Climate Action Plan: “This is a big deal”

logo Latest in a series of posts on the Climate Action Plan logo

In a surprise addition to Monday’s City Council agenda — so surprising it occasioned a procedural question — City Council voted on and approved a contract with a firm to develop our Climate Action Plan.

An exuberant Councilman Reynolds, who — working with the Administration, the Environmental Advisory Council, and others — brought us to this moment, called the plan a “big deal.”

Which it certainly is!

Kudos all around.

Beautiful Reynolds’ words about the plan we love to hear:

  • City-wide energy reduction plan
  • Sustainability initiative
  • An Education piece
  • Connection to social justice
  • Discussion of pedestrian bridge
  • Discussion of Food Co-Op
  • Discussion of walkability

It’s Wednesday January 8, 2020. Do you know where your Climate Action Plan is?

Yes!

Activating activism at Festival UnBound’s Sustainability Forum

logo 76th in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatre logo

“The whole UnBound festival was about the future of Bethlehem and how can
we envision what we want to see Bethlehem in the future,
and who more important than the young people to talk to about that.”

Paul Pierpoint, Sustainability Forum Organizer

video by Thomas Braun

You thought I was done with Touchstone Theatre’s Festival UnBound, didn’t you?

Naaa, the Gadfly is going for a round 100 posts.

One Festival event that Gadfly didn’t get to was the Sustainability Forum (though Kathy Fox posted about it), and he is just now catching up on it.

And catching up big time — he is in the pleasurable process of reading 180 essays by high school students passionately concerned with the environment and the future of Bethlehem.

(English profs have a big appetite when students are serving up such deliciously thoughtful text.)

Students from Freedom, Liberty, Bethlehem Catholic, and Moravian Academy.

Writing about such pressing contemporary and local issues as climate change; access to safe, nutritious food; local air quality; stream and ground water quality; drinking water quality; health and fitness; alternative transportation; green space preservation; housing for a growing population; and preservation of pollinators.

Gadfly hopes he will be able to bring some moving examples of this activist writing to you in these pages.

For now enjoy the video sampler about Freedom’s participation in the project.

After writing their essays, many of the students participated in a Town Hall on Lehigh’s campus.

Here is a look at the ambitious full assignment set before these students by Touchstone through such home high school faculty as Freedom’s Donna Roman, John Wallaesa, and George Ziegler, and Liberty’s Lisa Draper and Anthony Markovich:

Town Hall Sustainability project — high school

When it looks to some of us of riper age as if the world surrounds us with seemingly insurmountable problems, it pays to look through the eyes of the young:

“If one person just stands up to make a change, others will too . . .
It only takes one person to make a drastic change.”

Staci Scheetz, Liberty High School

Keeping the heat on the plastic bag ban

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

Followers know the sad news that the proposed ban of single-use plastic bags coming from our Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) under the leadership of Beth Behrend was hit with the pause button because of a one-year legislative moratorium at the state level in order to study the issue.

At the October 15 meeting, however, City Council passed a resolution from the Administration supporting passage of the ban:

Plastic Bags Support Resolution-1

But Behrend and the EAC are not the kind of people to rest on that laurel and to sit back and wait for the year to tick away.

Behrend spoke before Council December 3 to present 100 signatures from residents in support of “some kind of action” taken by the City to reduce plastic bags. In speaking at the October 15 meeting, for instance, Councilman Reynolds pointed out that the effort to reduce single-use plastic bags would take more than an ordinance and that there were things that could be done before the ban on banning expired. Behrend also requested Council to send a letter in support of another State bill regarding beverage containers.

Gadfly has come to learn that the EAC travels in packs for greater impact (2 other EAC members spoke preceding Behrend) and is far from innocent about political strategy.

To wit: enter Mary Jo Deseridino in Behrend’s wake to call for City Council to pass a single-use plastic bag ordinance now effective date in July 2020, that is, before the 2021 budget is passed and before the opportunity to extend the ban.

You gotta love these people!

Gadfly enjoys every opportunity to showcase such high quality community involvement of his fellow residents.

What they can do, we all can do.

Your non-tax dollars at work!

It’s Monday, December 16, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

Lehigh Valley is at a tipping point, says Future report

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

The full version of FutureLV: The Regional Plan can be found at LVPC.org.

Gadfly suggests that we try to get our heads around these big ideas that are swirling all around us.

