Monthly Archives: August 2008

PACE Meeting and Crosswalk Action

Pedestrian Advocates of the Coastal Empire will hold its monthly meeting at noon on Thursday, Sept. 4 in the John Knox Room of First Presbyterian Church, 520 Washington Ave. At 12:30 We’ll move down the street to the corner of Washington and Waters avenues for a Crosswalk Action. What’s a Crosswalk Action? It’s a fun and friendly way to communicate pedestrian safety messages to walkers and drivers alike. Here’s a definition from America Walks:

A Crossing Action is an organized event in which a group of pedestrians repeatedly crosses a street in marked and/or unmarked crosswalks in a legal fashion, so as to communicate messages to drivers, pedestrians, media representatives and other observers. Members of the organized group carry signs with educational and advocacy messages. Crossing actions can involve as few as 10 or more than 40 people, but sufficient numbers are required to communicate the messages with strength and diversity.

More information here.

More Good News from City Government

In the wake of the Thrive initiative’s unveiling at the town hall meeting last week, come more exciting developments from the City of Savannah. At today’s City Council meeting, two more initiatives were approved, each important on their own, but also notable for their correspondence with the goals set forth by Thrive and the Healthy Savannah 2012 Initiative.

picture-6.pngFirst, Council approved a resolution directing the city manager “to submit an application to the League of American Cyclists to join the Bicycle Friendly Communities Initiative.” A Bicycle Friendly Community designation will provide a meaningful third party affirmation that can be a powerful tool in promoting Savannah to visitors and potential new residents. And, more importantly, it will indicate that the city has made progress toward becoming more hospitable to cyclists.

While the ultimate goal is the designation, the process getting there yields its own rewards. Among these is the completion of a baseline study to determine where we are now and criteria that will guide the city to make systematic improvements. Some tangible manifestations of the process include the facilitation of a bicycle workshop and the implementation of a bicycle census. At the meeting, Mayor Otis Johnson expressed his appreciation to the Savannah Bicycle Campaign, which has been working with city staff to put the resolution before Council.

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Next up was a resolution to “direct and authorize the city manager to pledge the City of Savannah to the Governor’s Energy Challenge.” The challenge calls for agencies to reduce energy consumption 15 percent below 2007 levels by the year 2020. The Governor’s Energy Challenge Web site describes the potential benefits of successful completion of the challenge:

Meeting this goal will reduce Georgia’s dependence on traditional energy sources, support the local economy, and improve the environment. When fully implemented, the Governor’s Energy Challenge will provide information, technical assistance, other resources and awards to those Georgians who pledge to meet the Governor’s challenge.

In a memo to the mayor and aldermen recommending approval, City Manger Michael Brown suggested that Savannah’s acceptance of the challenge would make it the first local government participant and demonstrate “Savannah’s commitment to sustainability” to the entire state.

A Chance to Take the High Road

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With the City of Savannah leaning green, as evidenced by the Thrive initiative, a test case presents itself. Project DeRenne could provide proof the City is willing to, “walk the talk,” as Mayor Johnson might say. On one side are community advocates, who want to protect neighborhoods and believe that streets should be community assets, not just pipes that move cars. On the other are motorists—many of whom decided to move from Savannah to the suburbs—looking to shave a couple minutes off their commutes.

The outcome will demonstrate which is the priority: community or cars?

WSAV drills deeper into oil story

picture-2.pngOur local television news operations are good at a number of things. Delivering spot news, weather and interviews with high school football players are among these. Unfortunately, tight deadlines usually prevent them from fully exploring complex issues, which can’t be told with two interviews and some b-roll. Russ Riesigner’s “Drilling for Answers” report, which aired on Aug. 20, is the exception to the rule.

Riesinger starts off in standard mode, interviewing representatives Barrow and Kingston, both of whom express support for offshore oil drilling. Then David Kyler, of the Center for a Sustainable Coast, offers a contrary view, followed by comments from tourists who have been duped into marching with the drill team.

Politicians? Check. Treehugger? Check. Average folks? Check. And that’s where the story normally would have ended.

But WSAV drilled down deeper into the issue, offering the following insights that normally wouldn’t have been included in the standard issue package:

  • Despite what the politicians say and most of America believes, offshore drilling won’t provide instant relief.
  • Oil is fungible global commodity and this isn’t Las Vegas. There’s no guarantee that what’s drilled in this country will stay in this country.
  • While there’s been plenty of talk about safer drilling platforms, there’s other infrastructure involved, including pipelines that bring their own environmental concerns.
  • Rigs aren’t likely to appear off the coast of Tybee, anyway, as our coastline has poor prospects for oil production.

WSAV called the segment a “special” report and I would agree with that assessment.

A Collaborative Effort

By now, you’ve read the reports about the city’s new Thrive Initiative. The public announcement and pledge is an important first step in moving the city toward a more (environmentally) sustainable future.

The even better news is that there are is a lot of opportunity for citizens (that means you!) and local organizations (and you!) to take part in the crucial next steps of:
Developing policies and programming
Implementing policies and programming
Measuring the effects of policies and programming
Reporting on progress or lack therof to ensure transparency

Members of the Savannah Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, Savanah Bicycle Campaign, Savannah State University and A.W.O.L threw their respective hats into the ring last night to welcome responses from the mayor, city manager and council. The promise of collaboration is very encouraging.

Before the Thrive Initiative was introduced, members of the audience were brought up to speed on the ongoing efforts the city and its partners are undertaking in the areas of Crime, Economic Development, The DeRenne Project, Affordable Housing and Youth. Moving forward, I hope that we will start to look for synergies between these other issues and the city’s efforts to improve environmental quality in the Savannah area. Ultimately, all three three legs of the sustainability stool (community, economy, environment) must be addressed and addressing them together should prove more innovative and effective.