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VOLUME 22 January 2017



e City SustainaWbl ORK NET



REGISTER TODAY Presenting solutions for best practices in managing water resources, source water protection, sustainable utility planning, analyzing the costs and benefits of water conservation and exploring alternative water sources, including stormwater and reuse.





Libraries Seen as Essential to Sustainability

Urban Gardens Feed America’s Hungriest City 11

cover story



Fostering Sustainability from the Ground Up


Tackling Poverty One Asset at a Time


Involving Citizens in Impact Assessments


SWEEP Advances Energy Efficiency in Six States


Connected Infrastructure Promises Bright Future


Photo: Rossie Izlar


Energy Reduction a ‘Contact’ Sport


Deconstruction: Beyond the Bang


Sustainable City Network Magazine

The Best of Sustainable City Network is a quarterly magazine highlighting the most popular articles posted on, an online trade publication that serves government, education and healthcare institutions in all 50 U.S. states and the provinces of Canada. The magazine is available in print or as a digital download at The opinions expressed in the magazine are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Sustainable City Network or WoodwardBizMedia. SUBSCRIPTIONS Contact 563.588.4492;

For Leaders in Government, Education & Healthcare

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Sustainable City Network magazine is produced by WoodwardBizMedia, a division of Woodward Communications, Inc. GROUP PUBLISHER Karen Ruden PUBLISHER & EXECUTIVE EDITOR Randy Rodgers ASSOCIATE EDITORS Kathy Regan Michael Manning BUSINESS MANAGER Maggie Vetsch CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Sara Booth Julianne Couch Leila Donn Mary Glindinning Michelle Volkmann CREATIVE DESIGN Eric Faramus Unless otherwise noted, all images used throughout © 2017 Ingimage, all rights reserved. Sustainable City Network 801 Bluff Street Dubuque, Iowa 52001 Visit Us On The Web Printed on recycled paper


Upcoming Online Courses Image Matters: How to successfully manage your city’s visual identity in a pro-growth environment

Free 1-Hour Webinar – Jan. 12, 2017 Learn how to establish and perpetuate a civic brand that attracts homebuyers and stimulates growth in this free webinar featuring regular SCN contributor Grant Hayzlett, president of National Sign Plazas, Inc. This session will explain the sociology that drives the homebuyer experience and provide an update on the 2015 SCOTUS ruling governing sign ordinances. It will also include an overview of uniform homebuilder sign programs and the associated benefits. Learn more at

Sustainability with Trees: Community Canopy Project

Free 1-Hour Webinar – Jan. 19, 2017 In this webinar we will explore how distributing trees through a community canopy project can fit with your sustainability efforts, help maximize energy efficiency and engage homeowners within your community. Kristen Bousquet, from the Arbor Day Foundation, and program partner Ian Jurgensen with the city of Orlando, will discuss how a tree distribution to homeowners can lead to measured environmental benefits. Register now at

from the editor Welcome to Sustainable City Network Magazine – the Best of! This quarterly magazine is a compilation of the most popular articles on our web site and in our email newsletter, the InBox, which is delivered to more than 40,000 leaders in government, education and healthcare across the U.S. and Canada. Sustainable City Network produces advertiser-supported, non-partisan articles, webinars, trade shows and white papers that provide local institutions with quality, organized and timely information about sustainability projects, plans and best practices. This magazine is another way we fulfill our mission.

Randy Rodgers Publisher & Executive Editor SUSTAINABLE CITY NETWORK 801 Bluff Street Dubuque, IA 52001 563.588.3853

OUR MISSION “To make U.S. cities more sustainable through quality and well-organized information.”

In this issue, you’ll find articles that demonstrate how institutions, researchers and industry professionals are applying triple-bottom-line approaches to energy, transportation, environmental and development initiatives that benefit society today, without adversely impacting future generations. In our cover story, you’ll learn what a study conducted in the suburbs of Des Moines, Iowa, discovered when it compared the cost of maintaining and replacing infrastructure in a low-density housing development versus a medium-density development in the same town. Spoiler alert: even though the low-density development contains homes with higher property values, it will take 100 years for it to generate enough tax revenue to pay for replacing the infrastructure (twice as long as the medium-density development). And here’s the problem: that infrastructure won’t last 100 years. In other top stories: We point out one of the most under-rated, and sometimes unappreciated, assets in many small towns across America: the public library. You might take it for granted, but trust us, you’ll miss it when it’s gone. Learn how libraries are adapting to stay relevant in an evolving world. Victory Gardens helped feed America when much of its agricultural output went to the war effort during World War II. Today, they’re being used to fight the war on poverty in America’s inner cities. Our spotlight on urban gardens in Memphis, Tenn., showcases a variety of grassroots projects that are making a significant dent in the city’s 70 food deserts, where residents live more than a mile away from a grocery store. Other articles in this issue focus on energy conservation and efficiency, citizen engagement, connected infrastructure, deconstruction, and taking a community approach to fighting poverty, among other topics. The articles in this magazine have been selected by our readers. We’ve packaged them together in this convenient magazine format, available as a digital download or in print at We hope you find value inside.

Sustainable Cities/Project Gallery– Janesville Janesville, WI is one of the first sites in the country producing a profit stream from electricity produced from biogas, in addition to making fuel for city vehicles. Unison Solutions Inc., based in Dubuque, Iowa, is proud to be part of the team at the Janesville biogas project. The unique technology provided to Janesville by Unison will allow them to grow their CNG vehicle fleet and fuel it directly from their biogas while still operating turbines for electricity production. This system will help Janesville reduce their overall energy costs and dependence on petroleum products. Learn more about it at



Is the Infrastructure ‘Time Bomb’ Beginning to Blow? Study Finds Low-Density Housing Can’t Pay the Bills BY MARY GLINDINNING

With infrastructure crumbling, and limited resources to repair and replace it, decisions about which projects have highest priority and how to pay for them loom large for many cities.

Jeff Schug is director of transportation services for McClure Engineering Co.

For years, experts have been warning that catastrophic failures in roads, bridges, dams, sewers and water mains are inevitable without dramatic increases in capital spending, and many believe the low-density suburban landscapes we’ve created over the past 50 years are rapidly becoming unsustainable as infrastructure repair costs begin to exceed the tax revenue generated by these neighborhoods. At first glance, a neighborhood with fewer large homes valued at $600,000 to $900,000 might look more fiscally sustainable than a neighborhood with more modestly priced homes.

But Jeff Schug, director of transportation services for McClure Engineering, said a study his firm conducted in Norwalk, Mark Reiner Iowa, (a suburb of Des Moines) suggests is co-founder of Whole the opposite is true. In fact, a more Infrastructure Systems for expensive, less dense, development will Resilient Development (WISRD). find it much more difficult to generate enough property tax revenue for maintenance and replacement of its infrastructure over time, when compared to a high- or medium-density neighborhood of more modest homes. “This really got me thinking about how suburbs are built and how they are going to be built going forward,” Schug said. “Sooner or later all this infrastructure needs to be replaced.” Schug compared the taxable value and cost of infrastructure in a particular low-density residential development (1.3 units per acre) with that of a medium-density residential development (7.5 units per acre) in Norwalk.

His findings: It will take 100 years to collect enough property tax, currently levied for infrastructure, to replace water mains, sanitary sewers, storm sewers and streets, in the low-density neighborhood. That’s a problem because “infrastructure doesn’t last that long,” Schug said. In the medium-density neighborhood, it will take only 50 years to raise the money. “That starts to get into the realm of reasonable,” he said. Low-density residential suburbs with expansive homes, giant side yards and front yards are putting an unfair financial burden on cities, he said. Medium-density residential areas with more affordable homes have a taxable value on a per-acre basis that is “roughly double the big residential neighborhoods,” he said. “Tax base matters and it’s always going to.” The study also found that medium-density neighborhoods were more fiscally sustainable than a “convenience store, corporate headquarters or car dealership on a per acre basis.” “I think overall, we need to take a look at how development is done,” he said. Assessments are politically a “non-starter,” so other ways to pay for replacement of infrastructure need to be found. Many cities have aging infrastructure that Schug described as a ticking time bomb with no money to fix it. “The bomb, I guess, is already starting to go off, and we can see the effects in Norwalk where we did the study to identify the cost of repairing and replacing the streets in the older neighborhoods, and the lack of funding the city has to address the problems,” Schug said. He used his own neighborhood in Johnston, Iowa, as another example. “Originally, I was interested in getting the city to extend sidewalks to our neighborhood because our sidewalks came to a dead end at the main street,” Schug said. “I was trying to make the case that our neighborhood was just as important as the high-dollar neighborhood up the street, which does have access to sidewalks. I was surprised to see that our neighborhood was so much more valuable on a per acre basis when compared to the neighborhood with the big-dollar homes.” People tend to think, incorrectly, that very large homes and commercial development are the key to sustainable growth, Schug said. [5]

Sustainable City Network Magazine

Photo: McClure Engineering Co.

