This is my response to a questionnaire sent out by the Green Triangle. I went a little long-form with my responses. Please, ask me further questions, either directly or in the comments!
1. What is your personal definition of sustainability and how is your life guided by this definition? Please name sustainability projects you have personally been involved with, either in your home or your community.
My first semester at college, I had a professor who put in front of me the Wendell Berry essay “Two Economies” and the lessons from that reading stuck with me. It just made sense to me that you couldn’t have the economy of man acting within but out of sync with the greater economy of our world. You can’t have industries that simply extract, or others that seek to push their waste and associated costs off their balance sheet. In the great economy, there is no ‘off the balance sheet’. You can observe this dynamic in every part of our lives- I can’t simply extract privilege and advantage from my community without seeking to replenish it, and I cannot simply seek to make my problems those of someone else. I appreciate Berry’s sense of thrift and frugality, of finding local answers to local problems, and of creating wealth within the community and returning it to the community. It may seem like I have wandered off the mark of defining sustainability for myself, but sustainability must be one of many values that we weave together to make a way of living.
2. From a sustainable 9th district perspective, what are your experiences in working with city and state departments or agencies?
I have few experiences working with city or state bodies, beyond the occasional call to MetroCall.
From the point of view of a typical resident, the more you have to consciously interact with city or state bodies to get something done, the less likely you are to do it. My job on the metro council and as a leader of this community would be to make interactions with these programs as seamless as possible, and to incentivize participation when more effort is required by the individual. It is important that we make it as easy as possible for people to make the best decisions, whether that is providing residents with secure, lidded recycling containers, making sure people know their transit options in their community and make those easy to access, just to name a couple of ground level examples.
3. Tina Ward-Pugh focused on sustainability in the 9th district through waste water compliance and she began using a “Green Lens” to view all public projects and work (roadways, construction ,growth projects and recreation) that is conducted in the district and beyond.
Explain why you agree or disagree with the importance of using this “Green Lens”?
I agree absolutely with the value of viewing all our decisions through a ‘green lens’. I would argue, though, that this green lens is only a part of a greater Lens of Livability, focused on sustaining and conserving our people and our communities.
Too often sustainability is seen as something extra that must be done, as a burden or as the sole provence of those with time and energy enough to pursue it. We must find the ways that sustainable practices make real differences in the lives of the individuals and businesses that take them up. We must educate people on how these practices intersect with other goals and provide other benefits, not only to the individual person or business, but to others as well.
Take TARC, for example. Increasing TARC ridership will be a goal of my time in office. The benefits are many: by riding TARC instead of driving, you save money on gas for your car as well as reducing the pollution you personally release in to our community. You make the streets safer by reducing the total number of vehicles on them, as well as reducing congestion and the pollution that follows it. By incorporating TARC in to your life, you become more likely to shop at the small businesses along bus routes, while easing parking congestion. By buying your TARC pass and getting on the bus, you are supporting a vital service for many in our community, and you signal to our leaders that you are invested in the transit system that we have, but ready for the transit system that we want. That is an awful lot that I can accomplish by simply buying a TARC pass and climbing aboard a bus.
Or take Demand Side Management funds. These funds come from a charge applied to every CCF of gas and KWH of electricity we consume, set aside to reduce demand and increase efficiency on the consumer end of things. Right now the city of Louisville does not ask for a seat at the table when the Public Service Commission decides how to use these funds. As a member of the Metro Council, I would strongly push to have the city intervene and direct these funds to programs that could have the greatest impact on energy consumption AND the greatest positive effect on people’s lives. Things like weatherization programs for older rental homes and apartments would reduce our carbon footprint by increasing the efficiency of these structures, it would promote investment (and the increased value and jobs that come with it) that would be unlikely to be made otherwise, and it would make life that much more livable for the tenant seeing the reduced energy bills.
I would make it my job to find the most meaningful ways to enact sustainable practices in people’s lives, show them tangible benefits to themselves and their communities, and then use the good will and positive effects of real benefits to further other sustainable ends. Maybe the person who rides the bus becomes more likely to walk their neighborhood or ride a bike. Maybe with the money and time working you save through lower energy bills, you start a garden.
4. Would you support and, if so, what would your strategy be, to expand the Central Business district's wet/dry recycling pilot project into the 9th district?
I support anything that increases the diversion rate of recyclable materials, promotes composting, lowers costs for individuals and businesses, and generally keeps things out of the landfill. According to the CBD’s Wet/Dry recycling website, the pilot program is only now beginning. It is a pilot program, and the practices and results of it need to be evaluated before it can be expanded. I feel this is only prudent.
5. Surveys show that people in Louisville are driving less and are using alternate modes of transportation.
How would you advance these alternate modes of transportation?
I believe that walkable, cyclable, accessible neighborhoods are essential for building communities as well as fostering the strong local businesses that often make our neighborhoods worth living in. I would seek to make all of District 9 as accessible as my neighborhood of Clifton, and to build on that accessibility. I also think that we must increase our TARC ridership, for many reasons, but not least to signal our investment and readiness for better transit options in our city.
I think I made it pretty clear in my remarks above, and at the Frankfort Avenue Business Association forum, that I support increased TARC ridership, as well as walkable and cyclable neighborhoods.
I think that increased ridership is the only way to demonstrate that we are ready for better mass transit solutions in our city. This being said, I would like to see more bus shelters, with greater information available at them. The city presently includes GPS trackers on their buses, and is in the process of making this information available to bus tracking apps. This summer TARC will begin using tap-to-pay smart cards to eventually replace bus passes. Is it so hard to imagine a bus shelter that allows you to tap to pay before boarding the bus, that tells you when the next bus is coming, and about other intersecting bus routes. Maybe even a bus shelter that uses this information to run more efficiently and tailor service both that day and over the long term. Once again, though, nothing like this happens without people invested in the system and advocating from within.
I would like to see more police officers on bicycles, especially in my neighborhood of Clifton. I think these officers could set an example to other cyclists as to how to behave, as well as making drivers more aware of cyclists and how to interact with them as traffic on our streets. There would be a public safety element as well. This district has plenty of alleys and discontinuous streets that anyone would be reluctant to push a Ford Crown Victoria down. Officers on bicycles though, would be better able to negotiate these spaces. I think that outside of their cruiser, police officers would be better able to interact with their community, and their community would feel much safer simply by this.
6. Are you aware of, and have you participated in, the Green Triangle website?
Can we, the Green Triangle and the district, count on you to support the community's efforts?
How would you entice your constituency to increase the efforts of sustainability in the 9th district?
I am aware of the Green Triangle website, some of the programs that have been a part of it as well as the valuable data it has collected. I am under the impression that the Green Triangle’s activities are being rolled in to the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability and the Louisville Sustainability Council. I think this represents the next logical step, to take these efforts wider in the community, and to foster the deeper public/private connections that will be needed to build a truly sustainable community.
I think I have outlined above my support for sustainability, and my intention to focus on things that can provide real tangible benefits to people and to businesses. It is then my intention to use these tangible benefits as the thin end of the wedge, to pursue green initiatives and practices that are also needed but may not provide as much tangible benefit to the individual. I would do everything I can to make sure man’s economy moves in concert with the great economy, and to see sustainability as a tool for making our district and city not only richer and better, but simply Livable for us all.