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Jul 16

Colorless Green Ideas Sleep Furiously

Comments (0) 12:00 PM posted by admin |

For the past eight years, Ypsilanti has been trying to reinvent itself. The main catalyst for this new identity has been the Water Street property. Ypsilanti has a reputation, true or not, of a working-class community with higher than average crime, lower than average property values, high taxes, high tensions, and school issues. The Water Street project was supposed to create a mostly-residential district of high-end housing that was going to attract more affluent buyers than your average Ypsilantian. It was going to be a class revolution.

As you’ve probably figured out by now, that hasn’t quite happened yet. Some blame the economy for the lack of developer interest in the project, but our most recent preferred developer, Joseph Freed & Associates, recently settled a lawsuit with the City of Ann Arbor and will build their $30M mixed-use Glen Ann Place project.

Water Street will happen sooner or later. What the project will be is an entirely whole other story.

Ypsilanti City Council is missing oppportunity after opportunity. Instead of moving Ypsilanti forward, we are engaging in rhetoric, and not very good rhetoric at that. We’re spending an inordinate amount of time telling you why you should or shouldn’t have an income tax. We’re simply wasting your time.

How powerful of a city could we be if we all worked for positive change?

What if Ypsilanti went green?

The only movements that will take hold are those that come from a grassroots movement. Ideas that come from the top down rarely find the support they need to sustain themselves. If the people don’t buy into a concept, it won’t succeed.

Between the YPSI Solar City Hall project, the Contientious Cruiser, Growing Hope, neighborhood gardens, and organiations like Sustainable Ypsi (among others), Ypsilanti is a city that is already turning green. Suggesting that we go green isn’t a marketing ploy. It’s a merely taking the grassroot efforts of the community and focusing them for the betterment of the community.

A lot of cities are trying to go green for a myriad of reasons. Chicago, for example, is trying to reinvent itself as a Green City. As bizarre as it might sound that the city with broad shoulders and hog-butcher to the world can be green, they seem to be moving in the right direction. Mayor Daly is pushing green roofs and have even transformed the roof of their City Hall into a living roof even winning a Merit award in 2002 from the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Chicago has even gone so far as to set up a building used by companies that provide environmental products as well as a location for “green collar” training programs. It’s even used as a vistor’s type center, holding seminars for residents teaching them how to incorporate environmentally-friendly cost-savings features into their lives. The building even generates 72 kW of power using solar panels.

Now I know what you’re saying. A cash-strapped city like Ypsilanti doesn’t have the money to take a polluting company to court and take their building, do a $9M brownfield clean-up and remove 45,000 trucks worth of contamination and debris, and renovate it according to LEED standards.

That’s true, but that’s not what I’m saying.

What policies do we have to put in place to want to encourage someone to come to Ypsilanti and do these kinds of things?

That’s what I’m saying.

In May of 2005, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels led a charge to get mayors from around the country to sign the Kyoto Protocol on global warming. More than 130 cities representing 30 million people signed.the time. The Kyoto Protocol calls for a 7% reduction in heat-trapping, greenhouse gases to levels 7% below those of 1990 by 2012. To reach that goal, Seattle is requiring cruise ships that dock in its port to turn off their diesel engines. Salt Lake City has become Utah’s largest buyer of wind power. New York City is revamping their municipal fleet of vehicle by only buying hybrid-electic powered vehicles.

The Department of Energy’s division of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy has developed a Clean Cities program. Ann Arbor and Detroit are both part of the Clean Cities initiative. In order to be certified a clean city, one must complete a nine-step process that can take two or more years to complete. But once a city is certified, it is able to apply for Federal grants. Ann Arbor has received grants to open the first E85 station in Michigan, perform a feasibility study on the development of a biodiesel production facility, retrofit their local fleet with idle reduction equipment, etc. Their list of accomplishments is quite impressive. Imagine converting Ypsilanti’s DPW fleet to biodiesel.

Less than a month ago, the 21st Century Renewable Energy Plan was introduced for the State of Michigan. We need to hear from our State representatives on how this can be better tailored to serve our needs as a community.

This list of resources goes on and on.

Someone pointed out to me that the Ypsilanti economy is built on restaurants and bars. We have shed most of our industrial base and replaced it with a luxury base. It’s time we changed that focus and sought out clean, green industry, but first we need to show them we are committed to the cause.

This is obviously going to take a lot of effort and energy. I’m not even sure we’re ready to involve government at this point, but this is definitely something worth doing and worth doing now.

Maybe I need to start a Green Ribbon Committee and name an Energy Tsar.

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