Editor's Notebook

Randy Rodgers
  • Randy Rodgers
  • Executive Editor
    Sustainable City Network, Inc.
  • Randy Rodgers directs editorial content and audience development initiatives for all Sustainable City Network products. With more than 25 years in the media business, Randy most recently served as director of electronic media at the Telegraph Herald in Dubuque, Iowa. He previously held several management positions in editorial, advertising and information technologies at the newspaper and its corporate parent, Woodward Communications, Inc., over the course of 21 years with the company. He earned his bachelor’s degree in photojournalism at Northern Illinois University.
Monday 08/20/2012
Are We 'Selling' Sustainability?

Last week we received an e-mail from a reader taking us to task for our article about microsurfacing, an asphalt pavement restoration technology that saves energy, materials and money when compared to conventional asphalting processes and materials.

The reader said the article was little more than a sales pitch for the microsurfacing process and its related products. I acknowledge that the tone of the article was certainly enthusiastic -- we do get a little excited when we find new ways for municipalities to save money, conserve resources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But, I assured this reader, and am now passing it on to all of our readers, that we do not endorse specific products or services in our articles. Advertising content is clearly labeled as such on our web site and in our e-mail newsletter, as it is with all of our editorial products.

We're happy to include our sponsors in editorial articles, when it makes sense, but when we do, we clearly disclose that relationship. In this case, no advertisers or sponsors were quoted.

Here's a list of all the sources we quoted in the article, and a little background on who they are and why we included them:

  • Patrick Sullivan of Asphalt Paving Systems in Mechanicsburg, Pa., whose presentation we attended at the recent APWA Sustainability in Public Works conference in Pittsburgh, is a local contractor in the Pittsburgh area. Pavement preservation is one of the products/services offered by his company, which is why we wanted to dig a little deeper and talk to some people who were knowledgeable about the process, but not directly selling it.
  • Carter Dabney, director of the International Slurry Sealing Association, a non-profit trade association that promotes the pavement preservation industry, was very knowledgeable about the process of microsurfacing. While it's no secret he is a booster for pavement preservation in general, he did give us examples of when microsurfacing makes sense, and when it doesn't.
  • Much of the statistical data we reported came from a BASF report, “Microsurfacing Eco-Efficiency Analysis (EEA),” which was verified by an independent third party, NSF International, a non-profit validation and verification organization.  BASF is a global chemical company that provides some of the underlying chemistry behind thousands of products, including many of those used in construction applications, presumably including microsurfacing materials. It was the BASF report that indicated microsurfacing uses 50 percent fewer resources, 40 percent less energy and emits 45 percent fewer greenhouse gases than conventional asphalting materials and processes over a 40-year life cycle.
  • Jay Norris, special projects engineer for the Tennessee Department of Transportation, which has used microsurfacing since the late 1990s, was quoted; as was
  • Matt Laipple, a civil engineer for the city of Overland Park, Kan., which has used various pavement preservation techniques for the past 50 years.
  • Steve Olsen, area manager for the Sacramento, Calif., office of Intermountain Slurry Seal, Inc., a company that has more than 27 years experience in various methods of pavement preservation,  basically told us how microsurfacing differs from other forms of pavement preservation.
  • Martin Asphalt Company of Houston provided some data we accessed on their web site about some of the benefits of microsurfacing and slurry sealing.

Our mission is to continually seek out quality, vetted information about sustainability projects, products, plans and best practices. While all of our content is supported by advertising, we take seriously your need for unbiased, balanced information on the costs and benefits of these technologies and processes. We enthusiastically deliver this information to our readers and, admittedly, sometimes that sounds like we're "selling" something. And, in a way, we are ... we're "selling" sustainability and its economic, environmental and social benefits.

I very much appreciate hearing from readers, including (and especially) when they are disappointed or skeptical about articles they read on sCityNetwork.com. If you should ever have a question or comment about our coverage, please feel free to contact me. And, by all means, we encourage readers to post comments at the bottoms of our articles to share their thoughts and feelings on the respective topics.

Posted in Randy rodgers, Environmental, Public works on Monday, August 20, 2012 3:02 pm. Updated: 11:50 am. | Tags: Micropaving , Emissions , Traffic Comments (0)

Tuesday 07/31/2012
Sustainability Conference to Feature Keynotes with Many Perspectives

DUBUQUE, Iowa – The sustainability of modern culture has its roots in local communities, but plays out across the nation and around the world. Dubuque’s fifth annual Growing Sustainable Communities Conference will feature keynote speakers who bring all these perspectives to the table.

