Blog: Matthew Naud & Jamie Kidwell

Matthew Naud is the environmental coordinator and an assistant emergency manager with the city of Ann Arbor Systems Planning Unit.  The environmental coordinator makes recommendations to the city administrator, mayor, and city council on a broad range of environmental issues and staffs the city's environmental commission.  His recent projects include collaborating with the city's energy programs manager on the development of state legislation enabling Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs and developing the city's Huron River and Impoundment Management Plan.

Matthew has 20 years of private and public sector environmental, emergency management, and transportation consulting experience and four years of academic and industry molecular biology research experience.  He holds master's degrees in biology and public policy from the University of Michigan and an undergraduate degree from Boston College. 

In the fall of 2006, Matthew taught UP502 – "Environmental Planning" at the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan.  He has been on the board of directors for the University of Michigan Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, the Alumni Association of University of Michigan, the University of Detroit High School, and the Ypsilanti Otters Swim Club.  He lives in Ann Arbor with his wife and two children.

Jamie Kidwell is the sustainability associate for the city of Ann Arbor. Jamie has worked for the city since 2010. As the sustainability associate, Jamie works closely with Environmental Coordinator Matt Naud and Planning Manager Wendy Rampson on Ann Arbor's sustainability framework project. The aim of this project is to review Ann Arbor's current city plans and create an overarching framework that integrates city planning efforts.

Jamie also helps coordinate Michigan Green Communities, a network of local government and university staff working to further sustainability initiatives at the local, regional, and state level. 
Jamie is a recent graduate of the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan. She holds a master's degree in Urban and Regional Planning with a focus in transportation planning, and a bachelor's degree in sociology from Brown University.

Matthew Naud & Jamie Kidwell - Most Recent Posts:

Matthew Naud: Sustainability? NOT!

So what's not sustainable?

The city of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan spend $250 million and $110 million per year, respectively, on natural gas and electricity. Those dollars don't spin in the community very long because the sources of energy aren't made here – and most are also not renewable, so prices tend to go up.  So we give money away to other states and countries instead of investing in the infrastructure that could create jobs, make it cheaper to live and work here, and reduce our energy insecurity.  

Residents and businesses in Ann Arbor spend close to $140 million (of the $250 million) and we can probably save 10% of that with caulk.  Caulk that is bought at local stores and used by local contractors, who have money in local banks, and the energy savings can be saved or spent at local restaurants and book stores.  Investing in really easy basic energy efficiency improvements could leave $14 million in the local economy each year for the life of the improvements.  This is one of those situations where the market is not working.  

Energy efficiency investments are not recognized in the appraisal of houses when they sell, so banks won't let you build these costs into mortgages (a source of relatively cheap money).  Half of our 40,000 housing units are rental and there are a variety of inefficiencies in the market.   When tenants don't pay utilities, they can use as much as they want.  When tenants do pay utilities, there is less incentive for the landlord to make efficiency investments when all the savings return to the tenant.  As a homeowner, I can get a far cheaper interest rate for buying a new car than I can for insulating my home even though the efficiency investments could immediately put $50-100/month in my pocket to repay the note.

Until recently, it hasn't been clear that there is (or should be) a role for cities to play in this failing market.  Public Act 270 of 2010 changed that.  Thank you Berkeley, Boulder, and Babylon (NY) among others for getting the first programs started.  PACE legislation allows local units of governments to adopt resolutions "that the financing of energy projects is a valid public purpose."  Local governments now have the opportunity (if they want to) to work with local businesses (only if they want to also) to raise funds for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects and be repaid through voluntary property assessments.  This finding allows local governments to recognize the broader public benefits that stem from private energy efficiency investments – cleaner air, local economic development, better building stock, lower costs of living for residents and businesses, reduced pressure on the electric grid.  Oh, and it also is probably one of the most significant strategies we can take to both mitigate and adapt to a changing climate.  Yep, I am a believer in man-made actions changing the climate…and that the earth is round.  But even if you don't, we should be doing as much as we can for the other reasons listed above.

While I have your attention – a few other thoughts on Un-sustainability

It ought to be expensive to bury trash in Michigan land.  We need to get out of the cheap landfill space business in Michigan (and silly efforts to let grass be put in landfills) and instead raise tipping fees to develop robust recycling programs that create more and better jobs and don't waste the resources we have – and actively build some of our economy around using these resources.

It ought to be extremely expensive to do anything that risks Michigan groundwater and the Great Lakes in general.  Fracking – just stop it.  Every time we think we can put some batch of nastiness underground and contain it – it never (ever) works out the way we hope.  Pull up the enviromapper site at and check out the 9,100 leaking underground storage tanks.  There are huge legacy costs associated with non-renewable energy that Michigan residents will pay for in a variety of ways.  I would like to see the jobs and potential energy created from this risky fracking business and then compare it to the jobs and energy saved from efficiency efforts in the state.  We calculate that basic energy savings in our commercial sector alone would save the equivalent of 39 Barton Dams' worth of electricity.

Don't get me started on carp and the Chicago canal…And thanks for listening.

