Martin Tower: the EAC wanted “a showpiece of sustainable design” (17)

(17th in a series on Martin Tower)

Martin Tower demolition May 19
www.martintowerbethlehem.com

Gadfly would like to stay on the Martin Tower beat a little longer. Lots of good stuff here.

Let’s back up a moment.

Gadfly caught the “City bug” in January 2018 and started going to meetings, not only the Council meetings but many of the citizen-based committees and commissions that most of us, frankly, don’t know much about.

Take a look at the list of the City Authorities, Boards, and Commissions. Quite extensive, no? Lots of residents volunteering their services.

He found that one of the most impressive and enjoyable groups is the Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) chaired by Lynn Rothman, with members Elizabeth Behrend, Elisabeth Cichonski, (ubiquitous) Kathy Fox, Brian Hillard, and Mike Topping — in addition to a cluster of regular attendees known for their environmental knowledge and activism and Councilman Reynolds often present as well.

Think EAC and think CAP and PBO. That’s Climate Action Plan and the Plastic Bag Ordinance. Not only nice people but productive people.

So the EAC has weighed in significantly on Martin Tower, both past and present, and Gadfly would like to highlight their “public sapience” – the nerdy term you saw him coin recently and which he must use a few times to wash it out of his system!

In a phrase designed to make Gadfly’s palms sweat, blood race, breath heave, and loins leap, the EAC dreamed of the Martin Tower site as “a showpiece of sustainable design”!

As a prime location for a landmark redevelopment, this site could showcase cutting-edge green design, respect open space and utilize smart growth principles. Such a design could encompass transit-oriented, walkable, bicycle-friendly land use, with mixed-use development. Many long-range sustainability and environmental goals articulated in the City’s 2008 Comprehensive Plan could be explored.  EAC-Martin Tower-2016

Think of it! “A showpiece of sustainable design”!

Gadfly imagines the Town Hall lights dimmed (except for that one damn light that seems to have a mind of its own! You know the one I mean.) and a crescendo of pencils tapping on chair arms leading up to the dramatic unveiling of Bethlehem’s SHOWPIECE OF SUSTAINABLE DESIGN!

Followed by a collective gasp so strong it would suck the panels off the ceiling.

Be still my heart!

But – sigh – we live in a fallen world.

Common wisdom in the cheap seats is that the design for the Martin Tower site fell well short of a showcase.

In addition to submitting a detailed letter (EAC-Martin Tower-2019), EAC members Brian Hillard and Mike Topping attended the Planning Commission meeting April 11.

Listen to their different voices.

074Brian, the younger guy, calm, diplomatic, showing just a trace of wry impatience at developer shortsightedness (“Looking at that pocket park, it’s like in the pocket”), even-temperedly calling attention to things you would think the developer would certainly have highlighted (Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, solar, etc.),  and ending with an echo of the “showcase” dream: “This site was an icon to our city and our region, and we would be well served to continue with that thought. This could be an icon to the future as we remove the icon from the past.”

079Mike, the older guy, experienced (“I used to sit on the other side of that table”), a bit gruff-voiced, tough talking, finding student designs better, forcefully invoking the specter of Levittown coming to Bethlehem, speaking definitively, authoritatively, for instance, about parking and subdividing (“It’s just wrong. It’s just not the way things are done”), attributing the design to an unimaginative engineer when real planning (by someone capable of creating a “showcase”) should be done.

A marvelous 1-2 presentation from these EACers.

Gadfly is not sure what impact these public voices can have on the Martin Tower project at this point. He doesn’t know as much as he needs to about the process of development. Such comments almost seem too late once the developer has presented a plan. Maybe not.

Gadfly is sure, though, that we’d all like a “showcase.”

And this isn’t it. Yet.

How do we get such ideas in on the “ground floor,” as it were – at the beginning of the design process?

Gadfly will be trying to learn and think more.

Candidates – are you listening? Are you thinking?

Film shows local and state governments working for climate change

(The latest in a series of posts relating to the environment, Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council)

Kathy Fox is a member of the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council, a co-chair of the Northampton County Council of Democratic Women’s Environmental Committee, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Bethlehem Food Co-op.  Kathy involves herself in positive organizations and activities that foster community, environmental awareness, education, and good health. 

Gadfly:

I want to thank the Lehigh University Environmental Studies department for hosting a screening of “Paris to Pittsburgh” [watch trailer] and, specifically, Breena Holland for organizing the event.  In attendance were a good mix of students, professors, and residents of Bethlehem.  The basis of the film was to show that despite the federal government’s refusal to do anything about the dire issue of climate change, many local and state governments are working for change.  The film focused on the fact that climate change is NOT a partisan issue.  It profiled Miami, Florida, Iowa farmers and towns, California, Puerto Rico, and Pittsburgh, highlighting the fact that it does not matter where you live and/or what your politics are, you will be adversely affected by climate change, and it is our responsibility to do something to reverse or at least hold the course of temperature rise as much as possible.

