Chapter 3: The New Margins: Sustainability
As noted in Chapter 1, American state and local governments face very difficult challenges which involve issues that have evolved both slowly over a long time, as well as issues that are newly salient due to the advent of postindustrial society and the globalization of commerce and industry. Both domestic migration and immigration by foreigners contribute to a shifting population and change in community demographics in many areas of the country. A trend of considerable duration in the U.S., rural community residents are continuing to move to the nation’s major cities; this is particularly the case for single young professional men and women who have acquired some degree of higher education. Immigration issues relate to both documented and undocumented individuals entering U.S. cities in a number of states in search of employment and the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of the American quality of life.
As a consequence of these changes, state and local government public agencies in many areas are struggling to meet the social and economic needs of an ever-changing population. Additionally, infrastructure development – including broadband access to the Internet – and the maintenance of the built environment have become growing concerns in many communities across the nation. As local communities evolve towards their new futures, it is clear that the governmental response to global societal change and changing local conditions must match the new perspective of community sustainability. One dimension of changing circumstances for state and local government entails private sector firms no longer maintaining their loyalty and reliable ties to local communities. Globalization has meant that worldwide markets greatly affect business location and tenure in particular locations. Additionally, the business sector itself is more fluid, dynamic and “virtual” due to telecommuting and Internet capability. Business owners increasingly work with consultants, contractors and employees in Asia, Europe, Africa, or the Middle East rather than pay salaries to local workers for the desired services rendered. The private sector is more ad hoc than ever before in human history; this fact greatly affects the insularity associated with traditional notions of development. Finally, the longstanding American tradition of the active promotion of civic life has diminished dramatically. As noted by Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam and many other scholars, long-standing civic institutions are clearly on the decline. Some new institutions have arisen to be sure, but they tend to be quite different from those social institutions whose benefits historically contributed to a small-scale, local quality of life and public welfare. Some of these new forms of interaction among people are based in ephemeral Internet spaces — chat rooms and the like — while others entail only superficial interpersonal engagement and/or revolving-door memberships that grow or recede largely based on the nature of the times. A set of transitions that state and local governments must adapt to concerns often dramatic population shifts, the growing presence of the private sector in civic life, and the relative lack of human interaction in contemporary American culture.
So, how do American state and local governments tend to operate under these rapidly changing circumstances? Historically, earlier notions of state and local government responsibility and scope of influence must be considered as a starting point for our discussion. Of course, in times of change, the treasured value of stalwartness and loyalty to tradition must give way in some important areas of activity to the recognition of the need for continual and timely innovation if public institutions in state and local government are to remain relevant to the people they serve.
Against these background developments causing a broad range of societal changes in American society, this chapter will discuss the following specific topics:
- a basic model of public policy innovation;
- infrastructure renewal issues present at the state and local government level;
- resource identification and development/conservation issues;
- and livability issues to be addressed at the state and local government level.
Historically, one of the greatest strengths of U.S. democracy in the past has been its ability to remake itself when circumstances require adaptation to change. Government institutions and American society as a whole at critical junctures have faced up to changing conditions requiring the development and implementation of effective policy innovations. Public policy innovation, after all, is clearly in keeping with the spirit of optimism and belief in progress so common in U.S. democracy. The federal system of governance has inspired a propensity to experiment with new approaches to both old persisting problems and new challenges when they arise. Such ongoing experimentation and the frequent replication of successful innovations add importantly to the adaptive capacity of American state and local government. It is certainly no mere accident that the vast majority of the nation’s national political leaders began their public service careers at the state and local level of government where great opportunities and need for innovation present themselves.1
Public policy innovation in the U.S. is seldom, if ever, a function of one person’s abilities or efforts, as might be the case in other more centralized and autocratic regime types. Innovation in U.S. state and local governments is most nearly always a function of the openness to change and willingness to risk the unknown consequences of the adoption of new approaches to old and new problems alike by political, social, and economic institutions in which elected and appointed leaders and citizen stakeholders live, work, make choices and express their policy preferences.
Research conducted in this area is quite plentiful, and this research clearly suggests that there are several common pre-conditions or factors that tend to facilitate public policy innovation. Of paramount importance in this regard is the issue of political trust. Political trust relates in part to the process of governance and to the public institutions within which decisions are made. Key questions to consider are the following: Are the institutional rules and practices derived from public institutions viewed as fair and unbiased? Do these institutional rules and procedures encourage innovation and produce outcomes that improve governance and society? Social trust is of equal importance, and this condition relates to the ways in which people interact with one another, publicly and privately, and is often a function of our individual experiences as well as the institutions through which we interact.2 A concern in contemporary American culture is the growing isolation of the individual and a related decline in social as well as political trust which follow from that social isolation. The overarching theme of these studies of political culture is the critical role of social capital — the values and norms held by citizens that reflect trust in others, the active pursuit of engagement in networks of interpersonal relations of a wide variety, and standards of interchange among people involving the principles of reciprocity (return a favor with a favor) and mutual respect. As highlighted in the chapter on federalism and intergovernmental relations, the noted scholar Daniel Elazar found that political culture varies greatly across American state and local government settings, and this variation helps shape the capacity for and nature of public policy innovation across the American governmental landscape.3
Demographic characteristics of the settings within which American state and local government function are also of particular importance in the study of public policy innovation and capacity of state and local governments to adapt to societal change. Demographics include such things as: socioeconomic conditions, race/ethnicity make-up of a community, geographical location, and size of area (population as well as geographic concentration/dispersement). Socioeconomic conditions relate not only to the relative wealth or poverty present in a state or community but also to the distribution of wealth. Relevant socioeconomic factors also include the education level and type of employment of residents. Wealth, health and level of education greatly influence the capacity of citizens to participate in the governing process wherein they can express their policy preferences and assess proposed policy innovations. Innovation usually means doing something new for the first time or doing something of long-standing practice somewhat differently, and in the process accepting some element of risk in the hope of producing a better future. Clearly, without some degree of wealth, the capacity to assume the risks of innovation is limited. Without health and education, it is difficult to summon the energy and comprehend the need to be innovative; also, lack of health and education often leads to extreme caution and fear of change, usually among the very people for whom innovation would be most beneficial.