“Cities will take the onus of investment in infrastructure,” said Mark Reiner, co-founder of Whole Infrastructure Systems for Resilient Development (WISRD). “This is not an engineering issue. It is a governance issue.” Reiner advises municipalities to conduct a complete analysis and “create a vulnerability-based critical path for priority capital projects.” This starts by examining the existing condition of each asset and its potential for failure, its proximity to other critical assets (like water mains underneath streets), and any external threats such as natural disasters. ■

Low-Density Residential

This low-density housing development in Norwalk, Iowa, contains 1.3 units per acre with average home values of $680,000. A study by McClure Engineering found it will take 100 years to collect enough property tax, at the rate currently levied for infrastructure, to replace water mains, sanitary sewers, storm sewers and streets in this neighborhood - twice as long as in a medium-density housing development in the same town.

“That is why I advocate looking at the value of a development based on the value per acre, or the value per dollar of infrastructure. There is only so much land available, and cities need to maximize their income from that land to operate the city,” he said. The sustainable way to design and build neighborhoods “from a fiscal standpoint, is to make sure there will be money available to address the infrastructure replacement and repair in the future. I would not advocate that mixed use is best over another option. I would advocate that cities need to look at development from a financial basis to make sure they can operate on the level of revenue being provided from the property taxes available,” Schug said. As the “ticking time bomb” begins to explode across America, many cities are struggling with where to begin. It is estimated that by 2020, $3.6 trillion will need to be invested in American infrastructure.

“I’m trying to recognize that while all systems contribute to a functioning city and need to work in order to be resilient, it is even more important to recognize that a city is a system of hierarchical interdependent systems when it comes to physical function. By capturing the dependence of some systems on other systems in a dependency framework, we can begin to identify vulnerabilities and develop a critical path to increased infrastructure resilience. Increasing the resilience of infrastructure is crucial to increasing the resilience of cities,” Reiner said. When Reiner ranks infrastructure replacement needs, he uses the same color codes used by the Homeland Security alert system: red is critical, orange is approaching critical, yellow is OK and green is good. The color map allows leaders to view the status of infrastructure at a glance and get a sense of infrastructure resiliency levels by sector. “It is also a way to measure improvements in infrastructure over time,” Reiner said. “It is a simple way to communicate infrastructure inventory to stakeholders.” Converting data to information is part of the process. “In a nutshell, data provide the basis for creating relevant information. Then, that information has to be put forth in a way that is understood by the client/stakeholder for knowledge to occur,” he said.

Photo: McClure Engineering Co.

In Milwaukee, half of all water mains were installed before 1954; in Philadelphia, half were installed before 1930. Baltimore’s water mains are an average of 75 years old. Some water mains are wooden, from the Civil War era. About 15 percent of the potable water available each year in the U.S., or 2 trillion gallons, is lost to water main breaks, according to Pew Research. “Roads can have potholes, but roads by themselves can’t take out a water main. But a water main can blow out a road,” Reiner said.

Medium-Density Residential

This medium-density housing development in Norwalk, Iowa, contains 7.5 units per acre with average home values of $201,000. A study by McClure Engineering found it will take 50 years to collect enough property tax, at the rate currently levied for infrastructure, to replace water mains, sanitary sewers, storm sewers and streets in this neighborhood - half as long as in a low-density housing development in the same town.


That’s one reason it’s so important to replace infrastructure in the right order. ■


Libraries Seen as Essential to Sustainability Small, Rural Libraries are Especially Vulnerable BY JULIANNE COUCH

As city governments large and small struggle to fund essential services such as fire protection and safe infrastructure, some managers eye the “non-essential” service provided by the public library as a place to cut the budget.

decades, women’s groups devoted themselves to the spread of libraries to the average person, encouraging Carnegie to broaden his reach. The Carnegie Foundation would work with any city government that showed the interest and ability to raise their share of the funds.

Library staff and boards are speaking up, arguing that they are one of the few spaces in the world of public democracy available to all members of the community, regardless of age, education, income or interests.

Carnegie required the elected officials of the local government to demonstrate the need for a public library; provide the building site; pay to staff and maintain the library; draw from public funds to run the library — not using only private donations; annually provide 10 percent of the cost of the library’s construction to support its operation; and, provide free service to all.

The American Library Association (ALA) seeks to build and enhance existing relationships between local libraries and their communities. “Libraries are uniquely positioned at the heart of local, campus and school communities, enjoying public trust as repositories of knowledge and offering democratic access,” the association asserts on a special web site dedicated to the idea of transforming libraries for future growth. “The transformed library leverages its assets to open up new possibilities and go beyond informing to dynamically engaging communities.” ALA calculates there are approximately 119,487 libraries of all kinds in the United States today. More than 9,000 of these are public libraries, consisting of main libraries and often, smaller branches. Many of these are in large buildings, teeming with light and public art. Others are tucked into corners of city hall buildings, or store front sites along a main street in small towns. Others are housed in architecturally significant buildings, owing to the legacy of Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie was a Scottish businessman and industrialist who settled in Pennsylvania, where he developed libraries in communities where he had a business interest. Over the post-Civil War

In addition to free public libraries in the U.S. today, ALA says there are more than 3,700 academic libraries, that is, libraries associated with institutions of higher learning. School libraries serving students in public, private, and Bureau of Indian Affairs schools number more than 98,000. Special libraries, including corporate, medical, law and religious, number almost 7,000. There are about 250 armed forces libraries, and another 900 or so government libraries. So who says libraries no longer matter, in this age of perceived low readership and information searches conducted on screens the size of a wrist watch? Not the nearly 370,000 employees of libraries across the country. And certainly not their patrons. Key trends about library usage were described in the ALA’s 2015 State of America’s Libraries Report. “Academic, public and school libraries are experiencing a shift in how they are perceived by their communities and society. No longer just places for books, libraries of all types are viewed as anchors, centers for academic life and research and cherished spaces.” [7]

Sustainable City Network Magazine

Libraries are adapting and meeting the service needs of their patrons no matter where they are located. Rural and small libraries are just as apt as their metro area counterparts to be not just places for books, but centers for applying for jobs, meeting with free volunteer tax consultants, meeting with navigators knowledgeable about the Affordable Care Act, and other social services residents have trouble obtaining elsewhere. The Association for Rural and Small Libraries is a national professional organization based in Lexington, Ky., for just these sorts of librarians

Photo: American Library Association

The most current federal statistics report on public libraries is Public Libraries in the United States Survey: Fiscal Year 2012 (December 2014). Among their findings are that in 2012, there were 1.5 billion in-person visits to public libraries across the United States, which was similar to fiscal year 2011 levels. This was an increase of 20.7 percent over a 10-year period. The public invested more than $11.5 billion in revenue to public libraries. This was similar to FY 2011 levels, after adjusting for inflation. According to the report, more than 92.6 million people attended the 4 million programs at public libraries. This was a 1-year increase of 5.2 percent and a 10-year increase of 54.4 percent.


Why I Love My Library

A young girl writes down why she loves her local library at a Libraries Transform Pop-Up Cafe held recently in Chicago’s Millennium Park.



and library staff. According to their website, ARSL is “dedicated to the positive growth and development of libraries.” Their mission states that “ARSL believes in the value of rural and small libraries and strives to create resources and services that address national, state, and local priorities for libraries situated in rural communities.” The current board president, Jet Kofoot, lives in the country outside a small town in Iowa. She has a master’s of library science degree from the University of Northern Iowa, and was the library director in Algona, Iowa before becoming a consultant. Most recently, she was a consultant with the North Central District of Iowa Library Services. Kofoot has spent time considering the small and rural library perspective on library services. She frames her thoughts on the welldocumented population decline of rural counties around the nation. However, she dispels the notion that there are major differences in how libraries are hoping to respond to changing patron needs based on the size of the community where they are based. However, she believes that the smaller the community, the more magnified the need for library services becomes. “Many times in small or rural communities, schools have closed and consolidated. That means the library is the only thing left in town. Maybe there is a church, maybe there’s still a bar, but the library is the only educational or cultural resource in town. If a town loses its library, people have to travel many miles to access services,” she says. In this case “services” means more than only a place to check out books or read current newspapers and magazines. For example, the Algona library, which was founded in 1890, serves a town of 5,500. The library has 12 internet-enabled desktop computers. There are also two laptop computers with Internet access that are reserved for research, school work, job searches, and resume writing. It has four rooms available for rent that come equipped with tables chairs, coffee pots, dishes and glasses, even dish soap and trash bags. The library has free WiFi for patrons with Internet-enabled devices. There is a charge of 50 cents to check out a DVD for 4 days. It has a book club, open to the public. It offers access to online reference materials and genealogy websites, enhancing the community’s awareness of its local history. This library is typical of libraries across the country, Kofoot says, and ALA statistics bear this out. Studies they cite show that 98 percent of all public libraries offer free public Wi-Fi access; 95 percent of libraries offer summer reading programs; close to 90 percent of libraries offer basic digital literacy training, and a significant majority support training related to new technology devices (62 percent), safe online practices (57 percent) and social media use (56 percent). In addition, 76 percent of libraries assist patrons in using online government programs and services; a vast majority of libraries provide programs that support people in applying for jobs. A significant majority of libraries host social connection events for adults and teens; 45 percent of libraries provide early-learning technologies for pre-K children; and more than one-third of all libraries provide literacy, GED prep and after school programs.