The conference, intended for leaders in local government and business, will be held at the Grand River Center Oct. 2 and 3 with more than 20 educational workshops related to sustainability in water, energy, transportation and community knowledge & engagement.

Registration is now open at http://gscdubuque.com. Discounted pricing is available through Aug. 15.

After a day of pre-conference workshops and mobile tours, accomplished actor and national arts advocate Bill O’Brien will address conference attendees at a networking reception on Oct. 2.

Currently the senior advisor for program innovation at the National Endowment for the Arts, O'Brien has performed on professional stages in 48 states and has appeared in numerous television productions, including Law and Order: Criminal Intent and in an ensemble role on all seven seasons of The West Wing, as Kenny (Marlee Matlin's voice/interpreter).

Now with the NEA, O’Brien is responsible for exploring, examining and identifying innovative and/or emerging practices, programs and endeavors in the arts. During his tenure with the Endowment, O’Brien has fostered partnerships with other federal agencies including the Department of Defense, investigating the use of expressive writing as a formal medical protocol to help heal service members at military hospitals, and the National Science Foundation, exploring the impacts of creativity and critical interpretation theories on research and innovation in numerous disciplines where art and science intersect.

At the general conference on Oct. 3, the luncheon keynote address will be delivered by Tracey Grose, research director at the Institute for the Future.

Established in 1968 in Palo Alto, Calif., this non-profit research center specializes in long-term forecasting and quantitative futures research methods. Grose’s presentation entitled Making the Future: Signs of Resilience and Growth in the Clean Energy Economy, will examine how pioneering public policies including energy efficiency standards, renewables portfolio standards, caps on greenhouse gas emissions and vehicle emissions standards are reshaping our nation in positive ways. The institute’s research shows these policies are supporting the growth of new markets for products and services that help us achieve our environmental goals while also growing new economic opportunities. Recent original research results suggest the clean energy economy is showing signs of resilience, and even growing, coming out of the recent economic downturn.

The morning keynote address will be delivered by Scot Wrighton, city manager of Lavasa, India, the first and largest post‐independence planned city in India. Lavasa was created in part to develop and implement a replicable model for an “operationally integrated, sustainably managed” city. It is a laboratory for putting sustainability into the daily practices, governance and life of a city.

Lavasa has learned that even though operational sustainability must be customized to a city’s unique environment, many standards and measurement tools for quantifying success can be generalized to cities everywhere. Scot Wrighton is manager of this privately-funded urban development that is being planned for approximately 300,000 permanent residents, with facilities for about two million tourists per year and an employment base of about 97,000.

The city is being developed following the principles of New Urbanism, an urban design concept that promotes walkable neighborhoods containing a range of housing and employment types.

The afternoon keynote address will be delivered by Brian Rauch, vice president of engineering for John Deere’s Construction & Forestry Division. Rauch's presentation will focus on the impacts of the growing global economy and population. The world population is growing in areas least able to support growth due to lack of infrastructure and the risk of pandemic disease. The developed economies are declining in population and rapidly aging. These dynamics, along with a global demand for more proteins in our diets, puts an incredible burden on agriculture and infrastructure to double the world's food supply by 2050 without substantially increasing the amount of farmed land. The burden is on efficiency, infrastructure and political stability.

Admission to the one-day conference and luncheon on Oct. 3 is $75, which includes admission to the networking reception from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Oct. 2. Admission to the conference, luncheon, a pre-conference workshop and a mobile tour is $100. Seating is limited so early registration is encouraged. A limited number of hotel rooms have been reserved at the Grand Harbor Resort & Water Park, the Hotel Julien and the Holiday Inn for special conference rates starting at $89 per night, if booked prior to Sept. 1.

Hosted by the City of Dubuque and Sustainable City Network, Inc., the conference will educate leaders and staff on the latest sustainability ideas, plans and best practices in four distinct programming tracks:


1) Integrated Water Planning;

2) Flood Protection;

3) Waste Water Treatment Plant Energy Improvements & Generation;

4) Best Water Management Practices for Building Owners & Operators.


1) Sustainable vs. Conventional: A Matrix for Decision Making;

2) Best Energy Practices for Building Owners & Operators;

3) Putting on a Zero-Waste Event;

4) Building a National Network for Local ReUse.


1) Wayfinding Systems: Finding Your Way by Car, Bike or Foot;

2) Pedestrian Access Routes & ADA Guidelines;

3) Sustainable Asphalt Pavements;

4) Alternative Fuel Comparisons for Municipal and Commercial Fleets.


