It’s Not Easy Being A Green Mayor

By new contributor Marguerite Manteau Rao. If you feel like writing for us, drop us an email!

On November 1st and 2nd, a group of 100 mayors from all over the US gathered in Seattle.

The occasion was the Climate Protection Summit, convened by the United States Conference of Mayors. It takes courage and determination to be a green mayor. The mayors discussed the obstacles they are facing, both from their constituents, and the federal government.

Mayor Smith from Meridian, Mississippi, talking about his initiative to restore streetcar service in his city, was quoted in the New York Times as saying, “This is one of those things you do in your last term in office, because [the voters will] be sure you’ve lost your mind.” Mr. Smith’s comment was echoed by another mayor, Douglas Palmer, of Trenton. “You just can’t say we need to reduce global warming because there will be floods and polar bears will be gone. They’ll run me out of town.”

The mayors are learning how to communicate with their citizens in ways that speak to them, linking green initiatives to more immediate preoccupations, such as children’s health, economics, and jobs. Another issue is the difficulty enlisting the cooperation of some local businesses. In some cases, the mayors have had trouble getting real estate developers to abide by green
building codes.

Washington is another source of frustration for the wannabe green mayors. The Bush administration has done little on the front of climate change, and the mayors have had to take the lead. 700 mayors so far have committed to cut down their cities’ greenhouse gas emissions to the levels laid out in the Kyoto protocol. Seattle, under the guidance of its mayor, Greg Nickels,
has already surpassed the Kyoto objectives. The US Senate has not ratified the treaty.

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