Electric cars: another EAC proposal

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

“There is no reason why good cannot triumph as often as evil.
The triumph of anything is a matter of organization.”
(Kurt Vonnegut)

Gadfly’s been haunting the Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) for many moons.

Lots of good things percolating out of this citizen bunch 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 Climate Action Plan and the proposed plastic bag ordinance, and, as Gadfly reported not long ago, the EAC weighed in on the proposed Martin Tower site design.

(The EAC meets tonight, actually – 7PM at Illick’s Mill, with a presentation by Lehigh University graduate students on “Sustainability impact assessment on the future closure of Packer Avenue on Lehigh’s campus.” Yikes, remember the question Gadfly asked the candidates for Council last week????? Serendipability at work).

Inspired by EAC missionarying, Gadfly looked into solar heating. But that turned out not to be right for him. Damnation.

But Gadfly is close to needing a new car. Should he look into electric? He wishes someone would take him by the hand and walk him through the thought process and the economic and practical considerations of electric cars. He’s hoping the EAC will produce a decision-making guide aimed at people, like him, a little slow in technical and financial matters.

But EAC’s Brian Hillard has been doing some powerful producing aimed at helping the City think about electric vehicles for its fleet or certain parts of it.

Recently the EAC submitted Brian’s “cost analysis of electric vehicles versus gasoline vehicles for municipal operations.”

Take a look: EAC.Electric Vehicle.Cost.Analysis

Here are a few pertinent passages:

  • As Bethlehem strives to push forward with the Climate Action Plan, integration of electric vehicles into the fleet could be a key component to reducing emissions, while demonstrating to the public both the benefits of electric vehicles and the City’s commitment to sustainability.
  • Based on the most current and trusted information available, the five-year cost of integrating an electric vehicle is nearly identical to that of vehicles being used today. As the City of Bethlehem pushes forward with its Climate Action Plan, there will be many decisions to make as to how to reduce emissions while providing for its residents and maintaining government services. While many of these decisions could require tough decisions in regard to cost and practicality, the decision to integrate EVs into the municipal fleet should not be one. As demonstrated, the cost comparison is very favorable, especially with respect to unmeasured efficiency gains. In addition, there have been numerous assessments as to how air pollution can negatively affect children’s neurological development20, so there are considerable benefits that lie outside the scope of this assessment.
  • The City of Bethlehem has a history of providing its residents with a healthy and vibrant community, including environmental stewardship, which enhances our quality of life. In considering the integration of electric vehicles into its fleet, Bethlehem shall continue to exemplify what climate action planning means.

Pretty much break even and be a good steward as well. Can’t beat that!

Brian also made recent presentations to City Council and to the Bethlehem Parking Authority that Gadfly will report on later.

Your non-tax dollars at work

It’s Thursday, May 2, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

Martin Tower and the Styles of Public Participation (18)

(18th in a series on Martin Tower)

Martin Tower demolition May 19
www.martintowerbethlehem.com

Lot going on. And Gadfly has let several topics fall behind. Martin Tower one of them.

He has a kind of wrap-up post on this current phase of the MT doings in mind, but first he wants to use the public response to the proposed MT plan for a different purpose.

The Gadfly project slogan is “Good conversation builds community.”

About a month ago in a private email a Gadfly follower called him “the Pied Piper of civic engagement.”

Now that was striking. A powerful branding. But kind of embarrassing and disconcerting too.

He tried to laugh it off. Then forget it. Wouldn’t work.

Might as well own it.

No question Gadfly before he was Gadfly fell in love with the sound of your voices in the public comment spaces at City Council meetings.

And wanted to capture them.

And — here goes — draw even more people to speak/write out.

Pied Pipering.

Somewhere the professor who reinvented himself as Gadfly learned that the Aztec word for teacher was “one who makes you put on a face.”

He would say that the goal of his classes was to make you put on a face. To speak/write your own individual thoughts in your own individual way and thereby to feel empowered and thereby to feel individual — and thereby to have a “face” recognized and respected by others.

Gadfly wants everybody to post here. Gadfly wants everybody to speak at Council. (President Waldron just fainted.)

But some people say they can’t be like you, Gadfly, without realizing that the professor who reinvented himself as Gadfly is painfully shy and would wall himself in his office the hour before class mustering courage. Listen to the modest proposal audio he posted a short while ago, and you can hear his voice crack part way through as the mustered courage wanes.

Everyone can do it. In his or her own way.

And I want to make that point by contrasting the polar opposite styles of Diane Szabo Backus and Brian Hillard during public comment at the April 16 City Council meeting, available on video here:

Brian (begin min. 13:10) is soft-spoken, calm, sober, focused, rational, cerebral, speaking a polished piece of writing.*** Beautiful.

Diane (begin min. 5:30) is “a little nervous,” reading from what look like handwritten scratched notes on a tear-off pad any of us might doodle on at the kitchen table, emotional, so emotional that her body has to move, her arms wave, her fists pump, her fingers point, her knees buckle and dance, she turns to the left, she turns to the right, she ups the Council president’s response to a question she shouldn’t have asked, she confronts the Mayor. Beautiful.

Great complementary styles.

Head and heart.

We need them both and all the shades in-between.

When will you put on your face?

*** Be sure to read Brian’s essay. It’s very good: Hillard – Martin Tower Development Proposal

Earth Day 2019

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

The New York Times printed this final paragraph of Nathaniel Rich’s new book Losing Earth:

“Everything is changing about the natural world and everything must change about the way we conduct our lives. It is easy to complain that the problem is too vast, and each of us is too small. But there is one thing that each of us can do ourselves, in our homes, at our own pace — something easier than taking out the recycling or turning down the thermostat, and something more valuable. We can call the threats to our future what they are. We can call the villains villains, the heroes heroes, the victims victims and ourselves complicit. We can realize that all this talk about the fate of Earth has nothing to do with the planet’s tolerance for higher temperatures and everything to do with our species’ tolerance for self-delusion. And we can understand that when we speak about things like fuel-efficiency standards or gasoline taxes or methane flaring, we are speaking about nothing less than all we love and all we are.”

The Gadfly invites other pictures or texts to help us think about what today means.

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

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?