Tuesday, October 03, 2000

Life in Tristate is under scrutiny

By Ken Alltucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Civic and business groups meet today to kick off a process that could make Greater Cincinnati a better place to work and live.

        Organizers of Sustainable Cincinnati want to develop 10 to 20 indicators over the next year that will measure the environment, education, economy and other factors affecting quality of life.

        “It will be what we consider the key things to keep our eye on,” said Elizabeth Brown, a community builder for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “There has been a lot of talk on how we will incorporate these indicators. That's the key.”

        “Sustainability” is a process that has been used by other communities as a way to persuade decision-makers to think broadly, making economic, environmental and social choices that benefit future generations.

        Example: After Santa Monica, Calif., incorporated sustainability indicators in government decisions, it was able to increase bus ridership, decrease solid waste, plant more trees in public spaces and decrease pollution in underground storage tanks.

        Sterling Uhler, president of the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments, said any plan that comes out of a Sustainable Cincinnati effort must be practical.

        “If (indicators) are too abstract or too intangible, they won't be useful,” said Mr. Uhler, who will participate in a panel discussion today for the project's public kickoff.

        The local chapter of the League of Women Voters developed the idea of a broad-based measurement for Greater Cincinnati's growth more than a year ago, said Steve Dana, a land-use specialist for the League's statewide chapter.

        The concept picked up steam when Mr. Dana and Mrs. Brown attended a national conference this year and met Maureen Hart, author of The Guide to Sustainable Community Indicators.

        Mrs. Hart, from Massachusetts, will be the keynote speaker at Sustainable Cincinnati's initial public meeting today. The group seeks a grant to pay for research and hire a consultant to ensure the indicators are achievable.

        Mrs. Hart, who operates a Web site and consults with communities nationwide, said the sustainability movement arose in the early 1990s in communities such as Seattle, which was seeking a way to stabilize the economy in the wake of layoffs by its largest private employer, Boeing Co.

        Chattanooga, Tenn., considered a nationwide leader in the movement, launched its effort two decades ago as a way to deal with a declining industrial base. The community developed a vision of how to deal with affordable housing, job creation and environmental issues.

        More than 20 government, business, environmental and civic organizations have participated in the planning stages of Sustainable Cincinnati.


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