The racial and ethnic composition of communities plays a very significant role in public policy and policy innovation in the U.S. In his book Faces of Inequality,4 Rodney Hero argues persuasively that racial and ethnic diversity not only shape citizen perspectives of many policy dilemmas but also influence how state and local governments come to adopt – or avoid considering – timely innovative policy solutions. In short, innovation tends to occur more often in those communities where the diversity of public views of stakeholders is actively incorporated into the public policymaking process. For example, the changing demographic composition of many states and communities across the country requires considerable innovation to meet the needs of increasingly complex local communities. There is strength in the range of perspectives on a problem afforded us by diversity, and public policy innovations that build on this strength are much more likely to succeed than those that take a narrow focus on the problem to be addressed.
There is an old saying in the real estate business world — namely, three things, “location, location, and location” determine success. Somewhat the same observation may be made of public policy innovation. Some locations are considerably more amenable to innovation than are others. However, nearly every place in the world has one noteworthy limitation or another, and some have many apparent limitations. Successful policy innovators are able to identify the assets of nearly any location that is, place-based strengths upon which successful innovation can be built.5 For example, many Midwestern, Northern Plains, and Rocky Mountain states and local rural areas within them have lost substantial population due to the decline in family farming; nonetheless, public and private policy entrepreneurs often working in partnership have developed innovations that have slowed economic decline in many agrarian areas and strengthened community-based social and economic benefits. This is the case in places where wind turbines have appeared on the same plains where the nation’s grains are still produced, supplementing the incomes of local farmers and building a clean, renewable energy future for future generations.6 Some locations require more sophisticated solutions to difficult problems, but identifying the strengths and assets present in any particular setting is universally important to the policy innovation process.
Size of population and extent of geographic area are also generally important considerations in the occurrence of policy innovation. Metropolitan areas have the advantages of being concentrated in terms of population and infrastructure, conditions that make the implementation of some types of policy innovations somewhat easier than would be the case in areas of sparse population. Many rural areas, in contrast, face a number of major challenges with respect to innovation. Not only are many rural areas becoming increasingly diverse as are metropolitan areas, but the physical distances between small communities typical in rural areas makes innovation difficult to formulate and difficult to implement.
The dispositions of political and social leaders clearly shape policy innovation formulation and determine the likelihood of success as well. As noted, innovation involves moving in new directions, often into a somewhat unknown future. Leadership is a key element in innovation because an effective leader is capable of not only conceptualizing future conditions, but a leader also can identify policy innovations that will create desirable future outcomes. For example, Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson played a significant leadership role in shaping welfare reform — a policy innovation that led to similar reforms in other states as well as national-level reforms enacted by a Republican Congress and signed into law by the Democratic President William Jefferson Clinton in 1996. In many policy arenas, innovation involves more than elected leaders taking the initiative; innovation often also requires that local social and business leaders play a significant role in developing and implementing innovation.
Finally, policy innovation is facilitated to a considerable degree by bureaucratic capacity. The administrative agencies of state and local government play a significant role in formulating and implementing policy innovations. Bureaucratic capacity involves well-trained professionals working in public organizations to meet political and social goals through the timely development and effective implementation of public policy. Attracting and retaining professional, experienced and well-educated people to key positions in public agencies requires that those agencies be adequately funded, professional in operation, and effectively organized to meet ever-changing needs and ambitious goals set out in the policy innovation enterprise.7
The United States is without question a land of vast natural resources. In the past, these seemingly abundant resources were taken largely for granted by Americans. Beginning in the 1960s and 1970s, however, circumstances began to change as access to natural resources such as fossil fuels, water, fertile farmlands, forest stands, and wildlife habitat began to tighten appreciably.8 There was a growing sense that the pursuit of sustainability meant more than building and maintaining a durable infrastructure that could last for long periods of time. Conservation, historic preservation and environmental protection all became increasingly important aspects of the policy landscape at the local, state, and national level alike, affecting the way planning for the future was done at all levels of government. At this point, some public policy areas featuring clear themes of environmental sustainability are making a favorable difference in the promotion of sustainability at the state and local level of government.
Clean water and sanitary wastewater processing and removal are very important functions of government, dating back virtually millennia. In antiquity, population centers were nearly always established near a water supply for purposes of human food production as well as for direct use (i.e., drinking, cooking, and washing). Waste systems were of equal importance; in this regard, contemporary forensic anthropologists provide ample evidence of how waste mismanagement contributed to a reduction in public health with the introduction of preventable risks such as the stagnant water-related diseases like malaria and typhoid fever (for historical background, see Rosen, 1993; Diamond, 1997).
In the 19th century, U.S. cities untreated effluent typically ran in the street gutters and trash was periodically disposed of by the practice of open burning. The potential for water and airborne disease was quite high given these conditions and practices. Highly communicable diseases such as typhoid and tuberculosis were not uncommon under these conditions. In the 1830s, New York City suffered a widespread cholera outbreak that led to the deaths of more than 3,000 people. A similar epidemic in the 1860s led to the death of over 1,000 residents. The New York epidemic was not dissimilar to cholera outbreaks in other urban areas in the U.S. Municipal sanitation laws were in place and were enforced, particularly during the epidemics, and this was indeed a good thing. However, insufficient resources were available to the public health authorities of the day to cope with a growing population and a large immigrant class in many cases bringing with them diseases contracted in other regions of the world or contracted during travel to the U.S. in confined ship’s quarters.
Unfortunately, state and local governments in the past often made social and economic choices that were beneficial to their citizens in the short run but had unintended long-term negative consequences — and created externalities (the transferring of costs to others) for other jurisdictions. Spilling wastewater into a river downstream from a town, for instance, is one inexpensive way of removing waste for the upstream party, but this practice has the effect of polluting water for other users downstream who bear the costs of cleaning up the water to make use possible.
Powerful economic interests at the state and local level often have the capacity to influence policy choices in ways that are personally beneficial, but which are inimical to community sustainability and long-term public health. For example, in many urbanized areas industrial waste disposal in the streets was quite commonplace in the 18th and 19th centuries; to make matters worse, during this era the dominant mode of transportation—horse-drawn carriages—deposited mountains of animal waste in the streets.
