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the full letter to the MI city council

Rationale for Sustainability as a Framework  for All Planning in the City of Mercer Island

WHAT WE ARE ASKING

We ask that the City Council, in addition to choosing sustainability as one of its five or six priority goals at the annual planning meeting in late January, identify it as a fundamental organizing framework for all comprehensive city planning processes.

We ask that our city take the first step towards adopting this framework by formally adopting the STAR Community Rating System as a ready-made tool for setting sustainability goals, measuring progress, and reporting to our citizens.

We also hope that our city will soon join the more than 150 cities, large and small, who are leading on sustainability by committing to renewable energy.  View a map of US cities already powered by 100% renewable energy with others committed to get there.

We have prepared this letter and associated packet of community-driven project ideas  endorsed by over (# of residents and organizations)  to demonstrate our determination to have our community lead on these issues.

Sustainability is a moral imperative. Climate change is accelerating. We must all do our part to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to global warming. If Mercer Island leads, many other communities in the region will take notice. The resulting coordinated effort could yield a flood of good ideas, greater efficiencies, and lower costs.

WHAT DO WE MEAN BY SUSTAINABILITY?

For the environment: Ecosystem integrity that is neither depleted nor degraded, with a social and physical infrastructure supporting ecological balance to ensure fresh air, clean water, and healthy soil, among other resources.

For the economy: A vibrant, local, low carbon economy driven by clean renewable energy, with resource efficiency based on a “circular economy,” and leapfrogging to “smart city” technologies.

For equity:  A safe, healthy, cohesive, and productive community where all people have equitable opportunities to thrive.  King County is currently leading on equity policy, programs, and performance measures. This concept includes intergenerational equity as well, the idea that future generations have the same right to enjoy the bounty of our planet as we do.  

BACKGROUND

In 2006, the City of Mercer Island made its first formal commitment to sustainability by adopting the following language to the City’s Vision Statement in the Comprehensive Plan:

“Mercer Island strives to be a sustainable community: meeting the needs of the present while also preserving the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. We consider the relationship between the decisions we make as a community and their long-term impacts before committing to them. We understand that our strength is dependent on an open decision-making process that takes into account the economic, environmental and social well-being of our community.”

In 2012, the City convened a Sustainability Policy Task Force charged with developing “sustainability policy that directs the City’s actions and priorities for being a sustainable city…to reduce the Island’s environmental impact, save money both for City operations and for residents, and improve Islanders’ quality of life.”

The approved document (AB 4770) incorporates specific recommendations relating to waste reduction, energy and water conservation, yard toxins, green building and sustainability communications.

Most recommendations have been acted on to some degree in the five years that have followed. However, the two most important recommendations developed by the Task Force have not yet been substantially acted on:

  1. Incorporating sustainability as a core concept that drives decision-making at all levels

  2. Creating a comprehensive sustainability action plan that includes measurable quantitative and qualitative indicators to chart progress.

RATIONALE

We feel the time to act to deepen our community’s commitment to sustainability is now, for the following reasons:

  • Political “stars” are aligning. Recent changes in the State Legislature will likely create a more favorable regulatory environment for sustainability. The City’s voice and impact are amplified by our relationship with sustainability-minded neighboring jurisdictions through the nationally-recognized King County-Cities Climate Collaboration (K4C) process. And over the past year, citizen groups (Sustainable MI, Citizens Climate Lobby, Green Schools, Sustainability Ambassadors, 100% Clean Energy-MI, Neighbors in Motion) have become more active on the Island, showing the depth of citizen support across multiple generations for this type of initiative.
  • A “turnkey” approach for sustainability success is available. Mercer Island does not have to “reinvent the wheel” to create an actionable, quantifiable sustainability plan. Many neighboring jurisdictions have successfully adopted the STAR Community Rating System, the nation’s leading framework and certification program for local sustainability. We can learn a lot from their experience getting started with this program. The city already has much of the data needed to implement STAR, and is piloting a new software package (Scope 5) that allows comprehensive measurement and depiction of the community’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Data from this tracking system could help us track progress in many of the STAR categories.
  • We can enhance government and community resilience. Sustainability focuses on conserving resources rather than depleting or degrading them. It also emphasizes cooperation at all levels among community stakeholders. The level of planning and coordination required will strengthen the city’s ability to respond and to provide services during emergencies, when regular services may be cut off.
  • We can promote local awareness and action. The greatest threat to sustainable development is carbon emissions. We have begun to experience direct consequences of global warming , in the form of smoke from more extensive wildfires, heavy rain and flooding, drought, and heat waves. It is only through the collective efforts of hundreds of thousands of communities like Mercer Island that humanity has a chance of averting the most serious consequences of global warming. We should aim as well to preserve the beauty and biodiversity of our wonderful island for future generations in addition to its natural capital. (Natural capital consists of natural resources, including plants, animals, minerals, and ecosystems, that function in a manner that produces ecosystem goods and services. A forest within a watershed, for example, filters the water that supplies nearby communities. See Earth Economics.)
  • We can increase trust in government and confidence in its efficiency. Re-envisioning use of scarce public resources for societal and environmental benefit can enhance trust in government.  Also, government leaders can demonstrate leadership to our sister communities in King County. An overall sustainability plan provides context that links individual actions to larger policy frameworks. Sustainability strategies can have positive effects on organizations. They can create greater awareness of the importance of efficiency in operations. Once an organization learns new ways of prioritizing efficiency in one area, such as energy conservation, there can be positive “spillover” to other areas. Also, implementing sustainability tracking and data sharing can help break down organizational barriers.
  • Investing in smart city technologies for the future. Digital technology and intelligent design can been harnessed to create smart, sustainable cities with high-quality living and high-quality jobs. See the Wall Street Journal’s article on the rise of the smart city from April 2017. City governments serve all citizens -- young and old, rich and poor. They must plan with an eye towards improving safety and the overall quality of life for all both now and in the future. To tap into the transformative power of smart technologies, cities need a visionary framework to guide decision-making.
  • Sustainability policies can promote economic growth. Sustainability policies can enhance the community’s attractiveness  as a livable community, and may bring more “green” businesses to the Island. Debt rating agencies look more favorably on cities that proactively adopt policies to reduce financial risks associated with extreme weather events.

