Green Budget Campaign
A Green Budget for DC
Creating Budgets that Create Jobs and Sustainable Development in our Cities
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.
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.
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?
- Volunteer and support the DC Fiscal Policy Institute
- Join the DC Environmental Network and help create Green Budgets in the District!