Sustain Charlotte Seeks a Full-Time Bicycle Program Manager
Applications accepted through June 15, 2015
Sustain Charlotte is looking for an energetic Bicycle Program Manager with a passion and talent for fostering collaboration to accomplish shared goals. Reporting to the Executive Director, the Bicycle Program Manager will develop and manage a two-year initiative to build relationships and foster collaboration among the various organizations who offer cycling events and programs in the Charlotte area, assist with publicizing these activities, and establish Sustain Charlotte as the hub organization for information related to cycling. The Bicycle Program Manager will also assist in securing funding via grants and membership to support these activities beyond the initial two-year period.Read more
Sustain Charlotte Hosts Sustainability Discussion with Latin American Visitors
Sustain Charlotte staff and board members met with eight Latin American professionals on Wednesday to discuss ideas for implementing sustainability programs in urban areas. We shared the story of why our Executive Director Shannon Binns founded Sustain Charlotte five years ago. Then we explained the goals and strategies for each of our major programs and initiatives. As we reviewed land cover maps showing how sprawl has dramatically altered our regional landscape over the past 40 years, several visitors shared that their countries or regions are also facing similar challenges. Poor land use decisions, over-dependence on private vehicles, and short-sighted planning are not problems unique to the United States.
Sustain Charlotte staff and board members discussed sustainability with Latin American visitors.Read more
Sustain Charlotte addresses City Council at Monday night's public hearing on City budget
At last night's public hearing on the City budget, we questioned the proposal to replace our current waste collection and disposal fee with a property tax increase on the grounds that doing this would make the actual cost of our waste “invisible” to residents, and create no financial incentive to reduce how much we throw away. We proposed a variable rate structure based on the amount of waste each resident generates instead, as used in Austin and Seattle and thousands of other American cities and towns.
See Sustain Charlotte Director Shannon Binns' comments to City Council below:
My name is Shannon Binns, I live here in Charlotte and I direct a local nonprofit called Sustain Charlotte.
Tonight I want to share with you our perspective on two important issues related to the budget.
First, think about the last time you turned down your thermostat because you knew that doing this would save you some money on your monthly electricity bill.
Now think about the last time you turned off the faucet or garden hose because you knew it was wasteful to let it run, and that you would pay for your wastefulness when you got your water bill later that month if you didn’t switch it off.
Now think about the last time you didn’t throw something in the garbage can at home because you knew it would save you some money on your garbage bill.
My guess is that you thought about a time you turned down your thermostat and turned off the faucet, but had a hard time remembering when you didn’t throw something away to save some money.
This is because putting less in your garbage can at home doesn’t save you money. No matter how much (or how little) waste you create, the amount you pay is the same.
In other words, the financial incentive you have to reduce your energy and water use does not exist when it comes to the amount of waste services you use.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Unit pricing, also known as variable rate pricing or pay-as-you-throw, is a system under which residents pay for waste management services per unit of waste collected rather than through a fixed fee or tax, thereby offering individuals an incentive to reduce the amount of waste they generate.
In fact, rather than replacing our current flat annual waste services fee with a higher property tax to raise the revenues needed for waste collection and disposal, which makes the true costs of waste services invisible to residents, we urge you to implement variable rate pricing as thousands of municipalities around the country have already done, including Seattle, WA and Austin, TX, to name just two.
This approach is not only more economically efficient, but it is also more equitable in that those who choose to reduce their waste are not subsidizing those who choose not to do so, more transparent, and gives residents more control over the cost of waste services, in that they are able to save money by the choices they make.
If we move to a variable rate system, it is estimated that we would generate $17M in additional revenue in the first year and see another $2M in tipping fee savings for a net financial impact of $19 million in the first year, nearly enough to cover our current budget gap. Over 10 years, this approach is estimated to positively impact our bottom line by $233M.
Lastly, I want to reiterate our continued support for investing in Phase 2 of the Gold Line. Those of you who were serving on Council in May of 2013 will recall that we presented a statement of support for this investment to Council that was signed by over 2,500 of our residents. Like us, those residents remain supportive of this important investment for our growing city and we do not have time to delay this investment further.
Thank you, and thank you for your service.
Transportation and Poverty: What's the link?
Mecklenburg County is the second worst large U.S. County for upward social mobility of children born into poverty. Yet, Charlotte has the second fastest population growth among large U.S. cities. This is very troubling. Even as our metro area attracts unprecedented growth, our own children are slipping further and further behind the rest of the nation. And it's not just children born into poverty. Even children from average and upper income Mecklenburg households lag the national average in annual earnings when they become adults.
Mecklenburg County is the 2nd worse large U.S. County for upward mobility of children born in poverty. (Source: NY Times)
Transportation certainly isn't the only factor that determines economic mobility, but it is incredibly impactful. An article in today's NY Times titled "Transportation Emerges as Crucial to Escaping Poverty" reports that the impact of transportation on social mobility is stronger than several other factors, like crime, elementary-school test scores or the percentage of two-parent families in a community.
The study emphasized the strong link between availability of public transit and income. The researchers compared neighborhoods by accessibility to mass transit and the number of jobs within an hour’s commute. Residents of the areas least well-served by mass transit relied on personal vehicles. Areas in the middle third — those with some, but insufficient, access to transportation — had the highest rates of unemployment and the lowest incomes, the study found.
