We are not alone. You wouldn’t know it from the constant attack from the Chamber of Commerce and Chevron on Richmond’s green initiatives, but green is where the future is. That is where the jobs are, and that is where help and money from the state and federal government is concentrated. It was good to be with elected officials from around California and state government officials who understand this and who are leading the charge.
Last weekend, we attended the 19th annual Yosemite Conference put on by the Local Government Commission for city council members and county supervisors. This year’s event was entitled: “Building Livable Communities – Building Community Vitality in a Green Economy.”
With my two-year term as chair running out, this was my last LGC event where I had the privilege of formally welcoming attendees. Mayor Gayle McLaughlin attended along with other mayors, including Tom Bates of Berkeley and Elizabeth Patterson of Berkeley.
The emphasis this year’s was job creation in the new green economy.
Leading off the pre-conference session on Thursday night was Ventura City Manager Rick Cole and Barbara Halsey, Executive Director, California Workforce Investment Board.
Halsey urged city council members to serve on their local Workforce Investment Boards to make sure they are looking at the green economy. She referred to the California Workforce Investment Board’s Green Collar Jobs Council:
The Green Collar Jobs Act, signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger on September 26, 2008, established the Green Collar Jobs Council (GCJC) under the purview of the California Workforce Investment Board (CWIB). The CWIB is charged with developing a comprehensive workforce development plan for the State as described in the Workforce Training Act of 2008 and with federal responsibilities outlined in the Workforce Investment Act of 1998.
"As we continue to navigate California’s economic recovery, we want to make sure our businesses and residents are ready to compete for new markets and changing jobs. The Green Collar Jobs Council will work with leaders in education, workforce development and business throughout the state to ensure California is on the leading edge of the new green economy - and able to meet the job demands it brings."− Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The Green Collar Jobs Council is tasked with understanding the current and future workforce needs of the Green/Clean economy, developing a comprehensive strategy to prepare California’s workforce to meet the needs of businesses supporting the economy and ensure that efforts aimed at improving worker’s skills are coordinated and effective.
The first night leadoff speaker was Jim Charlier, President of Charlier Associates, Inc ., of Boulder, CO, a leading practitioner in sustainable communities. He is an expert in mobility, and his topic was “Energy, Economics and Mobility: What Potential Futures Can Our Cities Afford?”
Rick Cole closed the evening with a review of the 1997 Ahwahnee Principles for Economic Development, showing that they are even more applicable today than when they were adopted 13 years ago.
Saturday morning started off with Andrew Altevogt, Senior Manager, Climate Programs, CalEPA, discussing the new California State Adaptation Strategy, a first-of-its-kind multi-sector strategy to help guide California's efforts in adapting to climate change impacts is available below. In cooperation and partnership with multiple state agencies, the 2009 California Climate Adaptation Strategy summarizes the best known science on climate change impacts in seven specific sectors and provides recommendations on how to manage against those threats.
CalEPA is one of 18 state agencies that form the California Climate Action Team, coordinating statewide efforts for climate change adaptation and providing advice for regional and local governments.
Tom Bates, mayor of Berkeley, reviewed Berkeley’s Climate Action Plan and BerkeleyFIRST, the first program in California to use bond funds to pay for solar installations that are paid with prooerty taxes. He also discussed Berkeley’s Green pathway permitting streamlining program that provides extra fast processing of permits for green projects.
Before lunch on Saturday, Rod Dole, Auditor/Controller/Tax Collector of Sonoma County described Sonoma County’s Energy Independence Program that, like Berkeley, uses AB 811 to fund $100 million in energy efficiency upgrades that are paid for through property taxes. Instead of going to the bond market, Sonoma County uses its own invested funds, a win-win that gives the County a higher interest rate and program participants a lower rate. The County and all nine cities are participating. The program is creating a significant number of jobs, particularly in construction companies that have been hit hard by the recession. These types of programs could be even more effective if HR 3525 were passed. California Congressman Mike Thompson introduced HR 3525 in July of 2009. This bill would allow the use of federally tax-exempt bonds for PACE Programs. The use of tax exempt bonds would strengthen PACE programs by reducing the interest rate for participants.
Dole said that Sonoma’s program will be able to market energy savings from the program under cap and trade, bringing in even more funding. He noted that Sonoma County building industry jobs had increased 9% because of the program while adjoining counties continued to lose construction jobs.
Bob Fisher is a successful businessman on the California Strategic Growth Council. He touted two grant opportunities with millions of dollars available to cities (Urban Greening and SGC Planning) using Prop 84 money. These could be used in conjunction with our General Plan, for example to prepare the implementation strategies. I have asked our staff to consider applying. This could pay for Specific Plans/Infill Plans/Zoning Ordinances, Climate Action Plans, Targeted General Plan Updates or elements and other implementation instruments and plans needed for successfully meeting AB 32 greenhouse gas emissions reduction and implement SB 375, while improving community-wide sustainability.
Information on the grants is at:
· Sustainable Communities Planning Guidelines Proposed Final
· Urban Greening Solicitation Notice
· FINAL Urban Greening Guidelines for PLANNING
· FINAL Urban Greening Guidelines for PROJECTS
· SGC Planning Grant Priority Focus Areas
· Urban Greening Grants Timeline
· SGC Planning Grants Timeline
It wasn’t all work, however. On Friday morning, we made a few runs at Yosemite’s small ski area at Badger Pass. Seniors ski free, so we got our money’s worth. It was so warm that it was T-shirt weather on the slopes.
During the Saturday break, we hiked to the top of Vernal Falls. Below are me, Shirley and Elizabeth Patterson, Mayor of Benicia.
In the Saturday afternoon session, Kim Walesh, Chief Strategist, City of San Jose played a video designed to help those working on San Jose’s General Plan to think out of the box, and Ken Kay updated a San Jose project that transformed several street blocks into walkable neighborhoods using portable infrastructure.
After dinner Saturday, Doug Henton talked about the economic and job opportunities in California related to energy conservation and efficiency. He cited Many Shades of Green as a guide to opportunities in the core green economy. He noted that 21% of the core green economy jobs are in manufacturing, offering an opportunity to revive California’s once powerful manufacturing sector. Increased energy costs will make transportation of manufactured goods from Asia uncompetitive, and California can benefit. Henton noted that from 2000 to 2007, California job growth overall has been -1% while green jobs have grown 5%.
A Sunday morning panel opned up by discussing reduction of energy use and greenhouse gases in communities. Catherine Squire, Pacific Gas & Electric Company Principle for Government innovation and Sustainability discussed utility company programs, noting that from 1995 to 2008, green jobs in California had increased 36% while other jobs increased only 13%. She recommended http://www.fypower.org/inst/bpg for California Energy Efficiency Best Practices. Mike Schmitz is the new ICLEI California Director and offered his services to local communities. Mike directed our attention to the BAAQMD and Institute for Local Government Climate Change Portal.
Jim Boyd, Vice-Chair of the California Energy Commission, wrapped up the technical presentations by lamenting that without dramatic change California could lose both its infrastructure and its education advantage. He talked about the proposed federal HOME STAR program that would provide direct incentives to American homeowners who invest in improving the energy efficiency of their homes.
On the way back, we stopped along the Merced River Canyon at Hite Cove and hiked back to one of the best wildflower displays in California.