City subcommittee seeks feedback to Sustainability Action Plan
By Catherine Ferguson, SNJM
More than 40 volunteers who are passionate about Spokane's future have given significant time in the last two years to draft the City of Spokane's Sustainability Action Plan on issues related to how climate change may affect Spokane.
The Sustainability Action Subcommittee (SAS) led by Kara Odegard, manager of sustainability initiatives for the city, serves under the City Council's Public Infrastructure, Environment and Sustainability Committee.
Kara, who has a background in environmental and social impact consulting, felt her own passion for environmental policy develop from a 2018 trip she made with a group of local business, government and nonprofit leaders to Copenhagen. The trip included then City Council President Ben Stuckert, current City Council President Breean Beggs, former Mayor David Condon and others.
"Our group went there to observe the many changes made to make the city more sustainable and learn what might be possible in Spokane," she said.
Her experience has led her to seek more education in the field and she plans to attend online programs at either the University of Vermont or Arizona State University in the fall.
"People and stakeholders need to come together to co-create solutions and move our community towards resilience in the face of climate change," Kara said. "The climate strategies must address historic inequalities and environmental injustices and undo environmentally racist actions and systems."
Now that the plan is drafted, she is overseeing a six-month period of consultation with the public.
The committee seeks input that will lead to consensus on seven areas of sustainability the plan addresses, said Kara, referring to the subcommittee's public outreach efforts prior to its consideration by the Spokane City Council.
"Climate change is a global issue that needs local action, and cities are a part of the solution. The plan does address climate, but it really aims to make the community more resilient in the face of such things as the pandemic and economic downturns," she said, explaining the importance of the plan.
The SAS has also researched solutions the city and its residents can take to mitigate Spokane's contribution to climate change.
Beginning with a look at the sources of greenhouse gases in the Spokane area, the plan identifies seven key areas and provides a comprehensive set of strategies it recommends the City Council adopt on 1) energy and buildings, 2) transportation and land use, 3) water resources, 4) economic prosperity, 5) waste diversion and material conservation, 6) natural environment, and 7) health and wellbeing.
"As we worked on the plan," Kara said, "we became aware of new concerns which needed to be included. For example, some of the changes recommended could impact the jobs available in Spokane. We reached out to labor unions and others in the community concerned about work and added a section on justice for workers in transition."
This Sustainability Action Plan is not Spokane's first. In 2009, under then mayor, Mary Verner, a plan was developed but never reached the implementation stage because of a change in administration.
Kara said that although they actually started over with this plan, they were impressed when they looked back at the 2009 plan with how far ahead of its time it was.
As they developed the plan, the subcommittee did refer to action plans in other cities and modeled some of the approaches on plans that had been developed in Reno, Flagstaff and Portland.
Everyone working on the plan besides Kara is a volunteer.
Elyse Hochstadt, who has taken on the role of communications lead for the subcommittee, is an example of the kind of passion that motivates the participation of the members.
"My passion was fueled in part by a trip to Bali. I had dreamed of going to Bali for many years and when I was finally able to do so, it was such a heartbreak. The coastal waters off remote islands are thick with plastic waste. That experience and others like it, motivated me to join forces with the Plastic Pollution Coalition and work towards a plastic-free planet," she said.
Both Elyse and Lisa Gardner, the council's director of communications, emphasized how important it is for the future of Spokane that the public engage in the planning process now while there is a six-month period of study and response from the public.
First, it is important that the mayor and City Council members know this plan is important to the public.
Second, there is need for substantial public input for any changes that can make the plan's implementation improve the quality of life for everyone in Spokane, particularly communities that are sometimes marginalized and left out.
Lisa commended Kara's work in reaching out to communities of color to assure that their input is included in the plan.
The subcommittee offers several options for people in Spokane to become involved with this plan during the study and response period when public opinion is being solicited.
The complete plan and a 24-minute video overview on it is at the subcommittee's page of the city's website, where there is also a link to a survey through which the public can make their views known.
The subcommittee is also offering three virtual workshops to inform people about the plan and provide an opportunity for asking questions and giving input.
Those workshops are from 6 to 7:30 p.m., Thursday, May 20, 10 to 11:30 a.m., Saturday, May 29, and 6 to 7:30 p.m., Thursday, June 3. Registration for the workshops is on the SAS webpage.
Kara emphasized that only with community support can the planning goals be fulfilled to ensure Spokane's future.
She said all of Spokane would benefit from the proposed environmental programs and policies.
"Members of the community should be prepared for the challenges to come, and this means all city actions must be evaluated for their impact on the climate," Kara said.
For information, email email@example.com and visit https://my.spokanecity.org/sas/.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, May, 2021