I attended the East Metro Sustainability Roundtable put on last night by the Alliance for Sustainability. The meeting itself was well-attended by City staffers, elected officials, and volunteers from Oakdale, Mahtomedi, Maplewood, Lake Elmo, Woodbury, Roseville and White Bear Lake, all of whom had great things to report about their eco-initiatives.
While the roundtable speakers discussed far-flung areas of concern from transit options to compostables, underlying every success story was a great social networking framework. Some things (energy savings in City operations, improvements to new building codes) can be accomplished in a top-down fashion, but the initiatives with the most promise absolutely must have public participation in order to succeed – whether it is getting residents of multi-family housing to save energy or developing a form-based zoning code or walkable city plan.
This puts a lot of pressure upon elected officials and paid staff to recruit, recruit, recruit for citizen boards and commissions, especially in smaller cities. There are groups out there who will rally the troops, and can provide great resources, but the bottom line is creating a citizen network that will sustain any planning and implementation of a given project. Everyone at some time or another has joked about governing via Facebook, but perhaps it’s not a joke anymore.
The next AFORS roundtable is aimed at the North Metro, at the Family Service Center in New Brighton, 6:30 pm on April 16. AFORS is also putting on Natural Step seminars, the next planned April 13 and 20 in Bayport.