Lehigh Valley is at a tipping point, says Future report

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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?

The Environmental Advisory Council rocks!

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“Bethlehem Backyards for Wildlife.”

If there was ever an intriguing name, there ’tis!

In posting chair Rothman’s annual report last week, Gadfly said the Environmental Advisory Council was well represented in presentations at the December 3 City Council meeting.

Gadfly is not done with those presentations, no sir, he isn’t.

Bethlehem Backyards for Wildlife is a subcommittee of the EAC.

December 3 was the first time Gadfly learned Backyards’ history and gained a sense of what they do.

He was amazed.

Listen to team leader Martha Christine’s report and share the amazement at everything these six people are doing: Christine, Roseann Amato, Jane Cook, Suzanne Drake, Christy Roydon, Elsa Stahl.

Bethlehem Backyards for Wildlife
Your non-tax dollars valuably at work!

As a faithful Gadfly follower put it truly:

“Unsung contributors to both our community and achieving a better environment.”

 

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

“Dark Waters”: a movie to think by

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Many Gadfly followers are environmentally focused.

The movie “Dark Waters” opens nationally tomorrow and will no doubt play soon locally. Unfortunately, though it is listed on the web site of my go-to place the Banko Ale House Cinema as “coming soon,” they tell me today it will not be playing there. But look for it elsewhere.

Below are selections from a review of “Dark Waters” published in the Call Tuesday.

Looks good. Looks meaningful.

Gadfly loves these kinds of films. “Reel American History” was his long-standing project with Lehigh students as part of his larger History on Trial suite of web projects. And RAH contained several projects on films similar in nature with “Dark Waters”:  Blowing the whistle on “Big Tobacco” [The Insider (1999)]; Radiation kills Karen Silkwood [Silkwood (1983)].

Gadfly has several times recommended the Radical Moderate blog of sustainability warrior and Bethlehem native Alison Steele.

Alison has just published the third in a series of posts framing “Dark Waters” with the documentary — available online here — “The Devil We Know.”

The first 5 minutes of the documentary will scare the hell out of you.

Gadfly recommends that you view the documentary in concert with Alison’s posts and then see the movie.

This is “Reel American History”!

And Gadfly would very much invite posts reacting to the film, the documentary, Alison’s framing of them — all of the above.

Serious business.

(What do we know of the environmental impact of Bethlehem Steel? Studies?)

David Michaels, “Commentary: What ‘Dark Waters’ reveals about corporate science.” {Bloomberg Opinion] Morning Call, December 3, 2019.

A new movie, “Dark Waters,” shines a bright light on a group of dangerous chemicals that are likely in your bloodstream right now. It tells the true story of a polluter that manipulated research and kept evidence hidden from the public — and shows just how crucial it is that scientific evidence be produced by researchers free of conflicts of interest.

The chemicals that drive the film’s drama, known as PFAS, are remarkably effective at repelling water and oil. They’re used to make familiar products such as Teflon, Scotchgard and Gore-Tex, and are found in the coating of pizza boxes and microwave-popcorn bags.

Unfortunately, in recent years, they’ve also gained attention for their links to cancer, liver and thyroid disease, increased cholesterol, and depressed fertility. They’ve been found in the blood of almost every American ever tested, and they contaminate the water in communities across the U.S.

“Dark Waters” focuses on how the chemical company DuPont manufactured Teflon in a West Virginia town, and in the process fouled the local drinking water with a PFAS compound. Over the course of the drama, viewers learn that DuPont hid much of what it knew about its effects. In 1981, for example, DuPont was informed by 3M (from which DuPont purchased much of its C8) that the chemical caused birth defects in rats; DuPont then learned of two apparent birth defects among children of its Teflon division employees.

When the first public concerns abound the compound emerged, DuPont did what too many corporations do: They took a page from Big Tobacco’s playbook and hired a firm to sow doubt about the scientific evidence.

The film captures how a courageous attorney working virtually on his own was able to document DuPont’s coverup. Armed with those documents, the Environmental Protection Agency eventually issued its then largest-ever fine, and required DuPont to clean up the local water supply.

We badly need a new model for production of the evidence necessary to protect the public. When government agencies consider potentially harmful exposures and activities, from vaping to opioids to glyphosate to payday loans, they should insist the regulated industries provide data produced by unconflicted scientists.

It’s Thursday, December 5, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

Rothman reports for the Environmental Advisory Council

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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

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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

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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?

“The Pollinators” film

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Re-posted from LVMM Friends Facebook page:

On Wednesday, Nov. 6 at 6:30, at the Promenade Theater in Center Valley , “The Pollinators “ will be shown, IF enough tickets are sold in advance. Buy tickets at On Demand Films, search film title and state. This is an informative and beautiful documentary, including the role of migratory beekeepers from our state. As the Beeman says, “Save the bees, pollination, food for us!”