Eco-City Summit And The Next Steps

Ok, I spent Saturday at the Eco-City Summit for Alexandria. And I came to many conclusions, and had some small experiences, but I’ll stick to the big picture.

First, Alexandria City government seems serious about changing our course to one of sustainable development. The Mayor, Vice Mayor, and a few of the council members were there. The Vice Mayor, Del Pepper, and Rob Krupicka, one of the council members, are the ones spearheading this effort to define “eco-city” and get a plan together, so good on them.

Second, when the attendees of the Summit were polled (using a pretty sweet remote-control thing, all high tech and such) we realized, awkwardly, that of the 130 attendees, over 70% were white, 90% had a college degree (60% had a graduate degree as well), and 60% were active in other city council activities. This is not representative of Alexandria at large at all: if the City coucil is going to put together a sustainability plan, it will require the participation of the entire city. Alexandria needs to do better in including the diverse citizenry in putting together these ideas.

Third, activism is rather daunting. Now I know what the mayor looks like, but I’m still just learning what I need to know to get involved in all this governance mess. Toe in the water, and it’s cold in there…

Over the course of the morning, we got a chance to comment on the broad principles outlined in the Eco-City Chater the Environmental Policy Comission had drawn up, and then later to give ideas for more specific plans the city could use to implement those principles, once the EPC revises them and presents them to the council and they get approved and everything. Discussion moderators from the Virginia Tech Urban Planning program and a few other places wrote what we said down in notepads and on post-its, so we all felt good about being heard. Plus we got to hear Mayor Bob of Waitakare talk about his city’s 15 years of eco-progress. He’s a pretty neat guy, and if I hadn’t had to be in West Virginia that evening, I would totally have followed up on one moderator’s suggestion that Mayor Bob might be at a pub somewhere on King Street later that night. Also, all the plates and forks were compostable, and compost bins were available throughout the school where the event was held (though eco-samurai raises some good questions about composting plastic in the first place). Credible attention to detail.

The next step in the eco-city charter process is May 19th, when the Environmental Policy Comission will be holding their regular meeting to go over our suggestions from the Summit. It’s open to the public, and it will be held at City Hall (Sister Cities Conference Room 1101, 301 King Street) at 7:45. There’s still time to comment on the Charter- the text and a survey are linked here.

Beyond just following the progress of the Charter, I was advised by an active local to join a civic association or something- like the Old Town Civic Association. So I’ll look into that, at least to see who movers and shakers in local agitation are. I want to focus on environmental and sustainability issues, though, and so I don’t want to get bogged down in lots of other local issues. I need to learn more, and enough to pick and choose.

I’m trying to fight my metal image of local politics as dirty fights over “tiny” issues. These probably stem from watching grainy old movies involving local politics. I have visions of Huey-Long-types in smoky back rooms, complaining about the Potomac Yard development plans. I hope familiarity with the inner workings of Alexandria will correct all my groundless prejudices.

1 Response to “Eco-City Summit And The Next Steps”

  1. 1 bullmooser08 November 2, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    Your comments about the lack of diversity were right on the mark, Virescent. In the next EPC meeting in June, I brought up the issue.

    The EPC has reached out to various organizations in Alexandria that reach a lot of minorities and underrepresented groups. On October 25, the EPC partnered with ALIVE! ( to help them distribute food at their Last Saturday food distribution, pass out information about the Environmental Action Plan, and solicit ideas from everyone who cared to comment.

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