Kofoot says small and rural libraries become the de facto community center. “Often, the library is the only game in town. Many libraries keep the coffee pot on and have snacks out for patrons. In larger cities, people have coffee shops, diners and fast food places where they can meet over a cup of coffee. In many rural small towns, that isn’t necessarily the case. Libraries look at their community and see what they need, and provide it.” Public libraries of all sizes face funding challenges, but Kofoot says these are compounded in rural and small towns. That’s because they have much smaller budgets because they don’t have as many businesses to tax, as compared to larger cities. “It can be a struggle for rural and small towns to find revenue. That causes problems because it makes it difficult to provide library services. Books are expensive. Library staff learns to be creative about programming.” From her experience as a consultant, Kofoot offers this suggestion to libraries facing skepticism about their relevance in the 21st century. “Libraries should make a strategic plan to offer services based on community needs. Rural and small libraries are able to do that because they are closer to their community. In a big city library services can be lost in the crowd because so much is available. In a small rural community, the library is connected to the pulse of the community and can be more flexible,” she says. One good way to develop community engagement is through a library’s volunteer pool. Often they recruit volunteers or Friends of the Library board members to help with programming, landscaping, and even baking treats for meetings. Often a Friends group is the key fundraising arm of the library, providing a way for citizens to contribute directly to support library services, beyond the support they already provide through payment of taxes. Small towns often look to their young people as not just people who need education and oversight, but as resources to cultivate for the town’s future. That’s one reason libraries work hand in glove with schools, providing reading programs for young children over the summers. But by the time youngsters become teenagers, they are less interested or able to take part in library services geared toward them, Kofoot says. “Many libraries work diligently to get teens to come in. But, teens are so busy and they have so many things going on that the library takes a back seat. You see many children and ‘tweens’ in our libraries, but teens tend to be the least served group in many libraries. Until they grow up and have children of their own.” Then Kofoot says, they come back and bring their kids to the library with them. ■ Julianne Couch is the author of “The Small Town Midwest: Resilience and Hope in the Twenty-First Century.”


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Urban Gardens Feed America’s Hungriest City Groups Works to Bring Relief to Food Deserts BY LEILA DONN

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- In Memphis, only seven out of 77 high-poverty neighborhoods are within reasonable distance of a full-service supermarket. The United States Department of Agriculture defines these remaining 70 neighborhoods as food deserts, which means that residents of these areas don’t have ready access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Grocery stores in these areas are more than one mile away and most residents don’t have a personal vehicle. Public transportation in these areas is often unreliable. A 2010 Gallup poll ranked Tennessee second in the nation for states lacking access to healthy foods in low-income neighborhoods. The same poll also ranked Memphis as the hungriest city in the country, with 26 percent of people in the Memphis Metropolitan Statistical Area saying that they couldn’t afford to buy food for their families at least once in the past 12 months.

Memphis neighborhood of Frayser, which is a food desert. Frayser has a large geographic footprint with approximately 50,000 residents in predominantly residential neighborhoods. Many of the residents have lived there for more than 20 years and own their homes, but the exodus of local industry in the 1980s left many of the residents unemployed and in challenging circumstances. The nearest grocery store is located about a mile or more from most homes in the neighborhood. In an area where many people don’t have a personal vehicle and the bus system is notoriously undependable, this is too far to walk carrying groceries, particularly in the hot, over-100 degree summers.

Community gardens and urban farms scattered throughout these same high-poverty food desert neighborhoods are helping to supply hungry residents with healthy, low-cost, fresh food.

The 9.5-acre Girls Inc., girl-run urban farm produces thousands of pounds of produce each year, while teaching local girls about leadership, civic engagement, and entrepreneurship. Girls Inc. is an international nonprofit with local affiliates across the U.S. and Canada. Girls Inc. of Memphis has been serving girls in Memphis ages six to 18 since 1946. Their farm is located in the north

Photo: Kameron Echols

Girls Inc.: A 9.5-Acre Oasis

Hands-On Learning

Chrisla Tolliver, age 9, gets her hands in the dirt during preparations for the planting season at one of the Martin Housing Authority After-School Program gardens.

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Sustainable City Network Magazine

The farm also offers farm to table programming focusing on where your food comes from to help address the disconnect between what fresh, whole food looks like and what it looks like once it’s been processed. The girl farmers attend meetings of the Frayser Exchange Club, and the community is tremendously supportive of the farm. Neighbors often stop by to help with the gardening and are regular farm stand customers.

Photo: John Klyce Minervini

GrowMemphis: 44 Urban Community Gardens and Counting

Girls Inc. Training

Miles Tamboli, expert farmer, talks about farming with the girl farmers at the Girls Inc. urban farm.

The farm’s central location makes it readily accessible by community members, some of whom it employs. The farm currently employs six local high school age girls and has plans to eventually employ 20. The girls run the farm under the mentorship of Miles Tamboli, expert farmer, making decisions about plant types, planting schedule, crop rotations, cover cropping, farm stand locations, pricing and donations. The girls grow more types of produce than can be counted on two hands, and it’s all grown using organic practices. All of their plants are started from seed in a city-owned greenhouse which is made available for their use. The farm also partners with the Memphis Beekeepers Association to manage eight honeybee hives. “The farm continues to be a striking example of the fact that you don’t need a whole lot to do something extraordinary,” says Lisa Moore, president and CEO of Girls Inc. of Memphis. “The farm is an opportunity for the girls to develop amazing life skills they wouldn’t have otherwise, using nothing more than a few garden tools and a used shipping container to store things in.” By the time the farm is running at maximum capacity, they estimate that they will be able to train approximately 1,000 girls annually about everything from farming and healthy eating to environmental science. The farm currently provides school programming to every eighth grade student of the Veritas Charter School system, whose student body is primarily composed of children from challenged areas. The students take what they learned back to their school and then complete a needbased service project. [ 12 ]

GrowMemphis has 44 gardens in 11 different food-insecure Memphis zip codes, and hopes to add more in the future. GrowMemphis is a nonprofit that helps communities build gardens to improve access to locally grown food in their neighborhoods. They envision a community with full access to affordable, fresh, locally and sustainably grown food.

The GrowMemphis gardens are spread across the city, in central Memphis, Midtown, Soulsville, and South Memphis neighborhoods, and are predominantly based in low-income neighborhoods that are located more than a mile away from the nearest supermarket. Groups interested in starting gardens submit simple applications to GrowMemphis that cover things like whether the proposed garden location gets sunlight, has a group of people committed to maintaining it, and has a willing and local garden leader. GrowMemphis provides program gardens with technical knowledge, materials for construction of raised beds, soil, seeds and any resources and funding available. Gardens have a formal garden leader that often is a person with knowledge of planting and growing. Neighbors are supportive of the gardens, and a few of the neighbors offer use of their hoses to gardens that don’t have their own water connection, in exchange for fresh vegetables during the growing season. Some of the gardens sell their produce at farm stands in front of their gardens and at local farmers’ markets. Smaller local farmers’ markets are working to increase their presence in the community and make transportation available to those who can’t easily get to them. The garden leader of the Soulsville Knowledge Garden has increased awareness of her garden on a multi-state level by inviting out of state school children to work in the garden for an alternative spring break. These gardens have become inclusive, peaceful and safe areas in neighborhoods that sometimes have significant issues with crime.


