Modern civilization faces many concerning challenges that threaten the continued progress of our country and our world. From resource constraints as the population grows, to climate change disrupting weather patterns and food systems, to vast inequality of opportunity that continues to divide our culture and undermine our economy. However, I believe that we cannot and should not sit back and wait for these problems to be solved at the national and global levels. In fact, they are best addressed by local communities, where citizens can work together to build a better world in their own neighborhoods.
Climate Change is the moral issue of our day. Scientists agree that we are destroying the stability of the climate on which human civilization is based, and that we are not acting nearly quickly enough to address it. While the scientific community has been concerned about this issue for decades, and it has been a major issue discussed at the national level for at least 10 years, we, as a country, have not made major progress in changing course to preserve our planet and our society. Continued belief that this is an issue that can be solved at the Federal or global level seems naive, and dangerous, and I believe that, in fact, we are better off addressing it at the local level, where we can tailor our response to our local needs more accurately.
In fact, addressing this issue locally and holistically can have major benefits for both the cost of living and the quality of life for everyone in Troy. Expecting climate change to be solved nationally not only risks continued damage while we wait, but can lead to un-intended consequences as federal programs are not adequately tailored to our individual community needs.
I have been involved with several projects in Troy, aimed at reducing our impact on the planet, while making the quality of life in Troy even more vibrant:
Solarize Troy - A bulk purchase of solar equipment and installation services. I serve on the volunteer steering committee which negotiates with area solar installers, then offers this opportunity to homeowners in Rensselaer County to purchase solar for their house at a significant discount. This year, we are also working with the City of Troy to develop a low income solar program which will help make sure nobody is left out of this energy transformation.
As a City Council Person, I will continue to develop programs that help Troy residents make the most of these emerging energy technologies, while working to improve our infrastructure so that we can safely incorporate significantly higher levels of renewable energy.
Joint Task Force on Sustainability and Climate Smart Practices in Community Planning - A planning committee made of up 9 volunteer citizen experts, city staff, and sustainability professionals which has been tasked with coordinating many sustainability and climate action planning tasks for the city. After championing it's creation, I now serve as the City Council's representative on this Task Force.
As a City Council Person, I will continue to find ways to honor citizen expertise and passion to reduce our city's impacts on climate change, improve quality of life, and become resilient to the increased threat of storms and extreme weather. I will also continue to proactively develop policy in collaboration with this task force.
Municipal Solar Facility - In engineering review, this project could save the City of Troy between $200K and $400K per year assuming the current administration is able to move it forward quickly.
As a City Council Person, I will continue to seek opportunities to support municipal scale alternative energy programs. I look forward to the leadership NYS is putting fourth with REV, and am hopeful that Community Choice Aggregation and shared solar will offer new ways to develop and support local clean energy.
With most of the presidential candidates talking about building an American middle class, and the degree to which wealth in the United States has become concentrated with a very small number of people, inequality of opportunity has increasingly become another issue that gets talk at the national level, but which can actually be better addressed at the local level. As Danielle Kurtzeben puts it:
"It's true that presidents can set a national economic agenda for mobility, but they can't do a lot of the practical things that make a real difference in people's lives. Really, if you want better economic mobility, agonizing over presidential platforms probably isn't going to pay off for you much as picking the right local officials. The choices that mayors and city councils make — from zoning to transit to education — are arguably more effective than anything the president can do, especially if you want to see it in your own life." - Danielle Kurtzleben, Vox.com
We can build a sharing economy and a walkable city to make the cost of living in Troy more affordable. We can promote a culture of entrepreneurship and business incubation throughout the city and reduce the barriers of entry for anyone seeking to make their lives better. Beyond that, we have to develop housing policies that encourage mixed use, mixed income neighborhoods that do not hide the poor in isolated pockets which breed hopelessness, but make sure everyone grows up in neighborhoods with inspiration and opportunities to learn and be involved.
I have been involved with several projects in Troy, aimed at building opportunities for everyone:
Tech Valley Center of Gravity - A makerspace in downtown Troy, this organization gives anyone in the region access to a wide array of tools and equipment to make things. From wood and metal working tools to 3D printers and laser cutters, if you want to make something, you can do so here. It also fosters a community of creative tinkerers who learn from each other and support each other in taking their skills to the next level. Several small manufacturing companies and other creative businesses have started or been involved in the TVCOG, and long term, we seek to develop a culture of making and small business incubation throughout Troy.
As a City Council Person, I will continue to support the creative, innovation economy which is bringing light manufacturing back to our city. I will encourage these kinds of businesses to settle in or near our neighborhoods, where their employees can walk to work, and where they can re-invigorate our old manufacturing and office buildings.
TRIP - From 2013-2014, I worked as an Americorps VISTA for the Troy Rehabilitation and Improvement Program (TRIP). I learned about the support they provide to our neighborhoods and the scale of our urban blight challenge. I helped them incorporate sustainable ideas into their business a little more, and worked on a proposal for the Hillside North community to do small urban infill in creative ways that could help that struggling neighborhood turn around.
As a City Council Person, I will continue to seek creative ways to address our challenges with aging buildings and landlords who see their buildings as a resource to be drained of value rather than an investment to continue to improve. I will work to make it easier for people to take control of, and fix up old buildings before they get to the point of collapse. I will encourage new, small and efficient infill housing types that can make living and owning a home in Troy much more affordable.
TNAC - I have worked with TNAC to organize a conference on Neighborhood Revitalization two years in a row. At this conference we brought organizations and experts from around NYS to share best practices in building vibrant neighborhoods. The Troy Youth Court is one program which has come out of this conference.
As a City Council Person, I will continue to seek opportunities to encourage learning from other communities and from past practices to find solutions for our neighborhoods. I will also continue to support programing for kids in our neighborhoods to help increase opportunities and positive role models. We will continue to build programs to divert people from a criminal justice program towards more restorative justice programs.
Troy is already a leader in the region with regard to moving away from a reliance on fossil fuels, using less natural gas and less oil than many other upstate communities per household, however, as oil gas prices continue to fluctuate, and use of fossil fuels continues to threaten our climate, it is important that we build new, modern solutions. First and foremost, this means building on our walkability to make sure that many families can access their daily needs without needing to use an inefficient automobile. Increased regional public transportation is already planned, and it is important that we continue to build that infrastructure.
Similarly, it is crazy to me that we continue to pay $1.2M per year to store our trash indefinitely in landfills when most of that trash is made up of valuable resources. We need to build a much better and more widely used recycling program and establish a composting program.
I have been involved with several projects in Troy, aimed at helping build a Troy that makes better, smarter, and more resilient choices in how we use our natural resources.
Transition Troy - A collection of groups and individuals with a positive vision of a sustainable Troy, acting on that vision and building that future. Seeking to help Troy transition from oil dependency to local resiliency.
As a City Council Person, I will continue to be an interconnection point, helping encourage collaboration between community groups and organizations to build a more resilient Troy.
Compost Troy/Troy Zero Waste - A spinoff from Transition Troy, this group is working to build a composting system for the city of Troy. We currently collect food scraps every Saturday at the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market and wrote a policy report for the city of Troy to develop a composting program.
As a council person, I will encourage more implementation of these recommendations, which would not only recover important natural resources into our soil, but could also help reduce the city's $1.2 Million annual waste disposal fee by hundreds of thousands of dollars.