Metropolitan and Rural Strategies
In Sustainable America, the President’s Council on Sustainable Development (PCSD) presented a vision of community development that embraced economic, environmental, and equity concerns -- a vision informed by the collective aspirations and experiences of communities around the nation. It presented a case for urgent action for communities to combat air and water pollution, loss of ecosystems, poverty, energy inefficiency, and other threats to their current and future well-being. Most importantly, Sustainable America affirmed the national importance of building vibrant, healthy, and liveable communities. Since its publication, the imperatives of sustainable communities are increasingly taking hold, gaining momentum, and producing benefits. As stated in a September 1998 speech by Vice President Gore, “While the blight of poor development and its social consequences have many names, the solutions, pioneered by local citizens, are starting to coalesce into a movement. In the future, livable communities will be the basis of our competitiveness and economic strength.”
Over the past five years of the Council’s work, we have observed considerable innovation in how people with different interests can act collectively to strengthen their communities. In hundreds of communities and regions across America, community leaders representing citizens groups, elected officials, businesses, and other stakeholders are "rolling up their sleeves" to engage each other and work together. Whether they are restoring watersheds, creating accessible transportation alternatives, championing more efficient use of land, fostering racial and cultural tolerance, making housing more affordable, linking people with quality jobs, or creating new environmentally sensitive businesses, these community leaders are improving the lives of today’s citizens while safeguarding their communities for future generations.
There is no denying the power of example these efforts provide. Although we are witnessing more activities and successes, most sustainable community development initiatives face daunting technical, financial, and institutional obstacles. In order to fulfill the promise of sustainable communities affirmed in Sustainable America, we must find ways to overcome these obstacles and replicate those strategies that are working. This chapter addresses a fundamental question: How can we, as a nation, help sustainable community initiatives “get over the hump” from inspiration to implementation?
The Metropolitan and Rural Strategies Task Force has developed a framework for implementation that highlights five “strategic opportunities” for sustainable community development -- “green infrastructure,” land use and development, community revitalization and reinvestment, rural enterprise and community development, and materials reuse and resource efficiency. We believe that investing in each of these five areas leads to a comprehensive approach to sustainable community development. However, communities that invest resources in any one of these five areas can benefit in their efforts to develop sustainably. The framework also identifies three types of tools that, if available, can help people overcome major implementation obstacles: information and technical assistance, economic incentives and financial assistance, and local capacity and partnerships.
This chapter recommends policies and actions that describe how the Federal government, State, local, and tribal governments, the private sector, and community-based organizations can take leadership and work together on sustainable community development and how they can provide the tools and resources that can move communities in metropolitan and rural areas from vision to action.
The Context for Implementation: Why Place Matters
In 1830, Alex deToqueville observed that there were two abiding characteristics of American life that were unique and helped ensure our society’s success. The first was place-based, small town democracy, while the second was creative and flexible kinds of civic and business organizations. Another unique characteristic of American life is our diversity. While our differences have divided us, our diversity is also a strength that provides us with different perspectives and vast arrays of knowledge. Embedded in our diversity, therefore, are the keys we can use, in unity and understanding, to resolve the challenges facing our communities and to create new opportunities. Our review of projects and programs from around the country confirms that successful initiatives share these and other characteristics:
Technically, “place” is the geographic union of natural landscapes and systems, and human settlements and structures. Behavioral, social, and environmental scientists, in books such as Winifred Gallagher’s, The Power of Place and James Kunstler’s, The Geography of Nowhere, also underscore what we all intuitively know: that our physical surroundings shape our thoughts and emotions, define our identity, and anchor our sense of community. Invisible to most of us, place also predetermines limits on our carrying capacity -- the degree to which natural systems can sustain life and successfully accommodate the needs and activities of humans. Place-based strategies, which recognize the diversity of places, therefore, are essential to maintaining and enhancing our social and environmental health.
Community leaders are recognizing that place is defined by more than artificial jurisdictional lines. Many of the issues facing communities -- air and water quality, transportation, land and natural resource conservation, affordable housing, and economic development -- spread beyond the arbitrary lines of political jurisdiction. As such, regions are becoming an increasing focus of interest due to shared ecosystems, the spillover effects of actions by individual jurisdictions, and the significance of regional economies, whose gross national products sometimes match or exceed those of entire countries.1 Successful initiatives often recognize that a region is greater than the sum of its parts in order to create more realistic and useful policies and plans. Because of the complexity of regions, successful initiatives also recognize that problems and challenges can best be tackled by networks of people, places, and markets acting to achieve mutual benefits. The pace, creativity and dynamism of these partnership initiatives contrasts starkly with stand-alone initiatives -- whether those are structured by government, community or business acting alone.
Although the role of local and regional communities is becoming increasingly important, particularly in the context of recent devolution of responsibilities to States and localities, some traditional responsibilities must be preserved. In the development and implementation of place-based strategies, Federal agencies must continue to represent and protect national interests that may not be represented by local interests in all cases, such as controlling pollution, protecting biodiversity, and safeguarding civil rights.2
America has endured for over two centuries, but to sustain a high quality of life for everyone over the next two centuries requires that policies, programs, institutions, and culture adapt to changing elements, adopt methods to reinforce the elements that make communities work, and that can recognize new opportunities.
Five Strategic Opportunities for Sustainable Community Development
The writer Marcel Proust once wrote that “the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Individuals and institutions are viewing their communities through the lens of sustainable community development, and by doing so, are finding new or rediscovering local economic, ecological, and social assets. By having new perspectives, communities are also discovering new opportunities to strengthen their communities. They are becoming more involved in local government, community affairs, and entrepreneurial endeavors to capitalize on these opportunities.
In the November 1998 elections, for example, voters’ decisions at the polls triggered a little over $7 billion of new State and local money for an array of land conservation, quality of life, farmland and forest protection, and growth management programs and activities.3 Articles in mainstream journals, such as The Economist and U.S. News and World Report, are heralding the sustainability agendas of rural and metropolitan places, such as Chattanooga and Portland, that have greatly enhanced the economic competitiveness of and breathed new life into their communities. Environmental industries, ranging from manufacturers of energy efficient products to cleanup services to “green building” construction are growing more quickly than the economy at large and already represent a significant part of the economy.4
Based on our review of several initiatives and activities from around the country, we believe that five strategic opportunity areas hold particular promise and potential for channeling activities toward successful endeavors. If addressed collectively, these five areas also provide a comprehensive approach to sustainable community development:
Framework for Implementation
The framework recognizes that many tools are needed to implement activities in any one strategic opportunity area. More importantly, the framework recognizes that there are cross-cutting issues that can be collectively addressed to support many different types of sustainable community projects. Examples range from new kinds of information-sharing and learning networks; to strategies to balance regulatory flexibility with performance and accountability; to new forms of financial institutions, services, products, and markets; to new civic and partnership arrangements:
A key for rapid implementation of sustainable community development will be to make the most out of existing authority and resources. By immediately undertaking new initiatives and building upon initiatives already underway, we can achieve the following within the next three years:
The main body of this chapter consists of five sections:
We believe that five strategic opportunity areas for sustainable community development -- “green infrastructure,” land use and development, community revitalization and reinvestment, rural enterprise and community development, and materials reuse and resource efficiency -- hold particular potential and promise. Communities are increasingly investing resources and time in these five broad areas in order to resolve pressing economic, ecological, and social challenges. These initiatives are being supported at multiple levels -- neighborhood, city, regional, state, national, and global. Successful initiatives share many common characteristics that can inform the development of policy and projects.
Five Strategic Opportunities for Addressing Community Challenges
The five strategic opportunity areas present a comprehensive overview of and approach to sustainable community development. Collectively, they address five challenges faced by communities:
A Lacodan saying epitomizes the philosophy of “green infrastructure”: “What the people of the city do not realize is that the roots of all living things are tied together.” Natural resources perform numerous valuable environmental and social functions. They recycle nutrients and replenish soils, purify water, reduce flooding, recharge groundwater, provide biodiversity that serve as herbs and medications, and provide habitat for wildlife and amenities for people. In a May 1997 article in the journal Nature, several ecologists and economists identified 17 services provided by ecosystems emphasizing that “the services of ecological systems and the natural capital stocks that produce them are critical to the function of the Earth’s life support system. They contribute to human welfare, both directly and indirectly, and therefore represent part of the total economic value of the planet.”8 When these functions are completed naturally by ecosystems, there is a lower cost to society to obtain these necessities. Most of these services, however, lie outside the market and their values are difficult to calculate. The economy does recognize that many industries are tied directly and indirectly on ecosystems and natural resources. For example, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, mining, construction, furniture making, printing, textiles, and recreation are all important economic sectors that rely on healthy ecosystems, particularly in rural communities.
