Citizen Commission looks at city's sustainability
Livonia Observer, Thursday February 6, 2014
By David Veselenak
"Going green" isn't just a saying. It's a way of running things, and Livonia's new Greenleaf Commission on Sustainability is one of the big steps chairman Jim Baringhaus hopes makes a difference in the city.
Baringhaus and several other Livonia residents sit on the Greenleaf commission, a commission created last year to look at how to implement and encourage more sustainable practices for the city, its businesses and its residents. While the commission is still in the community stage, Baringhaus said the hope is for the commission to become a full-fledged city commission down the road.
"Livonia's probably much more greener than we realized," he said. "It's going to put all these initiatives under one umbrella. I think it will raise awareness with the citizens."
The commission is focusing its efforts on eight target areas, which include: air quality, water management, energy consumption, green buildings, transportation and connectivity, trash and recycling, land use, and neighborhoods.
While the commission is looking at several long-term goals, Baringhaus said there are several steps the commission is looking to take early this year to leave its mark on Livonia. One of those efforts includes the Greenleaf Award, which will be given to local businesses that fulfill three categories the com-mission believes are crucial.
"This award is targeted at Livonia businesses that have demonstrated the ability to be economically smart .... but they're socially smart," he said. "They're also environmentally smart. They recycle."
City councilman Brandon Kritzman, who helped launch the Green-leaf commission, said he thought the commission would help answer questions many residents were presenting the city with, especially as technology in the field rap-idly changes.
He said having a dedicated group to this plan will provide advice and assistance to those with questions, especially with the most recent economic downturn that has left staffing levels reduced.
"My thought was that while the City of Livonia does a lot of things that are good when it comes to conservation and energy, we don't have any group here that's been tasked with making that their passion and driving force," he said. ".I look at this as an opportunity to take a group of citizens that have a passion about that, and harness that in a way that can augment the city's actual procedures.
"It's not intended to replace anyone in the city. It's intended to help the city operations itself." The commission currently consists of Baringhaus, Larry Davis, Pat-rick Droze and Frank Kalinski.
Baringhaus said a dedicated page on the city's website is one more step the commission is looking to add sometime this year to educate the public on the work it does and raise awareness. He also said the commission is looking to reach out and apply for several awards through other organizations, including the Southeast Michigan . Council of Governments. One of the first programs applied for, Baringhaus said, was the Sustainable . Community Recognition Program, which the city council approved pursuing last month.
Through some of these programs and awards, the city could gain significant information on how best to mea-sure success in the eight target areas the commission is pursuing.
"The city has some on its dashboard; but as we get working with SEMCOG, we'll get a better idea of what metrics are out there," Baringhaus said. "We can see which ones we can use to establish a baseline and then moving forward, mea-sure our progress in key sustainability areas."
Focusing on walkability, for example, is just one goal of the commission as many families are looking at living in areas where they can move around without just an automobile. Baringhaus said many people, especially younger people, are opting to live in places that typically did not attract families in recent years.
"People are willing to pay a premium to get into those communities," he said. "The values hold up better over time as well."
Those looking for more information on the commission or its efforts can contact Baringhaus at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Veselenak, David. “Citizen Commission looks at city's sustainability.” Livonia Observer
7 February 2014” A6. Print.
Article courtesy of the Livonia Observer. Article written by David Veselenak, Staff Writer.