These gardens also improve the aesthetic of the neighborhood, and help to address urban blight one vacant lot at a time. Midtown Mosque Garden: Bringing Life to Vacant Lots

The development of the mosque and gardens are part of ongoing efforts to revitalize the neighborhood. From one of the gardens there are six vacant lots within view, a few of which the mosque plans to purchase to plant additional gardens. Gardens are important here, where the nearest supermarket is two miles away. Plans are to transform the second lot into an urban orchard so that the community can enjoy fruit bearing trees and relax in a park-like setting with a gazebo, flowered trellises and benches. The gardens represent visible signs of change to a neglected neighborhood. Lou-Gaitor describes a neighbor’s emotional response to the garden projects: “When I told her about our plans for the garden her eyes became full of tears. She told me that she was 93-years-old and had been waiting for many years for someone to beautify her neighborhood and the gardens were a beautiful start.” Not Just an Urban Problem: Martin Housing Authority Gardens The Martin Housing Authority in Martin, about two hours northeast of Memphis, is part of a small, rural community of about 11,000 and is addressing many of the same problems of urban Memphis with two community gardens. Though the city of Martin is surrounded by farmland, most of the Martin Housing Authority doesn’t have access to fresh produce. The Martin Housing Authority has many single-female-headed households, as well as elderly-headed-households, that do not have their own form of transportation. There are two supermarkets in the town, but both are on the opposite side of town from the Martin Housing Authority – an approximately six mile distance. The Martin Housing Authority after school program gardens help to provide some of these children and families with fresh produce. The gardens also act as a sustainable science experiment that helps teach valuable planting, health and environmental science skills. The program was developed with help from the University of Tennessee at Martin, which has supplied technical expertise, compost, mulch and manpower.

Photo: Kameron Echols

The Midtown Mosque owns several vacant lots in the blighted Klondyke area of Memphis with the intention of revitalizing and beautifying the neighborhoods there. Under the leadership of Maricela Lou-Gaitor, a member of the mosque and former horticulturist of eight years at the Memphis Botanic Gardens, the Midtown Mosque garden has been flourishing since August 2015.

After-School Program

Children working in one of the Martin Housing Authority After-School Program gardens.

Many of the vegetables harvested last season went to the homes of the gardeners where they helped enrich families’ diets. Entering the gardens’ second growing season, Robert Nunley, program coordinator for the Martin Housing Authority’s after school program said, “Children are tremendously excited about the new growing season and they have been regularly asking when they can start gardening again. We hope that we have sowed the seeds of these children growing into adults that remember that food that is grown in a garden is different than mass-produced and processed foods. In the low income communities where these children live, it is especially important to empower these underserved populations to grow their own food so that they can take more responsibility for their healthy choices.” Fresh food is critical to well-being. With one plant at a time, these community gardens are helping to address a need. Over the summer of 2016, several food and farming nonprofits, including GrowMemphis, united under a single organization to address this need. Memphis Tilth, as the organization is called, will provide a more comprehensive and sustainable approach to building a better local food system with the mission of creating economically sustainable and socially equitable food systems. ■ Leila Donn previously worked for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s Office of Sustainable Practices. She has a degree in Geology from Sewanee: The University of the South.

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Sustainable City Network Magazine

Energy Reduction a ‘Contact’ Sport Columbia Gets Results from Neighborhood Competition BY JULIANNE COUCH

BARBARA BUFFALOE is sustainability manager for the city of Columbia, Mo.

If you turn learning into a game, people are more interested in the lesson. That’s especially true if you turn your game into a contest with prizes that will directly and immediately benefit them.

Columbia, in the center of Missouri, is a college town of about 115,000 with a diverse population. It owns its own electrical and water utility. It is bisected by Interstate 70, which Buffaloe says underscores the sense people there have that Columbia is really two cities, where the area south of the interstate is thriving but the northern neighborhoods tend to struggle.

That’s what the city of Columbia, Mo. did when it introduced its Neighborhood Energy Challenge in 2013. This game set up a friendly competition between neighborhoods to see which one could reduce its energy consumption the most.

“One city of the ‘two cities’ is made of up those who can thrive and do well and can appreciate the town we promote to the outside as a great place to move to, locate a business, retire to, and do very well. The other Columbia isn’t doing as well. People are making 40 cents on the dollar compared to others in the city,” Buffaloe said.

The force behind this competitive way of thinking about energy consumption is Barbara Buffaloe, the city of Columbia’s first sustainability manager. As a person interested in motivating behavior change around sustainability practices, Buffaloe says she figured that if people knew how their energy use compared to that of their neighbors, “it would be on.” The game her office developed was not like a one-and-done baseball game, however. Instead, this educational competition had high stakes impacting people’s quality of life, not to mention carbon footprint. It was based on Columbia’s definition of sustainability: “A community is sustainable when it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” In 2015 the city developed a strategic plan with five priorities: Economy, Social Equity, Public Safety, Infrastructure, and Operational Excellence. They decided to embed social equity into their sustainability strategy, showing the overt connection between housing conditions, energy bills and the ability of all individuals to thrive.

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In that “other city,” there was high unemployment especially in communities of color. In some neighborhood schools 75 percent of students were on the free and reduced lunch program. The economy was recovering in some places but not in every neighborhood. Buffaloe says the city realized they couldn’t just keep promoting some parts of the city and ignoring underinvested neighborhood. “We had to think holistically about equity.” How would they strengthen community so all individuals could thrive? They knew they couldn’t just walk into a neighborhood that showed disconnect between community needs and services and say, “We’re from the government and we’re here to help you,” Buffaloe said. They reviewed a model used in Tucson, Ariz., that identified a 24-point stress index, based on block census groups. Typically, block census groups have a population of 600 to 3,000 people. Among the findings in Tucson were poverty, high population of elderly, overcrowding, and linguistic isolation. Buffaloe said many neighborhoods in Columbia faced these challenges. Buffaloe said that north of the interstate, there are no medical clinics or hospitals, and only one grocery store. She wanted to understand how energy use and corresponding high utility bills factored into the quality of life in these neighborhoods. Knowing what an important role housing and utility bills play in a resident’s ability to thrive, her office worked


Como Energy Challenge

The city of Columbia, Mo., uses utility data to map the residential energy usage in all its elementary school districts, creating a basis for a competition that challenges households to conserve energy.

to analyze residential energy use and prioritize neighborhoods where additional outreach and investment could result in actual savings for residents. With any game, you have a goal, and the goal of this game was energy efficiency. You also have to have rules. In this case, rules needed to be based on data points for comparison. How would they figure out which part of town was making the greatest improvements in energy efficiency and thus be declared the “winner?” Buffaloe said they considered comparing neighborhood associations, but there are 84 of these in Columbia and even then, not all neighborhoods are part of an association. Instead, they looked at elementary school boundaries. Not only do these boundaries encompass all residents, they provide an easy way to involve the children. Buffaloe has long understood that an excellent way to sustain any sort of community effort is to involve the kids at early ages and hope to develop good habits in them.

So the mapping of school district boundaries gave them a way to create “teams” in the competition. But some fine-tuning still needed to be done. Buffaloe said the municipal electric utility serves 42,000 customers, the city-county cooperative serves 11,000, and an investorowned natural gas utility serves another 34,000 accounts. Buffaloe asked these utilities not for information on individual customer’s energy use, but only for the aggregate within each school boundary, in terms of kilowatt hours over a period of time. At the time, the investorowned natural gas utility did not have the capability to provide data at that level. But when the Office of Sustainability offered technical assistance by its own GIS staff, the investor-owned utility agreed. Now, Buffaloe says, that utility has good data going forward, so it was a win for everyone involved. Once the data was gathered, the next question was how to figure out a calculation so that the comparison was not apples to oranges, but

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rather a measure of energy usage compared accurately regardless of energy source. To help them figure it out, they enlisted the aid of the county assessor’s office. In this way, they knew how many square feet were in each property. Their calculation was based on kBtus per square foot, Buffaloe said. They’d achieved the first goal, getting accurate data. Then, they needed to develop a map that communicated quickly. Como Energy Challenge shows maps with school districts clearly marked, overlaid by energy consumption, by quarter, since 2013. These maps show a graduated color scale from green to red how each neighborhood is performing in terms of energy efficiency. That led naturally to the third goal, which was to move people from looking at the red areas of the maps to thinking, “That’s where I live, I want to do better,” Buffaloe said. Buffaloe said the Office of Sustainability didn’t then just sit back and wait for behavior change to occur. They realized they would need to develop strategic planning efforts and contact people through an effective outreach plan. They selected two of the “reddest” school districts on the map for direct outreach. These were neighborhoods that were also identified as being part of programs the city has in place to address neglected homes or multiple requests for assistance on utility bills. The Office of Sustainability held neighborhood events in the school concurrent with parent-teacher conferences, scheduled for a convenient time and day of the week. Everyone in the neighborhood was welcome to attend even if they did not have children in the school. Buffaloe said that while parents were meeting with teachers, the kids were together watching movies, and the neighborhood residents browsed the “energEE” fairs. Other community programs were represented at the fair, as well. Participants could go home with free energy-related items such as outlet timers and smart strips, as well as information about home energy assessment contractors and energy audits. Other takeaways included a checklist of easy fixes they could make to save energy as well as resources on who to contact for help on more complicated fixes. In addition, there was an energy saving promotion that encouraged people to share photos and stories on social media about how they were saving energy. Similar to the Tucson model, Columbia conducted its own stress index and learned that energy efficiency in its rental housing stock was a particular need. “This started a conversation on how everyone in Columbia can thrive if they are renting.” Perhaps not surprisingly, the neighborhoods with the worst energy efficiency were to a high degree the older housing stock in town, much of it rental property. Buffaloe noted that older housing stock tends to be poorly insulated. Often renters cannot take steps to improve efficiency, such as insulation, unless they pay for it themselves on top of rent. When moving into a new residence, a tenant’s first concern is usually coming up with the first month’s rent and security deposit. “Most people don’t worry about energy bills until month two,” Buffaloe said. [ 16 ]