When a major report like this comes out, Gadfly wishes that there was some formal public response from our Administration and our planning people to acknowledge the report, to indicate their involvement in and/or awareness of the process that produced it, but especially what it means specifically for us.

Is a report like this shaping thinking and decisions at City Hall?

Some soundbites:

  • The Lehigh Valley is at a tipping point.
  • The central mission of FutureLV is striking a delicate balance between successful growth and necessary preservation.
  • At the heart of the plan is a “centers and corridors” concept that, essentially, recommends building up what’s already been developed.
  • It directs new development and redevelopment to 57 activity centers where people live, work, shop or play, and the corridors that connect them.
  • It will mean more mixed-use development.
  • The plan includes $2.5 billion in transportation funding for roads, bridges, trails and sidewalks. It’s simply not enough.
  • Ultimately, it means denser centers. Before anyone curses that D word, know that density is a good thing.
  • The thing people liked most about living in the region is its parks, trails and recreation areas, and the number two thing was its farmlands and natural resources. Those things have come to define our character and identity.
  • Our environment has become a key part of our identity.

Becky Bradley, “How to strike a balance between growth and preservation.” Morning Call, December 1, 2019.

The Lehigh Valley is such a successful region that 4,000 to 6,000 more people arrive every year to take advantage of its unique character, beautiful landscape and high quality of life. But how do we preserve all that good, while managing all that growth? Well, we’ve been working on that for close to three years. The result of that work — along with input and ideas from literally thousands of people from across Lehigh and Northampton counties — is FutureLV: The Regional Plan.

FutureLV is a blueprint designed to guide the region to 2045 and beyond. The fact is, the Lehigh Valley is at a tipping point. We’re not only growing fast in people, but we’re developing fast. The e-commerce boom has clearly overheated our warehousing market, but we’re also seeing growing development in almost every area, from commercial to residential to industrial. Even brick and mortar retail development continues, despite the ominous threat of online shopping and the associated “retail apocalypse,” written about by every major financial publication from The Wall Street Journal to Money magazine.

The central mission of FutureLV is striking a delicate balance between successful growth and necessary preservation.

At the heart of the plan is a “centers and corridors” concept that, essentially, recommends building up what’s already been developed. It means taking advantage of the sewer, water, road, gas, electric, technology and building infrastructure that’s already built. It directs new development and redevelopment to 57 activity centers where people live, work, shop or play, and the corridors that connect them. These range from downtown Allentown to Portland’s business district to Madison Farms in Bethlehem Township.

It will mean more mixed-use development where residential, commercial and retail can co-exist, more walkable neighborhoods where pedestrians, bicyclists and people with disabilities don’t feel unsafe crossing an intersection, more bike and bus lanes and a more connected transportation system.

The plan includes $2.5 billion in transportation funding for roads, bridges, trails and sidewalks. It’s simply not enough. We’ve already identified $4 billion in projects that need done, but aren’t funded. So, we’ll have to be creative and efficient in spending the money we have, while working hard to improve that funding picture.

Ultimately, it means denser centers. Before anyone curses that D word, know that density is a good thing. It puts activity and foot traffic where our neighborhoods and businesses need it most. It will also make our public transit network more efficient and, in the long run, might even be the ticket to light rail.

More importantly, it will save us from ourselves. It will keep us from building homes, big box stores and, yes, warehouses on farm fields or open space or along roads where they don’t make sense, economically or otherwise.

So why is saving the environment important to saving the Lehigh Valley? Two reasons out of a thousand: People told us it is, and it adds value to our economy and region as a whole.

In a survey taken by nearly 1,100 residents last year, the thing people liked most about living in the region is its parks, trails and recreation areas, and the number two thing was its farmlands and natural resources. Those things have come to define our character and identity and are why thousands of people every day drive long distances from jobs to get back here.

But more importantly, saving our environment and making the region more resilient makes sense, and dollars and cents. Our Return on Environment report in 2014 showed that our environment — trees, streams, open space and more — returned more than $1 billion a year in value in the form of reduced health care costs, cleaner air and water and in general a more livable environment. The point is, our environment has become a key part of our identity. Saving it is just as important as growing our economy, maintaining our roads and providing every Lehigh Valley resident with an opportunity for a good life.

It’s Wednesday, December 11, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

Rothman reports for the Environmental Advisory Council

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

Note well: City Council is taking applications to fill a vacant position on the EAC.