In the 19th century, sanitation and water services were frequently provided by private businesses operating for profit. For much of the 19th century, sanitation was a luxury few households could afford;9 the underclass continued to rely on community wells and often remained at high risk for water-borne disease. Yet, as history clearly indicates the absence of uniformly provided water and waste removal services for all households — once epidemics begin — leads to patterns of illness that do not discriminate as to socio-economic classes.10
During the Progressive Era (c. 1890’s-1920’s), a concerted effort was made to promote improved sanitation and clean water resources, the cornerstone of public health sustainability.11 An important breakthrough in water provision and waste management services came with the establishment of public utility commissions (PUCs) at the municipal or county level, and at the state level in some states.12 The principal purpose of public utility commission management was, in the words of one typical statute, to provide “service and facilities as shall be safe, adequate, and sufficient.”13 PUCs often regulate both the quality of service as well as fix stable prices and provide equitable access to public utilities.14 The establishment in the 1860s of public health departments in New York and other states15 were examples of further water quality and effective waste removal public policy innovations.16
While the regulation of water quality and waste management has generally become an accepted part of state and local government function, the methods by which these services are delivered have been the subject of some debate. In retrospect, it remains unclear whether the public provision — through public utilities corporations — of water and waste services led to improved public health outcomes beyond those that might have resulted from the private provision of such services.17 Some academic studies have concluded that the private provision of water and waste management services did not produce outcomes dissimilar from public provision. Additionally, critics of publicly-provided water and waste management services charge that by centralizing the functions of water provision and waste management local government became the sole consumer of a good — essentially, a monopoly — which resulted in economic distortion and loss to both taxpayers as well as wage laborers working in utilities enterprises.18 While these critics have not persuaded many state and local governments to abandon their reliance upon waste management and water provision monopolies, there has been a marked effort to increase resource supplier competition in states and local governments and provide for a more active governance role for utility service consumers.19 In the 1990s, policy entrepreneurs at the state and local level made a pronounced effort to use competition to improve service delivery, in the process often reducing costs to consumers.20
National policy has an impact upon water quality and waste management, both domestically and internationally.21 Clean water standards are the principal means by which the federal government becomes involved in water and waste management issues. These two universally present local area services are important aspects for quality of life for existing residents and businesses, and for prospective new residents and businesses. Innovative communities will be wise to invest in the building and maintenance of superior quality water systems.22
While states and local governments began many of their public health sustainability efforts in the mid- to late-19th century, the national government stepped up its role in this area substantially in the 1960s and 1970s. The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), the Clean Air Act of 1970 and the Clean Water Act of 1977 (CWA) gave federal regulatory agencies strong powers to establish standards in the area of water quality and waste management practices. Emergent from the CWA, the National Drinking Water Clearinghouse provides important information on water resources and waste management issues facing state and local governments and many individual property owners across the country. Without stifling state and local policy innovation in this area, federal action on water and waste management issues does serve as a tool to promote a considerable degree of equity of conditions across the nation.
Government buildings are a very important consideration in state and local government innovation in the 21st century. Unknown to most citizens, government infrastructure investments (including the initial design and construction, the operation over time, and the long-term maintenance) consume a significant portion of all government budgets; these costs increase in relation to both energy costs and building age. Older buildings are becoming increasingly problematic due to risks associated with dangerous (even toxic) materials used in their original construction. Unhealthy wallboard and insulation materials, synthetic carpeting emitting noxious fumes, and poor air filtration and circulation systems found in many older buildings present the danger of heightened public health risks to building occupants and workers who maintain the aging structures. The increased costs in areas such as disability and health care benefits paid to these people exposed to unhealthful environments often outweigh the costs associated with new construction.
In addition, older government buildings are often inaccessible to individuals with disabilities, and they feature antiquated wiring systems that cannot accommodate modern information technology. If you have visited older government buildings, these structures tend to be imposing and project a paternalistic relationship between the citizen and government workers that is unlikely to serve the needs of either party very well. The physical structure limits the ability of a public agency to meet the needs of 21st century highly networked organizations, thereby constraining government’s ability to respond to ever-changing technology and be sensitive to ever-evolving citizen needs.
Innovative state and local governments across the country are increasingly seeking to reduce building construction, maintenance, and ancillary costs and improve customer service accessibility and service delivery in their jurisdictions. In many instances, state and local governments are opting out of taking on some permanent infrastructure costs through entering into limited-term lease contracts with private office space suppliers. Through long-term renewal lease options, the needed space can be chosen and designed so as to be accessible to a customer base while avoiding the costs of land acquisition, construction bidding, and long-term building maintenance. The final point is especially important in state and local government because of the extent of population growth and migration taking place in many areas. In these circumstances, public service providers in many cases must be located in close proximity to customers if public goods and services are to be delivered effectively in many areas.
In the case of new public structure construction, the federal Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) promotes the concept of the whole building design approach (EERE, 2007). The EERE approach to building practice is advocated for residential and commercial buildings as well as for government structures. In essence, building design is viewed holistically, asking architects and engineers to consider the building’s purpose, workforce, future, and operations and maintenance costs as a comprehensive whole. In the past, productivity was seen as a function of the individual worker operating within an organization; the whole building design approach views productivity as a function of the physical structure of the workplace as well as of the individuals working there. Customer satisfaction is also related to the physical location of goods and service delivery, and this goal of design also must be factored into building layout and construction in order to comply with the strictures of the whole building design approach. Finally, this integrated approach to infrastructure building plan development calls for maximal energy efficiency and the maximum use of renewable energy systems – both for the purpose of cost reduction and for the promotion of regional and global environmental sustainability.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005, presidential Executive Order 13101 [“Greening the Government through Waste Prevention, Recycling, and Federal Acquisition” (1998)], and Executive Order 13123 [“Greening the Government through Efficient Energy Management (1999)] are three examples of federal government innovation related to innovative government building design. Similar derivative policies exist at the state level in most American states, and many larger governments at the county and municipal local government level have adopted comparable policies. Currently, twenty-four states have adopted quite stringent energy standards for existing public buildings and for newly constructed commercial buildings. It is fair to say that sustainability-promoting guidelines are in place in most of the nation’s population centers for the “greening” of government buildings and that this action qualifies as a timely innovation for the 21st century as state and local governments seek to address global climate change and promote sustainability.