Because of the Office of Sustainability’s efforts, now people can search online for each rental address to see past monthly energy use. A current promotion taking place city wide is called Rule your Attic. Columbia’s code calls for R49 insulation, so the Office of Sustainability is giving out yardsticks to encourage landlords and others to measure the depth of their existing insulation. The city and area Community Foundation are providing up to $500 to insulate attics to the recommended depth. Since they started, Buffaloe said, there has been more than a 20 percent decline in energy consumption. Comparing the first maps with those from 2016, the color change is apparent. One sure sign of a good game is when others want to play. In Columbia, Buffaloe says other energy-minded groups, such as the local Sierra Club, are helping spread the word. She says her office welcomes the support of these groups and encourages others working in city government to be open to this sort of collaboration. “Don’t worry that they will get the message ‘wrong.’ It can actually work well,” she said. As a city, Columbia is one of 50 communities competing for the Georgetown University Energy Prize competition. Any U.S. municipality with a population between 5,000 and 250,000 is eligible to apply. This means that 8,892 communities, accounting for 65 percent of the U.S. population, can participate. According to their website, “This multi -year, $5 million prize was born of a mission to tap the imagination, creativity, and spirit of competition between communities across the country to develop sustainable energy-saving innovations. Through this competition, communities will be challenged to work together with their local governments and utilities in order to develop and begin implementing plans for innovative, replicable, scalable and continual reductions in the per capita energy consumed from local natural gas and electric utilities.” Even though the neighborhoods within Columbia’s “contest” do not win prizes, they come out ahead by saving on their energy bills. But if Columbia wins the $5 million Georgetown University Energy Prize, all neighborhoods could benefit. “We’re already asking the community how it should be spent, if we win.” ■ Julianne Couch is the author of Traveling the Power Line: From the Mojave Desert to the Bay of Fundy.


Fostering Sustainability from the Ground Up Research Shows ‘People Care about Where They Live’ BY MARY GLINDINNING

Sustainability starts with neighborhoods and, with the right promotion, can spread across an entire city and into the next until it becomes a regional force for positive change.

SHERRIE GRUDER is sustainable design specialist with the University of Wisconsin-Extension.

SERGIO MENDOZA is city planner for the city of Hobart, Ind.

Organizers of a statewide survey in Wisconsin and a neighborhood initiative in Hobart, Ind., shared their experiences and discoveries at the recent Growing Sustainable Communities Conference in Dubuque. One of the biggest lessons learned: Efforts need to be place-based and relevant, said Sherrie Gruder, sustainable design specialist with the University of Wisconsin-Extension. She calls the trend toward sustainability a “quiet movement.” “I think it’s happening on its own and it doesn’t need to be loud,” said Gruder. “I think the reason it’s working is that people realize the need to engage in solutions in response to political, economic and ecological issues. It’s not being legislated to them. It’s coming from the ground up.” Gruder reported on a survey of 365 responding Wisconsin cities, villages and towns that shows grassroots activity in sustainability. Municipalities in more than half of all counties across the state have some sort of sustainability initiative. “There were 72 communities working on sustainability that we didn’t even know about,” she said.

KRISTINA KUZMA is an economic and community development educator in Clinton County, Ind., with Purdue University Extension.

Topping the list of topics local governments were most interested in working on were energy efficiency,

growing a green economy and natural resource management. Land use, economy and quality of life were driving factors for their programs. “Severe weather events were in the next tier of motivators, strongly linked to their interest in assistance with resilience planning,” Gruder said. “What you realize is that almost all these issues are in the purview of local government.” Communities said financing, staff time and expertise were challenges. “Some small communities found ways around that,” Gruder said. Some combined economic development and sustainability efforts. Some municipalities integrated sustainability into existing programs such as Smart Growth. “It is ramping up on its own. The motivation for local governments is to strengthen the ecological, economic and social fabric of the community. There are economic benefits. Most of the communities were measuring energy and water savings. It helped with the bottom line, but is also helped with quality of life,” she said. “People care about where they live.” One community found that their sustainability efforts attracted a new business as well as new residents. She quoted former Wisconsin governor and senator Gaylord Nelson, who founded Earth Day, as saying “the economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment.” Wisconsin’s Native American tribes are also partnering on sustainability efforts, such as energy independence and water quality. One tribal program focuses on climate change and culture. “We’re learning a lot in our state from our tribes,” Gruder said. Local governments provide the framework and lead by example, she said. Many sustainability organizations, nonprofit groups, faith-based institutions and businesses support local government efforts, and some work independently, Gruder said. “Some work on sustainability as a system, like Coulee Partners for Sustainability, while others focus on one aspect of sustainability, like Women in Sustainable Agriculture. Groups like Soil Sisters have sprung up across the state and meet for potlucks. Facebook pages and postings spread the word from [ 17 ]

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one community to the next, attract members and inspire new local organizations.” The Wisconsin Municipal Sustainability Survey, taken electronically in November 2015, had a response rate of 39 percent. Governments are exploring and implementing solar energy and compressed natural gas. A thermal blanket for the Osceola School swimming pool created significant savings.

The Coulee Partners for Sustainability in La Crosse, Wis., aim to “live respectfully, responsibly and reverently with one another and the earth.” In another Midwestern state, a partnership between the city of Hobart, Ind., Ball State University and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources created a Hobart Sustainable Neighborhood Plan. “In order to create a sustainable community, you need to break it down into parts, break it down into neighborhoods,” said Sergio Mendoza, Hobart city planner. He said the partnership gave the project much needed feet on the ground.

Photo: Victory Garden Initiative

Four Wisconsin cities - Wausau, Stevens Point, Marshfield and Wisconsin Rapids - within 35 miles of each other and with a combined labor pool of 300,000 people are researching public transit options such as van pools.

Milwaukee and Madison have sustainability efforts on many fronts from biking to rain barrels. But smaller cities also are working toward sustainability.

Loving the Place You Live

Milwaukee’s Victory Garden Initiative is one of the many grassroots programs thriving in Wisconsin. Patterned after the victory gardens of World War II, this initiative is “fighting for food security and the health of our ecosystems. We are fighting for resilient communities that support one another and for strong local economies.”

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“This work would not have been done if it had been left to me and my department.” Kristina Kuzma interned with the city of Hobart in the summer of 2015 between two years of grad school at Ball State University, and then served as its graduate assistant in the fall of 2015 and the spring of 2016.

Hobart, with a population of 29,000 people, is five minutes from Lake Michigan and 40 minutes from downtown Chicago. Kuzma divided the city into 74 neighborhoods, and used existing data to find which neighborhoods were thriving, which were suffering, and why.

Photo: City of Hobart, Ind.

“When school started up again, I stayed on with the city as a graduate assistant throughout both the fall and spring semesters. While working on the plan, I was a full-time graduate student at Ball State University earning my Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning,” she said.

Hobart, Ind.

Hobart, with a population of 29,000 people, is five minutes from Lake Michigan and 40 minutes from downtown Chicago.

“We learned that it is this kind of specific, targeted information that can really move a city forward. It can help secure grant funds, as well as determine the best places to use city dollars for things like sidewalks and new parks,” Kuzma said. She could visually and mathematically look for problems. For instance, one neighborhood had no tree cover. Evidence of that helped secure 500 free trees for planting. “The process certainly revealed things that would not have been noticed otherwise. For example, we could see which neighborhoods had the lowest percentages of tree cover or the highest percentages of impervious surface. We also realized things like who had the oldest housing stock and where the highest concentrations of poverty were within the city. Areas with high concentrations of water wells and septic systems (not always an ideal combination) were uncovered, as well as countless other issues that are not obvious without such analysis,” she said. One neighborhood has no park, so that will become a priority.

Kuzma is now an economic and community development educator in Clinton County, Indiana, with Purdue University Extension. She said the internship helped her future job prospects as much as it helped the city of Hobart. “Besides really sharpening my GIS and data analysis skills, I realized that looking at citywide problems on a neighborhood level makes them seem much less overwhelming and insurmountable. Environmental and economic issues can be prioritized, and then solved neighborhood by neighborhood in a calculated, strategic way,” Kuzma said. Any city could do the same study she did in Hobart, she said. “The work is already helping Hobart to correct some of its sustainability issues and we feel it can help other municipalities do the same.” Hobart is “not a special community, but it is special to a lot of people,” Mendoza said, which seems to be the essence of sustainability at the grassroots level. ■

Her work can help guide future development decisions, she said. And it can help with capital planning projects.

