Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What's your Greenprint, Doug?

Sorry, this is just a screen shot, not embedded video. You can click it, and it will open in a new window, but it will just be a still shot. Sorry. See links below to watch the video, or to read the transcript from said video.

Glen is a really good sleuth, and I have a lot of time on my hands, and today, Glen came across a transcript and video of Trenton mayor Douglas Palmer, along with York, PA mayor John Brenner (left), and Seattle mayor Greg Nichols (right), explaining what these three cities are doing to improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions. The discussion took place at the 19th Annual United States Energy Association's Energy Efficiency Forum on June 11 in Washington, DC.

I'm posting only Palmer's comments, as they are germane to us here in Trenton, but you can read the full transcript here or watch the video here, if you'd like to know what the other mayors and the moderator are saying. The whole program runs about 30 minutes.

I'm focusing only on Palmer's comments because it is clear he's a complete egomaniac, talking about the things he's done for the city. I can't come right out and call him a liar, but let's just say that he is probably talking out of his ass for most of this discussion.

After all, these are comments coming from a man who has cut the police presence in my ward, but has Trenton officers on round-the-clock security dispatch in front of his West Ward home; the same man who has two different police officers serve as his personal drivers, and is driven, by the way, not in his own vehicle, but rather, a city-owned and funded car. This is the same man who enforces our ordinances for some, but lets his buddies slide (and often gives them city-owned and funded vehicles, to boot). This man didn't say peep about his very liberal take-home auto policy, but talks about mandating the taxi companies in this city start to use hybrid vehicles, since the former police vehicles (the same Crown Vics Palmer often provides to his friends, but his friends get the new, pimped-out models) favored by the taxi companies, are supposedly not efficient over the life of the vehicle. This guy talks about retrofitting old buildings, but is far more likely to push for their abandonment. This is the same man who has done away with the recycling program in City Freakin' Hall, for crying out loud, because of a grudge against an old pal and guy who ran against him for office. He's leading by example, for certain.

Sorry. I'll let you make your own decisions. But to the USEA, and the US Conference of Mayors, your credibility will to plummet if you continue to let this guy blather on and on at your functions.

The text below is lengthy, but believe it or not, I edited out some of Doug's extraneous conversational hot air, and the sanctimonious ass-kissing. Again, see the links above if you'd like to read the full text or watch the video.

DOUGLAS PALMER: ...[W]e can't afford to wait for the federal government....One of the things that I'm doing in Trenton is I created the Trenton Green Initiative and it's a task force made up of the governor, of course; our county executive; Public Service Electric and Gas, which is a major supplier of energy in our region; the Department of environmental protection workforce development; and some community-based organization called Isles. And we've created a partnership and we're working on how we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, how we can change behavior, which is the most important and probably one of the most challenging things to do. And also to come up with ways in which we can provide green collar, not just jobs, but green collar careers as we try to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.... I love this term now, we're coming up with our green print and we will be putting that forward in our areas, whether it's planting trees, whether it's in energy-efficient buildings, whether it's changing our traffic signals, whether it's creating career paths. So that's one of the major initiatives that we're working on in the city of Trenton.

... I was very disappointed and the U.S. Council of Mayors were very disappointed about the inaction and, again, as mayors, we can't afford to sit around and wait for the federal government. And we also believe that you can be patriotic about more than just war and, certainly, reducing the dependence on foreign oil and reducing our energy consumption is something that we can all do as Americans. A little over a year ago the U.S. Council of Mayors put forth an initiative called an Energy Environment Block Grant, because we recognize that if you want to talk about reducing your carbon footprint and creating green collar jobs and doing the kinds of retrofitting in, first of all, our public buildings first, to lead by example, we're going to need help. We're going to need partnership with the federal government that can help supply some of the financial resources to help us go green... We modeled an Energy Environment Block Grant, which will be $2 billion a year for five years that would go to cities, towns, and counties to help give us the resources based on like a CDBG community development block grant model, how to disperse those funds so that we can use those funds to help our cities go green. The president, in the energy bill, signed it, the Congress passed it, but they didn't appropriate any money. And so we're pushing very hard that it be appropriated. A city like Trenton would receive, based on our formula, a little over $400,000 a year for five years, so that's four times five is $2 million. Even in these inflationary times its $2 million and we will use that to help, whether it's to give grants or help us retrofit.

I know we've been holding the energy forum for like, what, I think 19 years. And in the beginning probably people are saying, "Oh, what are they talking about?" But now, we have the perfect storm, high energy prices, what's happening with our economy and the loss of jobs, and a change in what's going to be happening federally in terms of leadership. So now is the time. I mean we're talking about things that aren't as abstract anymore, about what we can really do with resources. And so this is a perfect storm, where all of us, whether you're educators in the school systems, whether you're in business, we can all work together and push what has to be done....[W]e can't hide and we have influence and that's why we have to lead by example, because I'll tell you a story. You know, I go to the supermarket.

