City Council hears Sustainability Program update

Submitted by Ed Hauser on Thu, 02/02/2006 - 15:42.


United States


Pictured from left to right: Julius Ciaccia- Director of Public Utilities, Councilman Matt Zone, Andrew Watterson- Cleveland Sustainability Manager, and David Beach- Director, Ecocity Cleveland.


Supporters for Cleveland's new Sustainability Program packed the city council committee room on February 1, to listen to manager Andrew Watterson give a status update of the program. David Beach, an advisory board member with Ecocity Cleveland, opened up the segment interpreting what sustainability is all about and the importance of the new program. The advisory board overseeing the program is made up of representative from seven non-profits, city council and the administration. Beach stressed that Cleveland can be an innovation lab and that we must lead by example.

Watterson, whose new position as Sustainability Programs manager, was funded for the first two years by the Cleveland and Gund Foundations. The position is anticipated to be sustained from the money saved by Cleveland from sustainable practices. The goal of the program is to save the city money, reduce the ecological footprint, sustainable economic development, and to introduce sustainable principles into city government.

The strategy for the internal policies consist of leading by example, operations and management, education,and procurement. The external policies will focus on projects and initiatives. Some of the initiatives include wind energy, co-gen power (steam and electricity), high performance buildings, construction waste management, and energy audits. Current projects include anti-idling policy for vehicle fleets, biodiesel pilot project, alternative transportation with 82 employees signed up, purchasing policies integrating sustainability, air and water quality, storm water management recycling and greenspace preservation.

Councilman Polensek felt that the sustainability program is so important, that a subcommittee should be formed to work with the manager and address its potential for all the wards in the city. The hearing concluded with city council moving two ordinances forward regarding the sustainable initiatives. The first ordinance will extend the license agreement with Green Energy Ohio for use of the Kirtland Crib to maintain a wind monitoring tower and continue their wind study for two years, and to install a new wind turbine to generate power for the crib. The second ordinance will upgrade the Nottingham Water Works Plant's pump control systems and instrumentation.

After its first year in existence, the Sustainability Program has been a success. Andrew Watterson received accolades from the city council utilities committee and a large round of applause from his fans in the audience. This program has demonstrated that Cleveland will be leader in sustainability practices and is showing the nation that we will lead by example.

Sustainability Hearing

I was pleased to also attend the sustainability hearing, but I have to confess to being less enthused. The content of the hearing, the report of the "sustainability initiatives" by Cleveland Sustainability Manager Andrew Watterson and the overall value and importance of sustainability initiatives by ECOCity's David Beach, was absolutely terrific.  Mr. Watterson has done a great job to engage offices to embrace initiatives and really move forward.  David Beach framed the overall issues effectively and clarified the importance of sustainability for the overall health and progress of the region.  Sadly, however, I thought the demonstration of value was largely one way and several Members of Council demonstrated only moderate familiarity, appreciation and understanding of the issues.

Recall that the funding for the sustainability initiatives was entirely provided by outside foundations, rather than through Cleveland's own budget.  Council will need to provide funds itself at some point to sustain or build on these initiatives. The most insightful comments were those of Council Public Utilities Subcommittee Chairman Matt Zone, who deserves credit for moving the hearings forward. Councilman Michael Polensek's suggestion that Council create a special sustainability subcommittee, when they haven't even put their own or additional money into the activities, seems very premature, a style change rather than a substantive commitment.  If Council wanted to demonstrate their commitment, they should offer additional resources or compel more city agencies to commit to sustainability, not hollow reform like creating a special subcommittee.

City funding for the Sustainability Program

Thanks for the comments Kevin.  It's great that the foundations are paying $226,000 for the first two years of the programs operation, which includes Andrew Watterson's salary and other initiatives.  The program is to be sustained by the savings from current department operations and new initiatives.  The city administration and council are going through the annual budget this month, I think I read the city is $13 million in the hole.  So, I don't see them putting a whole lot of money into this program, although it would be a good investment. 


I understood Councilman Polensek's suggestion that there should be a subcommittee and to work closer with each city ward and the county 's sustainability programs.  That means that the subcommitte would work on getting the word out about what the Sustainability Program and what it has to offer for each ward.


The subcommittee would explore how the program's initiatives could be implemented into ward projects, such as to determine which existing or new buildings could use green building practices; construction waste management; improving the environment and health; commercial and residential recycling...


I think that the city needs to engage all the city agencies and council members to find out how this program can benefit them.  Unfortuately, Andrew Watterson is only one person, so that will take some time.  Hopefully the savings over time will allow the program to hire more staff.