Unfortunately, ecosystems and natural resources across the country have been detrimentally impacted by human activities. Rapid land development in many parts of the U.S. -- accompanied by increasing demand for natural resources, such as timber and fossil fuels -- have intensified air and water pollution, destroyed wildlife habitat, and threatened biodiversity. Agricultural and forestry efforts have also increased pressures on environmental and natural resources, particularly water contamination from pesticides, soil erosion, and organic waste. These detrimental impacts are particularly challenging for communities whose economies and cultural identities are tied to their natural resources.
To counter these negative effects, communities are increasingly promoting local and regional approaches to conserve, protect, restore, and manage “green infrastructure” -- the network of open space, airsheds, water-wetland corridors, wildlife habitats, parks, and other natural spaces, resources, and amenities. The emphasis of green infrastructure strategies is somewhat different from traditional development and conservation efforts, which stress the design and impact of development to minimize air and water pollution. While this concern for pollution focuses on environmental repair, it often neglects the pace, shape, and location of development in relationship to important natural resource values and amenities. Green infrastructure strategies actively seek to understand, leverage, and value the different ecological, social, and economic functions provided by natural systems.
Green infrastructure efforts are exemplified by Maryland’s Integrated Natural Resource Assessment, Florida’s Preservation 2000, the Catskill Mountain Watershed protection for New York City’s Water Supply, Pinelands National Reserve in New Jersey, and West Eugene, Oregon’s Wetlands Plan. Green infrastructure strategies range from the simple to the complex. They include tree planting to reduce the urban heat island effect, conversion of abandoned railroad tracks to develop green corridors for pedestrians and cyclists, and creation of rooftop gardens. Other strategies include stormwater management, grading, erosion prevention, sediment control for construction sites, wetlands creation and trading, and urban design for watershed protection. In a more sophisticated green infrastructure approach, New York City’s Jamaica Bay Watershed Management Plan brought together a team of sanitary and water quality engineers, natural resource and land use planners, whose integrated use of natural processes with hard engineering, reduced the cost of clean water compliance from $2.3 billion to $1.2 billion, while also improving the environment.9
Land use and development
Over the last several decades, sprawled development characterized by low-density land use, discontinuous “leapfrog” development patterns; ad-hoc, disjointed planning; excessive consumption of greenfields; and conscious segregation of land use has exacerbated economic, environmental, and social problems. “Sprawl” is inefficient land development that fails to value the overall design of a community or region or its intrinsic ecology.
In many areas of the country, land development exceeds population growth by six- to eight-fold. It’s estimated that, on average, each person uses four to five times more land for roads, homes, and shopping now than 40 years ago.10 The reasons for this vary for each place, but are exacerbated by subsidization of new exurban infrastructure (for example, transportation, sewer, and water service), population pressures, and emigration of the middle class from cities to suburban developments. From 1970 to 1990, for example, metropolitan St. Louis lost half its central city population, but still increased overall population by 35 percent, and experienced a 354 percent increase in utilized land. In the last ten years, metropolitan Atlanta has converted 1.1 million acres of farmland and forests to other uses.11 Over the next 25 years, the State of Maryland expects that its population will grow by 20 percent, or by roughly 1 million people. Nearly 500,000 people are expected to leave existing communities and move to exurban areas. Given this, Maryland’s governor, Paris Glendening voiced concerns that the population “will consume as much land in central Maryland in the next 25 years as it did over the entire 300-year history of the state.”12
Although sprawled development provides immediate and direct benefits to the people who move to outer areas, as well as occasional short-term benefits for those purchasing property left behind by people and businesses moving outward, the costs are longer term and borne by society at large. Due in part to dispersed settlement patterns, Americans drive 2.5 trillion miles annually -- about what the rest of the world drives in a year -- exacerbating congestion, air pollution, and the carbon dioxide that contributes to global climate change. Since 1970, nearly 6 million middle-income and affluent families have left central cities, exacerbating class and racial segregation within regions. In 1996, poverty rates averaged 9.4 percent in the suburbs, 16.3 percent in rural communities, and 19.6 percent in the central cities.
As sprawl continues, it perpetuates a cycle in which moving outward becomes the reflex response to perceptions of real or perceived problems in existing communities. In turn, it becomes easier to ignore the problems in the communities that are left behind. When the problems are not real, but only perceived, they often become real as the community becomes less and less desirable as people move from it. When the problems are real, those remaining in the community often have inadequate resources to resolve the problems. Moreover, despite the short-term benefits of moving outward, research is increasingly showing that over time that economic and social problems as well as the pattern of disinvestment migrate from cities to suburbs. Tom Bier at Cleveland State University in looking at disinvestment from the City of Cleveland, found that “the impact of policies that support movement outward is far from confined to the central city. In time, numerous suburbs will decline as the city has declined.”13 Myron Orfield’s analysis of disinvestment in Minneapolis and David Rusk’s analysis of several metropolitan areas in the U.S. also reinforce the conclusion that unless we begin investing in already existing communities, today’s winners will be tomorrow’s losers.
Recognizing the problems of sprawl, disinvestment, and the inequitable subsidies for new development, a broad expanse of people from diverse backgrounds, geographic areas, and interests are coalescing around “smart growth” strategies. Smart growth is not anti-growth, but rather promotes efficient use of land and other resources to meet human needs, while preserving natural assets and resources to enable those human needs to be met over the long-term. A survey by State Resource Strategies identified 224 ballot measures in the November 1998 election that triggered $7.29 billion of new State and local money for an array of conservation, quality-of-life, and growth management programs and activities.."14 In discussing growing public engagement, a November 1998 New York Times article, “The New Politics of Urban Sprawl,” reported that “People say their new communities have become too dependent on the automobile, too removed from nature, too close to the clutter of box retail stores.”."15
Proponents of local smart growth initiatives include States (most prominently, Oregon, Maryland, New Jersey, and Florida); localities; regional councils; business groups; and community-based, religious, and environmental coalitions. The strategies approach land use and development on a number of fronts. For example, analysis in Chicago of the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission’s land use inventory suggests that all the region’s expected growth (700,000 households in the next twenty years) could be accommodated within walking (½ mile) or shuttle (3 miles) distance of the region’s existing mass transit, within current zoned densities.."16 South Carolina’s legislature established a new Office of Regional Development that works with regional councils to assess local needs and prioritize water supply and sewage treatment projects for the legislature. The office found that efficient development patterns curbing sprawl would save about 8 percent for construction of water supply and waste water facilities.."17 Other efforts are aimed at protecting farm and forestland, conserving natural and open space, and promoting more efficient community design.
Community reinvestment and revitalization
Community reinvestment and revitalization must confront an intricate and complex array of interlocking economic, social, and environmental challenges. Entrenched poverty in central cities, older suburbs, and rural communities will require that investment and attention are redirected inward and the social costs of dealing with poverty are shared by society at large. Another key will be to build strong local economies that connect to regional and global economies in ways that sustain people and places.
Almost 25 percent of African-American and Hispanic residents of central cities live in census tracts with more than 40 percent poverty rates. Only 3 percent of white central city residents live in such census tracts. Between 1985 and 1996, 60 percent of children in urban school districts failed to achieve basic levels of competency in reading and math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. In high-poverty urban neighborhoods, 77 percent failed basic skills in reading, and 67 percent failed basic skills in math. In the 20 largest urban school districts, more than half of the students never graduate. Despite robust economic growth, between 1993 and 1995, a record 5.3 million very low-income renters paid more than 50 percent of their income for rent or lived in substandard quality housing.
