I found some quotes I’d scribbled down from a New Republic event last December (link has streamable video of the entire event) about how state and local governments are responding to climate change. The first panel, in particular, had a refreshing focus on the built environment, thanks to two remarkable mayors who truly understand the value of building sustainable communities.
Jim Brainard, Mayor of Carmel, Indiana:
“Land is inexpensive [here], so it’s easy for lenders to say, ‘let’s just build sprawl.’ But cities end up having to support all that infrastructure: for instance, it costs $7 million to upgrade a mile of road.”
“The real challenge is in the suburban development pattern areas. We threw out 10,000 years of city planning expertise… The new cities of the last 50 years frankly don’t work so well.”
On how Carmel financed the higher cost of downtown development, including structured parking: “Developers, in my experience, are quite willing to build anything they think they can make money on. We reached out very purposefully to the lending community, brought them into the discussion. It got a lot easier [once they realized that] you can borrow against that added [capital] cost, because it adds value in the end.” (Here’s a photo tour of downtown and some new neighborhoods; as with a lot of greenfield NU, the architecture could be better, but at least the urban design is well-informed.)
Bob Dixson, Mayor of Greensburg, Kansas — a gem of a speaker who seriously deserves to be on the lecture circuit.
Reframing sustainability: “The right, prudent, and responsible thing to do for future generations, so that future generations can experience the same great nation that we have.”
“Are you a renter of your community or an owner? Will someone else take care if it for you or will you step up and volunteer? Are we going to own our issues or just rent them, and expect Pennsylvania Avenue to take care of it?”
“We can get back to being front porch people and have true conversations. The best way to prepare for a disaster is to have conversations and community.”
“We had all those [standard engineering] manuals in city hall, but then the wind came and blew all those manuals away.”
Bill Ritter, Former Governor of Colorado and Director, Center for the New Energy Economy, Colorado State University
“The people of the West actually favor the EPA, it’s just that their representatives don’t.”
“Vast pools of private capital are waiting on the sidelines because of policy uncertainty. Putting a price on coal at the state level will create certainty, but instead [Congress] will keep debating it and create more uncertainty.”
“I don’t think that a lawsuit is a constructive thing against Kentucky. Are there coal lessons to be learned from other [rural] transition economies, like tobacco?”
Perhaps big changes to utility regulations are easier than small ones: ” ‘We don’t want to work against you, utilities, we want to work with you.’ Could public[ly owned] utilities lead the way? We need to redesign how we rate-base those things that you want us to do.”