Mayors Promote Solutions to Energy Crisis at National Summit in Chicago
by Debra DeHaney-Howard and Judy Sheahan
May 22, 2006
Under the leadership of Conference President Long Beach Mayor Beverly O’Neill, over 100 mayors, business leaders and energy experts gathered in Chicago May 10-11 for an urgent National Summit on Energy and the Environment to sound a national alarm on the country’s energy and environmental challenges and to share innovative Best Practices and strategies that are being initiated at the local level.
With record-level gas prices and rising fuel costs in America, The Summit, hosted by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley whose city is considered one of the “greenest” in the world, covered a broad range of topics, including air quality, climate change, alternative energy sources, alternative vehicles, public transit and green housing and buildings.
“Mayors are very concerned about the recent spike in fuel and energy costs and the financial burden it places on American citizens and their families. We know that aggressive action is necessary to turn this tide, and we are taking the lead in addressing the nation’s energy challenges to reduce our dependency on foreign oil. We can not wait on the federal government; we must do what mayors do best and act now,” said O’Neill.
O’Neill stated the nation’s mayors have heard President Bush’s declaration that America is “addicted to oil,” and noted that, “The Conference is on the forefront of the national effort to find comprehensive, long-term solutions to move the country from this energy crisis toward energy independence.”
“There are things that mayors can do to help our constituents deal with the energy crisis. And that’s why we’re having this conference – to share ideas on how we can conserve energy and encourage the development of new forms of energy,” Daley said in welcoming the Summit participants.
The point was reiterated by Conference Executive Director Tom Cochran. “The mayors are leading the way from the bottom up to build constituencies in every region for a self sufficient energy policy with in our nation that will reduce this unfair burden on all citizens who are working everyday for themselves or their families,” he added.
In addition to hearing from mayors on energy and environmental Best Practices in their cities, the Conference released a best practice guide that provides more than 75 innovative short-term solutions to energy dependence. Numerous cities like Chicago, Austin, Los Angeles, and Charlotte, contributed to the guide that illustrates specifically how mayors are dealing with this crisis on a local level.
At the conclusion of the Summit, the mayors pledged to develop an Energy and Environmental Action Agenda to be issued at the Conference’s Annual Meeting in June in Las Vegas. Among the items to be included in the Action Agenda, the mayors are calling for the following six initial steps to help alleviate energy problems:
1 Invest more money in transportation options including public and mass transit, bike paths, etc.
2 Encourage at the local, state, and federal level the building or rehabilitation of more energy efficient buildings in both the public and private sector.
3 Encourage automakers to make more energy efficient cars as well as encouraging individuals to buy vehicles that are more energy efficient including alternative fuels, hybrids, and plug-in hybrids.
4 Encourage more investment in renewable and alternative energy through additional incentives.
5 Encourage more mixed-use development to allow people to have more walkable communities.
6 Encourage the public and private sector, as well as citizens, to do their part in conserving energy.
“This Summit has provided innovative ways for mayors to formulate a national energy plan that reduces the nation’s dependency on oil. Sustained investments in new energy technology, smarter building codes, conservation improvements, and building rehabilitation means more dollars in the local economy, which translates into vitality at home, while crating more energy independence and less energy demand in the future,” said O’Neill during her closing remarks.
For copies of the presentations, see usmayors.org.