Despite mayor's objections, Green Task Force here to stay

DOWNEY - What would have been a clean moment of triumph for the members of Downey's Green Task Force on July 27 when it presented its report and recommendations to the City Council after a solid year of study and a series of monthly meetings centering on protecting the city environment was sullied by a complaint from Mayor Anne Bayer about the sandwiches provided the members at city expense.Task Force members Bob Ciatti and Bob Phillips said they were insulted by Bayer's insensitive remarks. Councilman Mario Guerra, who served as chairman of the group, was also upset by Bayer's "ridiculous and petty" comments, and later issued the following statement "for the record": "I was highly shocked and embarrassed when the report presentation was interrupted by Anne Bayer complaining about the sandwiches that were provided to these individuals (the Task Force and subcommittee members) during some of their meetings. The meetings were held at lunch time to be able to coordinate their busy schedules. And Coke (Coca-Cola) sponsored many of the meetings and sandwiches at their facilities without compensation. [Anne Bayer bringing up the subject of sandwiches] tainted the gratitude we have for the members' dedicated service for our city." At any rate, following the seven focus area guidelines set by the United Nations Urban Environmental Accords (UNUEA) in 2005 and duly endorsed by mayors around the world towards a "clean, healthy, and safe environment," the Green Task Force came up with 13 recommendations, including such items as promoting water conservation and energy efficiency programs, installing recycling containers in public parks and municipal public areas, enhancing sustainable building practices through code updates and municipal fee reviews consonant with incentives rewarding sustainable construction practices, etc., to all of which the City Council gave its stamp of approval by a 4-1 vote, with Bayer dissenting. (Guerra: "She did not explain her vote as usual.") The most important of the Green Task Force's recommendations was perhaps its number one, which called for a permanent Green Task Force, to be composed of two members each recommended by the five council members. The seven guiding focus areas outlined by UNUEA include: energy (renewable energy, energy efficiency), waste reduction (zero waste, manufacturer/consumer responsibility), urban design (green building practices, urban planning), urban nature (parks, habitat restoration, wildlife), transportation (public transportation, clean vehicles, reducing congestion), environmental health (toxics reduction, healthy food systems, clean air), and water (water access and efficiency, source water conservation, wastewater reduction). Also factored into the task force's deliberations were relevant provisions under AB32 and SB375, both of which address climate change issues as well as state and local mandates in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The report's recommendations presented short-term and long-term targets, meanwhile pointing out that, to the city's credit, it has been observing a few significant recycling practices at least, antedating some of the task force's recommendations. Among them: purchase of recycled paper for all the city's printers and photocopiers; use of recycled water to irrigate the Rio Hondo golf course, most city parks, DUSD schools, roadway medians and parkways, etc., saving the city 800 acre-feet of potable water annually; picnic tables, park benches, dugout benches and bleachers are made from recycled beverage containers; etc. The following individuals, comprising the task force and subcommittees, share credit in the preparation of the report: a) Councilmember Mario Guerra, chair; and mayor pro tem Luis Marquez, vice-chair; b) community representatives: Bob Ciatti (owner of Efficient Lighting & Electric and Downey resident); Lars Clutterham (environmentalist and Downey resident); Janet Molinaro (Emergency Preparedness Committee member and Downey resident); Robert Rubio (Rio Hondo Boys and Girls Club and Downey resident; and Nancy Swenson (DUSD school board member and Downey resident); c) industry, school district and utility co. representatives: Tom Davidson, Mike Finn, Jonathan Leonard, Robert Phillips, and Dan Pruitt, all from Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Southern California; Julia Emerson and Sylvia Sutherland, both of Southern California Edison Company; Calvin Davis (DUSD); Sally Flowers (Central Basin Municipal Water District); Bill Kalpakoff of CalMet Services, Inc.; and Anna Valcarcel, environmentalist and teacher; and d) city of Downey staff: Desi Alvarez, deputy city manager; Shirley Conte, secretary to the City Council; and Shannon DeLong, analyst. Consideration of the permanent Green Task Force, says Guerra, will be taken up by the City Council in 30 days, as well as the appointment of its members.

********** Published: August 5, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 16