Sunday, May 18, 2008

Mayor Nutter Finds His Balls, Appoints Mark Alan Hughes As Philadelphia’s First Ever Director of Sustainability

If Philadelphia is going to go truly green, Mayor Nutter has to make it a major priority for his administration. Hopefully, the hiring of Mark Alan Hughes as Philadelphia’s first ever Green Czar is the beginning of a full-on assault on making Philadelphia exhaustively sustainable.

When we say “exhaustively sustainable” we’re not talking about a few one-off policies like banning the purchase of bottled water from city offices or mandating waterless urinals with redundant plumbing in new high rises — although those individual policy changes can be commendable (minus the redundant plumbing, that is). Even putting together a larger string of admirable policy changes that make Philadelphia incrementally more sustainable is not enough.

Philadelphia NEEDS a long-term and comprehensive approach to making the city truly and exhaustively sustainable.

Basically, we’re talking about what New York City is doing with PlaNYC. (There’s nothing wrong with emulating the country’s most forward-thinking and progressive metropolis, and adapting the great amounts of research and planning they’ve already done to work for us in Philadelphia.)
PlaNYC [is] the most extensive plan to strengthen [the] urban environment ever undertaken by an American city. Unveiled by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in April, 2007, the 127-point plan is designed to create the first environmentally sustainable 21st century city. PlaNYC focuses on every facet of New York’s physical environment-its transportation network, housing stock, land and park system, energy network, water supply and air quality-and sets a course to achieve 10 aggressive goals to create a more sustainable New York by the year 2030.
Philadelphia needs a plan like that of its own. The 10 Actions of the Next Great City are a good start. So are all the other piecemeal activities we have going on, from Bike Share Philadelphia and Single Stream Recycling to the Horticultural Society’s Philadelphia Green and Buy Fresh, Buy Local.

However, Philadelphia needs a thorough plan for achieving real sustainability. One that integrates and leverages everything that’s happened to date and sets a collaborative path forward for how to make Philadelphia truly sustainable by 2025, for example. And that’s where Mark Alan Hughes and Mayor Nutter come in.

Mayor Nutter is in an extremely favorable position — he basically is in the first year of an eight-year term as mayor — meaning he has an amazing opportunity to not only develop and introduce a plan, but also to see most, if not all, of the plan's recommendations actually implemented.

Consider this anecdote about Mayor Bloomberg implementing PlaNYC:
PlaNYC initially called for converting the [taxi] fleet within 10 years. But Mr. Bloomberg said City Councilman David Yassky, a longtime advocate of a greener taxi fleet, had persuaded him to cut that time in half.

The faster schedule, however, also reflects the mayor’s desire to get as much of his PlaNYC carried out before he leaves office at the end of 2009, especially those elements that do not require state approval or financing.

"I’ve never liked to plan something and then have somebody else have the responsibility of doing it or paying for it," the mayor said yesterday.
So don’t slow-track a sustainability plan, Nutts. Fast-track it. Get it off the ground as soon as you can. (And don't dumb it down just because not everyone recognizes how important sustainability is to Philadelphia's economic wellbeing both immediately and for the next 50 years. Be a visionary.)

Mark Alan Hughes is a good choice; the man has the right stuff.* (And now we know who Hughes was talking about here, as if it wasn’t already blatantly obvious.)

And what do you know?? Hughes likes the idea of a visionary sustainability plan too:
Third, Chicago takes itself seriously enough to have a plan.

It's called Chicago 2020 and it sets the table for the next 15 years. It's full of vision and how to get there, like 140,000 new residents in downtown and even more parks in a city that's already parkland Nirvana.

But forget the specifics. Chicago considers itself worthy of having a vision for itself. A plan is a statement of a city's self-esteem, which is probably why we don't have one.

Chicago has a great new sculpture it has dubbed the Bean. It's a mirrored gateway to the fantastic new Millennium Park, reflecting the city all around it in a grand gesture of self-confidence.

Will we ever be able to look in the mirror?
That was from a column of his from 2005. To which we'd like to respond: soon Professor. Thanks to you.

Alright. So Nutts, you got all this? The more assertiveness you demonstrate on making Philadelphia truly sustainable, the more you are going to be rewarded with approval ratings in the 90% range. (Education and crime are still paramount, but sustainability is the next most important long-term objective for the city's economic health and prosperity.)

Related:
Meet the City’s New “Mr. Green” [Philadelphia Daily News ]
Philadelphia Going Green [ Phila.gov ]
PlanNYC [ NYC.gov ]
Green Scene: Philly's Green Czar [ CBS3 ]
WHAT CHICAGO HAS THAT WE NEED [ Philadelphia Daily News ]

* A few greatest hits from Mark Alan Hughes column for the Philadelphia Daily News — note they are ALL worth reading (and they are all quick reads):

GETTING A FIX ON THE UNFIXABLE, October 2007
PRIVATE PLANNING NOT A PUBLIC GOOD, 2007
OUR ZONING DELI: JUST TAKE A NUMBER, August 2006
BEATING THE POST-OIL DRUM, May 2006
DRIVEN TO DISTRACTION, May 2006
Twilight Zoning, May, 2006
TOUGH PARKING, TASTIER CENTER CITY, November 2005
WHAT CHICAGO HAS THAT WE NEED, September 2005
THE END OF GRASS AS WE KNOW IT, August 2005
AT SPORTS VENUES, A PAINFUL LAST MILE, July 2005
SEPTA'S BRILLIANT/DUMB STRATEGY, July 2003
THE PEDESTRIAN PRESERVATION ACT, June 2003
PHILADELPHIA'S VALUABLE FOOT FETISH, May 2003
'Smart growth' right in our own backyard, May 2003
HOW A REC CENTER CAN ENHANCE CIVILIZATION, March 2003

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