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Green Budget Campaign

A Green Budget for DC

Creating Budgets that Create Jobs and Sustainable Development in our Cities

The Opportunity
Much like the rest of the country the DC government and regional governmental bodies have been experiencing budget shortfalls brought on by the economic downturn. When decision makers across the region look for ways to fund basic government services they often de-fund environmental programs to fill budgetary gaps. The DC Environmental Network believes that environmental programs are the first step in the development of new economies to create communities that are economically and environmentally sustainable. For example, government programs to promote the creation of green roofs and the jobs needed to build them helped to start a national green roof industry that has bucked national economic trends with 16.1% industry growth in 2009. The same has occurred with solar industry revenues increasing by 36% in 2009 despite a lagging economy. The opportunity here is for the environmental movement to evolve. In addition to effectively protecting important environment programs when money is scarce, it can make the case that protecting the environment is also about protecting the jobs of our future economy.

“The DC Environmental Network covers a huge array of environmental issues and can point to a number of impressive accomplishments that have made our community cleaner and healthier. But equally impressive — maybe more so — is the fact that DCEN sees the big picture and understands that decisions on environmental issues are made by DC’s leaders in the context of the full set of the city’s budget and policy decisions. Through its Green Scissors work, challenging public financing of DC’s baseball stadium, and other efforts, the DC Environmental Network recognizes that wasteful or ineffective choices in other parts of the DC budget make it harder to devote resources to pressing environmental needs. And DCEN is not afraid to press city leaders to take the steps needed to raise enough resources to protect DC’s environment adequately. This kind of creative positioning makes DCEN a critical partner on a range of progressive policy issues.”
Ed Lazere, Executive Director, DC Fiscal Policy Institute

The Challenge
Environmental programs to restore rivers and promote energy efficiency have always been considered something to aspire to when there is extra money and economic times are good. Years of looking at green issues in this manner have resulted in having to, year after year, fight for scraps to fund environmental initiatives. This has resulted in very slow, incremental changes that give us no real sense of progress toward our environmental goals. Our challenge at the local and regional level is to start looking at our issues through a different lens and realize we have to come up with new models for generating resources to deal with our environmental challenges because status quo strategies will do nothing to solve our problems.

Our nation’s economy is largely dependent on industries that are currently unsustainable, such as the automobile and housing industry. These industries rely on sprawling development patterns that destroy natural areas, scarce farmland and result in expanding consumptions habits that put too much stress on the natural resources of our planet. Our challenge is to work to reject these failed development patterns in our communities and to put our budgetary resources into more sustainable industries that are just starting to gain some strength and visibility.

The DC Environmental Network believes that the answers to our problems lie in the cities, not in the ever expanding sprawl that plagues our country. We learn more each day about how we can create more sustainable, natural lifestyles in the urban environment. The cities of today have to use this readily available knowledge and start re-building our infrastructure, block by block, to create the cities of the future. Urban gardening, green roofs, renewable energy, stormwater management technology, waste management and water and energy efficiency are some of the categories of tomorrow’s industries. This will mean continuing to fight for funding of environmental programs that can lead to creating more jobs and building on the recent successes of the solar and green roof industry.

To meet the challenge of creating tomorrow’s sustainable industries we need to try and develop messaging, organizing, technical and business skills that we have never mastered in the past. We need to become better sales people who can easily describe a vision for our cities that everyone wants to take part in building. DCEN wants to push the envelope in the Washington Metro region as much as possible to make this happen.

DCEN Green Budget Priorities
DCEN’s Green Budget Campaign will focus on the following:

  1. Green Budget Toolkit – Develop a Budget Toolkit independently or in conjunction with the DC Fiscal Policy Institute to help individual organizations get the information they need to protect their budget priorities and be more creative in funding the programs to re-build our cities.
  2. Living City Block – Make a major commitment to developing a Living City Block in the District of Columbia (in conjunction with Denver and Philadelphia) and using this example of sustainability to make the case for retrofitting our urban environments to the Metro Washington region and ultimately the rest of the country.
  3. Green Funding Mechanisms – Find creative funding mechanisms to pay for new stormwater management energy efficiency and other technologies that can help to start building the cities of the future. Help demonstrate the cost –effectiveness of retro-fitting our urban buildings to make them more sustainable and capable of meeting the needs of current and future urban dwellers.
  4. Keep the Attention of Decision Makers – Working in ever broader coalitions, continue our efforts to make sure environmental priorities are never too far down the lists of our decision makers. Continue to hold meetings and forums to continue making sure that our efforts to clean area rivers make sense and promote energy efficiency will result in real improvements.

DCEN Accomplishments
The DC Environmental Network has always understood that the basic function of government to expend taxpayer dollars to implement programs. We have engaged in numerous activities over the years to impact where our taxes are used, sometimes successfully, including (partial):

  • Green FY2011 Budget – Working with over 40 environmental and human service organizations and businesses the DC Environmental Network led the coalition efforts to restore almost $15 million dollars worth of environmental programs slated to be cut by Mayor Fenty in the 2011 budget. These funds were directed to help restore the Anacostia River, subsidize solar roofs in DC Neighborhoods and start the implementation of the District’s new sustainable energy utility (SEU) to promote energy efficiency. We also supported creating a new funding stream to create healthy schools by increasing environmental programs in the school district and improving the quality of the food fed to our school children. Our coalition used internet advocacy, in person lobbying efforts and other strategies to heighten the awareness of environmental issues with decision makers.
  • Green Scissors 2003 – Over 15 organizations released a report to show how some government funded programs hurt the environment and hurt taxpayers. We identified over $600 million dollars in savings and funding opportunities for the District. This report helped in our successful efforts to stop a road being built in Klingle Valley; stop a noisy and polluting Grand Prix race from being held in sensitive DC neighborhoods; and helped in decreasing the amount of money the District would ultimately use to build a baseball stadium.

What Can I Do?