Disinvestment in the infrastructure of older communities has also reduced their access and undermined their comparative advantage. The Federal Highway Administration’s analysis of highway costs shows that failure to maintain and preserve major systems leads to premature rebuilding and significant congestion costs, each of which easily run into the tens of billions of dollars annually.."18
While reinvestment by outsiders is necessary, older communities are not simply relying on handouts. Rather they are creating a case for investment by demonstrating how profitable it can be to those who invest and they are mobilizing internal resources to generate investment from within. Communities have traditionally tried to leverage their local assets. Building on the observation of successful community-based experience in Chicago and elsewhere, colleagues John McKnight and John Kretzmann launched an effort now known as the Asset-Based Community Development Institute at Northwestern; their approach has been adopted in hundreds of communities across the nation.."19 “Even the poorest neighborhood is a place where individuals and organizations represent resources upon which to build,” write John McKnight and John Kretzmann in their book, Building Communities From the Inside Out, “The key to neighborhood regeneration is to locate all of the available local assets, to begin connecting them with one another in ways that multiply their power and effectiveness, and to begin harnessing those local institutions that are not yet available for local development purposes.”."20 Michael Sherraden at George Washington University has written a seminal book on how asset-based economic policy can be most effective in implementing welfare reform.."21
Sustainable community development recognizes a diverse expanse of local economic, ecological and social assets. Various studies demonstrates that significant retail purchasing power is “leaking” out of poor communities in metropolitan and rural areas and that this aggregated market demand could be cost-effectively served by new retail facilities within the communities themselves.."22 In Chicago, Michael Porter conservative estimate was that in the inner city core communities of Chicago’s West and South Sides alone the market was missing an easy $2 billion/year in purchasing power. A joint analysis by The Chicago United and the Center for Neighborhood Technology estimated that the total purchasing power within a two mile radius of a single rail transit stop in West Garfield Park is $2 billion per year. Investments in rehabilitation and home ownership are also key because expenditures in tangible assets such as in home ownership represent a potential pathway out of poverty; many studies suggest that the majority of assets owned by the working poor are predominated by real estate. Strategies are also targeting improving public schools, safety and security, and the environment to increase quality of life, retain middle-class households, and attract investment.
Rural Community and Enterprise Development
Rural America contains 83 percent of the nation’s land and is home to 21 percent of its people.."23 Rural communities are particularly vulnerable to economic and land development pressures. Since the end of World War II, America has shifted one million acres of land per year from natural resource-based uses to urban/suburban uses. Today, the most threatened areas are the Central Valley of California, the valleys of the Pacific Northwest, most of the upper east coast, regions of Texas, the areas west of Chicago, and south Florida. All of these areas face the threat of negative impacts on habitat, open space, water quality, air quality, and quality of life for those living in both rural and metropolitan areas. Responding to crises, rural communities often pursue short-term coping strategies, which foster industrial, agricultural, and resource extraction practices that fail to achieve long-term economic prosperity, cause lasting environmental damage, and undermine the cultural heritage and quality of life of rural residents.
Real earnings per job, an indicator of the strength of the economy and its ability to provide good jobs, remain consistently and substantially lower in rural America than in metropolitan areas. The poverty rate for rural communities in 1996 was 15.5 percent, 2.2 percent higher than in urban areas. In the rural South, the poverty rate is 19.2 percent. Rural median household income is only 77 percent that of urban areas, and rural black households and female-headed households is only 50 percent of that of all households. In rural America, many people work, but remain in poverty. Although about 25 percent of the nation’s poor live in rural areas, rural America is home to about 30 percent of the working poor because of the prevalence of low-skill, low-wage jobs. Work in traditional rural industries, such as farming, livestock, and fishing, does not guarantee that a family will be lifted out of poverty. Nearly 98 percent of those working on farms require off-farm income to support their families.
Among the many needs of rural communities is a menu of resources and processes that can beused to develop and implement a vision of sustainable community that builds on rural assets and resources. Rural sustainable community initiatives are embracing a diverse range of options that build on local assets and also attempt to diversify rural economies. They include heritage tourism (both natural and cultural), value-added processing of local agricultural and forest products, “niche” manufacturing (such as local crafts and cottage industries), sustainable agriculture, fishing or forestry, and community-supported agriculture that seeks to develop linkages between urban and rural markets.
As the vast majority of Americans have come to live in urban or suburban areas, people’s notions of “rural” communities has become vague and probably tinged with the golden glow of commercials that glorify small town living. Indeed, among the synonyms that Webster’s Dictionary suggests for “rural” are: simple, artless, and plain.
Materials Reuse and Resource Efficiency
Increasingly, the materials of the earth are being moved out of the earth’s crust and stored in artificial structures or used to provide services, such as energy. According to the Federal Interagency Working Group on Industrial Ecology, Material, and Energy Flows, per capita materials use by weight has increased five-fold during this century. At the beginning of the century about 41 percent by weight of the materials used in the United States were renewable. By 1995, the domestic use of renewable resources had dropped to only 6 percent. Americans also generate more than 10 billion tons of solid waste each year through extraction and production of raw materials and consumption of goods and services. We also waste at least $250 billion a year worth of energy, enough to increase personal wealth by more than $3,000 per family per year. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, an estimated 65 million tons of demolition waste are generated each year, with 31 percent (20 million) tons coming from residential projects and 69 percent (45 million tons) from non-residential projects. Only about 20 to 30 percent is reused or recycled.."24
These material deposits in existing built structures and products are looked at by many as the “mines” of the future, giving rise to materials reuse and resource efficiency industries that could spur both community and economic renewal in cities across the country, reduce the need for virgin natural resources to be mined and harvested, while saving already threatened forests and natural areas from future degradation. A number of strategies are gaining prominence:
Common Elements of Success
Several hundred community initiatives around the country are working on these fronts of sustainable community development. Through sheer initiative and fortitude many communities are already realizing the benefits of sustainable community development. Although sustainable community development is a locally driven process, the goals and objectives of communities in metropolitan and rural areas can be enabled and supported at many different scales, including neighborhood, village, city, regional, state, national, and global (examples are provided in the appendices).
The lessons learned from these examples and others can inform broader policies and actions. We have found that successes in sustainable community development share the following common elements:
Opportunity favors preparation. Achieving rapid and widespread replication of successes will require tools -- information and technical assistance, economic mechanisms and financial assistance, and local capacity and partnership -- that promote flexibility, remove obstacles, and empower local initiative.
Information and Technical Assistance: Supporting Continuous Community Learning
Knowledge creation through information and technical assistance is an indispensable element of sustainable community development. As advocated by Sustainable America, “building a knowledge of the interdependence among economic prosperity, environmental protection, and social equity will help citizens understand, communicate, and participate in the decisions that affect their lives.”."32 However, many individuals and institutions embarking on sustainable community activities lack the information on how to implement sustainable community strategies more effectively and to refine models and strategies. In particular, in a constantly changing world, a community’s ability to learn will, in part, determine the degree to which it will flourish or languish. Much as high-performance companies invest in knowledge creation to maintain long-term competitiveness, investment in the systems that enable continuous learning for sustainability can secure a comparative advantage for communities. Our recommendations to support continuous community learning address five areas:
Policy Recommendation 1: Reinvigorate and advance public education on sustainability
Action 1: The PCSD, in conjunction with the Administration and the Smart Growth Network, should launch a public action campaign on smart growth. These partners would sponsor a five-year national campaign and dialogue aimed at addressing land use and growth issues through community action. The campaign would be launched at the National Town Meeting for a Sustainable America. Communities throughout America would be asked to identify natural capital assets, local and regional land use and growth issues, assess the impacts of sprawl-related problems, identify solutions and their benefits, and make commitments to form or strengthen partnerships to implement solutions. National incentive programs, such as those identified most recently by the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality and Community Empowerment Board forthcoming joint report, Building Livable Communities for the 21st Century: Federal Support for Smart Growth and Regional Cooperation, would be introduced as part of the campaign.
Action 2: The Administration should reinvigorate the “Education for Sustainability” program. The Department of Education should continue to take responsibility for implementing education for sustainability. The Administration should target sustained funding and dedicated staff to ensure the continuation of this program and the Sustainable Development Extension Network, which originated in Sustainable America. The Federal government should also encourage businesses, localities, and regional organizations to partner to develop and implement educational programs and curriculum on sustainability for children and young adults. For example, corporate leaders from Louisiana-Pacific in the Pacific Northwest sponsor Salmon Corps, a program that engages young Native Americans and other at risk youth in the restoration of salmon habitats in the Columbia River Basin. While educating young people about their heritage and traditions, the program provides useful skills while also helping to restore critical salmon and wildlife habitats throughout the region.