CONCLUSION

Cities and their residents can only benefit from a comprehensive approach that reduces energy costs, dependence on fossil-fuel imports, and pollution; that improves coordination among and efficiency within local government departments; and that redirects resources to the task of improving living standards for everyone. The prospects for transitioning to a low carbon future while maintaining economic development have never been brighter. Practicing sustainable values can enhance citizen stakeholding and trust in government. Development must meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.  Our City Council has the opportunity now to take a lead role in turning this vision of sustainable development into reality. We hope they will choose to do so.

Endorsements by Mercer Islanders:

  1. Jonathan Harrington, PhD., Author
  2. Peter Donaldson, Sustainability Ambassadors
  3. Yve Sharples, MIHS Class of 2019, Sustainability Ambassadors
  4. Elizabeth Hardisty, Transition Initiative Mercer Island
  5. Jonathan Kopelovich, MD
  6. Maggie Tai Tucker, co-chair, 100% Clean Energy Mercer Island
  7. Kim Rice, MD, co-chair, 100% Clean Energy Mercer Island
  8. Jim Rice, MD
  9. Callie Ridolfi
  10. Emily Lewis
  11. The Rev. Marilyn Cornwell Ph.D.
  12. Nancy Weil
  13. Dan Grove
  14. Mary Wittman
  15. Michael Grady
  16. Emily Holing
  17. Jill Hendrick
  18. Stephanie St. Mary
  19. Marcy Berejka
  20. David Ross
  21. Nancy Greer
  22. Blair Destro
  23. Mary Stoll
  24. Elliot Newman
  25. Leslie Moore
  26. Jeanette Svensk Li
  27. Craig Reynolds
  28. Don Cohen
  29. Jayme Witman
  30. Lisa Li
  31. Bert Loosmore
  32. Erica Tripard
  33. Jane Reynolds
  34. Alexandra Seidel
  35. Jean Greaves
  36. Carolyn Boatsman
  37. William Dillon
  38. Jenny Harrington
  39. Tracy Drinkwater
  40. Paneen Davidson
  41. Robin Li
  42. Brian Emanuels
  43. Katharine Lamperti
  44. Kristina Anderson
  45. Elizabeth Loiselle
  46. Nancy Lee
  47. James Lee
  48. Albert W. Edmonds
  49. John Friends
  50. Arnold Reich
  51. Shannon Warburg
  52. Amanda Clark
  53. Margaret Morency
  54. Joan Franklin
  55. Sarah Mangold
  56. Anne Way
  57. Siobhan Daly
  58. Edie Shen
  59. Dana Uyeta
  60. Nan Waldie
  61. Amy Ferron
  62. Anne Thomson
  63. Andrea Kristof
  64. Stacey Roehrs
  65. Anne Ihnen
  66. Jonathan Shakes
  67. Corrie Yackulic
  68. Rebecca Okelo
  69. Amy Flynn
  70. Robert Jones
  71. Cynthia Yost
  72. Peggy Way
  73. Mary Kraft
  74. Robert Eisenman
  75. Cassandra Houghton
  76. Marla Donaldson
  77. Ted Yackulic
  78. Quinn Yackulic
  79. Deborah Banker
  80. Greg Rock
  81. Renee Milkie
  82. Erik Swenson
  83. Michael Rosen
  84. Judith Schwab
  85. Michele Gurnsey
  86. Kit Swartz
  87. Alan Bunin, MD
  88. Guadalupe Petrone
  89. Bob Ellis
  90. Sue Biggins
  91. Thomas Hildebrandt
  92. Cyril Baumgartner
  93. Sara Berkenwald
  94. Toni Okada
  95. Harris Klein
  96. John Dulin
  97. Shirley Reynolds Rock
  98. Sally Stroud
  99. Kathy Gusdorf
  100. Erica Franklin
  101. Emily Breese
  102. Ari Porad
  103. Anne Fox
  104. Alan Lippert
  105. Saralee Kane
  106. Keith Swanson
  107. Kathy Finn
  108. Kathryn Middleton
  109. Suzanne Gorin
  110. Emi Olson
  111. Jordan Friedman
  112. Nancy Abel
  113. George Wittman
  114. Cecilia Finnigan
  115. Sharon Brown
  116. Priscilla Featherstone
  117. Sandy Maloof
