P.G. Mayor speaks at sustainability conference, pens book on green cities.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Pacific Grove Mayor Dan Cort has been invited to speak this week at the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) Local Action Summit in Albuquerque, N.M.
On May 15, Cort and two others will lead a break-out session titled “Three Tenets of Sustainability,” a reference to the three-ringed goal of serving people, the planet and profit.
They’re all examples of “how an old city with a history of contentiousness can coalesce around issues of sustainability and the green movement,” he says.
The concept is a theme of a book Cort is writing, with the working title The Urban Village and How Communities Learn. It’s scheduled to be released by Park Place Publications this year, he says.
Cort responded to ICLEI’s call for proposals to lead breakout sessions, according to ICLEI spokesperson Annie Strickler. “[P.G.] is one of the communities that has tried to figure out how to do this work, and particularly how to finance it,” she says. “He can speak not only to the grand ideas his city has on sustainability, but also how to implement and pay for them.”
In less than two years as mayor, Cort – with support from City Manager Jim Colangelo and the City Council – has painted the city a startling shade of green. The city has banned Styrofoam take-out containers, explored green building codes, slashed permit fees for homeowners installing solar panels, initiated a study on reviving an old reservoir to store recycled water, approved a farmers market, and balanced a budget that had been hemorrhaging for years.
Under Cort’s leadership, P.G. became the first city in Monterey County to sign both the United Nations Urban Environmental Accords, which identify ways cities can become more sustainable, and the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, which pledges to meet or exceed the Kyoto Protocol’s carbon emission targets.
Cort also leans green outside his role as mayor. He co-founded Trees for P.G., a volunteer-driven group that has planted thousands of saplings across the city, and Sustainable Pacific Grove, a grassroots movement that promotes community self-reliance and environmentally responsible living. For three decades, Cort has worked to renovate historic buildings using recycled materials, energy-efficient architecture and eco-savvy technology.
“What people are doing is leaving the city better than they found it, and taking a little heat along the way,” he says with a laugh. Vocal factions of P.G. residents, including the owner of a local newspaper and several former city leaders, have consistently criticized Cort and Colangelo.
But the mayor is on a mission, driven by the exponential speed at which climate change and other environmental catastrophes are happening. “Mayors need to do what we’ve been doing in P.G.,” he says. “Our community is starting to move so far ahead of everyone that I’m starting to get nervous.”