Action 3: The PCSD, working with its associates, should promote civic journalism for sustainability. With the participation of prominent civic journalists and media specialists, the PCSD should develop a communications strategy to promote coverage of local, regional, and national sustainable community efforts around the nation. This communications strategy would promote and explain sustainable development, and continue to popularize sustainability concepts following the National Town Meeting for a Sustainable America.
Policy Recommendation 2: Institutionalize knowledge through learning networks and technical assistance
Action 1. The USDA and land grant system, responding to the mandate of the President’s Council on Sustainable Development and as a part of the Sustainable Development Extension Network, will create a learning infrastructure for sustainable communities. This learning infrastructure will be electronic, paper, and direct contact--high tech with the potential of high touch. The infrastructure will provide information on how to: 1) accomplish specific community development tasks; 2) connect with potential regional partners; and 3) access potential funding sources. As part of this effort, the Council for Excellence in Government will convene a group of partners within USDA to work with the Joint Center for Sustainable Communities in order to bring together the various technical assistance services now available within the land grant system. This initiative would partner with the Council on Environmental Quality, the PCSD, the four Regional Rural Development Centers, as well as ATTRA. This effort would also link to HUD’s Office of Rural Housing, which has resources to create an information clearinghouse on innovative housing and economic development strategies, as well as funding for direct grants for development projects.
Action 2. As part of a larger community-based conservation education strategy, organizations serving local government should partner with natural resource agencies to train local government mangers to include “green infrastructure” in community plans. All too often local governments and citizens have had insufficient involvement in planning and managing forest and other ecosystem resources in their communities. Local government managers are in a key position to facilitate community involvement and spur activities that protect and sustain natural resources. Local government organizations that train local government managers (like the International City/County Management Association) should partner with natural resource agencies (like USDA’s Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service) to develop and test training materials and courses. The objectives should be to increase awareness of the economic and social values associated with “green infrastructure” and natural resource stewardship, provide inclusive community-driven strategic planning on future growth and development, and demonstrate improved decision-making through the use of environmental data and Geographic Information System (GIS) planning tools.
Action 3. Federal, State, and local agencies should coordinate their technical assistance programs to overcome program fragmentation and duplication. For example, MAST (Multi-Agency Service Team), jointly sponsored by the Maine State Planning Office and the Maine Rural Development Council, brought together a wide variety of public and quasi-public sector service providers to resolve multiple problems facing small- and medium-sized secondary wood products manufacturers in Maine. The State of Maryland has created the Revitalization Center in Baltimore, which co-locates representatives from all agencies involved in revitalization and smart growth activities to facilitate greater interaction and ease of access by the communities they serve. Such coordinated technical assistance efforts should target under served groups.
Policy Recommendation 3: Disseminate more accessible and user-friendly information and data relevant to sustainable community development
Action 1. The PCSD, working with its associates, should design a central, user-friendly information clearinghouse on sustainability. The Federal government, community-based organizations, and associations have already accomplished a great deal in linking sustainability information available on the world wide web. The PCSD should develop an information support system that can address questions stimulated by the National Town Meeting and facilitate information exchange among sustainable community development initiatives.
Action 2. The Administration should implement the universal service guidelines, as defined in the Telecommunications Act of 1996, to ensure that low-income and rural communities have access to internet resources. The majority of American communities are not yet wired for wide-spectrum telecommunications, and there is as yet no plan to guarantee that the “last mile” of high-capacity hookup will reach older and lower income communities, who will nonetheless help pay for system upgrade and modernization.."33 The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is working to implement the “Snowe-Rockefeller” provision of the Telecommunications Act, which requires the FCC to ensure that public libraries, as well as schools and rural health care providers, can obtain telecommunications services at affordable rates. In particular, libraries with internet access and resource centers could provide the means for access to electronic information to households without internet access. States should be encouraged to follow the lead of Wisconsin, which has created an advanced telecommunications fund to support the extension of new technologies into institutions such as libraries.
Policy Recommendation 4: Develop and disseminate improved analytical tools and methods
Action 1: Federal agencies and foundations should improve the capability of communities to use GIS information in support of place-based ecosystem management, sustainable land use, and community reinvestment. In particular, PCSD should support a proposed Community/Federal Information Partnership in which the Secretary of the Interior will lead a four-year interagency initiative to: 1) advance the capacity of communities and regions to create and use geospatial data; and 2) to improve Federal agencies’ capabilities to provide community information. These agencies should provide incentives in the form of demonstration grants, training and technical assistance, or subsidies for software upgrades where needed. Communities especially need tools and analytical methods to map assets for various types of sustainable development. These areas include information and trends of land development patterns, inventory of built and manufactured assets, place-based ecological, social, and economic capital. HUD’s Community 2020 GIS-software, for example, enables users to graphically depict how and where Federal funds are being spent, what various characteristics of a community are, and other vital community-based information. The program also expands the user’s ability to participate knowledgeably in the Consolidated Planning process required for HUD block grant funding.
Action 2. The PCSD should support a proposed Administration action to have the DOT in cooperation with EPA, DOE, HUD, and the Joint Center for Sustainable Communities, establish a comprehensive program to develop new and improved analytical tools for land use, transportation, and environmental planning. States and localities need useful tools for analyzing and modernizing their planning laws and techniques, and for guiding public and private development in a sustainable manner. The Administration’s efforts should acknowledge ongoing efforts by professional associations that have developed planning tools on smart growth, such as the American Planning Association’s Growing Smart Legislative Guidebook and Clearinghouse, which is federally funded.
Action 3. The Federal government, foundations, and technical assistance providers should design and disseminate tools and methods that can assess the benefits of investments in sustainable community strategies. In particular, there are tools that need to capture the cross-benefits of investments. For example, PLACES3 software, a land use and urban design model sponsored by the Department of Energy, identifies the energy impacts of land use decisions. Other tools are needed to estimate the benefits of investments in green infrastructure, materials reuse and resource efficiency strategies, and sustainable rural strategies more precisely.
Action 4. Funders and developers of new and upgraded analytical tools should adopt guiding principles on tool development for sustainability. This effort was initiated at a November 1998 workshop, Tools for Community Design and Decision-making, hosted by the Chattanooga Institute, with co-sponsorship from U.S. Department of Energy. These principles promote criteria and standards that can enable tools to be more accessible, adaptable, interactive, and user-friendly to a variety of users.
Action 5. Local communities should experiment with technologies that can create more inclusive participation in decision-making and planning. The use of television for electronic town meetings has been used to facilitate visioning in Houston through the IMAGINE HOUSTON project. This project received a 12 percent share of the viewing audience, reaching more than 250,000 people.."34 Linking Up Villages, a Boston-based project, is using local electronic bulletin boards and software called Multi-User Sessions in Community (MUSIC), designed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, to allow participants to create an online version of their communities. Neighbors in Dorchester, a working-class Boston neighborhood, have used the software to create a food co-operative, a neighborhood watch, and a community newsletter.
Policy Recommendation 5: Promote technical assistance on the use of indicators and evaluation methods
Action 1. Civic organizations, foundations, and other NGOs, working with PCSD and the Interagency Working Group on Sustainable Development Indicators, should sponsor a series of workshops helping citizens to employ existing or new tools to track progress on sustainable community development. This effort should be accomplished in conjunction with a proposed Administrative initiative to have the Council on Environmental Quality chair a working group of representatives of the National Partnership to Reinvent Government, the Interagency Working Group on Sustainable Development Indicators and the Federal Geographic Data Committee. The working group would provide technical assistance to communities and regions that wish to develop indicators, benchmarks, or other performance measures to inform local decision-making processes.
Action 2. State, local government, and regional organizations should support the use of indicators to show interdependence of jurisdictions within regions. The National Association of Regional Councils, for example, is currently developing a State of the Regions Report to help benchmark the performance of regions on a number of economic, environmental, and social factors. In metropolitan areas, such as Baltimore, Cleveland, Portland, Seattle, and Chattanooga, local civic, business, and community groups have compiled indicators that show how regional concerns are interrelated and the effectiveness of regional cooperation. In addition, the Joint Center for Sustainable Communities has launched a sustainable community indicators project, profiling city and country experiences with indicators. Federal agencies, organized by USDA, are working cooperatively with the Joint Center to better understand how community indicator efforts connect to regional and national indicator efforts. The nation’s commitment to sustainable forest management also provides an opportunity for Federal agencies to assist local governments and to learn together about the relationship among indicator efforts and how to think more globally about indicators while acting locally.