The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) operated by Battelle Corporation for the U.S. Department of Energy contracted with the federal government’s General Services Administration (GSA) to conduct a comprehensive analysis of green building innovations, which are a key component of whole building design for the 21st century. The PNNL report concluded that the U.S. Green Business Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) criteria constitutes the prime approach to government (and private sector) building design innovation. “LEED® is not only the U.S. market leader but is also the most widely use[d] rating system employed by federal and state agencies. The existence of this standard makes it possible “to communicate a building’s sustainable design achievements with others.”23
LEED® provides a six-dimension set of criteria for achieving sustainable government building design: 1) Sustainable Sites; 2) Water Efficiency; 3) Energy and Atmosphere; 4) Materials and Resources; 5) Indoor Environmental Quality; and 6) Innovation and Design Process:
- A sustainable site is studied in terms of land use impacts of development; accessibility of buildings using alternative transportation systems (e.g., mass transit, bicycles, alternative fuel vehicles); the building location and design in relation to urban renewal project planning; and the reduction of light pollution.
- Water efficiency relates to the use of efficient landscaping to include xeriscape design. Water efficiency also relates to the use of low-flow utilities that reduce water consumption and innovative wastewater management systems.
- The energy and atmosphere dimension involves renewable energy and the reduction of ozone-depleting emissions. Additionally, energy demand reduction is an important consideration that can be maximized using natural lighting designs and low energy demand light fixtures and office equipment.
- Materials and Resources relates to the use of recycled content materials, local or regional materials, and efficient building material waste management (separation of waste from recycled materials).
- Indoor environmental quality issues include such things as carbon dioxide monitoring, ventilation and low-emitting construction and design materials. Temperature and light control factors are also critical to indoor environmental quality, with natural lighting placed at a high priority.
- LEED® methodology places special emphasis on inclusive planning processes and innovative multi-disciplinary design exercises, recognizing that new ideas can be developed in some cases and the adoption of best practices can be actively encouraged within a broadly inclusive planning process.
Government building design innovation is important for at least two reasons. First, state and local government buildings are expensive to design, to build and to maintain. Constructing next-generation structures may reduce long-term costs to taxpayers and make government more efficient, effective, and satisfying to citizens or prospective citizens. Second, government acting as a policy innovator can demonstrate a commitment to next-generation building design and thus encourage partnerships between state and local government and private sector enterprise. Commitment to local solutions and material providers means that government creates a local demand for next-generation materials and equipment that may lead to spin-off sustainable economic development in states and local communities where such development had not yet been contemplated.
In the 1960s and 1970s urban redevelopment was often driven by multiple concerns – namely, for public safety, for racial equality, and for aesthetic appeal. The post-Second World War era witnessed a tremendous migration to both the cities and the newly created suburbs. Infrastructure renewal in our major cities was desperately needed in the post-War period, but the new development of suburbia competed for capital, for human resources, and for the prioritization of public and private investments alike.
One of the biggest challenges faced by American states and their major cities is the rapid development of major urban areas in developing nations — which collectively are on course to surpass the U.S. in capacity on many critical dimensions within the span of a decade. For example, new suburbs in Indian cities are attracting young professionals from around the globe. In the last decade, China’s cities have been consumed with major efforts at redevelopment; building plans in Beijing, for instance, cover an area several times larger than Manhattan. In short, the challenge facing U.S. urban re-development innovators is of global dimension.24 If economic and social sustainability is to be achieved, then American cities and states must strive to do at least their fair share to promote sustainability.
The 21st century faces any number of demographic changes and demands. Demographically, contemporary cities in much of the country are faced with a growing gentrification process. Young urban professionals, prosperous retirees, and the well-educated New Immigrant class all are seeking succor in urban living. The cost of housing is certainly one critical factor faced by 21st-century urban planners. The quality of life demands of the new urban class requires considerable public policy innovation on the part of state and local government. Many standards associated with pollution, for instance, have less to do with federal clean air standards and regulatory requirements than to aesthetic appeal that either draws or repels such fairly affluent people from city living. Open-air plazas and increased access to natural light are very important to the new prosperous urbanite. Easy access via public transportation is of critical importance, as is access to internet technology and contemporary cultural and educational amenities. The young professional living in U.S. cities today is faced with an ever-changing, highly competitive economic and social environment. The knowledge-based tools needed to navigate contemporary life must be readily available. At a deeper level, urban and suburban redevelopment faces several new challenges in many areas of the country. Lack of community cohesion and sense of place, property rights conflicts, site-specific pollution issues, and access to technology are among the commonplace concerns. In each case, the success of redevelopment efforts hinges on the effective management of a set of relatively new issues for local government officials. These issues are critical to effective redevelopment efforts, requiring innovative thinking and actions in order to maintain effective democratic governance while promoting state, regional, and local sustainability and relevance in a global society featuring an ever-increasing range of geographic choices for living and working for what Richard Florida calls “the creative class.”25
Neighborhood and community cohesion is a critical part of maintaining the social capital networks so vital to the good society and to the good life. In rural areas as well as highly urbanized regions, it has been shown in a wide range of areas that effective government and social institutions require a degree of social interconnectedness26 in the highly itinerant 21st century, local government cannot assume stable long-term civic networks. Additionally, there is some question as to how local neighborhoods and the wider community relate — is the relationship complimentary? Evidence tends to indicate that in most cases individuals are more likely to form bonds at the neighborhood level than at a broader community level. The issue becomes especially important in state and local policy innovations intended to restructure society for the future. The new demands for social interconnectedness clearly point to a need to cultivate neighborhood network development. This development work must be done, however, in a manner that reduces the time costs to the individual seeking to broaden their network connections upward to the community level.
While civic networks are seen as an important aspect of urban and suburban redevelopment, other forces tend to divide and separate individuals in economic terms —the developed community phenomenon is a good example of this dilemma. Developed communities can be freestanding homes, condominiums or even entire apartment complexes. Relationships among residents and between residents and developers within gated communities are focused more on economic status homogeneity than on other, more socially beneficial forms of community reflected a bridging of differences in social class and racial and ethnic cultures.