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Tackling Poverty One Asset at a Time City Partners with Credit Union to Help Low-Income People BY JULIANNE COUCH

Generational systemic poverty doesn’t just affect individuals and families. It affects entire communities. So it makes sense that individuals, families, and communities combine resources to resolve poverty, together.

MICHELLE BECWAR is Lead Education Impact Architect for Dupaco Community Credit Union in Dubuque, Iowa.

ANDREA HELGAGER is coordinator of the city of Dubuque (Iowa) Circles Initiative.

Two organizations in Dubuque, Iowa, are involved in an innovative national movement that engages individuals and communities to resolve poverty. One of these is the Circles Initiative, a networking model for under-resourced individuals and families to address the barriers in their lives and create a supported vision for their future. Locally, the Circles Initiative operates under the umbrella of the city of Dubuque. The other partner, Dupaco Community Credit Union, is a non-profit financial institution that serves many low-income individuals. Together the partnership features an education and support program designed to help individuals and families move from poverty into future-looking financial security.

Andrea Helgager and Michelle Becwar represent Dubuque Circles Initiative and Dupaco, respectively. Helgager is a Circles coach. “Sometimes even the most motivated individuals hit barriers,” Helgager said. The Circles Initiative connects volunteers and community leaders to families wanting to make the journey out of poverty. Volunteers known as allies help families break the cycle of poverty by sharing their time, friendship and support. There are barriers that can keep even the most motivated from achieving prosperity, but Circles works to expand opportunity and support for families as they create their own paths to stability. According to Helgager, “Circles encourages growth from people of all financial classes and engages the community as a whole. Circles connects families working to get out of poverty with community resources in realms such as faith based organizations, government and health care.” [ 20 ]

Helgager has a professional background in non-profit work and life coaching. She describes the philosophy behind the Circles Initiative. “Families don’t always have tools they need to break down barriers. Circles expands opportunities and creates a paths to stability.” That’s why the program matches a participant with a “middle class ally” who walks with them. “Poverty is isolating and complex. This gives them knowledge and resources to break down systemic barriers. If you don’t know how to utilize tools, you are isolated.” For example, each participant starts a bank account, and an ally works with them to understand the system. Becwar has a background in business and marketing, and is lead education impact architect with Dupaco Community Credit Union. Dupaco is a full-service financial cooperative headquartered in Dubuque. It serves residents of eastern Iowa, southwest Wisconsin and northwest Illinois. A credit union is, by definition, a not-for-profit and member-owned financial cooperative, “people helping people,” Becwar said. Dupaco’s goal is to make its members financially stable. In a credit union, profits are invested back for members in terms of rates, fees, and services. Dupaco is a low income credit union, as designated by the National Credit Union Association. This means that more than half of its clients live in low income areas. “The goal is to bring these areas up to stability,” Becwar said. One way is through partnerships with groups like the Circles Initiative. Both Helgager and Becwar approach breaking the cycle of poverty by understanding people’s circumstances. In order to solve a problem, it is important to define its terms. The Circles Initiative defines poverty as the extent to which a family does without resources. Resources are also described as assets. Becwar explains that asset building is an anti-poverty strategy. It contributes economically, socially, and psychologically to family and community well-being. Asset building allows people to look to a long term future, rather than reacting to short term problems, only. There are three legs to the asset building stool: economics, financial education, and access to financial resources. Income alone doesn’t move people out of poverty, but income plus assets moves people toward a financially sustainable future, Becwar said. She itemized these three asset categories and the benefits of each. Economic assets refer to whether a family has a stable, affordable home, has access to a vehicle, is able to pursue an education, and might have the capability of starting a microenterprise or a small business. “It is not


enough to move people out of poverty, people also need a financially sustainable future,” she said. Home ownership brings stability to families, and neighborhoods. Having a vehicle expands employment opportunities if people are not dependent on public transportation. It also helps them deal with emergencies. Small businesses, especially in low employment areas, can also lead to jobs for others. Education helps individuals and their children with better job opportunities and higher income. Becwar said that children of families with these assets are more likely to graduate from college, which becomes a generational benefit.

Anti-Poverty Strategy

Asset building contributes economically, socially, and psychologically to family and community well-being.

Other benefits of these economic assets are better health, because poverty causes psychological stress, as well as poor nutrition because low asset families have fewer food resources in their neighborhoods. Child well-being is also improved with assets: healthy children can focus better on their school work, often leading to improved self-esteem and better behavior. Children who feel more rooted in the community may contribute to better neighborhood stability. All of these traits are the result of being able to look into the future at their plans for life. The asset of financial education means knowledge, skills and access to financial resources. Becwar noted that people who inherit money have assets six times larger than those who don’t. Further, African American families are five times less likely to receive inheritance, which often keeps these families in generational poverty. “Knowledge plus skills plus access to resources equals financial capability,” Becwar said. That capability can help lead to behavior change especially around money management. “We don’t always do what we know we should, at all income levels. We tend to emphasize wants versus needs, but this is something we can learn not to do.” As a non-profit institution, Dupaco works with all of its members on financial education, not just those in its partnership program with Circles. Becwar said the credit union teaches members how to start a savings account, how to budget and cut back on spending. They also teach about credit and what it impacts, from getting a job to renting a home. The asset of financial education has community benefits, Becwar said, including a better educated workforce, increased spending power, better health, decreased public assistance and more engaged citizenry. Having access to financial resources is also known as “getting banked,” Becwar said. People who do not trust the banking system or who have not had a reliable way to manage their income do not necessarily know how to navigate the process of a savings or checking account. That makes them vulnerable to predatory practices such as high-fee check cashing businesses which might drive them deeper into the cycle of debt.

The first step is for a Circles program participant to start a savings account. The savings account isn’t for some vague future but for a specific asset the individual has determined would help move them out of poverty, such as a home, a car, education, or starting a small business. The participant may take up to two years to save the amount required for the matching fund. In this case, the Circles participant may save up to $2,000. That money will then be matched by both Dupaco, and by Circles, through its own fundraising that does not tap into taxpayer money. In this way, the participant can have a total of $6,000 to put toward the asset they’d been striving toward.

“The goal is asset ownership and financial capability, to bridge the gap between knowing and doing,” Becwar said. “Financial habits take time to create.” There are guidelines that people must meet to participate in the partnership’s money match IDA program. They need to be “low income” meaning 200 percent of the poverty level. They need to have an earned income, and net assets of less than $10,000, excluding home or automobile. People can use the funds to buy a home, to finance an education, whatever it might be to build assets. Additionally, financial education is an essential part of program. Dupaco administers the program, provides the financial education and counseling. Dubuque Circles provides participant referrals from its program, conducts personal and financial coaching, and contributes matching funds. Together, the partnership measures success by participant outcomes: How much are they saving; Are they saving consistently; Are they reaching goals; Are they attaining assets; How comfortable are they managing money, saving, budgeting and reaching out to resources. The ultimate impact of this program is that individuals learn to think long term. “This is not the norm for everybody, especially low income individuals,” Helgager said. “This program will help us end poverty in Dubuque. It can lead to sustainable benefits for individuals, communities and institutions.” Becwar said Dupaco is considering how to broaden its involvement in IDA partnerships in other areas where it operates. She advises other institutions with interests in forming similar partnerships to “know what it is you are looking to get out of it and how you want to reinvest into the community. We can put a lot of our resources into this because it’s very mission-aligned. We hope to make this scalable for our members in other communities.” ■ Julianne Couch is the author of The Small Town Midwest: Resilience and Hope in the Twenty-first Century. [ 21 ]

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Involving Citizens in Impact Assessments Going to the Grassroots Creates Long-Term Beneficial Partnerships BY MICHELLE VOLKMANN

Impact assessments are typically conducted as legal requirements to identify the economic, social and environmental effects of public policy. They usually involve public meetings led by government officials in government buildings.

TRACEE STRUM-GILLIAM is director of Mid-Atlantic Client Solutions at PRR.

MICHAEL ALLEN is Community Partnership Specialist at the National Park Service.

But, what if the role of the citizen wasn’t limited to that of a spectator in these assessments? What if residents were given the opportunity to lead these discussions? Some planners are advocating just that. These labor intensive impact assessments can create a dialogue with often overlooked populations, which can be more effective at identifying potential blind spots in community planning. Three urban planners discussed this topic in a recent webinar hosted by the Planning and the Black Community Division of the American Planning Association; the Planning Webcast Series Consortium; and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Justice. Tracee Strum-Gilliam, director of Mid-Atlantic Client Solutions at PRR, specializes in grassroots approaches for community impact assessments. She said community involvement and engagement takes “really getting out there in a community.”

