Springfield Mayor Charles Ryan at ReStore yesterday: “Our city values green spaces”
At a press event at ReStore on Albany Street yesterday, a whole new marketing initiative for Springfield was launched: the environmentally-conscious, green, tree-filled, recycling (and therefore business-savvy) city. Following is a transcript of the proceedings.
Springfield Mayor Charles Ryan: We are in Sibiliaville: birthplace of many great ideas. I’m delighted to see everybody here for this press conference, to see the press so well-represented. We’ve got a series of exciting things to talk about, and as you can see, there’s a significant relationship, one with the other.
First of all, we want to celebrate the great mention that the city of Springfield received from the Country Home magazine, where it not only rated us the fourth greenest community in the United States, but among large cities, it rated us number one. And by large cities, [Community Relations Director] Azell [Cavaan] has checked this out; it’s supposed to be metropolitan areas of at least 500,000. So while our city is 150-odd thousand, we certainly have a metropolitan area of that size.
Ivette Cruz stands next to a poster showing Country Home‘s rankings of green cities
So it’s a great honor, and an unexpected honor. We’re delighted about it because, just coincidentally, the honor came at the same time that we were deciding on a series of initiatives which will really enhance this title, rather than detract from it.
In this next year’s budget, which is only some eight or nine weeks away, we will have over $1 million for what I am referring to as urban forestry. Because what it does is it builds upon this past year, when we spent about $1.2 million cutting down 1,500 dead trees. But we really focused just on that.
And this year we want to take about the same amount of money and spend it not only on taking down more dead trees—because there was a big backlog that was allowed to create itself—but also to eliminate stumps, and to plant approximately 1,300 to 1,400 new trees. I can’t remember when there’s been any significant tree-planting program in the city of Springfield. So we’re looking forward to doing that. I find that as you set the stage, and begin a multi-year program, it’s always easier to go back the second, and the third, and the fourth year, and to build upon that success, because you’ve now created an expectation that this will happen.
This is something that from Indian Orchard to the South End we want to build upon: this whole image, an impression of our city as a city that values green spaces, that puts its money where its mouth is. I think it’s going to be a very exciting situation for all of our residents, and all of our visitors. David Panagore is going to speak a little bit later about the economic development impact of such a program.
I also want to announce that recently, at the initiative of Mark Hambley, who is here, and former US ambassador to the Kyoto meetings on environment, that I have signed the pledge of the US Conference of Mayors climate protection agreement. Hopefully, Azell has copies of that for the press, and it’s a far-reaching document that Mark certainly is in a position to speak on much more authoritatively than I can. Mark, I’m proud to say, is a fellow citizen of all of us here in Springfield, and this has been a big part of his life, and we’re fortunate to have him here—his experience, and his vision. This is something, as days and months go by, that so many intelligent people around the world are focusing on: some very serious and difficult problems we have in front of us, as inhabitants of this planet, if we don’t collectively get together and act a lot more wisely.
I want to announce that Springfield has been named the Tree City by the National Arbor Day Foundation. I’m not sure where all of this is coming from at the same time. But that announcement has been made, and so we revel in that.
And lastly, through the lobbying work of Azell Cavaan, we’ve taken whatever power that reposes in the strong mayor under Plan A, and I’ve announced that the official city color, from now on, will be green. Green it is, I hope you’ve got that down. And what color is more appropriate for Springfield today? We have, as its official color, green.
And now, I’d like to have John Majercak, the director of ReStore, come forward and talk about his company, its mission, its accomplishments to date, and the part that it sees itself playing here in the resurgence of the city of Springfield.
ReStore Director John Majercak: Thank you, Mr. Mayor, and welcome, everyone, to the ReStore. We’re very excited today, for a lot of reasons; these exciting announcements, and also for the part that we played in the Country Home fourth-greenest city rating. The editors chose the ReStore to single out as an example, a great example, of green activity in the city. So we’re excited about that.
ReStore’s John Majercak: “We’re bursting at the seams”
We’re also excited because, with all of this recognition and growing public awareness about the environment, people are really beginning to see the connection between things that are green, and what’s good for our community, and what’s good for our economy. The ReStore, I think, is a good example of those connections.
We’re an innovative non-profit organization. We accept donations of used materials like you see here—doors, windows, cabinets—and we sell them, at low cost, to help people fix up their homes. We provide jobs in Springfield and do job training with a variety of partner agencies. Over the last five years, we’ve become an engine for environmentally-responsible economic development in the city.