While air and water quality standards are increasingly a function of federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines, there are other site-specific air and water issues which are more often guided by state and local policy innovation. One particularly important example is the issue of noise pollution.27 The issue of noise pollution becomes an issue due to a number of factors in modern communities. First—whether in rural, suburban, or urban areas — American communities are increasingly heterogeneous. Also, the population is becoming denser, bringing individuals into closer proximity to one another. With the changing nature of work and the rise of home-based offices and telework, residential areas are de facto mixed-use areas; a residence may be a workspace at various times of the day or night and simultaneously serve as home. Transportation corridors often increase ambient noise in residential areas. Particularly in the areas of the U.S. where peri-urban areas are developing, the suburban fringe may abut traditionally agrarian functions such as farms, dairies, and livestock feedlots; the noise (and odor) of livestock, chemical fertilizers and fungicides and herbicides and heavy machinery will be in evidence in these areas. Demographics may bring young socialites into close proximity with young families or retirees who have quite different lifestyles and noise tolerance patterns.
Several studies have shown that noise pollution is strongly related to problems of social cohesion, and may lead in some cases to public health and even criminal justice problems. Innovations focused on noise pollution relate to more than simply the decibel level of noise in a given community. European researchers have found that one of the best ways to manage noise in the residential environment is to begin by listening to residents and determining the character of the noise present in a community before making decisions about how to manage that noise. Nevertheless, noise is a form of pollution that must be managed as are other hard-causing pollutants. A sustainable community model for state and local policy innovators must carefully take into consideration the role of noise in the development of urban redevelopment plans.
A fourth area of importance in urban redevelopment is related to technology access and use.28 Technology, particularly computer-based applications and communications technology, has often been thought of as the foundation of a new age in the U.S. economy and society. Policy innovations that have sought to improve access to communication tools are likely to continue to be at least “one generation” behind current use and demand patterns. Terminal-based e-mail and Internet access have been surpassed by mobile wireless technologies that significantly change the networks of communication. Access and use, for instance, are done entirely at user discretion, allowing the person involved selecting which information and which communication networks will become part of their social, political, and economic virtual world. Additionally, such network relationships are so individualized and also quickly obsolete that would-be policy innovators will have to manage a diversity of tastes in the future rather than design environments with a “typical family of four” construct in mind. In many respects, creating or encouraging the development of a very broadly based and interactive communication network may be a critical precondition to virtually any other innovations in urban redevelopment beyond the provision of a very basic needs infrastructure. It is important to note that not all persons are equally capable of taking advantage of the opportunities for engagement and exploration of personal tastes made possible by the wireless technologies and the increasingly accessible Internet. The millions of Americans in our states and local communities who can be classified as aged and poor are the least likely to be enjoying the benefits of this technology, and regional and urban planning innovations related to technology will require continued efforts to “bridge the digital divide” of accessibility to broadband services and computers; without such efforts the social equity element of sustainability is not addressed and political, social, and economic divisions may deepen rather than lessen. Such divisions, in turn, threaten the adaptive capacity of societies to “rally to a common cause” of sustainability-promoting change to confront and overcome the challenges of a planet in peril of human-induced global climate change and natural resource scarcities. In the coming decades, broadened access to information technology and computers in our nation’s states and local communities must become a source of adaptive capacity for mobilizing collective action to address our sustainability challenges, not yet another source of political and economic division.
One resource that is critical to modern conceptions of the good life is the availability of energy — both electrical and thermal — for use in private residences and commercial enterprises. In recent years it has become increasingly clear that the major contemporary sources of energy such as fossil fuels (oil and coal) present such a high cost to the health of the environmental that we must rethink our energy future and be prepared to make significant changes in how we travel, how we produce goods and services, and how we design our homes and workplaces. All state and local governments are facing hundreds of policy decisions precisely in this area of energy provision, patterns of consumption, sources of supply, choice of products, and design of workplaces and commercial and residential zoning and building regulations. Far beyond the reach of state and local governments, the U.S. Federal government, international commodity cartels, and multi-national energy firms play a major role in shaping energy markets, thereby affecting environmental policy choices available to governments. Within those broad constraints of these major actors, however, state and local governments in U.S. do have a great deal of room to shape local decision-making about the recycling of re-useable products, about the patterns of energy use and conservation occurring in their jurisdictions, about the alternatives to auto-based transportation which could exist, about the use of LEED@ construction processes and structure, and about similar measures adopted by state and local governments around the nation to promote sustainability.29
For over a century our nation has been heavily focused upon fossil energy production and use because of our easy access to coal and oil. In the late 1850s, the first successful oil well began extracting petroleum in Pennsylvania. Since that time, some states and many local communities in the U.S., and elsewhere in the world, have developed entire industries and associated financial systems around the fossil energy paradigm. Early views on the sustainability of a world economy “fueled” by coal and oil resources was built on the faulty premises that the supply of cheap and easily accessible fossil energy would last forever, and that no significant damage was being done to the planet by the burning of these fossil fuels to provide energy for homes, for commercial officers, for transportation, and for industrial production. In the early 1970s, however, that very commonly shared viewpoint of the long-term sustainability of petroleum supplies, in particular, began to change in very significant ways:
- social and political values at the grassroots community level in many regions of the nation began to focus greater attention on “green” or pro-environment policy initiatives, and public interest groups promoted new conservation-oriented and ecologically-sensitive views of sustainability found to be particularly strong among younger generations;
- in an effort to address social equity concerns, some public utility commissions (PUCs) placed increasingly greater emphasis on equitable energy distribution to privileged and underprivileged households and businesses alike (e.g., in California, the Miller-Warren Energy Lifeline Act of 1972), and some PUCs began to explore the potential role of alternative renewal energy supplies;
- some environmental interests identified alternative modes of living — e.g., “next-generation” building design and reduced toxic emissions — intended to enhance the quality of life in communities in ways that were not injurious to the environment;
- and land use planners focused increasingly more attention on the role of mass transit development in metropolitan areas (e.g., Bay Area Rapid Transit) where burgeoning urban and suburban areas produce insufferable traffic congestion.
