The Federal Department of Transportation was there. So was HUD. And EPA (hi Melanie Wood!) and many state and local agencies. Also there were small non-profits (like ours) and larger ones- Gene D. from Cascade Land Conservancy gave the motivational talk.
Why? Remember when HUD, DOT and EPA announced they would collaborate about this time last year ? S2 went to the SMART growth conference right after this mandate and reported on what Ron Sims and other leaders in federal government said....check out the blogs if ya like. And earlier than that, S2, along with many other nonprofits, was invited by EPA to come give our ideas on how the EPA can reach sustainability in our region
Six principles were developed to guide this collaboration:
1. Provide more transportation choices.
Develop safe, reliable and economical transportation choices to decrease household transportation costs, reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil, improve air quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote public health.
2. Promote equitable, affordable housing.
Expand location- and energy-efficient housing choices for people of all ages, incomes, races and ethnicities to increase mobility and lower the combined cost of housing and transportation.
3. Enhance economic competitiveness.
Improve economic competitiveness through reliable and timely access to employment centers, educational opportunities, services and other basic needs by workers as well as expanded business access to markets.
4. Support existing communities.
Target federal funding toward existing communities – through such strategies as transit-oriented, mixed-use development and land recycling – to increase community revitalization, improve the efficiency of public works investments, and safeguard rural landscapes.
5. Coordinate policies and leverage investment.
Align federal policies and funding to remove barriers to collaboration, leverage funding and increase the accountability and effectiveness of all levels of government to plan for future growth, including making smart energy choices such as locally generated renewable energy.
6. Value communities and neighborhoods.
Enhance the unique characteristics of all communities by investing in healthy, safe and walkable neighborhoods – rural, urban or suburban.
What does this mean?
The Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies is trying to figure this out. They convened about 250 people in Gould Hall on the UW campus. Four qustions were asked of all:
1. What are the specific barriers to implementing sustainable communities that could be addressed through federal programs and policies?
2. With the federal agencies working in a more integrated way, what specific opportunities are created at the state and local levels?
3. What specific actions could be taken now to implement sustainable communities projects (in your community) within the next 3 years, given federal support?
4. How could funding be administered more collaboratively? What opportunities would be created by integrated funding programs?
Many at the tables has specific ideas. Most of the talks were in platitudes. It is hard to shift a system- how do we get from the platitudes, from the input, to sustainable community partnerships, or even sustainable communities?
And is it already too little and too late. The change in administration leading to creation of new roles, new offices, but will massive change and implementation take place in a new administration and so be thwarted? Is this the wrong question.
I think so. It can't be too late or too little- this journey of change is a "marathon," not a "sprint," as Eldan, our Director of Operations says. We have a long way to go, and can't give up just because some talk in platitudes and some change in federal, state or local agencies or other organizations will be a long time coming. If its too late now, it was probably too late last generation and will be too late the next generation. So- in a way, we do not have a choice but to stay in the marathon.
So- what were some of the specific ideas for DOT, HUD & EPA?
Build capacity for collaboration for all federal, state and local program managers through trainings on how to collaborate internally and externally for an organization, through specific metrics for sustainability for all projects and through education of the public on sustainability -what it means to individual /its benefits and burdens.
Change the federal funding programs - tie funding to sustainability outcomes or metrics. Make it a one stop shop so those with programs and projects go to one agency or person and the government navigates and helps the funded get the funding. Immediately -Fund shovel ready sustainability projects - not just environmental, but social and economic too. Create a sustainability CRA (community reinvestment act).
Collect and create model sustainability code for states, cities and municipalities to adopt. Codes for stormwater, brownwater, urban and small agriculture, high density homes, low income homes, hyper local businesses and distribution systems, etc. This can include best practices and worst practices for these codes.
We know these things need to be done. So do "they." We knew it a generation ago- and generations ago. We will know it in future. Does this mean it is futile? No. While knowing and doing are different (you can know that eating sugar is bad for you, and still do it), knowing does make a difference, and sometimes action does happen- sometimes sooner and sometimes later.
Thank you to Runstad Center for hosting the event, and thank you to DOT, EPA, and HUD for listening. Now- onward. We are interested in continuing the work. Nonprofits who where there, and those who where not, we would like to convene, find where we overlap and work together, where appropriate, for funding our projects. If you would like to be involved, or know someone who should be involved, please email firstname.lastname@example.org