Detroit to engage residents on citywide sustainability plan

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News
Khalil Ligon, a representative for Detroit Environmental Agenda, talks to workers helping with efforts to collect resident feedback for a Sustainability Action Agenda.

Detroit — The Duggan administration on Thursday announced it will engage residents to develop a plan for quality-of-life improvements.

The Sustainability Action Agenda is Detroit's first effort to carve out city and community actions aimed at protecting public health, providing jobs and addressing climate impacts and green infrastructure.

The city will be conducting surveys, hosting town halls and engaging in community outreach through 14 district ambassadors to gather input from at least 7,000 Detroiters, officials said.

"While Detroit has experienced a great rebirth and renaissance that we've heard so much about, still there are some that live in neighborhoods that are not clean, safe or healthy. Many live surrounded by blight and poverty, overwhelmed by polluted air or without access to water," said Khalil Ligon, chair of the advisory committee overseeing the action agenda, during a Thursday news conference at Stoepel Park No. 1 off Outer Drive on the city's west side.

"This is why it is critically important for us to commit to helping shape this sustainability agenda to make sure it meets our day-to-day needs."

The action agenda is being headed up by the city’s Office of Sustainability, which Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan created in 2017 to coordinate sustainability efforts in the city, with support from the Department of Neighborhoods.  

"Ultimately, what this process is going to do is help us define what is sustainability look like for Detroit and for Detroiters and how do we move that vision forward in a meaningful, impactful way," said Joel Howrani Heeres, director of the sustainability office. 

The office, he said, has initiated more than 60 sustainability actions. Among them, staff has been tracking energy usage on 120 city buildings and identified more than $400,000 in annual savings so far.

Detroit also has 65,000 LED street lights, the largest city-owned network in the country, which saves over $2 million in energy costs per year, Howrani Heeres said.

The community dialogue, officials said, will help expand ongoing efforts to deliver the action agenda, which to-date has included the collection of more than 600 potential actions.

Potential actions include making the city more energy and cost-efficient by retrofitting older city buildings to improve energy efficiency, expanding recycling and incorporating more fuel-efficient hybrid or electric vehicles, officials said.

Neighborhood development would focus on denser population areas to support local business, safer routes for walking and biking and expanded transit.

Job training opportunities in green infrastructure, urban agriculture and local food processing are also a focus, the city said. 

“We want to make sure that longtime residents have a say in this city’s future and the opportunity for meaningful employment as Detroit embraces new technologies and industries," Duggan said in a released statement. 

Some sustainability efforts already are underway or in the works, but the action agenda, officials said, will help align a set of goals among the city, businesses, community groups and residents. The engagement plan seeks to gather ideas to be shared in community workshops and four town halls in July and August. Officials expect to formalize and present final plans by late fall or winter. 

Development of the agenda is funded by the Kresge, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. and Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family foundations and the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. It is supported by a commission with representation from more than 20 organizations, businesses and community groups. 

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