1) Engagement with True Market Solutions Circles;

2) Developing Green Teams;

3) Community Engagement Technology;

4) Partnering to Build Resiliency.

5) Measuring Sustainability

6) Building Citizen & Employee Engagement

Complete session descriptions and updates can be found at http://gscdubuque.com/programming.htm.

The conference is sponsored by Alliant Energy, Anderson Weber, A.Y. McDonald, Black Hills Energy, Cartegraph, Crescent Electric, Dittmer Recycling, Dubuque Bank & Trust, Eagle Point Solar, FOX Engineering, Gallagher Asphalt, Giese Lighting, Greater Dubuque Development Corp., HDR Engineering, Hoffman LLC, HR Green, IIW, P.C., Jim Giese Commercial Roofing, John Deere, Middleton, Wis. , MSA Professional Services, Nahn and Associates, NMRMA, KJWW Engineering Consultants, Northeast Iowa Community College, Premier Bank, Ruan Securities, Runde Auto Group, Snyder Associates, Solar Planet, True North Companies, Unison Solutions, University of Dubuque, and Waste Management.

Last year’s event was attended by about 350 people. Here’s what attendees had to say about the conference:

"The Sustainable Communities conference was packed with useful, timely, relevant sessions on a variety of topics - from stormwater to recycling to energy efficiency. I found the sessions both engaging and full of good tips that I'll bring back to my city!"

"This was wastewater plant director crack. I couldn't get enough. Great stuff!"

"Dubuque's commitment to hosting this conference, and doing it so incredibly well, really reflects their commitment to sustainability. The city knows that their "green" impact can be multiplied by assisting other cities in implementing sustainability, and it's not about competition, but rather moving forward collectively and improving upon what others have learned."

Posted in Policy, Randy rodgers, Community, Energy, Environmental, Public works, Transportation on Tuesday, July 31, 2012 5:34 pm. Updated: 4:56 pm. | Tags: News , Growing Sustainable Communities Conference , Sustainability , Dubuque Ia , Tracey Grose , Bill O'brien , Scot Wrighton , Lavasa India , Brian Rauch , Wastewater Management , Stormwater Management , Zero Waste , Sustainability Metrics , Forestry , Health , Schools , Solar , Energy Conservation , Emissions , Resilience , Green Infrastructure , Wastewater , Traffic , Walking , Fleets , Fuels Comments (0)

Wednesday 05/09/2012
Sonoma County Conference Focuses on Western Priorities

SONOMA COUNTY, Calif. -- About 150 local government leaders and industry professionals convened in Sonoma County Wednesday and Thursday to learn and share lessons in sustainability from a West Coast perspective.

The Growing Sustainable Communities Conference - Western Region was a one-day educational opportunity for municipal professionals and elected officials, preceded by a half-day legislative roundtable for top leadership in California local governments.

Hosted by Applied Solutions and the Sonoma County Water Agency, the conference was presented by Sustainable City Network and Climate Communities. Programming focused on water, energy, transportation and resource management.

Speaker presentation slides are available for download on the programming page of the conference's web site at http://gscwest.com.

On Wednesday, transportation was provided from the Double Tree Hotel in Rohnert Park to St. Francis Winery and Vineyards in picturesque Sonoma Valley, where roundtable programming and a networking reception took place.

The roundtable discussion was kicked off by U.S. Congressman Mike Thompson (CA-1), who said organizers couldn't have picked a better location for a sustainability conference.

"Every city in Somoma County has agreed to put in place one of the strictest greenhouse gas reduction efforts in the the entire country," he said. "They're going to roll back their greenhouse gases to 25 percent below the 1990 level by the year 2015."

Thompson also emphasized the economic benefits of renewable energy.

"Some people forget that," he said. "There are a lot of costs related to energy that are either ignored or overlooked. For example, foreign oil is about 40 percent of our trade deficit. So, if we want to make a dent in our economic problems and fix what's ailing us from a fiscal perspective, then take that out of the trade deficit. We could make up a lot if we reduce the amount of foreign oil that we bring into this country."

He said the U.S. spends more than $200,000 per minute importing foreign oil.

Thompson acknowledged three protesters that held picket signs across the street from the conference venue. "I think they are a dwindling bunch," he said of those who believe climate change is not happening or is not the result of human activity. "It needs to be confronted and it needs to be explained with good data, rationally and honestly," he said.