Action 3. The PCSD should support an Administration proposal to develop new economic statistics to measure reinvestment. In this proposal, the Department of Commerce would develop “statistical barometers” to capture reinvestment in the renovation of commercial and residential projects and Brownfields redevelopment. Presently, government statistics track the economy and economic development based almost exclusively on new commercial and residential activities (such as “housing starts”), which discourages the financial and business industry from recognizing opportunities for community reinvestment.
Action 4. The Interagency Working Group on Sustainable Development Indicators, working with human service providers and community-based indicator projects, should develop indicators that can better measure social capital and local capacity. Measures of social capital have proceeded along several lines. One line measures the dimensions and frequency of interactions within and outside the community. Examples are inventories of civic associations that provide information on members including numbers and characteristics as age, gender and race. Such inventories can also determine frequency of meetings, decision making processes, finances, and services provided to members and non-members. Another line of measurement is to assess the impact of various types of social capital on the ability to reach sustainable development goals.
Economic Incentives and Financial Assistance: Putting “Place” in Marketplace
Sustainable America advocated economic development strategies that “capitalize on unique local attributes and on technological advances in energy and resource efficiency, to create jobs and build strong, diversified local economies.” Transforming current models of development to ones that are more sustainable depends on defining the relationship between healthy communities and economic factors.
Unfortunately, many sustainable community development efforts struggle to make markets work for them. A recent study by the Alice Shabecoff and colleagues for the Joyce Foundation of emerging “Green Communities, Green Jobs” initiatives found that: 1) the systems that have successfully built the current community development industry are insufficiently market-oriented to take advantage of current forces supportive of regionally-scaled sustainable development opportunities; 2) significant experimentation and demonstration of such opportunities is proceeding; and 3) new kinds of enabling systems would enable these opportunities to proliferate more readily.."35 Our recommendations target seven activities that can begin to harness the power of the marketplace for sustainable community development:
Policy Recommendation 6: Create and experiment with new market mechanisms that promote sustainable community development goals and opportunities
Federal, State, and local government and community-based organizations should seek innovative and strategic partnerships with formal financial institutions such as banks, credit unions, and insurance companies for the purpose of creating new products and services that can help metropolitan and rural communities achieve sustainability goals. In particular, these partnerships should conduct and evaluate pilots to demonstrate feasibility and performance:
Action 1: Through already existing pilots, public/private partnerships should evaluate how Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) can achieve sustainable community objectives. IDAs provide a means to build wealth for poor and low-income people by matching savings with funds from external sources, such as foundations, corporations, religious institutions, and government. IDA savings can be used only for specific asset-building purposes, such as education and training, home ownership, and development of home-based and micro-enterprise businesses. The Treasury Departments’s EFT99 initiative, which mandates electronic fund transfer for Federal distributions, provides a unique opportunity to link welfare and welfare-to-work recipients with mainstream financial institutions. Building personal assets and facilitating connections to mainstream banks can become vital in building sustainable communities in distressed metropolitan and rural areas. Over twenty states have changed policies to enable Individual Development Account experiments, many of which are being coordinated by the Corporation for Enterprise Development, a non-profit organization based in Washington D.C.."36
Action 2: The Federal government should work with lenders to expand research on Location Efficient Mortgages. The Location Efficient Mortgage (LEM) is intended to enable home buyers to shift money saved on transportation costs to housing. By foregoing an automobile and living in areas that are transit accessible, potential homebuyers can qualify for a higher mortgage. By living locally, residents in a typical accessible neighborhood in Chicago can save almost $7,000 per year, as well as reduce air pollution and energy consumption. The LEM Partnership, begun in 1996, includes the Center for Neighborhood Technology, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Surface Transportation Policy Project, and Fannie Mae, who are conducting pilots in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle. Analysis of urban access are also underway in Miami, St. Louis, and Milwaukee. In support of a proposed White House action on smart growth and regional collaboration, the PCSD should assist EPA, DOE, and DOT to track and evaluate ongoing LEM pilot programs. These agencies, along with foundations, financial institutions, and community-based organizations, should also identify ways that better information can help the marketplace value location-efficiency.
Action 3: The Federal government working with State and local government and the private sector should provide incentives to capture the air quality benefits of compact development. A U.S. EPA study demonstrates that developing infill sites rather than “greenfield” sites on the fringe of a currently developed area results in lower vehicles miles traveled, translating into lower emissions increases. Where this air quality benefit occurs, cities and States should be able to capture these benefits and apply them to requirements under the Clean Air Act. A forthcoming proposal by the Administration designates that the EPA, working with other Federal and State agencies, coordinate and expand existing pilot projects such as the Clean Air Brownfields Partnership Pilot and the Urban Heat Island Reduction Initiative. This partnership will identify methodologies to capture the benefits of urban redevelopment under the Clean Air Act and determine how those methodologies can be replicated.
Action 4: The Federal government, environmental and community-based non-profits, and foundations should evaluate the effectiveness of “Forest Banks” and their adaption to promote better management of other ecosystems and natural resources. The Forest Bank concept is under development by The Nature Conservancy in several sites, including southwest Virginia. Through the Bank a forest landowner can deposit timber rights and receive immediately an annual annuity at a fixed percentage (probably 3 to 5 percent) of the timber’s value. The Nature Conservancy will take over responsibility for the management and eventual harvest of the timber using sustainable forestry principles that will not degrade the land or impair the habitat of endangered species, and the local economy will benefit as higher quality timber is moved to the marketplace. Such market-based strategies are particularly attractive in places where there are competing demands on finite natural resources, such as land use, timber use, and fish stocks. In addition to conservation banking, several market-based incentives were identified in a report by the Keystone National Policy Dialogue on Ecosystem Management, including assurances, forest certification, forest legacy and stewardship incentives, tradeable development rights, public benefits rating system, effluent trading in watersheds, and air quality incentives.
Action 5: Government, finance, business, foundations, and community-based organizations should periodically convene multi-sector “design teams” to assess the effectiveness of market-based strategies and pilots and identify new innovations. These teams would: 1) inventory the capability of existing market systems and instruments; 2) exchange knowledge about potential market incentives that can meet sustainable community goals and objectives; 3) evaluate the benefits of market incentives; and 4) specify new market-based scenarios, mechanisms, and incentives that would advance sustainable community development in metropolitan and rural areas.
Policy Recommendation 7: Broker strategic alliances between urban and rural markets
Action 1. The President’s Council on Sustainable Development, working with the Council on Environmental Quality, USDA, other Federal agencies, and private sector partners including non-government organizations, should develop strategic alliances to link urban and rural markets and foster joint development opportunities. A memorandum of understanding should be used to organize regional alliances and pilots emphasizing market research and expansion, technology development and transfer, collaborative approaches to ecosystem management, and other strategic ventures which support regions.
Action 2. Federal and State agencies should partner with regional entrepreneurs to link urban consumers and rural producers through direct marketing channels for locally grown food. Such links would offer opportunities to protect farmland located in or near metropolitan areas while maintaining economically viable small farm production. These direct marketing opportunities can be promoted and enhanced by a variety of Federal and State programs and activities, including community food security programs, community supported agriculture, development of value-added processing and marketing enterprises, cooperatives, procurement policies, school meal programs, and other institutional food systems, and farmers’ markets. Success stories, lessons learned, and elements of success need to be identified and evaluated so that replication of successful programs, policies, and activities can be pursued.
Action 3. Natural resource agencies, including the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Natural Resources Conservation Service, should work together to bolster natural resource-based opportunities as part of sustainable community development efforts. Greater Federal interagency cooperation is needed to help communities understand and incorporate opportunities to conserve and protect natural resources and ecosystems, which are often decoupled from community and economic development strategies. Although natural resources and the land base is viewed as rural, many value-added jobs are located in urban areas. There is a need for agencies to organize their collective enterprise development efforts and, in particular, help expand the work of the Joint Center for Sustainable Communities with cities and counties nationwide on natural resource-based enterprise development. This work can help strengthen the linkages between rural and urban America and reinforce the connections between the environment and economic development.
