) 331-1682 x 7339, JulieLNoble@kingston-ny.gov