Thompson also acknowledged the gridlock in Washington, which he said will likely continue until after the November election. But, he said, the bill he helped author to restore PACE financing for residential energy efficiency upgrades has bi-partisan support. Thompson, a Democrat, co-sponsored HR 2599 with two Republican congressmen.

Jake Mackenzie, mayor of Rohnert Park, said the roundtable discussion that followed Thompson's remarks helped congeal a federal sustainability agenda that will benefit California local governments concerned about clean energy, water and transportation policies.

"I believe we came up with some direction for ways we can follow through after this conference to make sure we've got a residential PACE program back on track," he said, "and we've got a block grant program that will be available to local governments."

He said other discussions centered on how to pay for repairs to aging water infrastructure and how road improvements will be funded as gas tax revenue declines in the future.

Keynote speakers at Thursday's general conference included Anna Garcia from the U.S. Department of Energy, and Michelle Wyman, executive director of Applied Solutions.

Garcia is acting program manager of the Weatherization and Intergovernmental Program in the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, providing leadership to maximize the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy through technology deployment, accessing new partnerships and resources, and communications and outreach activities.

"I have learned a great deal more from these people than they learned from me today," Garcia said. "Even though I was able to make them aware of a few things we have going on at the Department of Energy, they have real on-the-ground projects that are breaking ground in different ways, in terms of bringing partners to the table, developing innovative financing models and executing projects that are going to save energy and money. It's just exciting to see all of the good things that are going on at the local level," she said.

Founded by local elected officials in 2008, Applied Solutions was created to help local governments design and implement projects to diversify their energy supplies in ways that save money, increase efficiency, and spur investment in the local economy.

Climate Communities is a national coalition of cities and counties that educates federal policymakers about the essential role of local governments in developing new approaches to create livable communities, reduce energy use and curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Corporate sponsors for the event included Johnson Controls, United Water, Waste Management, General Motors, HDR Engineering, Inc., Populus Sustainable Design Consulting, Optony, Sedgwick Consulting Group, Stern Brothers & Co., Tioga Energy, The Ratto Group – A Family of Companies, Unison Solutions, and URS.

More than 100 municipal government leaders and staff representing 40 Western jurisdictions attended the conference.

The Growing Sustainable Communities Conference - Midwestern Region will be held in Dubuque, Iowa on Oct. 2-3, hosted and presented by the City of Dubuque and Sustainable City Network, publishers of sCityNetwork.com.

Posted in Policy, Randy rodgers, Energy, Environmental on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 5:52 pm. Updated: 4:20 pm. | Tags: News , Growing Sustainable Communities Conference , Sonoma County Ca , Energy Conservation , Climate Change , Emissions , Legislation Comments (0)

Wednesday 12/07/2011
Sustainable City Network Reaches an Engaged Audience of Municipal Leaders

As we approach the end of another year, I thought it would be appropriate to address a question that I am often asked about Sustainable City Network: What's the make-up of your audience and how engaged are they in the information you provide about sustainability in municipal governments?

Because sCityNetwork.com and our weekly e-mail newsletter, the InBox, are digital products distributed via the Internet, we're able to measure in amazing detail the way our products are consumed by the various segments of our readership. The InBox is delivered to about 25,000 people each week, reaching readers in all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, nine Canadian provinces and elsewhere around the world.

While a full third of our subscribers are elected officials, including more than 1,100 mayors, the majority of our readers are municipal professionals comprised of city/county managers, administrative staff and leaders in public works, GIS, engineering, planning, solid waste and other departments.

We also reach more than 1,000 contractors who provide services to municipal governments, including engineering, design and architectural firms, planning consultants, equipment manufacturers, construction companies and service providers of many stripes.

But, sometimes raw numbers don't tell the whole story. While sustainability is important to top leadership in municipal government, it isn't surprising that those charged directly with implementing resource management practices are more "engaged" with sustainability than the council members, mayors and chief administrative officers in most communities. We measure engagment by looking at the percentage of readers who regularly open our e-mails and click through to the articles on our web site.

So, again, it's not a big surprise that the 249 sustainability directors/coordinators and environmental services staff who subscribe to our newsletter are, as a group, the most engaged. They're followed by traffic managers, information officers, GIS staff, engineers, planners, IT professionals, transportation personnel and utilities managers.

On any given week, 54 percent of sustainability professionals open and interact with our newsletter, compared to 29 percent of city/county managers, elected officials and the average subscriber.

