Portland mayor Jim Cohen will make good on an element of his mayoral agenda when he formally proposes a “Sustainable Portland Task Force” to the city council on May 1. Cohen plans to convene nine environmental experts and advocates to study the city’s use of sustainable energy and conservation practices, and to identify ways to highlight Portland’s green businesses. Former mayors Jill Duson and Nathan Smith will likely co-chair the task force. Cohen will monitor its progress but will not be a member.
“It’s a public process that allows a more focused review of a lot of these issues that really doesn’t otherwise have a home within any existing council committee,” Cohen explains. “The idea is to have a goal of both environmental and economic sustainability, in that we’re making choices that over a longer time pay off in both those areas.”
Besides Duson and Smith, Cohen plans to nominate Travis Wagner, University of Southern Maine assistant professor of environmental science and policy; David Littell, newly appointed commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection; Brent Bridges, senior vice president of engineering at the environmental consulting firm Woodard & Curran; and Gunner Hubbard, principal of Fore Solutions, a green consulting firm in Portland. Cohen is looking for nominees to fill the remaining three spots.
Meetings of the task force will be held in Portland’s city hall and will be open to the public. Cohen is compiling a list of “interested parties” (people who aren’t on the committee but who want to throw their two cents in) who will receive e-mail reminders prior to meetings.
Wagner, the enviro prof and likely task force member, says the first order of business will be to define “sustainable Portland.” Wagner has already done some research on the subject and e-mailed aone-page definition to the likely members.
“I can’t define it succinctly,” he says. “It’s a healthy, socially conscious city. For Portland, it would be ecological protection, a vibrant local economy, and social justice.”
Edging closer to specifics, the mayor hopes the task force will “benchmark our progress” in environmentally-friendly initiatives the city has already started, such as the pilot biodiesel program through Portland Public Works (see “Natural Gas,” by Sara Donnelly, April 7) and the city’s commitment to the governor’s Carbon Challenge, which requires city operations to reduce carbon emissions by 10 percent by 2010. Cohen also expects the task force will evaluate whether Portland should become the first city in Maine to join the “US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement,” which was passed by the US Conference of Mayors last year. Participating cities agree, among other things, to meet or beat the same Kyoto Protocol environmental targets that President Bush refused to entertain.
Assuming the city council approves the task force during the May 1 meeting, Sustainable Portland will take on its own meaning and other massive issues at its first meeting on May 12 at 7:30 am.