Posts Tagged ‘Millennial Mayors Congress’

Jordan Garfinkle Wants You to Get Empowered: Join Us This Thursday for Energy Action

August 2, 2011

For more than two months, you’ve been reading about our interns’ work to define a new energy future for metro Detroit. Are you ready to stand up and join them?

Jordan shows off Ypsilanti's solar panels, drawing on an energy source that never runs out of juice.

This Thursday, August 4, energy policy intern Jordan Garfinkle is hosting an open discussion about the energy challenges facing metro Detroit, policy options for local governments and how young people can make their voices heard to define a greener, more prosperous future. It’s happening at the ultra-mod Ferndale Public Library, 222 E. Nine Mile, from 7:30-8:30 pm. Find the event page here.

The event will describe ways that young people can help Millennial Mayors Congress cities work to achieve their 2015 energy conservation goals. “Our region’s youth,” Jordan states, “are in a remarkable position to effect change.” Collective action by Millennials may be the force we require to re-energize the region. Given Jordan’s years of experience with climate advocacy, and the knowledge of the region he’s gained this summer, we could hardly ask for a savvier guide.

While there are no official plans for an afterparty, Jordan notes slyly that while the event is scheduled to end at 8:30 pm, he’s reserved the room until 9, so you might not want to leave too soon. “The organic juice tap will be flowing,” he says. Meet us there to make yourself a part of the solution!

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Electric Detective: In Hazel Park and Madison Heights, Intern Finds That Energy Efficiency Pays

July 29, 2011

Eizenga: bringing energy to account in metro Detroit.

Energy data intern Jordan Eizenga has been on the hunt for weeks. His quarry? Metro Detroit cities’ electrical bills of years past. It’s taken plenty of sleuthing to find them, but the search is finally bearing fruit. Data from Hazel Park and Madison Heights show that energy conservation measures undertaken by these cities are reaping big rewards for city budgets—and the planet.

In Madison Heights, the baseball field lights at Rosie Park and Huffman Park got swapped for more efficient models as part of a $124,000 federal energy efficiency grant secured by the Southeast Michigan Regional Energy Office. City officials hoped the upgrade would give them “a good start” towards meeting the 25%-by-2015 conservation goal of the Millennial Mayors Congress’s Energy Savings Protocol.

Rosie's Park, Madison Heights. (Bill Walsh)

Jordan’s research shows that the new lights are paying off. Electrical use in Rosie’s Park has fallen by more than 25%, from 96 to 71 kilowatt-hours per day. That adds up to $435 in savings in one year. In smaller Huffman Park, the City cut energy use 15%, for nearly $100 in savings. That’s nothing to sneeze at, and it’s just the initial return.

To the south, the City of Hazel Park also took advantage of the energy grants. There, efficiency improvements at the fire station netted 12% reductions in electrical consumption. The money saved by these upgrades could help the City hold on to its force of firefighters instead. We’d certainly choose that over heating up the atmosphere!

Fire station, Hazel Park. (Jordan Eizenga)

Once it’s collected and analyzed, Jordan says, energy savings data can help cities decide how to direct their future investments and secure the 15%-by-2015 energy reduction outlined in the Protocol, “so the benefits of doing this work and being diligent with it really compound over time.” His hard work has been essential. “With all the challenges that cities are facing right now, it’s difficult for them to focus on activities with long-term payoffs like collecting data for energy efficiency,” he says, and assistance from interns working on a regional level “really helps take a load off local governments.”

Now that Jordan’s shed some light on the subject for them, these cities will ultimately be able to lighten their energy load, too.

The UniverCities Story, Part 3: The Energy Savings Protocol

June 16, 2011

On the heels of the June 2009 inaugural meeting, the Millennial Mayors Congress adopted fiscal and environmental sustainability as its first official focus. The issue exemplified the benefits of partnership between young people and elected leaders. City officials sought to save their town money, while Millennials voiced their generation’s growing consciousness of climate change and enthusiasm for solutions to environmental crises. Both proved more than ready to jettison the old notion that these causes were somehow at odds. “The economic future that young people want,” said Madison Heights Millennial Andy Wakeland, “is one in which environmental sustainability and economic development go hand-in-hand.”

To bring about that future, the Congress drafted an Energy Savings Protocol that would commit participating cities (above) to reduce municipal energy consumption from non-renewable sources 15 percent from 2005 levels by 2015, and sought a 5 percent reduction from the community at large. The previous year, the State of Michigan had adopted its own energy efficiency goals, requiring a 25 percent reduction from 2002 levels in state buildings by 2015. As of 2010, the state had already hit the 23 percent mark. Since local governments have limited staff to implement energy conservation programs, however, meeting our goals is a bigger challenge than it’s been for the state.

That’s where this summer’s UniverCities Connection interns come in. Now that cities have less than four years to generate substantial energy savings, the interns are racing to advise metro Detroit governments on how best to do the job. They’re crunching the cities’ energy data to check out their performance so far, reviewing conservation and climate protection strategies implemented by other communities, and consolidating energy program management in the City of Southgate.

This concludes our three-part UniverCities history series. It’s time we learned more about the interns themselves.

The UniverCities Story, Part 2: The Millennial Mayors Congress

June 15, 2011

The metropolitan youth voice is heard.

Metro Detroit is one region, but our hundreds of local governments don’t reflect that. In contrast, places from Portland to Indianapolis have adopted various forms of metropolitan government to supplement local governments and tackle big-picture issues, like transportation and urban development, at a regional level. Here in Michigan, the lack of platforms for regional thinking has hindered collective action, but in 2009, the Suburbs Alliance sought to fill the vacuum with a new kind of metropolitan forum. Its special ingredient? Young people.

The Millennial Mayors Congress pairs elected officials in participating metro Detroit cities with youth from their communities, aged 18 to 35, who serve together as delegates to the Congress. Why the youth element? As the U.S. economy shifts away from the manufacturing that once dominated Detroit, young people have supplanted factories as a region’s most valuable resource. Yet metro Detroit’s centrifugal pattern of sprawl development hasn’t helped produce the kind of places where today’s young people want to live. Millennials, aged 18 to 35, tend to favor more diverse, sustainable, compact communities where they don’t need a car to get around. By partnering young people with elected leaders, the Congress makes sure their voices help shape a more sustainable, prosperous future for everyone in the region.

The region's elected leaders take note.

Bringing in fresh faces helped ready the Congress to meet the challenge of its second major innovation: making decisions by regional consensus. In the past, metro Detroit’s communities have competed against each other, instead of uniting for the benefit of the region at large. The results haven’t been pretty, and even the short-term “winners” of this contest end up losing in the long run, as youth take off for places where new development isn’t limited to cul-de-sacs.

The Millennial Mayors Congress replaces that broken paradigm with a new model for regional prosperity that respects the autonomy and individuality of each community, but also insists on cooperative action for the common good. It’s only natural that in its first major initiative, the Congress opted to better steward our communities’ ultimate collective treasure: the planet. We’ll conclude the UniverCities saga next time with the story of the energy conservation initiative that brought this year’s interns into action.