  118. Carolyn Counihan
  119. Daniel Paull
  120. Kathy Gottlieb
  121. Colleen Mohn
  122. Nancy Abel
  123. Roberta Lewandowski
  124. Jason Rogers
  125. Ben Friedman
  126. Mark Aggar
  127. Alan Bunin MD
  128. Lisa Porad
  129. Tanya Aggar
  130. Ellen Miller-Wolfe
  131. Amy Tsai
  132. Danielle DeVaux
  133. Susan Morrisson
  134. Lisa VandenBerghe
  135. Roxanne Navrides
  136. Carol Mariano
  137. Safia De Broglio
  138. Rachel Franklin
  139. Betty Morgan
  140. Thomas Lamperti
  141. Bart Dawson
  142. Jessica Prince
  143. David Wilborn
  144. Carole Branom
  145. Lopa Jacob
  146. Mark Coen
  147. Janice Nice
  148. Barbara David
  149. Isac Goiea
  150. Teresa Wright
  151. Jeffrey Ballard Jr.
  152. Tsering Short
  153. Charles Zwick
  154. Frances Istari
  155. Francoise Martin
  156. Leah Gale
  157. Bianca Le
  158. Binali Edmonds
  159. Lindsay Shi
  160. Tristan Moore
  161. Chris Elliot
  162. Lucas Mar
  163. Olivia Wallin
  164. Thomas Horton King
  165. Wescott Sharples
  166. Leah Burrell
  167. James Watson
  168. David Wei
  169. Grady Y. Short
  170. Brandon Hill
  171. Vida Wang
  172. Asher O’Briant
  173. Kamil Van Vliet
  174. Beijha Sibrian
  175. Tommy Ronaldson
  176. Homa Askari
  177. Alex Quinlan
  178. Jake D’Souza
  179. Rutger Marks
  180. Anna Zurawski
  181. Mackenzie Magnussen
  182. Declan Chapin
  183. Jessica Manner
  184. Patrick Duffie
  185. Cole Miller
  186. Lauren Pirak
  187. Mike Radow
  188. Mathi Ngamsiripol
  189. Mary Vanderwall
  190. Josh Chansky
  191. Ella Hensey
  192. Jillian Kasman
  193. Drew Deguchi
  194. Taleah Levin
  195. Emily Christenson
  196. Ana Somani
  197. Tyler Robinson
  198. Philip Zhang
  199. Rachel Tang
  200. Annie Pearse
  201. Garrett Leung
  202. Connor Grady
  203. Peter Davis
  204. Ben Capuano
  205. Hannah Whobrey
  206. Kelly Hou
  207. Andrew Motz
  208. Jack Price
  209. Lexi Shurygailo
  210. Theo Copley
  211. Hannah Lebow
  212. Megan Vanderzanden
  213. Azaad Burn
  214. Libby Egan
  215. Mouni Nguyen
  216. Lisa Sharples
  217. Cliff Sharples
  218. Kelly Kolb
  219. Stephanie Robinett
  220. Sarah Clark
  221. Paval Batalor
  222. Grace Nordale
  223. Audrey Sanborn
  224. Quinn Zakahi
  225. Chloe Mark
  226. Nadia Lumba
  227. Ethan Marot
  228. Ryan Handler
  229. Jacob Goldfarb
  230. Talia Morris
  231. Abby Berman
  232. Keathley Pinney Brown
  233. Nak Nayar
  234. Colette Li
  235. Lilly Evans-Riera
  236. Tallulah Booth
  237. Nolwenn Dumont
  238. Alexandra Williams
  239. James Cartwright
  240. Emily Rowe
  241. Mathilda Noone
  242. Emily Arron
  243. Luka Marceta
  244. Sam Patterson
  245. Glen Mahony
  246. Blake Robertson
  247. Nicole Mandt
  248. Kayla Mitchell
  249. Alex Benson
  250. Juliet Hong
  251. Charles Zwick
  252. Frances Istari
  253. Francoise Martin
  254. Leah Gale
  255. Laurene Poythress
  256. Ronald Maze
  257. Suzanne Skone
  258. Robert McElroy
  259. Katie Fellows
  260. John Pace

 Endorsements by local organizations and businesses:

  1. Mercer Island Clergy Association
  2. Homegrown Sustainable Sandwiches
  3. Island Vision
  4. Sustainability Ambassadors Group
  5. Mercer Island UPS Store
  6. Mercer Island True Value Hardware
  7. Chris Francisco Jewelers (Chris Francisco)
  8. Hair It Is (Amy Sletten)
  9. Fexy Media
  10. MIHS Green Team
  11. Lakeridge Green Team