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Natural Awakenings Ann Arbor Michigan

Taylor Takes Leadership Role as an Environmentalist

Nov 28, 2017 03:21AM
Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor was elected in November 2014 after three terms representing the third ward on the Ann Arbor City Council, where he served on the Parks Advisory Commission (a2gov.org/departments/city-council/Pages/Mayor-Christopher-Taylor.aspx). He states, “The country was pulled out of the Paris accords and in my view, that’s disgraceful. We have a commitment to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to fight climate change because it’s a planetary issue. Where the national government is stepping back, the state and local governments have an obligation to do what they can to step forward and advocate to reverse that change and take action.”

 

What is your vision for Ann Arbor?

We have such a great quality of life in the city, and it’s our job to provide all the basic services that people require and expect; streets, sidewalks, safety, storm water, clean water. We have real quality-of-life tasks, as well; we need to make sure that our parks are beautiful and our environment is protected. We can’t fix climate change in the city, but we can do our part. We want to make sure that it’s a welcoming community, where pluralism is valued and respected and people know that they have a place here.

 

What lessons did you learn on the Parks Advisory Commission?

The Parks Advisory Commission is a group of residents who are nominated by the mayor and appointed by council, who get together and work together with residents and staff to make sure that our parks are the way that we want them to be. We have about 2,000 acres of parkland in the city, and people love them. I was on the parks commission during the Great Recession, so we were focused a little bit more on retaining than taking steps further, but now we’re in a position where we’re able to do that.

 

What are the urban forestry and management plans for “Treetown”?

We love our trees, but at the same time, we suffered from the emerald ash borer and the Great Recession. Those two things in succession meant that our urban forest was decimated and we were unable to improve it or even sustain it. Now we are able to fully fund the urban forestry management plan, by putting all of our street trees and park trees that are in maintained areas on a seven-year pruning cycle, which is what the forestry people say is needed. We’re also planting 1,000 trees a year in order to make sure that everybody throughout the community has the benefit of an urban forest.

We’re able to do this because we have a dedicated funding source through stormwater. Trees, in addition to being awesome for the air environment and for the physical environment, have an incredible stormwater benefit. They pull water out of the ground and create more infiltrative soils to offset a lot of the problems that we have with respect to stormwater and flooding. We’re able to use stormwater monies to improve our street trees, which has the ancillary benefit of making people happy.

 

Are more solar arrays and renewable energy options coming to Ann Arbor?

We have an aggressive climate action plan, and it does involve using community solar, emphasizing solar where we can as a municipal organization, and helping residents with energy efficiency to reduce their greenhouse gas load. That’s been something that has not had a dedicated funding source for years, so although we have a plan that is practical and effective, what is has not been to date is funded.

This past November, the county passed a millage that provides for community mental health services and services for the sheriff. However, for jurisdictions that have police departments, like Ann Arbor, we are getting a rebate of some of those millage monies to account for the fact that we already spend millions of dollars on police services. Ann Arbor has decided to use 40 percent of that rebate to advance the goals of our climate action plan. So, for the next eight years, we’re going to have about $900 to $1.1 million per year to affect those goals. That’s going to make a tremendous difference.

 

What is happening with the dioxane plume?

The company Pall is the polluter that put it in back in the eighties, It [dioxane] is in the aquifer as a result of their activities. This is a carcinogen. What we need to do in Ann Arbor is to make absolutely sure it never gets into Ann Arbor drinking water and that it never constitutes a threat to public health. There are decades of work on it, and we are now in the middle of a court case. The Michigan Department Of Environmental Quality has recently substantially reduced the drinking water standard so that we’re able to go back into court to negotiate with the polluter in an effort to accelerate cleanup and increase monitoring. These are our goals to ensure that Ann Arbor drinking water never has 1-4 dioxin in it and that it never constitutes a public safety threat through groundwater vaporization.

 

What are the plans for greenhouse and carbon emissions?

That’s where the climate action plan comes in. The things we do here in city hall are about 2 percent of the gas emissions of the carbon footprint. We’re working super hard on making sure that our fleet is efficient, making sure that our buildings are insulated and making sure that we are using renewable energy where we can. We have some hydroelectric, dams that provide electricity, we’re utilizing within our municipal organization. With this millage passage, what we’re going to able to do is push programs out to the community to help the residents do their part through programs and directives and subsidies to reduce their carbon footprint. That way as a whole, we’re going to have much greater reductions. It’s not a high-profile thing, it’s small work every day.

 

What’s on tap for the Mayor’s Green Fair in June 2018?

We have all sorts of summer events throughout the city, including many events downtown. The Mayor’s Green Fair kicks off just about the same time as the summer festival, and it’s a time when community organizations come and talk about the great things that they’re doing in the community and advocacy groups tell people how they can help improve their sustainable practices at home.

Our municipal organization tells about the things that we’re doing to help make the community more sustainable. I’m just so excited about the things that are going to be upcoming this year—we’re working with partners to make sure that this is a fair where people can come and have a good time and learn about how they can do their part.

Ann Arbor has a lot going for it—great universities, a great economy, great environment, great art scene and culture and most of all, great people. It’s only fitting to have such a great mayor as Taylor to lead them.

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