We’ve helped over 20,000 homeowners—these are low- to moderate-income do-it-yourselfers—save over $1 million on home improvement goods. They’ve used their sweat equity and creativity to fix up their homes at low cost. While doing that, we’ve helped the environment by keeping many hundreds, if not thousands, of tons of building materials out of the landfill.
One of the very innovative ways that we’re doing that, that we just started recently, is called deconstruction, which is creating more jobs. We’re actually doing demolition by hand, and using small equipment, to recover whole houses, or parts of houses, before remodeling. This lumber that you see here came from a 6,000 square foot house that we recently took down. There were truckloads and truckloads, 30 tons in all, of material that came back to the store. Just as quickly as it came in, it was going out, and helping people fix up their homes.
The demand for what we’re doing is great. We started out in one small building five years ago. We added this second structure, which is twice the space. And we’ve moved across the street. We even have a tent that we put up in the summer. We’re really bursting at the seams because there’s a lot of people around here that know that something that’s good shouldn’t be thrown away, and they want to give it to us. There’s just as many people who need those materials to fix up their home.
When they fix up their home, we know that’s helping that family, and everyone can think about the pride they have in their own home, and the comfort and the safety that the home provides. But when you fix up that home, that also helps the street, and when that street gets fixed up, that helps the neighborhood, and then that helps the city, and as we know, when we help the city, that helps the whole region.
We’re playing one very small part, but we’re very excited to be a part of it, and to be partners with all of you, and we look forward to working with you for very many years to come. Thank you.
Mayor Ryan: Before I call Ivette Cruz forward, I would like to have Mark Hambley come forward, and Mark, just spend a couple of minutes with these folks, to speak further on the initiative that you brought to my attention.
Former US Ambassador Mark Hambley: Thanks much, Mr. Mayor, thanks for bringing this opportunity to congratulate you, and the city of Springfield, on your move to join the US Mayors climate action program. As you know, the Kyoto process is a process under the international community to try to combat the problem of global warming. I think, more accurately, it was climate change. In 2005, because the US is not a party to this protocol, US mayors decided that perhaps there might be a way in which we could, as a country, move ahead.
Mark Hambley: “Springfield is well on track”
In March 2005, under the leadership of Mayor Greg Nickels of the city of Seattle, they formed a compact under which there are three basic points. The first point is that cities or municipalities which sign up to this compact are obligated to strive to meet the objective of the Kyoto protocol, which is, for the United States, was set at seven percent reduction of greenhouse gases emissions below 1990 levels by the year 2012. This is something which cities can do through energy efficiency programs, through urban reforestation, through recycling efforts; all those sorts of efforts, which will reduce the emissions profile of a given community.
I must say that the city of Springfield, I think, as acknowledged by the recent award it received, is probably well on track to meet that objective.
The second aspect of this climate action plan is to encourage cities to approach their state governments, to have them encourage the federal government to take action, and join the Kyoto protocol, or a like-minded international agreement, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I think, certainly, our local legislature will be doing that in Boston, and I think our mayor, of course, is already on board on that, in that he has joined the northeast compact on climate change, which puts the state of Massachusetts, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, in a partnership with other states in the region.
The third aspect is to urge the Congress to come up with a bipartisan effort to try and find a way to have a national emissions trading program, which would allow us to have emissions reduction throughout the country. So that’s the three basic aspects of this climate action plan.
I think Springfield now joins several cities in the eastern part of the state—Boston and Worcester among them—and Pittsfield in the western part of the state, as well as Hartford, and other communities. In all, there are 453 US cities now part of this organization, and that comes to about 62 million US citizens. So I think Springfield certainly is taking a leadership role under our distinguished mayor, and I must say, I think it’s something which all of us as citizens can do our part in trying to make sure our color green is something which all of us represent in our daily lives. So, thank you very much.
Mayor Ryan: One other note I would give you is that I read in the paper several days ago that Mayor Menino in Boston was announcing with some sense of satisfaction that they were putting money in the budget to plant 450 trees in this coming year. I think that when you put that alongside the 1,300 to 1,400 that really now, there’s no question about it, it will be funded in this budget, it gives you some idea, some sense of perspective, as to what we’re going to do. I would hope that for years to come, this would happen. It’s such a treasure. And to realize, that for some reason, the city lost its focus, and not only didn’t plant any new trees, but then allowed all of the dead trees to just stay there, until it finally falls down and hits somebody’s car, or somebody’s house, just indicates that we’ve got a long ways to go.
