There really is no more pressing matter than climate change. It has already started affecting every Rochestarian whether they realize it or not. The City does have a Climate Action Plan, but it’s not enough. I’m not going to spend time picking the plan apart, instead I am making specific recommendations of what we should be doing and speed is important. We cannot wait for “market forces” to save our planet as the market is interested in one thing only: profit.
At the State level, there are competing ideas to reduce climate change. The one that is the most promising is the call to be completely renewable by 2030. Whether this is the plan that gets put into action or not, there will be funding to make changes at the local level. Therefore we should leverage this funding to make systemic changes in how we do things in Rochester.
Probably the number one thing in Rochester that is negatively affecting climate change is the way we move from one place to another. We have to change the way we get around. That means we have to greatly reduce the number of cars on the road. Understand, this means that we have to change our lifestyle. The problem is our infrastructure is designed to make that difficult, therefore we have to focus on changing our roads and public transportation system.
In an informal poll on the campaign Facebook page, people cited convenience as the number one reason they don’t take the bus in Rochester. They just don’t come often enough and do not conveniently go to the places people need to go. Another stumbling block is that while most of the riders of RTS are from the City of Rochester, the bus company is not specifically controlled by a City entity. This is actually a huge problem.
Building energy use has a major effect on climate change. Both large buildings and individual houses use non-renewable energy and emit climate-changing pollution. But changing both of these factors is not a burden, but an economic opportunity that has not been taken advantage of yet.
Many have called the empty lots in our city and eye sore. I look at them as more opportunities that we’re not taking advantage of. We could be using these spaces in ways that reduces climate change and enhances neighborhoods at the same time in ways that are not obvious.
Keeping in mind the thoughts above, I propose the following that I will sponsor legislation and/or vote for:
*A radical rewriting of our zoning codes that insists that all new development be as close to 100% renewable as possible. Developers should have to jump through as many hoops as possible to be allowed to continue to build projects that rely on fossil fuels. These changes in the zoning codes should also include the allowance of wind turbines in the city limits – both smaller, household sized as well as larger commercial ones. There should also be provisions in the codes for an increase in cooperatively-owned, commercial urban agriculture. (A platform plank on urban agriculture is coming.)
*We have barely begun to use open city spaces for solar farms. We must invest in more of these, to be tied into an eventual public utility that I propose in another section of my platform. Wind turbines should be put into city-controlled areas of Durand Eastman Park as well as Lake Ontario. We must start investing in geothermal energy as well.
*Not only should we focus on the environmental effect of new projects, but we must work to retrofit our existing buildings. Funding should be made available for rooftop gardens, more trees, and to paint roofs white.
*We should start planting zone-appropriate fruit and nut trees on public land in the City. I would even be so bold as to suggest Parcel 5 as a place for some of these trees. Neighborhood groups, schools, and even certain businesses can be incentivized to be the stewards of trees planted in their areas.
*We must thoughtfully begin the use of mycoremediation for soil remediation, particularly in the poorer parts of town where people live on or near former industrial sites.
*We must begin the process of creating a municipal composting system in Rochester.
*We should ban the sale of anything with single-use plastics in Rochester. It can be incremental, but it must start now and the pace must be relatively swift. (More on this coming soon)
*I’ve saved the most difficult for last. We must collectively take action – citizens and councilmembers to get more control of RGRTA. As they continue to contract their service, eliminating more and more suburban routes, their service is more city-concentrated than ever. But we do not have control over how the entity operates or makes decisions. This would entail changes in state law. It will be a difficult process, but one that must be taken if we want public transportation to truly have a positive effect on Rochester’s environment.
Every single idea I have expressed above is not only an environmental-saving opportunity, but a chance to reduce poverty and improve our overall fiscal health.
Expanding public support of cooperative businesses could foster all of the initiatives I’ve described here. The investment of public money in these efforts would produce countless green jobs that we need in our struggling city.