“A searing look at the effects of climate change by regular people who are dealing with its effects in their local towns. ” (

The narrator talked about the need to scale-up from the bottom to reduce fossil fuel use by 80% by 2030 and 100% by the end of the century and showcased solutions that were currently being implemented.  There were numerous examples of renewable energy as a local economy boaster/job creator, and the film talked about the true price of greenhouse gas emissions.  It is will cost less to do more to remediate climate change than it will cost to repair all the damage caused by it.  A Marshall Plan for climate was suggested.  Ask your politicians how they plan to tackle climate change.  On that note, Bethlehem City Council Candidate, Grace Crampsie Smith, was in attendance, and asked good questions about the solutions cities should use to do their part.

“We the people need to take action. Our lives are at stake here.” (from the film)

The panel for discussion included Professors Rudy Shankar, Dork Sahagian, and David Casagrande; Lehigh University graduate student and member of the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council’s Waste Reduction Task Force, Jackie Cook; and Martha Christine, co-chair of Citizens Climate Lobby LV Chapter and member of Bethlehem Backyards for Wildlife.  Professor Sahagian also stressed the need for a united effort – where you and I take responsibility for reducing our energy consumption.  Start local, speak up, and take action.

Kathy

It’s Thursday, March 28, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

Here’s the proposed legislation banning single-use plastic bags

(The latest in a series of posts relating to the environment, Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council)

from Lynn Rothman

Following is the recommendation from the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) advising the City of Bethlehem to enact legislation banning single-use plastic bags. The City may modify the proposal and will ensure it is in legal form, should they decide to move forward with the recommendation. The City has been receptive to the proposal, and, upon request, we have provided additional ordinances from other cities to serve as examples.

EAC.Plastic.Bag.Ordinance.Proposal

The work was done by the EAC’s Waste Reduction Task Force, chaired by Beth Behrend, with committee members Jackie Cook and Amanda Allekott, both graduate students at Lehigh University.

The EAC is chaired by Lynn Rothman, with members Elizabeth Behrend, Elisabeth Cichonski, Kathy Fox, Brian Hillard, and Mike Topping.

Reminder: Free showing of and panel discussion about the documentary Paris to Pittsburgh Wednesday, March 27, 7pm (reception at 6:30), STEPS building (catacorner from the Chapel on Packer Ave.), Lehigh University.

It’s Tuesday, March 26, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

EAC proposal: an ordinance that would ban single-use plastic bags

(The latest in a series of posts relating to the environment, Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council)

Free showing of and panel discussion about the documentary Paris to Pittsburgh Wednesday, March 27, 7pm (reception at 6:30), STEPS building (catercorner from the Chapel on Packer Ave.), Lehigh University.

Beth Behrend is a member of the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council and head of the Waste Reduction Committee of the EAC.

Gadfly: Here is what I said at the City Council town hall meeting on Tuesday.

First, I want to start off by thanking the mayor for attending the Mayor’s conference on sustainability and showing a commitment to our planet.

The EAC recently submitted a proposal to city council to pass an ordinance that would ban single-use plastic bags and apply a fee on all paper bags given to customers at the point of sale.  I would like to see city council move forward with this measure and ask for your support for a ban on plastic bags.

The majority of the world already lives in a place where these bags are banned or levied.  We are the ones that are behind.  Narberth became the first borough in Pennsylvania to ban plastic bags back in October 2018, and I think it is important that we put more effort into caring for our environment.

Most plastic bags are made from nonrenewable energy sources, thus contributing to air pollution and climate change, and while some can be recycled, they are not easy to recycle and they never fully break down.  In terms of costs, it is expensive to remove them when they get caught in storm drains or recycling facilities that are not designed to handle that type of recycling.  It’s the tax payers that end up paying those costs.  Research shows the passing of an ordinance like the one we proposed will drastically reduce both plastic and paper bag usage.

While our committee was putting together information on the proposal, we surveyed business owners in Bethlehem, and the response was overwhelmingly in support of eliminating plastic bags.  Eighty percent of business owners who responded were either in favor of eliminating plastic bags or are neutral on the subject.  Bethlehem is ready for this change, and I ask that you follow the lead of Narberth, Pennsylvania, and ban these unnecessary items. Thank you.

Beth

You can see Beth make this presentation to City Council at their March 19 meeting via the link above or on YouTube <City of Bethlehem Council> starting at min. 5:50.

Stay tuned — in the next post in this series, we’ll post the EAC proposal to which Beth refers  (note how craftily Gadfly avoided ending this sentence with a proposition).