Ivette Cruz is here, and I’m going to ask Ivette to come forward. Ivette is the director of the Keep Springfield [Beautiful] program. She’s got an enormous sense of energy. She’s done a magnificent job in pulling together the many, many people and organizations over the last several months. And as I’m sure you know, in ten days, or 12 days from now, we’re going to have this massive effort here in Springfield. Who better to describe it, and inform you totally about it, than the director of our program, Ivette Cruz?
Ivette Cruz: Thank you all, thank you Mr. Mayor. I was at the mayor’s office this past Friday, and the mayor was coming from a site in which work was being done in one of our neighborhoods. He stated that seeing that kind of progress warmed his heart. His smile was priceless, and I am here, Mr. Mayor, to tell you that we will have another number one for you, and that’s going to be with the Keep Springfield Beautiful project.
Ivette Cruz: “We will be number one”
The 21st of April, we will be certified as an affiliate to Keep America Beautiful—that’s the nation’s largest community improvement organization, with 600 affiliates—and on the 28th, we will have the biggest cleanup in the history of the national organization, since 1958, when this organization was founded.
We are competing at a national level with another 600 affiliates. We’re going to compete in the areas of tons of trash taken out of the city, beautification projects, square footage of graffiti removed, and other areas, including public service announcements that we’re going to do locally. And we will be number one.
We are expecting 3,000 volunteers to come out to work with us the 28th, and we are expecting to take out 170 tons of trash that day. A grassroots organization, Citizens for a Clean Springfield, now becomes Keep Springfield Beautiful, and along with businesses, government, non-profit organizations, and citizens, [all] are committed to Keep Springfield Beautiful.
Our certification ceremony is going to be at AIC this coming Saturday, from 9:30 to 12.
Our project on the 28th will begin at 8:30 in the morning, to 3:00 pm. Waste management will bring a total of 34 dumpsters to the city that day, and will take it out of the city that day. Joseph Freedman is going to give us ten dumpsters to pick up tires and metal along the whole city. Everyone is invited, and thank you, Mr. Mayor, for giving us this opportunity.
Mayor Ryan: You know, as days go by, or weeks go by, I think we’re seeing something very, very dramatic. And that is the increasing and now extraordinary number of people who really are buying in to what is happening here in Springfield. I’ve said many times that a city is the sum of its parts, and then I don’t like that, because we’re not parts, we’re people.
Now we have a program where we’re actually talking in terms of thousands of people, joining together, a common vision, to clean up our city, to join together, take strength one from the other—that’s a huge manifestation of pride in our community and a determination to do better.
I also want to recognize Charlie Contant, who’s in the back of the room. Charlie and Barbara Footit and so many others really kind of lit this torch a year or a year and a half ago, and it was kind of a lonely mission for some time. But what they did, and the view they had, really has caught fire, and caught acceptance. We were lucky enough to have Ivette come to work for the city, and the YMCA, and others, to really buy in, so it’s now—there’s an awful lot of people on this train. Charlie Contant, clearly, if there’s a charter member anywhere, it’s Charlie.
David Panagore, the city’s wordsmith, director of economic development, bon vivant, philosopher, and everything else, is now going to come forward, and tie all of this in, to what is one of his jobs, economic development. David?
David Panagore: As I stood there, philosophizing in my head, I do think this is about leadership today, these announcements. This is about the good work that’s been happening inside City Hall. This is about the good work that’s happening in the city, and this is about the good work in the region. And it’s all about Springfield’s leadership in that.
CDO David Panagore: “Springfield is a leader in the Valley on green”
I start with the final point: when we think of the Pioneer Valley in Massachusetts, we think green. When we think of the Pioneer Valley in Massachusetts, we think this is the place where people care about the environment. Sure, they care about it in Concord. Sure, they care about it on Cape Cod. But when you think about it, it’s Western Mass. It’s an excellent reflection of the work we’ve been doing in Springfield, that Springfield is showing to be a leader in the Valley, a leader on green. It’s a reflection, then, as well, of what we’ve been doing inside City Hall, proving that being green is good business sense, because when you think about the criteria they used in making this announcement, they used criteria of power usage. This was good business sense, under the mayor and the control board’s leadership to enter into an ESCO contract.