I go to the supermarket and people look at what I buy. I mean I've got to be careful. You know, you can't eat that! I'm going in the checkout line, and I don't know if you've noticed, but I don't have hair, so I use these razor blades, certain razor blades. And a bald-headed guy behind me says, "Are those any good?" And I said, "Yeah, I like them." So he went back and bought the razor blades that I'd bought and so I figure, certainly, if we can influence what a guy puts on his head, we certainly can influence what goes in people's heads and this is one of the issues.

[W]e've worked with President Clinton and signed a Clinton Climate Protection Agreement and we're looking at ways in which, because ... we have to get our city buildings first equipped, in terms of energy efficiency so that we can then go after the private sector and even residents. And working with the Clinton initiative, we're going to look at ways in which we can flood the market and reduce the price of what we need to do to retrofit our buildings. And plus, with the U.S. Council of Mayors we have our energy climate protection center. ...[W]e have over 850... little laboratories where we have best practices so that we can steal each other's ideas and put our face on them and name on them at home and say, "This is what we're going to do." But we're not going to wait. We can't wait, especially when you look at in our cities whether it's congestion because of traffic or whether it's buildings which create most of the carbon. It's not the cars. The buildings are going 24 hours a day...

...Johnson Controls [one of the forum's sponsors] [is] helping us too as it relates to creating jobs, because that's another issue that's critically important where you get segments of your community to buy in that may not buy in. I know I'm talking too much, but it's just like when we were in Seattle in November with our Climate Protection Summit. And we talked about the polar bears and ice caps and where are polar bears going to go? And you're there three days, like that's all you think about. Now, if I went back to Trenton, back to the hood and told people, you know, we've got to worry about the polar bears, and we've got to worry about climate change, they'd look at me like I was crazy and say, "Well, yeah, but we want our climate to change right here in these neighborhoods." So, what I did was some people get it, like they know about changing their light bulbs or reducing energy or walking more. But some people, especially in some of the lower income neighborhoods that aren't as involved because of a whole lot of issues, but they know about creating jobs and what can happen if you reduce your energy and how much money you'll have for prescriptions if you're a senior citizen or creating real jobs for their sons or daughters or just people in the community. So you have to utilize this issue on many fronts so that more and more people can understand what you're talking about. And that's also a part of what we're doing as mayors that go out in our own communities and speak to what they see and what they can understand and then have them take action.

[O]ne of the biggest problems, as in anything, is to change human behavior ... where you start to walk more, where you start to plant more trees and where you start to turn your lights out. I mean I'm following my wife around the house when she leaves, because she leaves the lights on. It's driving me crazy! Not to mention my light bill. I got the CFLs, but if you're burning them all day... I've got a task force of like third-graders now that are involved and we're going to have high schools, because young people are the ones that can help their parents, like we did with recycling, to change behavior. And another barrier also is funds. You need funds to be able to do some things. I'll give you an example. ...[W]e had like 3000 traffic signals and they said, "You know, if you go to LED, like with the Christmas trees, we can save," they said, "Mayor, we could save $110,000 a year on out." Now, it costs about 250,000 to retrofit and we did get a grant from BPU, which is great, for about 50,000. But even if we have to spend that money, that investment, on our own, in a year and a half we will make that back and then you will continue to see those savings. So the more help we get from the federal government we can jumpstart and do those things even quicker.

We have a filtration plant that we're upgrading now, $70 million upgrade, and we're looking at the ways we can do that to conserve energy as well as water. And the great thing is, and what I've found, you have citizens in our city that were farther ahead than I was even on this whole green issue. I've sort of caught up a little bit, but you'd be surprised, people in City Hall that are looking at things or coming up with ideas. And then with my cabinet, you know, I've challenged them to show how they can get involved in the green movement. How do you feel you can conserve? What can you do? And they're thinking of all kinds of things and people that work for them are coming up with ways in which, whether it's the screensaver or turn off the computer at lunch or doing those kinds of things. And it's just getting everybody involved and recognizing that we all can make a difference and what you do ... matters. And certainly our public works folks looked at that when we talked about energy efficiency and even from recreation and human resources, everyone is looking at ways in which they can get involved and help in the way they can to reduce our carbon footprint and be more efficient.

I've proposed to our city council that we require all taxis in the city to get at least 30 miles per gallon by 2013. Taxis put out an inordinate amount of carbon because they're running essentially 24 hours a day. And in our city the taxi drivers have been buying be used police vehicles, great classic Crown Vics and running those around. Now, it turns out that if you do a lifecycle cost it's cheaper for them to run the hybrid vehicle. But the key is the financing of that initial purchase. So we're working with them and with banks to make sure that our taxi drivers and owners who are, by and large, immigrants to the country and don't have a huge amount of capital, that they're going to not be pushed out of the industry. So that's one of the keys from our perspective.

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