International business and government leaders gathered in Philadelphia this week at a United Nations symposium on sustainable building.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter spoke on a panel about green city initiatives. Asked how local leaders can make their own green initiatives endure past a four or eight year term, he said getting voters to expect sustainable policy would ensure it endures, despite political turnover.
“We pick up people’s trash once a week. If someone ever proposed not to do that, people would go berserk,” Nutter said. “You want to get things to a point where it is so expected that you will do these things, that when that person does come along with that crazy idea to stop doing whatever that thing is that the public likes, there would literally almost be a revolution.”
Nutter touted Philadelphia’s new bike lanes and green stormwater management practices during his address.
He was joined by former Toronto mayor David Miller, who called on leaders to use evidence of locally effective sustainability practices to help shape national and international policy.
“I think nationally and internationally if mayors can speak up on the examples from their own experience of how these kinds of policies are actually supporting economic development and employment, people understand those real practical examples,” Miller said.
Nutter expressed skepticism about creating new environmentally friendly policies from the bottom-up in the United States, saying Congress “cannot figure out virtually anything for themselves, let alone what’s coming from cities.”
He stressed the importance of local government and voters in shaping the green movement. Nutter said environmental groups were the most well-organized during his first mayoral campaign, which forced all the candidates in the field to come up with sustainability plans. It turned red and blue candidates alike “green,” he said.