To apply, email a letter of interest along with a resume to Adam Waldron, Council President (awaldron@bethlehem-pa.gov).

At the end of the letter cc:  Members of Council.  When sending, copy the email to Clerks@bethlehem-pa.gov enabling the City Clerk to distribute the application to Members of Council. Application may also be mailed to City Hall, 10 East Church Street, Bethlehem PA 18018.

———-

Bethlehem’s volunteer Environmental Advisory Council was well represented in presentations at City Council last night.

Here is chair Lynn Rothman presenting this very active committee’s annual report.

 

EAC 2019 Yr End Report

Your non-tax dollars valuably at work!

Gadfly strongly encourages his environmentally focused followers to attend the EAC meetings (7PM, first Thursday of the month, in the beautiful Illick’s Mill) and to apply for membership on the Council.

This group gets things done!

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

Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council News: funding for the Climate Action Plan and a position available

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

Lynn Rothman is an Environmental Scientist, having previously worked for the Environmental Protection Agency. She currently chairs the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council and serves on the board of the Sustainable Energy Fund, among other volunteer activities with non-profit organizations. 

November 21st Budget Meeting

At the November 21st budget meeting, it was announced that the City budgeted $80,000 for a consultant to complete a Climate Action Plan in 2020 (General Fund p. 166).   The EAC commends the City for moving ahead with this important initiative and its commitment to climate action.  We appreciate the time and effort spent by the Dept. of Public Works to bring us to this point in the process.  The EAC is proud of our City and will continue to assist in the climate action planning process in every way possible.

We also support Councilman Reynolds’ remarks during the budget meeting stating that the City could focus more on sustainability. He emphasized that this is especially important given the uncertainty of the recycling market and because the priority of actions to most effectively manage waste and protect the environment is to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. As Councilman Reynolds stated, “We talk about the idea of building a sustainable city, and we do not have a director of sustainability.”  He continued to say that while many departments are doing a fantastic job of individually contributing to this effort, as we move forward with the Climate Action Plan, there may be an opportunity to have a point person on sustainability, possibly as part of the Dept. of Recycling.

(For Councilman Reynolds’ comments, go to the City video of the November 21 budget meeting, min. 45:30.)

EAC Members

Bethlehem EAC member Kathy Fox has resigned from the council in order to devote more time to her new position as board member of the Bethlehem Food Co-Op. Kathy will be sorely missed on the EAC, where she has been a strong and vocal advocate for sustainability, green infrastructure, and climate action.  Kathy chairs our Solar Energy Committee, and we are fortunate that she will continue her connection with the EAC, albeit in a different capacity.

Residents of Bethlehem City who would like to apply for a position on the EAC may email a letter of interest, along with a resume to Adam Waldron, Council President, at awaldron@bethlehem-pa.gov.  Please copy “Members of City Council” on the letter of interest. When sending, copy the email to Clerks@bethlehem-pa.gov , enabling the City Clerk to distribute your application to Members of Council. Alternatively, a hard copy may be mailed to 10 East Church Street, Bethlehem, PA 18018.

Lynn

It’s Saturday, November 23, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan re-budgeted

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

Before we get to the CAP, salute to climate action warrior and Gadfly follower Christine!

Martha Christine, “Let’s follow lead of young people on climate change.” Morning Call, November 7, 2019.

  • We have some amazing young people in the Lehigh Valley. Last week I joined more than two dozen informed and engaged Lehigh University students, along with a handful of community members, to comment on the Global Youth Climate Action Declaration.
  • The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763) is one solution gaining bipartisan support in the House of Representatives. It has 68 sponsors, including Congresswoman Susan Wild. It’s designed to cut carbon emissions by collecting a fee from fossil fuel companies and returning funds to households through monthly dividend checks. It’s good for people, good for the economy and good for the climate.

Gadfly followers have been wondering what happened to the plan to hire a consultant to write a local Climate Action Plan before the end of 2019.

Nicole Radzievich’s Morning Call story on the 2020 budget contains the following:

“The budget reflects the city’s strong financial position, and I’m excited that the administration has funded my request for the Climate Action Plan,” said Councilman J. William Reynolds, who attended the event.

The city had planned to hire a consultant to develop a blueprint for the city to reduce its carbon footprint, but the the $30,000 the city allocated for it fell about $50,000 short of what was needed.

The high price of consultancy. Now we know!

It’s Saturday, November 9, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?