So, the titles with the highest numbers of readers, aren't necessarily the most engaged. The same is true for locations. While 32 percent of our subscribers reside in the Midwest - followed by 27 percent in the South, 22 percent in the Northeast and 19 percent in the West - readers in the West are actually most engaged, followed by the South, the Midwest and the Northeast, in that order.

States with the most readers are California, Texas, Ohio, New York, Illinois, Michigan, Florida, New Jersey, Iowa and Pennsylvania. About half of our readers work in communities with populations between 15,000 and 100,000. Thirty-four percent live in smaller communities and 18 percent in larger cities.

In 2011, the top three most popular topic channels have been Energy, Transportation and Water, when measured by total number of impressions. But, when measured by average impressions per article, the top three are Solid Waste, Water and Transportation.

We use readership data from our newsletter and web site to determine which articles to publish in our quarterly print magazine, The Best of Sustainable City Network, which is mailed to 3,000 select subscribers (e-mail me to request a copy) and available free as a digital download to our entire readership.

By the way, businesses interested in advertising in the next issue of The Best of Sustainable City Network, have until December 15 to place their orders. Directory ads start at $120. Click here to view our media kit.

Posted in Randy rodgers, Public works on Wednesday, December 7, 2011 10:33 am. Updated: 11:34 am. | Tags: Traffic Comments (0)

Wednesday 10/19/2011
GSC Conference Nets Rave Reviews

The Growing Sustainable Communities Conference held in Dubuque, Iowa last week is getting some rave reviews, based on a post-conference survey of attendees.

Sustainable City Network partnered with the City of Dubuque to host the fourth annual event, which included 21 workshops on a variety of sustainability topics.

So far, 63 of about 350 attendees have responded to the survey. We knew the conference appeared to be well received, although as one of the organizers it's hard to know exactly how people feel until you see the results of an anonymous survey. Overall, 49.2 percent said they were extremely satisfied with the conference. Another 36.5 percent said they were moderately satisfied and 9.5 percent said they were slightly satisfied. So, we're thrilled that more than 95 percent of the respondents were happy with the conference.

We know it's hard for any event to satisfied everyone, but next year we'll try to win over that one person who said they were "slightly dissatisfied" with the conference. We'll get that opportunity at the fifth annual event, which is scheduled for Oct. 2-3 of 2012.

We asked attendees to tell us in their own words what they thought of the conference, and here are some of the responses:

• Dubuque's commitment to hosting this conference, and doing it so incredibly well, really reflects their commitment to sustainability. The city knows that their "green" impact can be multiplied by assisting other cities in implementing sustainability, and it's not about competition, but rather moving forward collectively and improving upon what others have learned.

• The Sustainable Communities conference was packed with useful, timely, relevant sessions on a variety of topics - from stormwater to recycling to energy efficiency. I found the sessions both engaging and full of good tips that I'll bring back to my city!

• Good turn out. Well timed breakouts. Great networking ideas.

• This was wastewater plant director crack. I couldn't get enough. Great stuff!

• From the pre-conference to the breakout sessions everything was presented with a high degree of knowledge and professionalism.

• Very positive environment to share ideas.

• The conference was well organized, informational and interactive.

• Very inspiring to learn from my peers and experts about how to educate my community about sustainability.

• I found the "Growing Sustainable Communities Conference" held in Dubuque to be absolutely 1st rate from the venue to the content to the team from Sustainable City Network who organized and ran the event. This was our 1st year at the conference and can say unequivocally we will be back next year.

• This conference is a premier conference on sustainability. I highly recommend anyone who has any interest level in sustainability to attend and learn as much as you can. Why travel across the country and spend valuable time and money to attend other conferences when we have such a great one right here in the upper Midwest?

• I enjoyed the variety of speakers and topics the conference offered. I attended several sessions that were very relevant to my work and packed full of useful information.

• I thought the keynote speakers were excellent this year. Very informative and interesting. Well done!

• The tour was very interesting and inspiring. The variety of workshops was good. I appreciated the emphasis on human relationships in planning for change.

Posted in Randy rodgers, Public works on Wednesday, October 19, 2011 4:27 pm. Updated: 11:16 am. | Tags: Green Infrastructure , Wastewater Comments (0)

Wednesday 09/07/2011
Dubuque Conference Walks the Talk

Well, things are really shaping up for the fourth annual Growing Sustainable Communities Conference in Dubuque Oct. 11-12. With "early-bird" pricing still in effect (until 9/15/11) you just can't find a more affordable conference of this caliber anywhere!