Action 4. USDA, should take the lead in supporting efforts to protect farm, ranch, and forest lands. An alliance of organizations and agencies concerned about protecting historically rural lands threatened by conversion to other uses is forming around ecological and productivity concerns. By helping to organize national efforts in conjunction with the Land Trust Alliance and organizations like the American Farmland Trust and The Nature Conservancy, agencies could support research and analyses to more holistically characterize the issue from the perspectives of protecting farm, ranch, and forest lands, and identify needed policy and program responses including expanded incentives to conserve “working lands” in urbanizing areas as well as at the edges of metropolitan areas. In addition, Federal agencies will help sponsor and organize a national conference on “Working Lands and Development” in June 1999 in follow-up to the National Town Meeting for a Sustainable America in order to inform and understand issues and opportunities from the perspectives of professionals and public officials involved with land use issues or related transportation, rural development, or urban development issues which influence land use. The Federal government can help regions grow smarter through the productive use of existing infrastructure and the conservation of critical natural resources on farm, ranch, and forest lands.
Policy Recommendation 8: Federal, State, and local government, working with public and private financial intermediaries, should increase access to capital available to sustainable community initiatives
Action 1: Using the power of the National Performance Review Act, the Administration should continue to consolidate and coordinate Federal programs and allow flexibility to enable States and locals to consolidate smaller separate grant programs. Many sustainable community initiatives are spearheaded by community groups that lack the experience, fiscal resources, and time to work within the complex administrative structure of government. Other organizations have the resources and devote them accordingly, but could be more productive if the resources were targeted elsewhere. Although Federal, State, and local governments have taken action -- exemplified by the SBA’s One-Stop Capital Shops; HUD’s Storefront Offices, Continuum of Care, and SuperNOFA (Notices of Funding Availability); and EDA’s assistance programs -- continuous attention should be given to encouraging funding flexibility and “one-stop shopping.”
Action 2. The USDA, working with financial institutions and rural community development corporation, should develop strategies that address rural credit concerns. The range of financial institutions involved in rural communities is often small. Some sectors of rural America are well served, such as large farms and housing. Less well served are sustainable agriculture, small farms, small municipalities interested in rural development projects, and entrepreneurs interested in new non-farm businesses -- precisely the types of entities that could serve as the foundation of rural sustainable communities.
Action 3. The Administration should create a commission comprising banks, governments, and community development corporations to evaluate how recent organizational/corporate/legal restructuring of financial institutions can provide opportunities for sustainable community development. A variety of public obligations go along with the regulation of restructuring. Each new merger in the banking and financial services industry, particularly of the scale evidenced int he past two years (such as the recent Citicorp - Travelers insurance merger to create a $700 billion institution and the merger between NationsBank and BankAmerica) will create new kinds of reinvestment obligations under the Community Reinvestment Act. For example, as regulatory practices move from command-and-control to more flexible performance-based systems, increased public disclosure requirements increase the opportunities for public intervention and negotiation to guarantee that what emerges will produce tangible community and consumer benefits. The commission may also evaluate if it is necessary to ratchet up CRA obligations, applying these obligations to all financial institutions, and expanding the Federal pool of funds (currently about $350 million) for seeding new community development financial corporations (CDFIs).
Action 4. The Federal government should evaluate how restructuring could impact access to capital in low-income communities. The current era of mergers and consolidations in the banking sector may mean the downsizing or closure of less-profitable branches. The most vulnerable banks will probably be those in impoverished inner-city and rural communities. The proliferation of finance companies, credit cards, bond instruments, and so forth leave the impression that America has more than enough capital to finance the greening of its economy. Despite the incentives provided by Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) and the spread of community development financial institutions (CDFIs), poor communities still lack banks or other institutions in which to place their savings, and the poor in general remain unable to access affordable credit. This especially impairs movement toward sustainability in inner-city and rural communities.
Action 5. The Federal, State, and local government, community development corporations, and community non-profits should develop networks and databases to enable community initiatives to identify potential funders. In some cases, because of their newness and perceived risk, business start-ups require multiple sources of financing. One remanufacturing start-up, for example, needed 15 sources of financing. Federal, State, and local government should publicize their existing virtual assistance centers and programs, such as SBA Business Information Centers, One Stop Capital Shops, ACENet, Low-Doc Loans, Microloans, SBA Express. These entities should also follow the example of U.S. EPA’s Partnership Matrix project, which attempts to map all of their community development-related partners, assets, and programs in one place, and HUD’s SuperNOFA guidebook, which lists all of its funding programs, who is eligible for them, and how the funds can be used. Efforts such as these enable people to quickly determine what technical and financial assistance is available in a given area.
Action 6. Federal, State, and local government, business, and financial institutions should identify ways of bundling assets as a means of attracting finance. The restructuring of entire industries such as utilities and railroads is creating newly orphaned land resources -- already assembled rights-of-way -- that represent reinvestment opportunities for coalitions of multiple municipalities and communities that these rights-of-way pass through. The recognition of such joint stakes was the key to saving the oldest elevated line in Chicago, the Green Line, which linked with Chicago’s western suburbs, and in creating new suburb-to-suburb rail service linking O’Hare Airport with far suburbs at the Wisconsin border. Brownfield efforts in many parts of the country are assembling vacant and underutilized land in ways that also attract financing. Multiple stakeholders should identify and highlight other aggregation opportunities, such as green infrastructure, that can attract greater investment interest.
Action 7. The Administration should strengthen and support community-owned banks. Michael Cohen, in reflecting on recent experiments in community banking, notes that “…the spread of these institutions…is reflected in the dynamism of community projects, which contrast sharply to the public sector investments of …public institutions. It is not only that the small institutions work faster and more efficiently, but they deliver ‘just-in-time’ resources when that are needed for high priority projects.."37 Local ownership is an important way that a community can inoculate its banks from unwanted shutdowns, mergers, or departures and ensure a high level of community reinvestment of savings. The argument for local ownership applies with even greater force to nondepository financial institutions, which have no CRA obligations for community reinvestment. Only about one in five dollars of savings these days goes to banks, thrifts, or credit unions. The PCSD, community development corporations, and foundations, should also highlight all kinds of local depository institutions -- commercial banks like South Shore, thrifts like the Union Savings Bank of Albuquerque, and community-development credit unions like Raleigh-Durham Self-Help -- that are helping low-income members and small businesses finance myriad sustainability initiatives.
Action 8: The appropriate Federal agencies, in collaboration with the private sector, should institute a research and development process and pilot program to determine the value of a secondary market for commercial lending. HUD, for example, has launched a pilot for creating such a secondary market and has developed a budget proposal to take the concept to a larger scale. The Community Reinvestment Fund, which services 15 states, operates a secondary market for development loans. It does so by purchasing loans, at market values, from local nonprofit and municipal economic development and affordable housing revolving loan funds. CRF then sells bonds, backed by pools of these development loans, to investors. This secondary market enables local organizations to raise cash to fund projects, and it helps them to become less reliant on foundations and government to fund their ongoing development lending programs. CRF has provided capital to 61 community development lenders by purchasing 877 loans totaling more than $58.5 million.."38
Action 9: The Federal, State, and local government should strengthen relationships with the philanthropic sector to leverage their respective funds as a source of capital for sustainable community development. There are more than 400 foundations with combined total assets of $10 billion. The foundations play a critical part in supporting community development for the general community well-being. The public sector should work with foundations on place-based community development initiatives to better leverage public and private funds.
Action 10: The PCSD should identify how alternative financing structures can support sustainable community development. For communities that lack resources, ad-hoc efforts to provide loan and equity capital become important. The PCSD, working with others, should highlight: credit circles in extended immigrant families; small bond issues like Deli Dollars that enable retailers to raise capital from their customers; special loan platforms in existing banks, created and run by ecologically-minded grassroots groups (like the E.F. Schumacher Society); networks of businesses that create an internal currency to encourage local buying and selling (e.g., the Economic Circle in Switzerland); local money systems that promote consumer-business partnerships at the community level (as in Ithaca, New York); and micro-lending entities (such as Working Capital in Delaware).