While alternative energy slipped from the national policy radar screen for much of the 1980s, a number of states and many local communities continued to explore energy policy innovations. In California, renewable energy systems were encouraged by state tax incentives. Geothermal energy was developed in the Imperial Valley, along the U.S.-Mexico border. Wind energy was harnessed in the Altamont Pass30 region in Northern California. California researchers conducted research on clean coal and “fluid bed” combustion chamber technology for electric generation plants.31
In the post-September 11th policy environment, during a period of relatively high petroleum prices and at a time when supply futures are questioned the value of state and local energy innovation is now more fully recognized and continues to be actively promoted. Currently, state and local energy innovation is primarily advanced through three principal mechanisms. First, states create markets for renewable energy through renewable energy portfolios (RPSs). RPSs are benchmarks for the portion of energy used by state consumers that must be supplied by renewable sources. In the 23 states with RPSs, either public utilities commissions or state regulatory offices monitor the standards. RPS standards can be met either through direct use of renewable energy by consumers or through the use of green tags. Green tags represent a validation that renewable energy was produced and made available on the electrical grid. Except for the direct impact of emissions at a particular use or production site, green tags have the same effect – that of committing energy producers and consumers alike to renewable zero-emission energy. Green tags can be used for tax credit purposes as well.
Second, states and local governments encourage renewable energy innovation through the use of price subsidies or inducements to renewable energy consumers. During periods of transition to new sources of “clean energy” the market price for green energy tends to be higher than conventional fossil fuel energy; to promote further development of clean energy sources and in time reduce the cost of those sources those responsible parties who generate renewable energy for grid-use or who use renewable energy sources are offered financial incentives to encourage their sustainability-promoting economic choices. Finally, the third form of encouragement that state and local governments use is that of the provision of research money to underwrite applied research in science and engineering for the development of practical sustainable energy infrastructure.
The first chapter outlined four core dimensions of sustainability. In this chapter, we find that policy innovation focusing on sustainability can be characterized as the new margins—the basis for understanding which local and state governments are more likely to manage impending social, political, economic, and environmental change. Sustainability entails maintaining values while adapting to changing conditions. In terms of social objectives, a continued and growing commitment to human capital is of critical importance to sustainability. Historically, modern society has identified certain types of knowledge, particular skills, and specific abilities associated with some types of employment to be essential to promoting “progress” —the basis of modern societies and organizations that often demand highly specialized divisions of labor. Books such as William Whyte’s Organization Man and David Riesman’s The Lonely Crowd provide moving descriptions of the socially isolating communities created by the type of consumption-driven modernism we have taken to be progress.
Sustainability, however, demands that we rely much more heavily on socially connected and highly inclusive communities and develop the capacity for adaption to change. Preparation for narrowly defined employment will give way to the need for highly skilled yet highly adaptable individuals who can communicate and work with individuals with a wide variety of skill sets from highly varied social and educational backgrounds. In no small measure the educational systems of our nation, from K-12 elementary schools, through secondary schools, and including our higher education institutions will have to become adaptive to the knowledge and training needs of these boundary-spanning experts of the future.
As for economic objectives, sustainability demands that we create deeper social and economic relationships focusing on the provision of collective benefits rather than focusing too heavily on the stimulation of economic motivation based on the maximal accomplishment of rational self-interest. Individual economic benefit can emerge when equitable market structures reward individual market innovation and hard work. Sustainability is promoted most effectively, however, when individual economic success leads to community benefit in the form of jobs, infrastructure development, and renewal and the nurturing of a stable tax base to support public programs, which can address social equity goals.
In much the same way, the environmental objectives of sustainability are advanced when effective social and economic structures are in place and state and local governments can appeal to what psychologist Abraham Maslow refers to as “higher-order needs” for beauty and justice. Appealing to consumers as individuals seeking to promote their own self-interest within their broader roles, as community residents will more likely than not serve to incorporate environmental sustainability into the decision-making process of citizens. Citizens taking an active concern for the environment would likely translate into a strong market demand arising for products, which would be manufactured locally and marketed in environmentally sound ways.
Finally, institutional objectives require that sustainability become an almost “infectious” concept across state and local government jurisdictions. By means of inter-institutional networking, each sustainable state and local community would serve as a model for other communities and states seeking to accomplish similar goals for their residents. While sustainability is the currently widely seem as the “new margin” for successful community and state development, it cannot be viewed in these zero-sum terms — where each successful community or state competing to gain population and resource share comes at the expense of others. Instead, the dynamic must become one of the contagion of best practices, with strong demand from well-informed citizens that effective practices observed elsewhere need to become part of their particular state and local government institutional and policy structure.
Sustainability – What Can I do?
Here are some everyday things individuals can do to promote sustainable lifestyles and communities:
1. Print your class assignments and papers double-sided, or ask your professor if you can submit electronic versions.
2. Unplug computers and appliances if possible while not in use. This will decrease your energy use and power bill.
3. Turn off lights in rooms when not in use.
4. Bring your own reusable cloth tote bag to the grocery store or university bookstore and avoid using paper and plastic bags.
5. Bring your own mug to the coffee shop.
6. Replace incandescent lamps with compact fluorescent lamps.
7. Wash your clothes in cold water.
8. Try walking, biking, carpooling or mass transportation to commute to campus.
For general information, go to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Sustainability website: http://www.epa.gov/Sustainability/basicinfo.htm#epa
The National Environmental Protection Act of 1970 (NEPA) served as the initial impetus for much state and local policy innovation. State Environmental Policy Agencies (SEPAs) were created in most states in the 1970s to provide an interface with the EPA and to enforce state environmental quality standards. The primary purpose of NEPA was to limit the impact of human action on the natural environment. Under NEPA, all applicable federal agency actions — or the actions of private contractors working with federal agencies — must be evaluated prior to initiation in terms of potential environmental impacts, and if such impacts are anticipated plans must be outlined for how harmful impacts will be either or prevented, significantly reduced, or compensated for in some appropriate way.