At a mere $50 per registrant, and a hotel room on the Mississippi riverfront starting at $89, you can't say money is an obstacle for this one. And, the programming ROCKS! It's made to order for city managers, elected officials, public works directors, sustainability coordinators, water/sewer managers, street superintendents, solid waste managers, transit officials, planners and engineers, building code enforcers, budget officers and administrative staff.

If you've been asked to do more with less, this conference was made for you. It will help you conserve, recycle, reuse, restore and recover your resources, and teach you how to streamline your operations to save money, time and energy.

Four tracks will focus on resource management, transportation and mobility, energy and building, and sustainability leadership. The city of Dubuque and IBM will also make two presentations on their partnership and the pilot studies they've been working on together - Smarter Electricity, Smarter Water, Smarter Natural Gas and a vehicle-miles-traveled study with Black Hills Energy.

Speaking of IBM, we're really excited that Dr. Mahmoud Naghshineh, vice president of services research at IBM Watson Research and director of the IBM Services Innovation Lab, will present the luncheon keynote address. The morning keynote will be given by D. Michael Mucha, chief engineer and director of the Madison, Wis., Metropolitan Sewerage District and chairman of the American Public Works Association's Center for Sustainability.

The conference's workshop line-up is second to none:

• Converting Landfill Methane to Energy

• Complete Streets

• Lighting Retrofits

• Community Engagement

• Wastewater Management

• Clean Diesel vs. Hybrids

• Geothermal Heating/Cooling

• Procuring Clean Energy Sources

• Materials Management

• Traffic Management

• Green Building Metrics/Codes

• Funding Resources

• Managing Stormwater with Green Infrastructure

• Electric Vehicles and Infrastructure

• Save Operating Costs with Energy Star in Buildings

• Sustainability Asset Mapping

Three optional pre-conference workshops will be held on Oct. 11, including a Sustainable Dubuque Mobile Tour, a Green Business Certification session, and a presentation/tour of Dubuque's Green and Healthy Homes initiative.

And, what a venue! Dubuque's picturesque riverfront and vivid autumn leaves make it one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Midwest. Well, its two casino complexes, greyhound race track and national Mississippi River museum don't hurt either. ;-)

To register, or for more information about the conference, click here.

Posted in Randy rodgers, Development, Energy, Public works, Transportation on Wednesday, September 7, 2011 4:46 pm. Updated: 4:49 pm. | Tags: Green Building , Dubuque Ia , Ibm , Complete Streets , Lighting Retrofits , Community Engagement , Wastewater , Clean Diesel , Geothermal Energy , Materials Management , Grants , Stormwater Management , Energy Star , Asset Mapping , Building Codes , Leed , Geothermal , Green Infrastructure , Traffic , Walking , Electric Vehicles , Vehicle Miles Traveled Comments (0)

Monday 05/09/2011
Using Social Media to Engage and Educate

By Guest Columnist Laura Bergus

Citizens are adopting social media at an astounding rate. Local governments, often wary of liability based on the unique challenges of new communications platforms, are a bit slower on the uptake. If managed purposefully and carefully, however, social media can provide very efficient and effective means of reaching a wide array of residents.

It is true that social media presents special dilemmas for municipalities. For instance, how can you safely monitor comments? How will you deal with complaints? Who will respond, and how often? What are your benchmarks for success? There are a number of important preliminary decisions to be made before diving in. But none of the challenges are insurmountable.

A helpful way to look at social media for engaging and educating the public on your sustainability initiatives is to analogize it to other media. Most cities have already answered the fundamental who, what, when, where, why, and how questions. Social media account management often fits well within a city's existing communications or public relations practices. For example, if a letter to the editor shows ignorance of a project, or when someone walks into City Hall with a complaint, you probably have good mechanisms for channeling and responding. The same principles apply to social media. It just takes a little more flexibility on the city side to make sure that online communications don't become overly stiff or unresponsive.

A social media campaign related to municipal sustainability projects can be very effective. Some of the primary benefits of using social media to engage and educate the public are:

• Social Media Reaches More than the Usual Suspects. Traditional means of communicating with residents - water bill inserts, local access television, public meetings - tend to reach the same few interested citizens over and over again. Providing current, relevant information on a platform like Facebook, by contrast, lets you meet residents where they are already spending their time online. A good city website is a useful (and necessary) reference, but few residents check an official site nearly as often as they check in on their favorite social networks.

• Social Media Is Responsive. Social networks enable cities to get the word out quickly and effectively. Built-in sharing tools on most social sites help residents pass along information to all of their friends or followers with a single click. In addition to letting you speedily disseminate important messages, social media is there for your citizens 24/7. While it's important to let users know when not to expect a response (if your social media accounts are only monitored during certain hours, for instance), many people will find value in a place where they can share ideas and reactions to city topics any time of day or night.

