Our View: Sustainability doesn't need a coordinator


— Steamboat Springs City Manager Alan Lanning is absolutely right - now is not the time to add an $80,000 to $100,000 "sustainability coordinator" to city staff.

We're not convinced there will be a right time, including when the 2008 budget is approved.

The city's Green Team, a volunteer group that takes on local environmental initiatives and activities, recommended that the City Council consider adding such a position. Sustainability is the effort to properly balance human needs with the need to protect our surrounding natural environment. The sustainability coordinator would lead city efforts on conservation and energy efficiency and help area organizations and communities with sustainability initiatives. Also, the coordinator would be responsible for implementing the Sustainability Management Plan, which was developed by the Green Team and adopted by the Steamboat Springs City Council last August.

"There's a ton of great ideas," Councilman Ken Brenner said Tuesday of Green Team efforts that could be fueled by a full-time leader. "We will see results between now and the end of the year."

But the rest of the City Council followed Lanning's advice and postponed any such decision until the 2008 budget cycle. "This should be part of the budget process," Lanning said at the council meeting. "I'm not sure that we needed a parade of people telling us that we need a coordinator : This (item) is not a public forum to push an agenda."

We wholeheartedly agree.

Don't misunderstand - we support the city's Green Team and efforts at sustainability. But sustainability is not a government program and it's not a city department. It's simply a philosophical approach to governance.

The Sustainability Management Plan adopted by the council last summer emphasizes "top-down" concepts such as environmentally friendly management and construction policies, and "bottom-up" practices such as improving light fixtures and air-conditioning units. Implementing such practices is the job of all city departments and all city employees, not a single coordinator.

In fact, it could be argued that hiring a full-time coordinator will slow, rather than spur, sustainable practices. The reality is, once a coordinator is hired, city employees will see sustainability as the coordinator's responsibility, not theirs. At that point, the sustainability coordinator becomes a prime example of the very inefficiency he or she is trying to eliminate.

The city has a Green Team. The City Council has adopted a Sustainability Management Plan. It has a city manager and department heads fully capable of following sustainability recommendations and policies. That's a lot of sustainability tools already in place.

Sustainability should be a consideration in all city decisions. Reducing waste, enhancing energy efficiency, using green building techniques and promoting renewable sources of power all are important. But achieving such changes will require a team, rather than an individual, approach. Spending $100,000 to staff an office that will coordinate and lead the sustainable charge would be, we think, a waste of the city's money.


beentheredonethat 9 years, 10 months ago

thank you for the thoughtful, precise editorial which I completely agree with.


tkdman 9 years, 10 months ago

PLEASE, if we are going to spend another $100,000 on things this city needs, put it toward deserving teachers. I would bet that there are 10 great teachers in this county that could use an extra $10,000.


localreader 9 years, 10 months ago

A "sustainablity coordinator"? $80,00 to $100,00 a year! The proponents have got to be kidding or they think we residents are idiots. Another path to "the End of The World As We Know It", borrowing Mark Steyn's sub-title for "America Alone". Read for the economic arguments if you don't like the demographics debate and the multicuturalism comments.


elphaba 9 years, 10 months ago

A sustainability coordinator would be another City staff member that would be minimalized and ignored by this Council who has to micromanage every piece of tissue used at City Hall.


thecondoguy1 9 years, 10 months ago

We are all stewarts of of sustainabilty, in all we do at all times. the city is no different then our households, everybody is responsible to learn and think. Each city employee is a sustainabilty coordinator weather they know it or not, weather they like it or not, it needs to be a effort, part of the total philosophy of managing everything we do, like safety. It's just life..............


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