CHANCEE MARTORELL is executive director and founder of Thai Community Development Center.

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“You need to identify what a community is,” Strum-Gilliam said. “In the CIA (community impact assessment) spectrum, you are going to go beyond just a block. You are going

to coordinate with local residents and stakeholders to find out what the community is really comprised of. You may be looking at the community as a block or two. But based upon history, that community may extend three or four blocks. You’ve got to go beyond the mapping,” she said. An example of this type of impact assessment is the Gullah/ Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Management Plan. The Gullah/ Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor extends from Wilmington, N.C. to Jacksonville, Fla. It was designated by Congress in 2006. This is the only National Park Service heritage area that deals specifically with African American history and culture. The NPS selected 25 individuals in 2009 to form a commission that would develop a management plan for this coastal area, said NPS Community Partnership Specialist Michael Allen. “This management plan would become the road map. It dictates how the community, along with NPS, state and local governments and nonprofit organizations would come together to form this management plan,” Allen said. Between February and August 2007, this commission held 21 public meetings in 19 different locations across four states. The meeting places were centrally located so that participants did not drive more than 30 or 40 minutes to attend a public meeting. “It was an ambitious journey,” Allen said. “This was the first time that the National Park Service conducted 21 public meetings on a single topic. The locations were strategically selected. We chose places like churches, where people would feel safe and connected and engaged to talk about the Gullah/Geechee heritage.” Strum-Gilliam advocates for this type of “holistic program” when conducting grassroots outreach. She recommends conducting community engagement at neighborhood centers and to use interview techniques. “Barber shops are really great for this. Outreach at transit centers is really great for low-income and minority communities,” Strum-Gilliam said. The commission for the Gullah/Geechee Heritage Area received more than 1,500 public comments through this innovative process. These comments were used to develop the vision and mission of today’s heritage area.


“We worked to keep the public involved in all the turns and activities (of the heritage area),” Allen said.

communities that were overlooked after they were adversely affected by the civil unrest,” Chancee said. “That included the Thai community.”

He said the commission took into account the digital divide that exists in the United States. Instead of relying only on electronically submitted public comments, the commission partnered with churches to collect data from their members.

Chancee, who was a graduate student at the time, conducted the first needs assessment of the Thai community in Los Angeles.

“We were able to collect data the old-fashioned way -- by mail,” Allen said. In the final 294-page management plan, there are highlighted quotes collected from participants at the 21 public meetings. “We did that because we wanted people to feel connected to the end product,” Allen said. Creating connections and instilling a sense of pride in cultural heritage were also driving forces in the establishment of Thai Town, said Chancee Martorell, executive director and founder of Thai Community Development Center. Following the 1992 Los Angeles riots, there was a “massive rebuilding effort” in the city and “sadly in this rebuilding effort there were some

“This needs assessment would document and identify community demographics, welfare and human needs and social economic characteristics. Once we documented and identified all that data, we could use it as an advocacy tool to raise our community visibility,” Chancee said. She trained Thai students in data collection to help with her effort. In the end, they collected 600 surveys. The survey results showed “overwhelming support” for a designated Thai Town in east Hollywood, Chancee said. In 1999 Thai Town was designated. But the work to develop this cultural neighborhood and recognize its residents didn’t end with that ceremony. Chancee said the results from this 1994 community-based survey continues to influence projects in Thai Town. She said Thai Town Marketplace, which broke ground in September and will open later this year, will be a hub for small business owners and is expected to create 40 jobs. Strum-Gilliam said these types of impact assessments can be conducted with a small budget. “If you have more money, you can do some things that are creative and if you don’t, you can be creative to work within those budget constraints,” she said. Strum-Gilliam said there is a lot of attention on consensus building in impact assessments. But she pointed out how an impact assessment can “broaden horizons and understanding” of citizens and stakeholders. ■

Public Engagement in Church

The Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission organized by the National Park Service in 2009 conducted 21 public meetings in 19 different locations across four states to get input about the heritage area that was designated by Congress in 2006. In an attempt to meet people in places where they felt safe, connected and engaged, some of the meetings were held in churches, like this one in Jacksonville, Fla.

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Deconstruction: Beyond the Bang $1.5 Million Saved on a Single Building Complex BY SARA BOOTH

An unsafe or unrepairable building doesn’t have to be a burden. In the right hands, it’s a treasure trove. How do you make money from a crumbling residence hall or hospital? “It’s what you know, and it’s also who you know,” said Don Seymour, principal at FEH Design. KEVIN EIPPERLE is a principal at FEH Design, based in Dubuque, Iowa.

Seymour and Kevin Eipperle, also a principal at FEH Design, told attendees at the 2016 Growing Sustainable Communities Conference in Dubuque, Iowa, how their firm has found unexpected income in everything from crushed concrete to window glass. With a broad enough network of buyers, it’s worthwhile to take a building apart from the top down rather than demolish everything indiscriminately.

Of course, the greenest thing to do with a building is to keep on using it. But owners of older buildings often face DON SEYMOUR dangerous disrepair and expensive is a principal at FEH Design, safety issues. In public buildings there’s based in Dubuque, Iowa. the additional difficulty of upgrading to modern standards of accessibility. Deconstruction can save waste and money and allow the community to salvage memories of buildings once they can no longer be used. Gage Residence Hall, at Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minn., is a good example of FEH’s methods. The budget for removing the building was set at $2.8 million. Deconstruction brought the price down to $1.3 million, diverted nearly 26 tons of material from the landfill, and benefited a number of service organizations. Where did the savings come from? - Landfill diversion. Use of landfills isn’t free; disposing of unwanted materials is a substantial cost of building demolition. By reusing, recycling, and selling materials, builders saved $160,000 in landfill fees.

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A crowd of onlookers record the final moments in the life of the Gage Residence Hall at Minnesota State University, as explosives bring the shell of the building down. But 26 tons of material from the demolished complex lived on by either being reused or recycled, saving money and diverting waste from the landfill.

- Sale of unwanted items. If Gage Residence Hall had been conventionally demolished, the dormitory’s kitchen and laundry appliances would probably have been destroyed with it, but instead they were sold, along with file cabinets, lockers, tables, chairs, doors, and so on. Those that couldn’t be sold were donated to homeless shelters and Habitat for Humanity resale stores. Equipment from the heating, cooling, and elevator systems was also sold. - Sale of recycled materials. One of the best bargains is concrete: crush it onsite, and you have a pile of gravel that can be used to fill gaps and level the lot for the next building. Many buyers are available for what’s left. Likewise, recyclers were found for stainless steel, window aluminum, metal from roofing, and the parts from hundreds of mattresses. - Grants from organizations that value keeping useful materials out of landfills. - Fund-raising. Buyers are available for recycled bricks, but a brick from the old college residence hall isn’t just any brick. (Similarly, when the Mitchell County Courthouse of Osage, Iowa, came down, wood from doors and stairways was repurposed into furniture and sold.) The use of materials for fund-raising demonstrates another advantage of deconstruction: improved community engagement. Just because a building is no longer usable, this doesn’t necessarily end the community’s affection for it. Deconstruction means that memories can be shared with the community in the form of a salvaged architectural element — or even a simple brick. ■


SWEEP Advances Energy Efficiency in Six States Programs Help Consumers Save $6 Billion BY MICHELLE VOLKMANN

Advocates have learned that energy efficiency programs are significantly more effective when they have the support of local utility companies.

HOWARD GELLER is executive director of the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project.

PENELOPE PURDY is director of communications for the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project.

“We make the case that these polices are good for the utility company, the economy and the environment,” said Howard Geller, executive director of the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP). “We work with utilities in a collaborative way. We offer to help make energy efficiency programs financially attractive to both them and their customers.” For 15 years, SWEEP representatives have worked to make the case for greater energy efficiency in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. This public interest organization argues in favor of tax incentives for highly efficient new buildings. They support polices that replace fossil fuels with renewable resources. They recognize the benefits of utility energy efficiency programs and encourage utility companies to expand them. What are the results of their advocacy efforts?