It’s Sunday, March 24, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

Thoughts on the Mayor’s presentation

(The latest in a series of posts relating to the environment, Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council)

Gadfly forgot to let you know about the free showing of and panel discussion about the documentary Paris to Pittsburgh Wednesday, March 27, 7pm (reception at 6:30), STEPS building (catacorner from the Chapel on Packer Ave.), Lehigh University. Tip o’ the hat to the ubiquitous Kathy Fox!

Dana Grubb is a lifelong resident of the City of Bethlehem who worked 27 years for the City of Bethlehem in the department of community and economic development, as sealer of weights and measures, housing rehabilitation finance specialist, grants administrator, acting director of community and economic development, and deputy director of community development.

Gadfly:

I would question the migration to artificial Christmas trees from live trees given that live Christmas trees are a renewable crop that are rather easily composted, and artificial trees are not. I believe this to be a false narrative that it is beneficial to the environment, rather that it is more a cost efficiency issue with their installation.

Also, I would agree that a new round of public education on recycling programs is very necessary, given that it’s been at least ten years since the City of Bethlehem undertook a comprehensive approach to advertising and education in order to get buy-in from residents and businesses.

I reside in one of the larger rental communities in the City. The solid waste container for my neighborhood is often stuffed with all kinds of recyclable materials such as cardboard, glass, plastic and metallic items. Although the complex is required as a commercial entity (not as a housing entity) to provide containers for the collection of these items, I’ve peered into those large roll-offs and have seen ordinary household waste co-mingled with what can and should be recycled. This contamination defeats the purpose and probably sends much of that material to landfills.

Finally, revising City ordinances to require solar energy panels on roofs of new development of a certain footprint would be a big step toward renewable energy independence given the proliferation of huge warehouses in our area. It would also allow for on property parking for tractor trailers and provide electric power to be used to service a rig, instead of it running constantly and spewing exhaust into the atmosphere.

Dana

Bethlehem going green

(The latest in a series of posts relating to the environment, Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council)

Dawn Nixon, “Lehigh Valley leaders discuss efforts to go green.” WFMZ, March 12, 2019.

On March 12 our Mayor Donchez joined with representatives from Allentown and Whitehall at the Lehigh Valley Mayors’ Sustainability forum  to discuss Valley efforts to Mayor sustainability“go green.”

The Mayor talked of converting to LED lights; working with UGI and PPL to reduce the amount of gas used by local businesses; such key components as green buildings, energy efficiency and conservation, water and wastewater systems and climate friendly transportation; and plans for a consultant to assist the city in developing a climate action plan.

“Mayor Donchez closed the forum’s discussion by commenting on how any efforts made by individual cities benefit the entire Lehigh Valley. ‘The more we work together on key issues, the better the Lehigh Valley will be as a whole,’ he said.”

Here for us are the key slides from the Mayor’s presentation showing work done and on the radar:

Sustainability 1

Sustinability 2

Sustinability 3

Susatainability 4

It’s Friday, March 22, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

Climate watch: March 3

(The latest in a series of posts relating to the environment, Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council)

Interesting day on the climate front —

CBS: 60 Minutes (March 3, 2019): Juliana v. the United States

“Of all the cases working their way through the federal court system none is more interesting or potentially more life changing than Juliana v. United States. To quote one federal judge, “This is no ordinary lawsuit.” It was filed back in 2015 on behalf of a group of kids who are trying to get the courts to block the U.S. government from continuing the use of fossil fuels. They say it’s causing climate change, endangering their future and violating their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property. When the lawsuit began hardly anyone took it seriously, including the government’s lawyers, who have since watched the Supreme Court reject two of their motions to delay or dismiss the case. Four years in, it is still very much alive, in part because the plaintiffs have amassed a body of evidence that will surprise even the skeptics and have forced the government to admit that the crisis is real.”

“Your View by 15 Lehigh professors: We really do need to worry about climate change — and act.” Morning Call, March 3, 2019.

“Climate has been in the news, thanks to the release of several concerning reports, plus reactions to the proposed Green New Deal. Our Lehigh colleague in Economics, Tony O’Brien, recently published an opinion piece in these pages (Feb. 17) in which he claimed that climate-change impacts won’t be very bad, so there’s no need to go all-in on the Green New Deal, and that a nonideological view suggests a carbon tax is the far better approach. We’d actually agree that a carbon tax would be one important part of an effective climate policy, but what motivates us to write is concern over widespread misunderstandings of the earth system and how it pertains to people and society, misunderstandings that happen to be well illustrated in O’Brien’s column.”

Inslee for America

Gov. Jay Inslee has formally announced for the presidency with basically climate change his sole position. Click on his initial campaign video on the top page of his web site.

Let’s keep climate change and our Climate Action Plan on our radar.

It’s Monday, March 4, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?