• Social Media Improves Transparency. The dynamic nature of social content also lets city officials address and dispel myths and misunderstandings in real time. Residents who are educated on what their city government is doing and why it's being done are less likely to participate in rumors and more likely to help spread the official word, helping to build community trust. With a little forethought on how to track and capture social data, social media sites can become effective tools to inform stakeholders on important issues and even serve as repositories for official information and response. Increasingly, mainstream journalists as well as bloggers are using social media as primary sources for breaking news. Proactive social media use can get correct information out in front of a controversy. If local media canvassed Twitter for tips on your efforts to improve energy efficiency or conserve water, would you like what they find?

Hundreds of communities have adopted social media to share their goals, gauge community support, and seek input from residents. With a little planning and policy development up front, social media can be a safe and effective way to keep citizens educated and informed about your community's sustainability initiatives.

Laura Bergus is social media policy and technology consultant for Bradley & Guzzetta, LLC, a Midwest firm helping cities nationwide save resources and build community through improved administrative efficiency, electronic communication, and transparent government action. Laura worked in city government for ten years before pursuing her law degree at the University of Iowa.

Bradley & Guzzetta, LLC, is a legal and consulting firm, serving municipalities in matters of telecommunications, effective administration, and more. Bradley & Guzzetta offers technical and policy support to cities in the development and deployment of social media for more efficient, transparent, and economical communication.

Posted in Randy rodgers on Monday, May 9, 2011 2:27 pm. Updated: 2:44 pm. | Tags: Citizen Engagement , Citizen Education Comments (0)

Tuesday 04/19/2011
Readers Debate the Need to Grow

Recently, sCityNetwork.com reader Dick Shore submitted a question that has received some thoughtful replies. Dick asked:

"Is anyone in the Sustainable Cities network looking at how to transition our local economic systems away from a requirement for growth? No growth of population, no economic growth, just better living.

"Daly and Cobb wrote an economics book 20 some years ago that had some good ideas, and the Totness Transition has some good ideas.

"Especially now in this time of meltdown of the old system, we have an opportunity to imagine and then create a new system that does not require infinite, eternal, accelerating growth to avoid collapse."

Several sCityNetwork.com registered users responded online to Dick's question. Click here to read them. A few more people responded directly to us and we passed the responses on to Dick.

A reader from Maryland said:

Yes! I think it is possible to have higher welfare without growth. Dr. Daly is one of my personal heroes. The question is, how can we help people switch paradigms, or pre-analytical points of view, as Daly calls them?

From Pennsylvania, another reader said, in part:

"I don't know if we can run our communities break-even. I continue to be more alarmed every day at the greed and self-centeredness of people, the politicians who are on auto pilot with their annual automatic increases, drones making six figures, all the SUVs on the road with $4 gas, 5,000 sq ft houses, people who are simply unwilling to stop eating caviar while their neighbors are on fixed incomes or food stamps. ... What you suggest certainly has merit. But who and how do we implement it?"

A reader in Oregon said:

"I suggest that you contact and become a supporting member of CASSE - the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy."

Finally, from Connecticut, we received:

"I am an elected official on the Board of Representatives .... Most of our elected and appointed officials have bought into the growth model, and don't understand the concept of sustainability. The city (and state governments) have given away millions of dollars in tax abatements, credits and subsidies to stimulate growth here, without any clear goals or analysis of whether it is beneficial for people who live (here). In my town at least, we need to start educating our leaders that there is another model before we can change this one."

I want to thank Dick Shore and all the readers who shared their thoughts on this topic. Please feel free to continue the conversation online (free registration is required).

Having been a journalist all of my adult life, I've seen my share of debates about growth: Economic growth; growth in population; growth in traffic; growth in crime; growth in taxes, deficits, budgets, incomes and the cost of a burger and fries, among other things. One does wonder where it's all going to lead. Certainly, with so many of life's essential elements being finite, expansion can't go on forever, can it?

How, as Dick seems to wonder, can we have better lives without more people, more money, more land and more of everything else? My sense is that eventually we'll have to figure that out, and local governments will likely be on the front lines of the transformation.

