Executive Director's Column
May 22, 2006
Mayors’ National Summit on Energy & the Environment/Chicago
Mayors went to Chicago last week where we held our Energy and Environment Summit in the midst of what the media is calling an energy crisis.
While the cost of gas is a problem for so many individuals and family budgets as well as city budgets, the Energy Summit went beyond the immediate concern over rising gasoline costs. There is pain at the pump, but the crisis goes well beyond rising gas prices.
Under the leadership of Conference President Mayor Beverly O’Neill, with Mayor Richard M. Daley as our host, mayors and friends of cities came together in one of the most dynamic meetings I have experienced during my long career at The Conference of Mayors.
While the meeting focused on alternate transportation to the present gas-guzzlers, we also brought emphasis on buildings and houses both commercial and private.
As I said at the opening lunch, we remember former Presidents Nixon and Carter who decades ago called for independence from Mideast oil. And we are pleased with President Bush’s State of the Union address as he called on us to remove ourselves from our addiction to oil.
Presidents speak; mayors act. Mayors are joining with new businesses and non-profits to create new partnerships and new coalitions are coming together to change America’s energy infrastructure and indeed save our environment.
Speaker after speaker and expert after expert all said in Chicago that America is at a crossroads on discovering and implementing the best of best practices from the bottom up which means that mayors are not waiting for state governments and the federal government to act.
Ethanol distilleries are planned, hybrid cars are being sold and auto dealers have waiting lists, a hydrogen car has been made, electric “plug in cars”, scooters, bikes and sedgeways are all available and mayors rode and drove all of them in Chicago at our Ride & Drive test drive of the latest vehicle technology which took place in Soldier Field parking lot.
City governments are now using many of these vehicles in their fleets and the general public will buy them and use them because there is an awakening in America, finally, on ridding ourselves from dependency on Mideast oil.
Mayors are committed to changing human behavior and we will continue in the months ahead to convince Washington and American businesses that our citizens will make the right choice if they have a choice. Mayors are making the choice as they incorporate hybrid cars into their fleets. And mayors can change human buying behavior and lead the way for consumers to make these changes with their purchasing habits if there are safe and efficient vehicles on the market.
The transportation discussion has taken a new turn. For decades we have been warned about the damage our automobiles in America are doing the environmental health of our precious plant, Earth. Today Americans are awakening to the reality of what is happening to the planet our grandchildren and children will inherit. Science today shows us the damage done. And science today shows us what will happen to our nation and planet if we don’t change the situation. And experts in Chicago showed us that the science and technology is here ready and available for us to develop.
In addition to gas driven vehicles, the Chicago meeting through our presenters focused on buildings. Expert architects stressed their “2030 Challenge” which calls for all new buildings and developments to be designed to use one half the fossil fuel energy they would typically consume. The “2030 Challenge” calls for the fossil fuel reduction standard for all new buildings be increased to 60 percent in 2010, 70 percent in 2015, 80 percent in 2020, 90 percent in 2025. Their goal is to have carbon neutral buildings by 2030.
Many mayors believe this goal is doable. Key to the carbon neutral building campaign is the building renovation codes that are adopted in cities across America. The architects are asking us to join with them to help attain these goals and they are offering community support to help mayors lead the way in adopting and enforcing codes that will take us to a carbon neutral environment.
No doubt, the Chicago Energy Summit is a landmark meeting for The United States Conference of Mayors. It is a beginning.
Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson gave a penetrating address with power point followed by a question and answer session that will long be remembered as it inspired other mayors to be more active toward energy and environmental solutions. We appreciate his leadership and look forward to his leadership as we approach our 74th Annual Meeting and plan the coming year. We learned from our Chicago meeting. We left our USCM Energy Summit with even more determination to lead the nation with sound best practices, working with the business communities, and non-profits at the local level to create a movement that will not be ignored.
We give special thanks to the leadership of Austin Mayor Will Wynn, Chair of our Energy Committee, Charlotte Mayor Patrick McCrory, Chair of our Environment Committee and Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic, Chair of our Energy Council. Supporting the mayors in this effort were assistant executive directors Debra DeHaney Howard and Judy Sheahan. There is nothing like good teamwork. And believe me we had it in Chicago and we will have it as the new energy and environment issues will touch every aspect of our policy and strategy in the future.
Incoming USCM President Dearborn Mayor Mike Guido will announce in Las Vegas of his intentions to go forth as our president and work with mayors and staff toward a true bottoms-up economic and environment agenda for our future. We look forward to his exciting year as our President.
Yes, Chicago was a beginning and we will continue to work, learn and lead and force Washington and ask state governments to join with us. This is a bottoms-up movement and it will not be stopped. We invite all mayors to join us. We ask for new businesses to join us as new markets are created and we ask for new alliances with non-profits. Together we can make a difference.
Las Vegas 74th Annual Meeting June 2-6
Host Mayor Oscar Goodman has worked with his Las Vegas team to make our annual Meeting one you won’t forget.
Conference President Beverly O’Neill and our mayoral leadership and Conference staff have designed a meeting that we hope will be even more intimate in that mayors can experience sessions with other mayors and learn from the best practices and then take new ideas and solutions back home to meet the challenges of their own cities.
Viva Las Vegas! And Viva The United States Conference of Mayors and the great group of dynamic USA mayors! I look forward to seeing you soon at our 74th Annual Conference of Mayors in Las Vegas June 2.