Junior hints

RFK Jr. addresses green building conference in Seattle

“[Americans are] probably the best entertained and least informed people in the world,” Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., said Friday at the BuiltGreen Conference in Seattle, …

Urban legend

Ron Sims of Seattle plans to green HUD as deputy secretary

Ron Sims. Ron Sims wants to bring a fresh, green perspective to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Sims — the county executive of …

The Transit Authority: Done with the Gipper

The aging of the Boomers means it’s time for new priorities

Ronald Reagan This past week saw the return of the annual spectacle known as CPAC — the Conservative Political Action Conference — to Washington. As …

Points for honesty

Houston surprised at own rank on EPA green-building list

The Houston Press, surprised by the city’s high ranking in the EPA’s recent list of metro areas with the most Energy Star-qualified buildings in 2008, …

Button 'er up

Canada, U.K. push green-building regs

A few green-building developments this week: On the heels of a federal budget that included $300 million to expand a home-retrofit program, Canada released its …

Subway porn

A slideshow of mass transit’s massive artistic potential

Here’s some snowy-day fun (if you happen to live in one of the places getting socked by storms): Dave Burdick put together a slideshow highlighting …

McDonough agonistes, redux

Dutch call on green guru to open up cradle-to-cradle certification

A while back I noted Fast Company's big expose on green guru William McDonough. Despite the hype and promise around McDonough's intellectual work, it hasn't done much to change the business world, for reasons having to do with what his critics characterize as ineptitude and vanity. Specifically, his cradle-to-cradle certification process has remained jealously guarded, run only through his firm, woefully behind on assessing products and responding to requests. Now author Danielle Sacks has a short follow-up, about a Dutch attorney and several Dutch gov't organizations pleading with McDonough to open up the C2C process, if not completely open source then at least to public-private partnerships. It's odd. The notion of keeping this stuff jealously guarded, proprietary, and for-profit seems so counter to the spirit of McDonough's work. I can't make sense of it.

Taxing times

Sales tax shortfall could affect Seattle's public transit

Photo: Seattle Municipal Archives This whole "economic downturn" thing is tricky business. As I've mentioned, it may be helping boost transit ridership numbers as cash-strapped folks abandon their cars. But those same cash-strapped folks are also buying less stuff (even if they are buying locally). Buying less stuff means less sales tax generated in Washington state. And because Seattle's Metro bus service gets more than half of its revenue from a dedicated sales tax, this is not good news for Seattle's primary mode of public transit. To give it to you in (rather depressing) numerical form, King County administrators have said that Metro's sales tax revenue losses over the two-year 2008-2009 period could total $100 million -- that's 800,000 to 1 million hours of bus service. (And that doesn't count the time you'll spend standing around at bus stops waiting for a ride.)

Out in the foodshed

NYC's Scott Stringer releases a plan for remaking the urban food system

For those of us wondering what it would take to "localize" urban food systems, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has some answers. In a just-released study called "Food in the Public Interest," Stringer's office analyzes the New York City "foodshed" (a term we'll be hearing a lot of in the future) and comes up with a lengthy set of recommendations. If it does anything, the report emphasizes just how daunting a task it will be to reform food policy in this county. Much of what Stringer hopes to accomplish (especially in the area of nutrition programs) will be handled at the federal level. Still, the report emphasizes the outsized impact on issues that involve land use and commercial development that the control over zoning and business licensing regulations gives to local authorities. Attempting to eliminate food deserts in low-income areas by creating "Food Enterprise Zones" and reducing red tape in the permitting of food processing companies is exactly the kind of thing that zoning and licensing reforms can address. Interestingly, the report's conclusions on food deserts align with a recent study by two SUNY-Buffalo researchers. They suggest the solution may lie in thinking small (increase the number of neighborhood grocery stores) rather than big (spending tax money on attracting chain supermarkets). Indeed, the same focus on local regulations applies to the expansion of urban agriculture (first step: overturn New York City's beekeeper ban!) and to the development of a wholesale farmers' market and food storage network (so that industrial and commercial buyers can better take advantage of local agricultural output).

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