New Rochelle Mayor Bramson recently announced the public release of the ICLEI inspired “Green R Sustainability Plan” — a document drafted in secret, by unelected individuals, led by a group of outsiders connected with various groups connected directly or indirectly with ICLEI and the U.S. Green Building Council, created by the National Resource Council, which is, in turn, funded by The Tides Foundation. The U.S. Green Building Council is behind LEED certification. None of which they Mayor has bothered to explain. So, what else has he failed to explain?
The Green R document was uploaded to the City of New Rochelle web site where residents were directed to send comments to someone who may be unfamiliar to many New Rochelle residents, Deborah Newborn.
So, who is Deborah Newborn?
According to the Westchester Business Journal she is a “20-year environmental attorney who worked as an environmental scientist prior to going to law school”. She lives in New Rochelle. The business-oriented social network web site LinkedIn notes only that she is a member of the GreenBiz.com group for Green Business Professionals. GreenBiz.com is owned by Greener World Media (GWM) run by, among others, Executive Editor Rob Watson who is described on the GWM site as the “Founding Father of LEED”; he was the national Steering Committee Chairman for the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program between 1994 and 2005.
You might be forgiven if you thought that since the Mayor is directing residents’s questions and concerns to Deborah Newborn that she was a municipal employee. In fact, she is a consultant hired at the direction of ICLEI based on an RFP that was advertised on the ICLEI web site. The RFP’s “job description” of this consultant includes this the following:
Facilitate the implementation of the City’s and County’s climate action goals through usage of technology, environmental tracking matrices, coordination with International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), including enhanced membership and software tools, etc.
And what about that “enhanced membership” and those “software tools”? Those are services, software and research material sold by ICLEI that Newborn is charged with buying from ICLEI. Wait, you thought that ICLEI was giving things away for free?. Nope. This is a big bucks operation. It’s a great racket. We pay them to use their “measuring sticks” to determine how much more of their stuff we need to buy from them and how many more of their people we need to hire who are placed within City Hall to keep the purchasing wheel spinning.
The “position” of “Sustainability Coordinator” was filled in December 2008. The term is in quotes because it is not a real title because this person does not actually work for the City. She works for herself. We pay her consulting business for a fraction of her time. Who pays for the rest of her time? Time will tell.
At his State of the City address in March 2009, an excited Mayor Bramson announced that New Rochelle has been selected for the ICLEI Planning Pilot program as if the City had won the Nobel Prize, or at least American Idol.
Never mentioned by the Mayor way was that New Rochelle’s application for the ICLEI Sustainability Planning Pilot program has been in the works since 2007 and that one of the key ICLEI requirements for municipal applications to ICLEI was that the municipality must hire a Sustainability Coordinator. It was for this purpose the Mayor sought approval of hiring a Sustainability Coordinator [NOTE: much of the information about the ICLEI Planning Pilot has since been removed from the ICLEI web site].
Members of the City Council have told Talk of the Sound that they do not recall the Mayor or anyone also explaining that it was a requirement of the ICLEI Planning Pilot program that the City hire a Sustainability Coordinator. As ICLEI was referenced in the RFP, it would appear some members of Council either failed to reader the entire document before voting on it or did not understand why ICLEI was mentioned in the RFP.
The importance to ICLEI of this position is made clear in ICLEI’s 10 Keys to Sustainability Planning. It is the first item on the list.
Key #1: Hire a sustainability coordinator to run the show
Key #2: Obtain buy in from a big wig
Key #3: Form teams that build bridges across city departments-and beyond city hall
Key #4: Develop a greenhouse gas inventory
Key #5: Define clear relevant and measurable goals
Key #6: Get regular people to tell you what sustainability goals are important to them
Key #7: Develop implementation plans within your plan
Key #8: Take a deep breath and release a draft plan for public comment
Key #9: Obsessively track the implementation status of your measures
Key #10: Remain accountable to the public
Look more closely at #1. What is meant by hire a sustainability coordinator to run the show?
Pre-Milestone Planning: Making a Commitment, Forming a Team
Key #1: Hire a sustainability coordinator to run the show. Many hands will touch a sustainability plan and many voices weigh in, but one person must be the quarterback, and in countless cities that’s a sustainability coordinator. To coordinate the planning process for Baltimore’s sustainability plan, for example, Mayor Sheila Dixon created an Office of Sustainability within the Department of City Planning. The City designated one project manager to coordinate the planning process full-time and added a part-time manager as well.
As a side note. Anyone familiar with Mayor Sheila Dixon? She has been in the national news! Sheila Ann Dixon is an American politician. She was the forty-eighth Mayor of Baltimore, Maryland. On January 9, 2009, Dixon was indicted on twelve counts, including perjury, theft, and misconduct. The charges stem partly from incidents in which she allegedly misappropriated gift cards intended for the poor. On December 1, 2009, the jury returned a “guilty” verdict on one misdemeanor count of fraudulent misappropriation. On January 6, 2010 Dixon announced her resignation as Mayor as part of a plea agreement, effective February 4, 2010.
Anywho…back to our Mayor’s Sustainability Coordinator in New Rochelle.
As we can now see, ICLEI defines the role of this person, has a hand in writing the job description, says the person should not be a municipal employee, “helpfully” advertises for the position on its own web site: Job Opening: New Rochelle Sustainability Coordinator.
In fact, ICLEI offers an entire Sustainability Planning Toolkit the core of which is a step-by-step planning guide for municipalities who want to “build a true sustainability strategy for their city”. ICLEI says it takes you from how to hire a sustainability coordinator to how to design, implement and monitor a local sustainability plan.
As is made clear many times over, it is very important to ICLEI that they have a person working inside the local government but not actually a part of the local government who is specifically charged with serving as liaison to ICLEI.
An what is the first thing ICLEI expects to come out of this first step in their step-by-step process?
The “Staff Requirement” for the position is:
This position requires an energetic and knowledgeable candidate to develop and implement a City- wide Sustainability Plan and Program, starting with the adoption and implementation of Green Building standards. The position requires extensive experience in the sustainable development arena, demonstrated project design, implementation and management skills and excellent communication skills.
And what are those “Green Building standard”? Those are the LEEDS certifications created by the U.S. Green Building Council.
Can there be any doubt that the core of this entire plan is LEEDS certification?
The first of ICLEI’s “key steps” is to hire a Sustainability Coordinator — an independent contractor who will be “housed” in a centrally located office in City Hall — and this person’s first order of business to bring about the implementation of LEED.
So, why are proponents of this plan including the Mayor trying to dismiss the importance of LEED building standards, claiming it is just of 43 items on their list when it is so obviously the key driver of the plan? Simple. LEED is very expensive and imposes a massive new regulatory structure to control the use of private property and so when communities understand the costs entailed by LEED they balk at it. Better to slip this though without anyone noticing and let people wake up to what has been done only when it is too late.
A final side note about the Sustainability Coordinator. The RFP states “the person in this position will do the necessary cross-departmental work that will be key to the success of the City’s programs, including working with the Mayor and City Council on recommending and prioritizing sustainability activities” yet it was David Kooris from the Regional Planning Association not Deborah Newborn, the person hired by the City to work with the Mayor and City Council who presented the Sustainability Plan to the City Council on April 20th. Why? Where was the person we are paying to work with the City Council?