Policy Recommendation 9: Promote Shift in Tax Policies and Subsidy Reform
Action 1. The Administration should assess the impacts of the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 on land use and development patterns and community reinvestment. There are two facets to this assessment. First, the new budget-tax law virtually repeals the capital gains tax on the sale of personal homes. The Environmental Law Institute estimates that the law could affect nearly $4 million in sales of existing homes each year, many of which involve capital gains. At the same time, the 1997 Act has created new opportunities for urban revitalization by making housing rehabilitation by owner-occupants an opportunity to generate tax-free income, but it is unclear whether homebuyers will be drawn to infill development. Second, as noted by the Council on Environmental Quality, the law includes the first new tax incentive for land conservation in over a decade which makes certain land in or near a metropolitan area, national park, wilderness area, or urban national forest eligible for favorable estate tax treatment through the donation of a qualified perpetual conservation easement. USDA, working with the Department of Treasury and other appropriate agencies, should identify how the conservation incentive provisions should work.
Policy Recommendation 10: Promote holistic economic development planning
Action 1: The Economic Development Administration should take the lead to develop and deliver educational forums for State, local, and tribal economic development planners on how economic planning can align with sustainable community goals and how to recruit sustainable businesses. Already, EDA planning supports 320 economic development districts and 65 Indian Tribes staffed and operated locally to help communities build capacity to focus on long-term economic challenges. Since economic development districts are often coordinating entities for various Federal Programs, EDA also supports and encourages interdisciplinary regional planning that encompasses economic, social, and environmental factors.
Action 2: Elected political leaders, community leaders, local business leadership, labor representatives, and local government agencies should work together with residents to develop a consensus about what types of business investment would succeed in their community and which are desired, and communicate this consensus to brokers, trade associations, and potential investors. Community groups should also create, where possible, a single partnership that can represent all interests of the community when new businesses are considering investing in the community. National community development organizations, industry associations, and economic development agencies should work together to identify and promote industry-specific strategies--ones that promote sustainability--for increasing investment by these industries in their communities. In particular, building on experience from the empowerment zones and enterprise communities, these groups should look at how to promote new economic opportunities for sustainable small businesses in low-income communities.
Action 3: Elected political leaders, community leaders, local business leadership, labor representatives, and local government agencies should establish strong linkages between economic planning/development activities and education and training systems. Often business development and recruitment efforts are not firmly linked with education and job training programs. Too often this means that even though businesses decide to locate in a particular community, the residents of the community who have the greatest need for jobs do not have the skills to acquire and/or retain jobs in these businesses. Firmer linkages will establish feedback mechanisms whereby education and training programs can better prepare their participants for the jobs which are expected to be located in an area in the future.
Policy Recommendation 11: Engage and promote private sector investment and activity in sustainable community development
Action 1: The PCSD, working with leaders from financial institutions, business, and community-based organizations, should convene a series of national forums to engage the financial community and private sector in sustainable community revitalization: These forums would identify opportunities for the private sector to engage and invest in sustainable community alternatives. They would open a dialogue and result in high-level commitments from the private sector leaders to partner with government, NGOs, community development corporations, etc. on sustainable community initiatives and to remove barriers and obstacles to sustainable community revitalization in metropolitan and rural areas.
Action 2: Key stakeholders should continue to modify existing programs and jointly develop and implement new policies to make infill properties better able to compete with greenfields. Developing infill property is often more costly and complicated than developing greenfields. Federal and State policies have been enacted that attempt to level the playing field between urban and exurban locations, but Federal, State, and local governments should continue to review existing policies and develop new ones to provide the same level and quality of investment and services to the inner city and older suburbs as is provided to exurban locations. For example, the Federal government should continue to review existing policies and develop new ones to fully implement Brownfields legislation and its National Brownfields Partnership to support efforts to cleanup and redevelop brownfield sites. States should investigate the replicability of the growth management initiatives of the city of Portland and the States of Maryland, Florida, and New Jersey. City governments should also work with business associations to reduce or eliminate regulations that impose costly and unreasonable barriers to business development in distressed communities.
Action 3: Government, industry associations, and nonprofits should conduct research to determine best practices, successful strategies, and the profitability of existing and potential sustainable investments in metropolitan and rural communities. This research should be disseminated widely through trade associations, business groups, business schools, and the print media with a wide audience of business executives, Wall Street analysts, and real estate professionals.
Action 4. Federal, State, and local government and community non-profits should develop networks to match green businesses with the needs of municipalities, communities, and each other. This could be particularly relevant for facilitating outsourcing in ways that strengthen local economies and help fledgling green businesses find green suppliers and potential customers. For example, The Triangle J Council of Governments Industrial Ecosystem Development Project, a partnership between U.S. EPA, the North Carolina Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance, regional development agencies, and local universities, is surveying a range of companies in the region for waste and raw material connections that could be made between companies. The Interagency Working Group on Environmental Technology is developing a database with Public Technology Inc., to match State and local municipalities, based on their specific needs, with environmental technology providers. Citizens in Appalachia are using interactive technologies to tie their communities into the new world economy through the Appalachian Community Economic Network, or ACENet. With ACENet’s help, more than 20 entrepreneurs have found customers through the Public WebMarket, a project orchestrated by the Center for Civic Networking.
Action 5: The Federal and State government, community development corporations, and non-profits should identify how existing programs for small businesses and microenterprises can be tailored for green and sustainable start-ups. Microbusinesses in the U.S. comprise an “invisible economy” that goes largely unnoticed in economic development debates. Recent research, however, reveals that microbusinesses with four or fewer employees generated 43 percent of the net new jobs created from 1990 to 1994.."39 Multiple stakeholders should promote new economic opportunities for small businesses in low-income communities and address gaps in finance, in rich and poor communities alike, for small commercial loans (under $50- 100,000).
Action 6: Government should build upon the important lessons learned from the implementation of empowerment zones and enterprise communities within distressed metropolitan and rural neighborhoods. The combination of locally determined strategies, performance accountability, substantial flexibility, and federal investment should be explored by Federal and State agencies for other initiatives that are targeted to rural and metropolitan communities.
Action 7: The Administration should promote opportunities for Federal procurement contracts with businesses located in distressed urban and rural areas. Because of Internet and procurement reform, firms do not have to be concentrated in Washington, D.C. and a few other metropolitan areas to serve Federal headquarters and other regional offices.
Action 8: Private sector firms can help build sustainable communities by adopting the tenets of sustainability in their mission and everyday business activities. The accompanying text box provides a list of economic, social, and ecological characteristics of a sustainable business.
What is a Sustainable Business?
The private sector, can play a key role in helping communities become sustainable, by adopting the characteristics of sustainability:
Policy Recommendation 12: Promote sustainable strategies to workforce development
Historically, services provided to those seeking work have been fragmented. This results in training and work readiness programs that are not linked to job placement activities or other support services such as transportation. But each of these services is a vital link in the chain to successful employment and retention.
Action 1: Federal, state and local agencies, the private sector and community organizations engaged in workforce development and welfare to work should integrate their programs so that those most in need of help can access a seamless system of support services. Approaches for thinking about necessary systems, people, and commitments to accomplish this are presented in the accompanying text box.
Action 2: The U.S. Department of Transportation, in cooperation with other Federal agencies, should continue to aggressively implement the Job Access and Reverse Commute Grant program, authorized in TEA-21, to address gaps in the transportation system that hamper welfare recipients and other low income people from getting to jobs and other support services. Transportation has been identified as a key element of job placement and retention. Those who seek work cannot work if they can’t get to work. At the local level, agencies, nonprofits, community organizations and other public and private sector entities should coordinate efforts to ensure that employment transportation needs are identified in priority order and integrated with the existing transportation system. Employers should take a lead role in identifying and meeting the transportation needs of their workforce, both by directly providing services and working with other employers and transportation providers to assure effective and timely access.
Action 3. HUD should be able to provide funding to managers of affordable housing projects to enable them to implement and provide the comprehensive services necessary to help residents of HUD-assisted housing developments to find and retain jobs. These funds will enable HUD to complement the efforts of the Department of Labor and TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) and extend its existing efforts to link residents of poor neighborhoods with support services and jobs outside of their neighborhoods to people that is not able to reach under existing programs.
Recognizing that the challenges facing communities spread beyond sectoral and jurisdictional boundaries, Sustainable America and the PCSD’s subsequent report, Building on Consensus, advocated collaborative regional planning and cooperation. As noted in a recent report by the National Academy of Public Administration, regional challenges include preparing and linking people with high quality jobs that are dispersed throughout a region and increasingly concentrated in suburbs; competing economically through the development of world class communications, information, and transportation systems; providing an array of affordable housing opportunities throughout a region; creating and maintaining high quality, equitable school systems; preserving quality of life by protecting the environment; controlling traffic congestion; and revitalizing central cities, rural towns, and older suburbs.