NEPA was the first comprehensive environmental policy legislation in the U.S. and provided a major impetus for the development of a deeper understanding of environmental health throughout the country. With growing concern for environmental quality issues relating to air and water and wildlife habitat, many state policy innovators saw NEPA and state analogs as presenting an opportunity to consider more carefully the quality of the environment within their own jurisdictions. Using NEPA as a blueprint, state environmental quality standards are in many cases more stringent than federal requirements. Currently, 18 U.S. states have “NEPA-like” requirements enforced by so-called mini-NEPA state agencies. Environmental quality innovations are an important part of promoting sustainable development in states and communities, and they are related to other state or local goals directed toward the promotion of a clean environment, the provision of good public health services, and the provision of strong public safety services to be called upon in the event of natural disasters. Economic vitality is clearly necessary to sustain all of these environmental and community protection efforts, but the recognition is now rather widespread that such commercial and manufacturing activities as take place to provide employment and income and tax revenue to state and local government must be carried out in an environmentally sensitive manner.33
As noted above in the discussion of energy resources, the term sustainability has meant different things to different people at different times. Currently, American states and local communities face significant challenges in how that term – understood as entailing the simultaneous achievement of economic vitality, environmental protection, and social equity promotion without diminishing the prospect of future generations – is translated into practical policy goals and programs. The goals of state and local government must simultaneously maintain economic success in various markets — local and global — as well as provide for equal opportunity for healthy living. In the past, these goals have been at odds with each other. While no single state or local community can say it has achieved fully all of these goals and done so in a way to leave the same or better conditions for the next generation, many state and local governments have made noteworthy simultaneous progress toward these goals. The following section seeks to address emergent livability issues in the U.S., and indicate the role that state and local governments in time will come to play in addressing those issues.
As the Baby Boom generation reaches retirement age, the percentage of the population 65 years of age and older is expected to grow rather substantially. According to the Census Bureau, by 2030, all of the baby boomer generation will be older than age 65, which will expand the size of the older population so that 1 in every 5 residents will be retirement age. The nation’s changing social and economic demographics mean that many older Americans will either have no children or only one child to help them address their needs for care in their old age, increasing the burden on society and individuals trying to balance work with care-giving activities.34 Countless working hours will be devoted to eldercare, reducing productivity and earnings for many young and middle-aged adults. Communities in which is it difficult for the infirm to navigate and where caregiving facilities and services are lacking will likely suffer in terms of attracting workers and retirees alike. Also, the building of an effective caregiving community requires that state and local government must be mindful of the diverse nature of the aging population.35
At the federal level, there are several agencies that deal directly with issues related to eldercare. The three most prominent such agencies are these:
- Administration on Aging
- Centers for Medicare and Medicaid
- Social Security Administration
The Older American Act (OAA) of 1965 (reauthorized 2006) is a federal law that serves as the foundation of many state and local efforts to respond to the dramatic demographic change facing the nation in the coming decade. The OAA established the Administration on Aging and led to the creation of the National Aging Network (NAN), a large network of eldercare service providers. The OAA also promotes the development of senior centers and programs for traditionally underserved populations, such as Native Americans.
Treating the elderly with respect and dignity requires a wide range of services and a great deal of thoughtful planning. Community sustainability in an era of an aging population requires more than just the provision of basic necessities — it entails promoting the ability of seniors to maintain quality relationships with others, both of their own age and those younger than themselves. Along with state and local resources and community-based organizations (religious and secular), the OAA offers grants-in-aid to states and local communities attempting to serve the needs of the elderly. Innovations in the eldercare area include nutrition programs, employment programs, and disease prevention programs. Additionally, intergovernmental cooperation has helped to build the National Family Caregiver Support Network and Eldercare Network; the former is designed to help caregivers cope with issues related to eldercare and life management. National law has also sought to reduce elder abuse and to promote elder rights. The latter organization is of help to both the elderly and their caregivers, providing information about services available and the location of those services in relation to an elderly person’s place of residence. The Eldercare Locator is also helpful in linking an elderly person’s work skills with particular jobs, which is of growing interest to Baby Boomers. Many of these new retirees discover that they have not saved sufficiently for their retirement years, that the costs of living in retirement are higher than they expected, and that they will require further years of employment. Of the nearly $1.4 billion enacted for the Administration on Aging in 2006, $1.2 billion of the federal allocation was allocated to programs designed to support both state and local government eldercare programming.
In the timeless classic historical treatise entitled Democracy in America, the French visitor of aristocratic heritage Alexis de Tocqueville described a rather idyllic 19th-century community-focused existence for Americans he observed during a prolonged visit in the 1830s. Americans throughout the country were witnessed working side-by-side in local communities with neighbors helping neighbors and citizens generally doing their fair share to address shared problems; volunteerism was commonplace and was even relied upon in many situations for the provision of essential governmental services such as firefighting and road maintenance. In his books Making Democracy Work and Bowling Alone, contemporary Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam reported strong correlates between successful robust democratic institutions, high rates of civic volunteerism, and strong social institutions.36 Putnam also pointed out, however, that when civic life declines, democratic institutions show a similar decline. Without dynamic civic institutions and without the active engagement and support of citizens (young and old, well-off and of modest means), state and local government’s ability to maintain livable communities in which sustainability is being pursued is severely constrained. Maintaining civic involvement among a diverse set of citizens, encouraging grassroots volunteer-driven efforts to solve problems, cultivating discussion regarding the future desired condition of a community are all important ingredients in successful governance and the pursuit of sustainability.
Several national-level programs being implemented at the state and local government level are designed specifically to help promote civic engagement and encourage community involvement. The Corporation for National and Community Service — a federally sponsored non-profit corporation — manages AmeriCorps, Learn and Serve America, America Reads, and Senior Corps. Through volunteering in these programs, citizens become more fully aware of the communities in which they live and come to understand the problems government, the non-profit sector, and the private sector are seeking to address as they pursue global, national, regional, state and local sustainability. Volunteerism not only serves the public interest, but also gives the individual volunteer a sense of self-efficacy, personal fulfillment, and generally leads to higher levels of active participation in other dimensions of civic life.
