The city adopted a new constitution last Saturday. It wont necessarily defend freedom of speech, but like the countrys sacred document, it will act as the visionary manifesto, except it will be for the sake of the environment and its dwellers.
In an official step toward environmental policy and legislation, the Eco-City Charters adoption is part of the citys initiative to become an Eco-City, a place where people can live healthier and economically productive lives while reducing their impact on the environment, according the citys Web site.
The Charter is just the eighth of its kind in the United States and the first on the eastern seaboard. There are only 16 jurisdictions worldwide that have adopted such a manifesto.
Its really the big picture of goals that we want to be timeless, much like you want the constitution to be timeless, said Danielle Fidler, environmental lawyer and chair of the citys Environmental Policy Commission (EPC), a group appointed by City Council about a year ago to look into environmental issues.
The Charter is the first of two major steps in achieving the citys environmental goals that include everything from more bike paths to composting to green construction. Its meant to inform the Environmental Action Plan, a road map for the citys residents and officials that will establish policies and programs to achieve goals outlined in the Charter.
Fidler said that the biggest innovation is the role citizens took in drafting the charter and the personal responsibility they will take in the future. The EPC and city officials held numerous meetings as well as a summit and a caf in which more than 120 participants discussed various environmental themes.
The biggest aspect is to directly say what the citizens are going to be responsible for, Fidler said. None of this will be possible unless citizens engage and contribute to this process.
Citizens will eventually be directly affected by the Charter which contains goals that, when manifested in the Action Plan, will make the city more sustainable but will also cost money. Fidler said that council members have indicated some programs initiated in the next budget season, and that the city will likely start with less expensive projects like citywide composting.
One speaker who said he was not for or against the Charter expressed concerns about mandating green buildings. Probably everybody can get behind some of the basic themes and concepts contained, said Brian Gordon of the Apartment and Office Building association of Metropolitan Washington. But he offered a quick note of caution that if a buildings green augmentation is not cost -effective, it is not fair to punish the owner by mandating payment.
The document is slated for review and revision (if necessary) every ten years.