There is a serious gap between the complexity of these challenges and the types of leadership and capacity that is needed at the local and regional level to resolve them. “The search is on to discover a new civic DNA, the biochemistry of leadership that fits the demands and opportunities of the 21st century,” write Neal Peirce and Curtis Johnson in their book, Boundary Crossers, “Regional and local leadership -- shared across the civic, business, and government sectors by people willing to cross the old and familiar boundaries -- is more critical than ever.”
In order to advance sustainable community development, we need policies and leadership that build the capacity of individuals and institutions to recognize challenges, forge innovative solutions, and track performance. Success is contingent on investing in people, particularly by developing those essential “sparkplugs” who can mobilize local support for projects. We also need policies that seek to build relationships among diverse individuals, institutions, and jurisdictions. The recommendations in this section address three areas of activity concerning local capacity and partnerships:
Policy Recommendation 13: Build local capacity for sustainable community development
Action 1. Federal agencies, local government, the private sector, community groups, and foundations should develop and support a series of working sessions to build local capacity for sustainable community development. These working sessions would bring together community leaders and key agencies to build local capacity for decision-making and collaboration by: 1) ensuring access to good information; 2) providing a range of technical assistance; 3) helping communities acquire analytical tools; and 4) training local individuals and organizations on best practices. Such working sessions could also provide a mechanism for regional collaboration. As originally proposed in the National Academy of Public Administration’s report, Building Stronger Communities and Regions: Can the Federal Government Help?, such workshops could “lay the foundations for a permanent forum between regions and the many different federal agencies that have an interest in regional problem-solving.”."40 Such academies could be tied to existing outreach programs at universities, created from whole cloth like HUD’s Community Builders Fellows program, sponsored by regional, statewide, or community foundations, etc.
Action 2: Local governments and other funders should experiment with allowing local people and neighborhood groups to steward public money. After noticing a falling-off in city-run neighborhood improvement programs, the city of Savannah decided to surrender control of improvement money to residents. The city’s Grants to Blocks program gives residents money--up to $500--to improve their neighborhoods. From 1993 to 1997, residents completed more than 700 beautification projects, and over 1,500 leaders attended training workshops on community building or leadership development. The city witnessed dramatic improvements in civic engagement, neighborhood revitalization, and financial investment.
Policy Recommendation 14: Encourage Regional and Multi-jurisdictional Partnerships
Action 1. The Federal government should provide incentives for collaboration and use more flexible and regional approaches to align its information and its investments. These incentives could include financing for metropolitan collaborative pilot projects, as well as promote innovative strategies for regional land use planning. The Federal government should work with localities to determine how best to coordinate its vast array of information, technical assistance, and funding to meet local and regional goals.
Action 2. HUD, in conjunction with other Federal agencies, should be given the authority and resources to provide new flexible funding to multi-jurisdictional, multi-sectoral partnerships created in regions across the country to use in designing and implementing regional approaches to community and economic development. Funding would be provided to cooperative partnerships of government, business, community, and institutional representatives from multiple jurisdictions within a region that have agreed to and show the capacity for quick action in adopting regional approaches. The funding should: 1) overcome the hesitancy of localities to sacrifice their limited, piecemeal resources toward inter-jurisdictional work; 2) enable cities and counties to respond to their sustainable development needs in the manner they see as best; 3) enable regional partnerships to secure the capacity -- with staff, technology, technical assistance, and more -- needed to accelerate concrete collaborations; 4) partially cover the costs of implementing regional initiatives; and 5) create lessons that can be shared with other regions facing similar challenges. It would make a solid statement to the nation that the Federal government views bottom-up, cooperative, inter-jurisdictional, and inter-sectoral partnerships as a critical tool for addressing the existing development and embracing the sustainable development opportunities of the next millennium.
Action 3: HUD should be given the authority and resources to provide flexible dollars to partnerships of two or more jurisdictions who agree to create and implement a regional affordable housing plan. The money would incentivize such action by creating additional funding to demonstration participants, which will leverage existing affordable housing dollars. The regional plans would be designed to create a more balanced distribution of affordable housing across jurisdictions participating in the demonstration. In particular, the strategies must attempt to increase the availability of affordable housing in areas with high growth in low-skilled jobs and inadequate supplies of housing for low-income workers.
Action 4: States, regional councils, and local governments should incorporate sustainability mission and goals into the planning guidelines of regions, such as on smart growth and eco-system management. Local governments, individually and regionally, operate within the legislative and administrative frameworks set by their State governments. State governments can help shape the course of their regions by embracing sustainability approaches and ways of thinking.
Policy Recommendation 15: Develop Initiatives to Support and Strengthen Multicultural Relationships
Action 1: The PCSD should work with the Administration to identify how national initiatives on sustainable development can complement national initiatives on building multicultural acceptance. In particular, the Administration should continue to promote dialogue on cultural ethics and values.
Action 2. The PCSD, working with community-based groups on environmental justice, community revitalization, and health and human services, should develop a series of workshops on how sustainability initiatives can provide opportunities for poor and low-income individuals and communities.
Sustainable development requires coordination and partnerships to harness the disparate energies of numerous actors into a focused and cohesive movement. A key for rapid implementation of sustainable community development will be to make the most out of existing authority and resources. We’ve prioritize recommendations that we believe are particularly high pay-off and can be achieved within the next three years. Year 1 would focus on learning, Year 2 on leveraging markets and financial intermediaries, and Year 3 on linking individuals and organizations to build local capacity and partnerships.
Year 1: Learning Through Information and Networks
In one year, we can enhance existing capacity by deploying new information toolkits, and creating a learning network to rapidly enable cross-regional innovation and partnerships. We can also begin to make a persuasive and credible case for action to the public and key decision-makers through education. We’ve identified four priority actions in this area:
1) National incentive programs, such as those identified most recently by the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality and the Community Empowerment Board in their forthcoming joint report, Building Livable Communities for the 21st Century: Federal Support for Smart Growth and Regional Cooperation, would be introduced as part of the campaign;
2) The campaign would disseminate the results of Growing Smart, a five year project, funded by the Federal Government, that provides a compendium of useful tools for States, regional entities, and local jurisdictions to consider, adopt, adapt, and use; and
3) The campaign would encourage the use of the Land-Based Classification Standards (LBCS), a project funded by DOT, HUD, FEMA, DOD, USDA, and the American Planning Association. The purpose of the LBCS is to standardize a broad variety of data on land use and development that is collected and stored at the local, regional, state, and national levels. Standardized data from the LBCS system would be compatible and, thus, easily transferrable between jurisdictions, agencies, and institutions. The system will be offered free for any government agency, organization or company to use.."42
Year 2: Leveraging Markets and Financial Intermediaries
By year two, we can be ready to leverage financial and technical intermediaries to create the crucial financial support needed by communities seeking to create sustainable projects. We can also create the economic incentives needed to encourage everybody to act in ways that enhance sustainability. In particular, we should prioritize pilots in the following five areas. These pilots would help us learn to create better incentives, develop strategies for counting the benefits of environmental improvements, and evaluate performance:
Year 3: Linking Institutions to Build Local Capacity and Partnerships
By year three, we can institutionalize the strong partnerships and local capacity that will institutionalize sustainable community development. These types of projects could support networks for regional and community enterprise; make innovative finance everyday business; change policy and marketplace rules to support a culture of place-based continuous improvement; and systematically align Federal strategy with effective localism. There are three priority actions that if undertaken today can deliver benefits within the next three years:
As a result of this approach, we can expect a set of outcomes, which will have the following benefits:
PCSD - Final Report - Table of Contents - Draft
Appendix - Draft
Expanded Table of Contents - Draft
Executive Summary - Draft
Chapter 2 Climate Change - Draft
Chapter 3 Environmental Management - Draft
Chapter 4 Metropolitan and Rural Strategies - Draft
Chapter 5 International - Draft
President and First Lady | Vice President and Mrs. Gore
Record of Progress | The Briefing Room
Gateway to Government | Contacting the White House | White House for Kids
White House History | White House Tours | Help
T H E W H I T E H O U S E