Existing non-profit religious institutions such as synagogues, churches, and mosques also serve a long-standing and significant role in U.S. states and local communities. Houses of worship often draw people from all walks of life into an atmosphere of mutual trust for the pursuit of communal goals. Communality is the primary basis of community in these religious groups; similarities in terms of beliefs, needs and oftentimes worldviews provide the social cement for these aggregations of co-religionists. Civic clubs such as Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, Moose, and Elks may draw individuals together on the basis of other forms of communality, most frequently based on a mutual commitment to help the less fortunate members of society. Other civic associations include the League of Women Voters, the Civil Liberties Union, municipal and county historical societies, and Chambers of Commerce and offer venues for those interested in community-betterment and desiring the camaraderie that comes from volunteerism.
Another form of civic engagement is participation in the cultural arts. The arts might include local or regional museums focusing on a much broader swath of literary, visual and performing artistic talent. Musical societies and orchestras are also important in drawing together individuals from the community. Policy innovations in terms of the promotion of the arts are often overlooked in terms of their significant impact in building sustainable states and local communities. The ability of state and local government to operate effectively and accomplish significant goals through innovation may hinge on something as apparently unrelated as the arts; the fact that one will often see political leaders gather at artistic events and mingle and interact with other citizens outside the setting of formal political institutions to their value.
Extensive policy innovation in pursuit of a sustainable future in an age of global climate change and pending shortages of critical natural resources will be a necessity in the coming decades. State and local government, just as much as the federal government, will have to rise to the challenges to be faced in addressing the three “Es” of sustainability – promotion of economic vitality, protection of the environment, and promotion of social equity.37 This book documents how innovation at the state and local government level have often lead the way for national movements addressing the difficult transitions made by Americans from an agricultural society to an industrial society, and finally from an industrial society to a post-industrial society. American federalism, the flexibility of state constitutional processes, and the wellsprings of social capital in communities throughout the country have in combination given rise to considerable innovation in public policy and in governance practices. We are optimistic that these major elements of state and local government in America will lead to the next set of innovations which will bring us closer to a sustainable future wherein we can carry out our obligation to future generations to leave the planet no worse off than we found it.
The realization worldwide that abundance of space, natural resources and seemingly inexhaustible energy supplies are actually limited, and that development has lead to the serious risk of irremediable damage to planet earth, our newest challenge is to discover what innovations in public policy and private actions need to occur to provide for a sustainable future. One hope for the future is for all to live in sustainable local communities that are inclusive of persons of diverse background, nurture citizens young and old, enrich those of high- and pedestrian tastes alike, and treat all equitably with respect to the free pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in a healthful environment. The role of state and local governments in meeting this challenge is certainly great, but the men and women serving in leadership roles in these governments, the public servants serving citizens in the public agencies maintained by these various governments, and the many non-profit and private sector partners of these governments are up to that challenge. If this book hits its mark, we should have new recruits to the cause of sustainability in the years ahead.
Renewable Energy Portfolios
Whole Building Design
1. Discuss three important pre-conditions or factors that facilitate public policy innovation.
2. Summarize both the proponents’ and critics’ positions on the relative benefits (or lack thereof) of the development of PUCs.
3. According to the chapter, what are four ways in which views of sustainability of petroleum began to change in the 1970s.
7. R.T. Cober, D.J. Brown, A.J. Blumenthal, D.D. Doverspike, and P. Levy, “The Quest for the Qualified Job Surfer: It’s Time the Public Sector Catches the Wave,” Public Personnel Management 29(2000): 479-496.
K.C. Gaspari and A.G. Woolf, “Income, Public Works, and Mortality in Early Twentieth-Century American Cities,” The Journal of Economic History 45(1985): 355-361.
M. Ogle, “Domestic Reform and American Household Plumbing, 1840-1870,” Winterhur Portfolio 28(1993): 33-58.
J.A. Tarr, T. Yosie, and J. McCurley, III, “Disputes Over Water Quality Policy: Professional Cultures in Conflict, 1900-1917,” American Journal of Public Health 70(1980): 427-435.
W. Gormley, J. Hoadley, and C. Williams, “Potential Responsiveness in the Bureaucracy: Views of Public Utility Regulation,” The American Political Science Review 77(1983): 704-717.
16. In his classic account, G. Rosen’s A History of Public Health (Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins Press, 1993) demonstrates that public health and sanitation issues have historically been linked in mission, although the link has varied over time and across cultures.
G.H. Wolff, and M. Palaniappan, “Public or Private Water Management? Cutting the Gordian Knot,” Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management (January/February, 2004): 1-3.
S. Renzetti, “Municipal Water Supply and Sewage Treatment: Costs, Prices, and Distortions,” The Canadian Journal of Economics 32(1999): 688-704.
A.K. Biswas, “An Assessment of Future Global Water Issues,” Water Resources Development 21(2005): 229-237.
S. Loranger, “Global Water Management: How Do We Begin to Solve the Problems?” Global Water Management Conference (Washington, DC), February 9, 2005.
C.A. Simon, Public Policy: Preferences and Outcomes, 2nd Edition (New York: Pearson, 2010).
W. Budd, N.P. Lovrich, J.C. Pierce, and B. Chamberlain, “Cultural Sources of Variation in U.S. Urban Sustainability Attributes,” Cities: The International Journal of Urban Policy and Planning 25(2008): 257-267.
34. C.D. Austin, E. DesCamp, D. Flux, R.W. McClelland, and J. Sieppert, “Community Development with Older Adults in their Neighborhoods: The Elder Friendly Communities Program,” Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services 86(2005): 401-409.
E.J. Bolda, J.I. Lowe, G.L. Maddox, and B.S. Patnaik, “Community Partnerships for Older Adults: A Case Study,” Families and Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services 86(2005): 411-418.
J.E. Swanberg, T. Kanatzar, M. Mendiondo, and M. McCoskey, “Caring for Our Elders: A Contemporary Conundrum for Working People,” Families and Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services 87(2006): 417-426.
35. H. Li, D. Edwards, and N. Morrow-Howell, “Informal Care-giving Networks and Use of Formal Services by Inner-City African American Elderly with Dementia,” Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services 85(2004): 55-62.
J.W. Min, “Cultural Competency: A Key to Effective Future Social Work with Racially and Ethnically Diverse Elders,” Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services 86(2005): 347-358.
R. Putnam, Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993).
37. See historical accounts of successes and failures in societies adapting to changing environments in: J. Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (New York: W.W. Norton Publishers, 2005).