Posted in Randy rodgers on Tuesday, April 19, 2011 2:37 pm. Updated: 3:07 pm. Comments (0)

Wednesday 03/16/2011
Plan to Attend the Local Clean Energy Leadership Summit

Municipal governments want to do the right thing for the environment. But, the right thing has to make financial sense. Nothing is sustainable if it costs more money than it makes or saves in the long run. The trouble is, short-term funding doesn't always align with long-term benefit ... and, that's where block grants change the dynamic.

Energy block grants, in particular, help support new technologies and retrofit projects that make the best sense in the long term, but are tough to pay for with local dollars in the short term. By investing in these projects at the federal level, policymakers in Washington can help our cities, towns and counties set a course that saves money, natural resources and the environment for years to come. And, any investment that reduces this country's reliance on foreign oil can only improve our economic security in the unpredictable future.

That's why Sustainable City Network has joined with Climate Communities and the Energy Block Grants Work campaign to bring you the Local Clean Energy Leadership Summit June 15-17 in Washington, D.C.

As we reported last week, Climate Communities' annual summit is an opportunity for municipal professionals and local elected officials to interface directly with federal policymakers about current and future funding programs essential to the sustainability efforts of cities, counties and townships across the country.

We encourage local governments to send representatives to the summit for two very important reasons: First, to learn, and then to educate. You'll learn directly from the funding agencies and lawmakers themselves how to best compete for the limited dollars available. And, you'll have the opportunity to educate the feds about how you're spending the money they invest; how you're reducing energy consumption, adding green jobs and virally spreading the gospel of sustainability throughout your communities - mostly thanks to the projects paid for, in part, by federal grants.

Federal policymakers need to hear that, and it's important that they hear it from you.

Posted in Randy rodgers on Wednesday, March 16, 2011 4:03 pm. Updated: 4:09 pm. | Tags: Renewable Energy , Climate Communities , Funding Sources , Grants Comments (0)

Wednesday 02/09/2011
Gershon to Present at First SCN Webinar

I'm excited to report that best-selling author and social-change guru David Gershon will bring his expertise to a webinar hosted by Sustainable City Network on March 7 (1 p.m. EST). David has been a columnist on sCityNetwork.com since November, and his blueprint for generating community-wide behavior change has been resonating with our audience ever since.

David points out that America represents 20 percent of the planet's carbon footprint with half of these emissions coming from our homes and cars. At the community level, households generate 50 to 90 percent of total emissions. If we were able to reduce our carbon footprint by 25 percent and take this to scale community- and nationwide, David believes we could significantly lower America's carbon emissions in the short term and buy ourselves the critically needed time for the longer-term technological and political solutions to scale up.

The webinar, entitled "Empowering Citizens to Adopt Low Carbon Lifestyles" will provide strategies and tools for behavior change and community engagement. It will show municipal leaders how to tap into their greatest and most underutilized asset in addressing this problem - their citizens.

David is the author of 11 books, including the best-selling Low Carbon Diet: A 30 Day Program to Lose 5,000 Pounds, and Social Change 2.0: A Blueprint for Reinventing Our World (winner of four book awards). His Low Carbon Diet program has helped tens-of-thousands of households reduce their carbon footprint and his community engagement tools have been used by more than 300 U.S. cities as well as communities in China, Japan, Korea, Canada and Australia.

Webcast Discussion Points Include:

• How to empower individuals to reduce their carbon footprint by 25 percent or more using the 'Low Carbon Diet' behavior change program;

• How to mobilize community members on a block-by-block basis to participate in a local climate change initiative;

• How to take a program to scale community-wide;

• How to apply the five Social Change 2.0 action principles to your community's carbon reduction initiatives.

• How you can use these strategies and tools to establish a program in your community.

Who should attend this webcast?

• City/County Managers and Assistants

• Mayors, Council Members and other Elected/Appointed Officials

• City Sustainability and Climate Change Directors

• Directors/managers in the following municipal departments: Building, Communication, Energy, Engineering, Info Technology, Park & Rec., Policy, Public Works, Streets, Solid Waste, Transportation, Water and Wastewater

• Program Directors of State and Federal Governmental Agencies that Support Sustainability and Climate Change

• Business and Academic Leaders Addressing Climate Change in Their Communities

Click here to register for this interactive webcast.

After registering, you'll be re-directed to an invitation to participate in a portion of the webinar. David will select two or three municipalities to use as examples in an interactive discussion about their efforts to engage citizens in reducing their carbon footprint.

Posted in Randy rodgers, Environmental, Public works on Wednesday, February 9, 2011 9:00 am. Updated: 11:16 am. | Tags: Citizen Engagement , Climate Change , Wastewater Comments (0)

Featured Events