Leading from the Left

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Last night I attended a forum at which the county's comprehensive plan update was discussed. The purpose of the meeting was bring together members of the Orange County's various advisory boards, so they could better understand the process for revising the comprehensive plan. Attending were members of the Planning Board as well as advisory board members for transportation, the environment, affordable housing, economic development, etc.

This was a good meeting, largely designed to make sure everyone understood the proposed process and to gather feedback before proceeding to the next step.

But one glaring omission struck me. There was virtually no mention of energy issues in their plans. If we're going to get serious about addressing global warming, then governments have to act now to incorporate energy concerns into all of our plans, particularly land-use, environmental, transportation, and economic development.

Do we want to require or encourage green building techniques, such as LEEDS, in new commercial development? How about the use of solar, particularly for hot water? Can our economic development department be used to encourage and support the development and growth of companies working in the energy arena--in bio fuels, for example? What land-use patterns encourage use of public transit? Which discourage its use?

In a nutshell, here's my point: Local governments need to incorporate energy considerations into every decision we make. By setting a community goal of reducing the use of greenhouse gas creating energy--through efficiency, better building standards, the use of alternative and renewable energy sources, and development patterns that encourage use of public transit--and by integrating that goal into every decision we make, Orange County will be able to do our part to reduce global warming. It's about setting a goal and using that goal as a measuring stick for all planning decisions.