Our Views: Share your views with green committee through online survey

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Friday, October 25, 2013

The city council formed the Sustainable Janesville Committee five years ago to keep our community focused on environmental concerns. It has made inroads but has lacked direction.

Residents can help guide it. Now through Friday, Nov. 8, residents can complete a simple online survey on the city’s home page to help the committee form goals and objectives.

For example, the survey asks how much residents value having city facilities that use renewable energy and whether boosting air quality and encouraging bicycle use are important to them. Should the city improve water quality by encouraging less pesticide use and more rain gardens? Should its storm-water utility offer discounts for property owners who install rainwater retention systems?

The council enacted the committee, made of seven residents and one council member, in 2008 after designating Janesville as an “ecocommunity.” We doubt, however, that anyone on the committee—or anyone passionate about the environment or green living—would mistake Janesville for San Francisco, Portland, Ore., or even Austin, Texas, or Boulder, Colo.

The committee’s directive is “to collect public input on sustainability issues, examine potential sustainability initiatives and provide sustainability-related recommendations to the city administration and city council.”

In 2010 when the city adopted a comprehensive land-use plan, some committee members criticized the council for designating too much farmland as urban reserve. That sort of clash has plagued the committee and even created friction between members.

Still, committee members can be proud of some achievements. For example, the committee enacted a program requiring organizers to have recycling plans when getting city permits for special events. It worked with city staff on a resolution requiring that energy conservation standards be followed on public construction projects. It doles out environmental awards to businesses, groups and individuals. It also teamed up with residents to get Janesville designated a Wisconsin Bird City.

Yet it met heavy resistance from residents a year ago when it tried to convince the council to designate Janesville a Green Tier City. The city would have joined others such as Fitchburg, Middleton and Bayfield in signing a contract with the state Department of Natural Resources and agreeing to pursue environmental excellence. In the face of over-the-top fears from residents, the council backed away from Green Tier.

So just what should the committee pursue? The survey is your chance to be heard. Don’t miss it.

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