In 2001, when SWEEP was founded, funding for electric utility energy efficiency in those six states was just $21 million. “Now electric utilities in our states spend $400 million per year to implement energy efficiency programs,” Geller said. “If you look at what the utilities have avoided through their energy efficiency programs, it’s equivalent to 6 large baseload power plants,” Geller said. “Utility customers will save over $6 billion on their utility bills as a result of these programs. In 2015 these programs also avoided 12 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions,” he said. Geller attributed his organization’s success to working with utility

companies and “making sure the utilities could still earn a profit, if not more, when investing in energy efficiency programs for their customers.” SWEEP initially focused on utility energy efficiency policy and programs along with the promotion of combined heat and power systems. In 2010, SWEEP initiated new programs to improve energy efficiency in the industrial sector, and provide technical assistance to states, counties and cities. “Energy efficiency is one part of the solution to global climate change. Along with maximizing energy efficiency, we need to move dramatically toward renewable energy resources and eventually phase out fossil fuels,” Geller said. Geller recognized the “tremendous job” that the city of Las Vegas has done to reduce its energy use citywide. The city retrofitted public buildings to reduce energy use, installed LED street lights and partnered with NV Energy to make every streetlight, city park, community center, fire station, service yard and public building owned by the city become solar powered. Las Vegas has cut its energy use for city operations by one third. The city is now using this cost savings to pay for solar power to meet 100 percent of its remaining electricity demand. “They justified it by saying that a strong energy efficiency program would save the city money,” Geller said, and he added that Las Vegas is the first city of its size to power all municipal operations with renewable energy. Las Vegas’ efforts are only the beginning. They are the model. More cities and utility companies are recognizing the benefits of renewable energy and working on ways to power their communities with it, Geller said. “If they can do it, other cities, businesses and communities can do it. We all can do it. We can work to be a part of that clean energy future,” he said. Before founding SWEEP, Geller was the executive director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. After leaving that position he wanted to focus on energy efficiency in the southwest because he saw the region’s potential. [ 25 ]

Sustainable City Network Magazine

“At that time (2001), very little was happening to support energy efficiency programs in this part of the country. Polices were lagging compared with other states. There was a lot being done to promote renewable energy but if you looked at the policies and what electric and gas utilities were doing to save energy it was quite minimal,” Geller said. “Our initial focus was to build up the energy efficiency programs of electric and gas utilities in the region.” Penelope Purdy, director of communications, said SWEEP is a nonprofit, public interest organization registered as a 501(c)(3) under federal law.

She recounted a number of SWEEP’s accomplishments: • The annual energy savings from electric utility DSM programs in the region increased from 350 GWh per year in 2005 to more than 2,300 GWh per year in 2014. • States in the region enacted dozens of laws to advance more efficient energy use that SWEEP proposed or influenced. These laws enacted or led to the scale-up of utility efficiency programs, strengthened building energy codes, minimum energy efficiency standards on light bulbs and other products, tax incentives for highly efficient new buildings or vehicles, energy savings goals for public buildings, new energy efficiency financing mechanisms, and more.

Photo: SWEEP

“As such, we focus strictly on improving public policy but strictly avoid any partisan politics. We are proud to count among our many supporters and allies not only other environmental groups but many businesses (including some on the Fortune 500 list), local governments and forward-looking utilities,” Purdy said.

“Traditionally this is a high growth region where energy efficiency efforts were lagging compared to some other regions, air pollution is a growing concern, and coal-fired power plants provide the majority of electricity supply,” Purdy said.

Southwest Energy Efficiency Project

SWEEP is a non-profit, public interest organization founded in 2001 with finanical support from charitable foundations and the U.S. Department of Energy. It advocates for energy efficiency in the states of Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.

[ 26 ]


• Arizona adopted some of the strongest energy efficiency requirements for investor-owned electric utilities in the nation, requiring electricity savings of 20% by 2020. • With SWEEP’s backing, either the 2009 or 2012 version of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) has been adopted in New Mexico, Nevada and in all major municipalities in Arizona and Colorado. A number of cities are now considering adoption of the 2015 version of the IECC, influenced by SWEEP’s advisory and advocacy work. • Colorado adopted 9 laws to promote purchase of electric vehicles and to enable cities and counties to invest a portion of their gasoline tax revenue in mass transit systems and non-motorized transport. • Utah adopted 5 laws to promote the purchase of electric vehicles. Financial support for SWEEP is provided primarily by charitable foundations and the U.S. Department of Energy, Purdy said. Charitable foundations include Edwards Mother Earth Foundation, Energy Foundation, Heising-Simons Foundation, Kaiser Foundation and L.P. Brown Foundation. SWEEP is also funded by government organizations like the city of Boulder, Colo., Colorado Energy Office and the Nevada Governor’s Office of Energy. SWEEP also receives financial support from Tucson Electric Power, Arizona Public Service Company, Salt River Project, Southwest Gas Company and Xcel Energy. “We also have 36 allies who each contribute $5,000 a year,” Purdy said. Allies include Lockheed Martin, GE, ecobee and the North American Insulation Manufacturer Association.

The board’s chairman is Bruce Ray. Ray works as associate general counsel at Johns Manville, a Denver-based company that manufactures insulation, roofing materials, and engineered products. Other board members include Laura Nelson, executive director of the Utah Office of Energy Development and Brent Rice, vice-chair executive manager at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Geller said SWEEP works on crafting policies and programs in its key states to identify energy efficiency programs that will work best for that region. “Talking to them about what is working in California or Massachusetts is not helpful. We needed to have grassroots solutions that make sense for Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming” Geller said. These solutions are identified through collaborative relationships. “We have staff on the ground. We are there in those six states day in and day out working with local groups and businesses,” Geller said. Looking forward, SWEEP is focusing on its key policy areas: utilities and regulation; transportation including electric vehicles; modernized building codes; and the industrial sector, Purdy said. Geller said widespread adoption of electric vehicles will be a key focus for SWEEP in the next 5 years. “We are supporting polices and investments that will facilitate the purchase of electric vehicles,” he said. “We need to move electric vehicles from a small fraction to the majority of cars and light trucks on the road.” ■

SWEEP’s board of directors also reflects the organization’s commitment to diverse viewpoints working together on energy efficiency.



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Sustainable City Network Magazine

Connected Infrastructure Promises Bright Future Industry Rep Describes How Municipalities are Using Smart Systems BY KATHY REGAN, ASSOCIATE EDITOR

According to Wikipedia, “A smart city is an urban development vision to integrate multiple information and communication technology (ICT) and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions in a secure fashion to manage a city’s assets.”

ROGER DRUMMOND is Midwest regional sales director at Current, powered by GE.

Now, if you could gather that information and use it to predict elements of the future that would save time and money, and increase the safety of residents, you would be well on your way to becoming an “intelligent city.”

Would knowing the level of snow fall in a rural area save time and money by preventing the unnecessary dispatching of snow plows? Would knowing that shots were fired in a neighborhood possibly make residents safer if police could be deployed faster? If you could analyze street usage and fix pot holes sooner would you save money on payouts to insurance companies? At the 2016 Growing Sustainable Communities Conference held recently in Dubuque, Iowa, speaker Roger Drummond, Midwest regional sales director at Current, powered by GE, said cities can use data technologies to cut down on energy costs, become more energy independent, reduce carbon footprints, improve performance, create efficiencies and plan for the future. Data is everywhere – on street corners, buses, garbage dumpsters, in alleys, and in the environment, Drummond said. He said municipal governments can harness this data, analyze it and put it to work improving the quality of life for citizens and, in turn, creating a safer and more economical environment. Drummond said many communities are beginning to make the change. In this LED retrofit revolution, municipalities are opting to switch out their older street lighting to new, more energy-efficient LEDs. Before taking this step, Drummond said cities should think beyond the initial retrofit and consider options that will provide benefits well into the future.

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For example, he said, outdated street lights can be replaced with basic LEDs for the immediate energy and maintenance cost savings; then down the road, cities can move from the basic LED to a “smart LED” with lighting controls; and then, when ready, they can move to “intelligent LEDs” that contain infrastructure to capture data. Once the city is ready to take that next step, the LED components can simply be switched out to the next level.


Intelligent city technology allows officials to work with the community and city infrastructure to monitor what is happening and use that same data to plan for the future. Reactive information, such as gunshots in an area of town, can be used immediately to deploy police officers and ensure the safety of area residents. Predictive information can be gathered and analyzed for future use such as parking optimization. You can analyze the number of open parking spaces in a given time period, monitor how long cars are parked, when they enter and when they leave. This analysis can lead to a reduction in carbon emissions, lower the cost of parking enforcement and help determine future parking needs.

City residents might want more biking and walking paths. Drummond said intelligent systems could monitor the most used bike routes and where residents are walking, count cars, count passenger cars versus trucks versus semis, and then determine the best areas for those paths. Once these systems are set up to collect the data, it can be mined through many software channels to fit the different needs of each community, he said. The path to becoming an intelligent city is not a simple process but today’s innovations greatly reduce the complexity and position cities for new levels of productivity and efficiencies, Drummond said. â–

Other predictive uses include environmental monitoring and analysis. There are health benefits to gain by knowing the allergens in the area and when the pollen count is high, Drummond said.


Intelligent City. Bright Future.

Intelligent and connected systems integrated with various forms of infrastructure are coming onto the scene at a rapid pace, according to industry analysts.

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Sustainable City Network Magazine - Vol. 22 - January 2017  

In this issue, our cover story explores a study that suggests low-density housing developments can't generate enough tax revenue to replace...

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