Two weeks ago, DC’s Mayor Gray unveiled a plan called, A Vision for a Sustainable DC. Essentially it’s what you would get if you were to take every smart green initiative that any city has done and then wrapped it up with a bunch of benchmarks. In other words, it’s crazy ambitious:
In just one generation—20 years—the District of Columbia will be the healthiest, greenest, and most livable city in the United States. An international destination for people and investment, the District will be a model of innovative policies and practices that improve quality of life and economic opportunity. We will demonstrate how enhancing our natural and built environments, investing in a diverse clean economy, and reducing disparities among residents can create an educated, equitable and prosperous society.
How much of this will actually happen? Who knows. But the fact that he’s going for something so bold is a breath of fresh air.
How ambitious is it? Here are a few of my faves:
JOBS: Increase by 5 times the number of jobs providing green goods and services
HEALTH: Cut citywide obesity rate by 50%
CLIMATE: Cut citywide greenhouse gas emissions by 50%
ENERGY: Cut citywide energy consumption by 50%; Increase use of renewable energy to 50%
FOOD: Bring locally-grown food within a quarter mile of 75% of the population
NATURE: Cover 40% of the District with a healthy tree canopy: Ensure 100% of residents are within a 10-minute walk of a natural space
TRANSPORTATION: Make 75% of all trips by walking, biking, or transit
WASTE: Achieve zero waste by consuming less and reusing everything else
GREEN ECONOMY: Develop 3 times as many small District-based businesses; Cut city-wide unemployment by 50%
What I particularly like about the plan is that it’s trying to focus on the needs of everybody, not just tree huggers. For example:
Ultimately, sustainability means good things for your health, your community, and your wallet. For example:
• Sustainability means spending less on utility bills because it takes less energy to heat and cool your energy efficient home.
• Sustainability means saving up to thousands of dollars a year by walking, biking, and using transit more often, and not needing another car for your family.
And it talks about tackling the terrible job situation for poor folks of color in DC.
Overall, our city has an unemployment rate of just under 10%. However, it ranges from as low as 2% in Ward 3 to as high as 24% in Ward 8. With more than 50,000 unfilled jobs currently available across the city, there is a clear disconnect between the workforce and the skills and training required by these positions.
There is a tremendous opportunity to train and employ workers in the District’s growing green economy. Each component of this vision should help generate and maintain quality jobs for our residents, while simultaneously addressing the training required to succeed in those positions. For each goal or action suggested, there is the opportunity to create new jobs at every rung on the career ladder.
Here and there it’s even got little signs of more radical approaches. For example, as part of its Green Economy strategy, it gives a nod towards the approach that succeeding in Cleveland known as Evergreen Cooperatives:
Universities, hospitality, and healthcare industries will pool their collective purchasing power to buy sustainable goods and services from local, cooperatively-owned businesses.
Is it perfect? Obviously not – not by a long shot. For example, one of the goals is to attract a large number of new residents while retaining existing residence, and it’s not clear if this is a commitment to prevent gentrification from pushing folks out of their neighborhoods or not. And undoubtedly lots of the great intentions will be plowed under or perverted into something other than that what they were intended (welcome to big city politics). But compared to most city plans? It’s pretty amazing.
And with a plan as ambitious as this one, it also creates new opportunities for organizing. That in and of itself can be a pretty big deal.
It’s not often that I get fired up by reading a city plan. I haven’t gotten involved in DC politics, largely because it’s felt like an unending uphill battle where the best you can do is not lose. But a plan like this, even if it turns out to be mostly smoke and mirrors, is enough to make me think maybe it’s worth putting my toes in the water.