The problem is, it's not always an easy task to raise public awareness of the tightly interwoven links between transportation and quality of life. In my outreach role for Sustain Charlotte, I'm often asked to identify the most critical sustainability challenge that Charlotte neighborhoods are facing. I often see puzzled looks when I answer, "Transportation." The well-intentioned asker of the question often follows up with a variant of: "But aren't they facing...you know, more urgent challenges like safety, or poor health, or poverty, or polluted streams?"Read more
West Boulevard youth envision a sustainable community
"People young and old all joined together and recycled, built green homes and started using less cars for the roads. I just see bikes and happy healthy smiling people walking and exercising at all the newly made playgrounds. That's one small step for a neighborhood and a big leap to an energy efficient country". This is the vision 17 year-old Imani created for her Arbor Glen neighborhood in the year 2040. It's a powerful vision, and it's achievable. In fact, we loved this vision so much that we read it aloud to Mecklenburg County state legislators the following morning!
On April 23, middle and high school students in Charlotte's West Boulevard neighborhoods joined Sustain Charlotte's staff (Branyn Calegar and Meg Fencil) for a sustainability visioning workshop at the Arbor Glen Outreach Center.
Youth created and shared 2040 neighborhood visions with their neighbors.
We began by asking a simple question: "How would you define sustainability?" All of the youth said they've heard this word before, but their answers showed that they didn't have a firm understanding of it:
"I would define sustainability as in controlling something."
"Maintaining the same in the neighborhood."
And my personal favorite: "By using a dictionary"Read more
200+ Residents Sign Petition for a Walkable University City Area
At Monday evening's public comment period to Charlotte City Council on the University City Area Plan (UCAP), Sustain Charlotte announced that over 200 residents had signed our petition. The petition asks Council to approve the UCAP, but also add corrective rezoning to transit-oriented development (TOD) within 1/4 mile of Blue Line Extension (BLE) stations in University City. We hand delivered our petition with 194 signatures to City Council, Mayor Clodfelter and the City Manager during the 7:00 meeting, but we were thrilled to see that the number of signatures exceeded 200 just before we addressed Council! For more background on the UCAP and our involvement in it, check out our recent blog post. 15 residents registered to speak on this issue.
Wil Russell addressed City Council to ask for transit-oriented development.
Wil Russell, a resident of University City and board member of Sustain Charlotte, urged City Council to adopt the University City Area Plan, but require transit-oriented development. He said, "Transit-oriented development will provide more opportunities to live and work near a mode of transit, which encourages ridership and sparks more economic development." Russell acknowledged that building a more walkable University City will not be easy, but needs to be done to improve quality of life and fully leverage our investment in the Blue Line Extension. He said, "The challenge that this Council should accept is to fight. Fight for the University City area and fight for transit-oriented development. Be willing to accept mixed use development, pedestrian-friendly infrastucture, more efficient land use and fewer surface parking lots, as we've seen in South End."
Russell urged Council to "fire up the engines of creativity to propel us to a vision of a safe, efficient, and vibrant land use plan." Watch his full testimony (begins at 50 minutes 01 seconds). You'll need to first scroll down and then click on the word 'video' for the April 13 meeting under 'Archived Meetings'. When the video window opens, grab the gray circle with your mouse/point and move it horizontally to 50 minutes 01 seconds.Read more
Support the University City Area Plan!
University City Station Area Plan Rendering
Do you want walkable, transit-oriented development in University City?
Transit-oriented development (TOD) creates vibrant, people-oriented places that are safe and convenient to bike, walk and ride transit.
A key opportunity to ensure we fully leverage our $1.1 billion light-rail investment to extend the Blue Line from uptown to University City exists next Monday evening, April 13, at the Charlotte City Council meeting – and you can have a part. We encourage you to show your support by attending the City Council meeting on April 13th, and by signing our petition! Click here to read more about our petition and to sign online.
“This is everyone’s chance to have real input on the plan as we move toward finalization and approval,” said District 4 Councilman Greg Phipps, who represents University City.
Petition signatures, as well as comments offered next Monday or submitted via email and letters will help City Council decide whether to approve the revised plan. The council will likely vote on adoption by June.
Creating an Environment Focus Area Plan with Tangible Key Indicators
FY16 Environment Focus Area Plan
At today's Charlotte City Council Environment Committee meeting, Councilmembers Driggs, Autry, and Howard voiced enthusiastic support and appreciation for a revised version of the FY16 Environment Focus Area Plan presented by staff. Compared to previous versions, the revised plan contains more tangible indicators, each of which will contain target metrics to ensure that the City is on track to meet its environmental goals.
Councilmember Driggs applauded the revised plan as "very businesslike" and said, "The more we can get tangible with measurable goals, [the more] we can look back on this and say whether we've achieved them or not."Read more
Six Stories, One City: Linda's Story
In the sixth and final video in our Six Stories, One City transit series, banking professional Linda explains why she has chosen a car-free commute. Every weekday, Linda takes an express bus from her home in Cornelius north of Charlotte into the city.Read more
Six Stories, One City: Walter's Transit Story
In the fifth video of our Six Stories, One City series, Walter explains how the bus makes it possible for him to travel to work.
"I live in north Charlotte. I'm in the Senior Citizens Training Program at the Crisis Ministry Center. I use transit because it gets me close to my job, right there. I need that...I can't afford a taxi, so I need the bus. If I didn't have the bus, I wouldn't be able to make it to the job. I live too far away."Read more