Sustainability

Building a Voluntary City

During last week-end’s doorknocking I was asked to say more about what I mean by encouraging volunteer groups that help our city work better.

My biggest and most personal example is the Northeast Citizen Patrol (NECP). We’re extra eyes and ears for the police. When an NECP patrol is on the sidewalk, the bad guys have a hard time doing business. We‘ve proven our effectiveness over five years. The Mayor even proclaimed May 11th, 2009, to be Northeast Citizen Patrol Day.

I understand patroling is not for everyone. Less-formal walking groups and block clubs help our city work better by helping prevent crime. I want to encouage participation in any form that is effective.

The Eastside Food Co-op began a plastics recycling program with support from the City. Now EFC is continuing the program on its own, supporting all of us to leave a smaller footprint on the planet. And that’s just one example from this hive of volunteer energy.

The Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association puts on the spectacular Art-a-Whirl every year. They promote arts and culture in Northeast and the whole city without taxpayer subsidies. Times are tough, and although City Hall can’t afford artful water fountains, our arts community can step forward to help make Northeast more awesome.

Riverside Ribbon Cutting

Yesterday afternoon I attended the opening ceremony for the Riverside Powerplant’s conversion from coal to natural gas. It was awesome to hear the President of the Marshall Terrace neighborhood association commend Xcel for their cooperation and partnership. Too often, neighborhood groups face big corporations as enemies. The Riverside Plant is proof that this attitude is not necessary. Businesses and even the heaviest of industry can be partners and neighbors with residents. This is an essential point to keep in mind as we work to improve Central Avenue. Certainly, the difficulties will be smaller in Shoreham Yards.

I don’t live in Marshall Terrace, so I did not understand the costs the plant imposed on the neighborhood. When I first heard about the conversion, it seemed silly. The USA has so much coal, and we keep hearing about dwindling supplies of oil and gas. Minneapolis needs electric power, and it appeared to make more sense to generate that power with a more reliable and cheaper fuel. I felt for the neighbors, but whatever the costs, they had been part of the bargain all property owners assumed when buying next to a coal powerplant.

I have learned. Natural gas is relatively abundant and can be delivered at reasonable cost. The coal soot problem was a genuine health issue, not just an inconvenience. And the conversion included a small up-rating of the plant’s capacity, so we get more electricity. It’s a triple-win situation.

What About the Environment?

I spend a lot of time talking about financial sustainability. I am also concered about ecological sustainability.

Here’s part of something I wrote for my neighborhood association:

As residents of an authentic urban neighborhood, the people of Audubon Park are constantly reminded of the history that made this place. We are the seventh generation. Our stewardship today will be received as a gift tomorrow. We do not take that lightly.

We recognize our lives have an impact. That impact need not be negative. We find natural beauty in the urban environment and we nourish it. Our yards are home to birds and flowers. These natural elements sustain us while we work to reduce our footprint on the planet.

Yet, our neighborhood does not punish those who drive. Our central location within the Twin Cities puts nearly everywhere within easy reach. Should your work location change, you can comfortably keep your home.

Subscribe to RSS - Sustainability