What we’re seeing here is the combination of business and green proponents showing that there’s money to be made, there’s cost savings to be had, this is the future of business. As the governor has said in his comments, Massachusetts must take the lead on alternative energy. When you look at what we’re doing here in the Valley, when you look at what we’re doing here in Springfield, when you look at this building that we’re in right here, ReStore—and I’m a client as well, as is my family; my family will come from eastern Mass just to come here for this store—it shows that Springfield is moving forward. It shows that we care about our quality of life.
I’ll tell you, from my point of view, the quality of life in Springfield is one of its most immense selling points. A simple thing, like a tree program, of 1,400 trees: that’s amazing. That’s a reflection of our commitment to our neighborhoods, our open spaces, and maintaining the quality of life that we have here, so that Springfield stays something special. When I think about all of the announcements made today, I do think this is about leadership, it’s about good business sense, it’s about quality, and it’s about the region.
So I really think this is where Springfield is headed, and we welcome working with anyone who is interested in working on these issues, because we do think this is where economic development is headed in this city. Thank you.
Mayor Ryan: In many respects, what we’re doing here and talking about today falls under many headings. One of them, I think is social responsibility. I would like to call the landlord of this building to the microphone. This is a man who, really, dwelled on this 15 years ago, when a lot of people weren’t even thinking about it. The force of his personality, and his example, and his generosity, has encouraged so much of what is meaningful here in Springfield today.
I look upon him as one of the very, very significant leaders in this community going forward, because very, very few people get within the orbit of Joe Sibilia without deciding that they want to stay within that orbit, and they are affected by him, and they are inspired by him. If there’s anybody in the city of Springfield that deserves the official new color of green, it’s our next speaker, Joe Sibilia.
Joe Sibilia: Thank you very much, Charlie; that was beautiful, and David, nice to see you; it’s the first time we’ve had an opportunity to meet. What we have here at the ReStore is a manifestation of triple-bottom-line business: economic development that includes a financial return, a social return, and an environmental return. And we believe that Springfield can become a world-class city, being a mecca for socially responsible and green companies from all over the world. This is a perfect example of what these guys are doing, and what we can really do, to manifest that reality.
Joe Sibilia: “Springfield can be a mecca for socially responsible, green companies”
Thank you so much for coming, and as a footnote: we produced, in this room, an invention that was bought by the Pepsi-Cola company to distribute and use in their restaurants worldwide—fruit beverages and bag-in-a-box—in this room, from Springfield. So if you go to any restaurant that Pepsi owns, anywhere in the world, and you press the button and you get a juice, it came from Springfield. Thank you very much.
Mayor Ryan: John, I understand you have a presentation to make? Okay, great. And then we’ll end the program with the presentation.
John Majercak: This will be very brief. Mr. Mayor, in celebration of the city’s new color of green, and its environmental commitment, I want to present to you this ReStore glass, which is actually a reused wine bottle, where the top was cut off, and it was polished. Congratulations, and thank you very much.
The city invites you to share how you are going green.
The US Conference of Mayors climate protection agreement has numerous aspects, but the key nuggets are the following:
Strive to meet or exceed Kyoto Protocol targets for reducing global warming pollution by taking actions in our own operations and communities such as:
1. Inventory global warming emissions in City operations and in the community, set reduction targets and create an action plan.
2. Adopt and enforce land-use policies that reduce sprawl, preserve open space, and create compact, walkable urban communities.
3. Promote transportation options such as bicycle trails, commute trip reduction programs, incentives for car pooling and public transit.
4. Increase the use of clean, alternative energy by, for example, investing in “green tags,” advocating for the development of renewable energy resources, recovering landfill methane for energy production, and supporting the use of waste to energy technology.
5. Make energy efficiency a priority through building code improvements, retrofitting city facilities with energy efficient lighting and urging employees to conserve energy and save money.
6. Purchase only Energy Star equipment and appliances for City use.
7. Practice and promote sustainable building practices using the US Green Building Council’s LEED program or a similar system.
8. Increase the average fuel efficiency of municipal fleet vehicles; reduce the number of vehicles; launch an employee education program including anti-idling messages; convert diesel vehicles to bio-diesel.
9. Evaluate opportunities to increase pump efficiency in water and wastewater systems; recover wastewater treatment methane for energy production.
10. Increase recycling rates in City operations and in the community.
11. Maintain healthy urban forests; promote tree planting to increase shading and to absorb CO2.
12. Help educate the public, schools, other jurisdictions, professional associations, business and industry about reducing global warming pollution.