Matthew Naud: Why the Huron is the cleanest urban river in Michigan

Time to share some sustainability stories – good stories about good people and good data.  
The Huron River is the "cleanest urban river in Michigan" – that's what they tell me and I'm sticking with it.  Thanks to the Clean Water Act (no matter your politics you should thank John Dingell if you see him) and the good work of the state's oldest watershed council, the Huron is our primary source of drinking water and an amazing recreational resource.  But it still has issues.  Too many nutrients (e.g., phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N) from fertilizer and stormwater runoff) can overload the river chemistry and create environments ripe for algae blooms that are both ugly and potentially dangerous if they give off toxins.  The city is part of the Middle Huron Initiative – a partnership among the watershed governments – that is under a Federal mandate to reduce phosphorus loading to the river by 50%.

The city environmental commission, working with the Huron River Watershed Council back in early 2002, took look at what other communities and states had done to reduce phosphorus loading to their waterways.  Wisconsin and Minnesota communities had already undertaken local ordinances to limit phosphorus.  We had a creekshed study in Mallets creek that estimated a 20% reduction in P loading if we could limit P in fertilizer.  We had good soil sampling date from the MSU extension service showing that most of the soil samples in Ann Arbor did not need additional P to grow grass. 

We reached out to the commercial applicators and lawn and garden stores and heard two important messages – most commercial applicators were not using P in standard applications and the lawn and garden stores in the city just wanted to make sure that any regulation gave them plenty of time to get the right product on shelves.  After a couple of years of public process, a local ordinance was enacted in 2006 restricting the use of phosphorus in manufactured fertilizer and went into effect in 2007 to give local retailers time to get the right product mixes on the shelves.  The primary ordinance requirement was that fertilizer containing phosphorus only be applied when a soil test demonstrated that it was needed.  It also required that a pamphlet discussing the benefits of limiting phosphorus be provided at the point of sale and to commercial applicator clients.  We did not expect to do much enforcement and to date that has been the case.

So how do we know if it is working?  Often you don't.  Evaluating environmental programs can be difficult for two reasons – it is hard to design a good experiment with enough baseline data and if you can they are often very expensive sampling exercises.  In this case we were lucky (and kind of smart).  Lucky in that the Huron River Watershed Council and a University of Michigan faculty member had already been looking into nutrient loading on the river.  John Lehman at the UM had been sampling the Huron at several sites in previous years to look for causes and corrective measures for nuisance algal blooms on Ford and Belleville lakes.  Smart in that we asked him how we might evaluate the effect of the fertilizer ordinance.  Turns out you (if you are a smart statistician) can look at the variability in the historic levels of P in the Huron and the expected outcome (20% reduction) and develop a sampling frequency that will provide you with statistically significant results (if your estimated effect is correct). 

A graduate student undertook this sampling in 2007, 2008, and 2009.  They found that average reductions in total phosphorus at two city sites when compared to the baseline data show reductions ranging from 11-22%.  In a separate research effort, the Huron River Watershed Council is finding similar drops in P levels in area creeksheds, with higher drops in the urban creeksheds.   So…while it is hard to say that the ordinance "caused" the measured effect,  we haven't found a better explanation given both of these findings.  In July 2010, Michigan joined 15 other states in banning P in dishwasher detergents and in December 2010, Michigan passed a state-wide limit on phosphorus in fertilizer (PA 0299) that goes into effect January 1, 2012.  

So, after almost 10 years of work by a lot of good people using a lot of good data, we are seeing measurable improvements in our watershed and look forward to similar results across the state.  I think it's a good sustainability story.  

Jamie Kidwell: How Do You Measure Zero % Waste?

Food sustainability, fiscal sustainability, social sustainability. Sustainability isn't just linked to the environment anymore. Sustainability is a far-reaching word. It is making its way into daily conversations, and it is being discussed more and more at the local government level.

The Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN) is a group of local government staff joined together to spur innovation and push sustainability forward in cities across North America. The idea of USDN is that city governments can learn from one another to further sustainability initiatives. Why reinvent the wheel if another city has some lessons to share about how to best track sustainability, or install bike sharing in downtown? Additionally, cities are teaming together to tackle new issues. Three city governments working on greening rental housing is better than one.

With my second blog post, I thought I would tackle a few more of the lessons learned at the USDN conference. Cities are a great starting place for thinking about sustainability in a broader sense. City sustainability is about keeping a system functioning. The "triple-bottom line" approach to sustainability posits that sustainability includes balancing economy, environment, and equity. This isn't the only way to think about sustainability, but it works as a good example. Cities are charged with managing several assets. For instance, Ann Arbor maintains a variety of natural systems, such as the Huron and our parks system. The city also invests in infrastructure to provide services to residents that raise the quality of life. Managing all of these assets means that cities must think in terms of tradeoffs and balancing. Cities are systems, and are the perfect agent to take on key sustainability challenges.   

Sitting at the USDN conference, one key thing kept running through my mind, and clearly it was something other cities were focused on as well. You can't keep track of what you can't measure. We can set good goals, like zero percent waste diversion, but we also need to set targets and measure our progress. How do we create good indicators that measure our performance?

Ann Arbor's environmental indicators offer an example of how we can take data and use that data to measure our progress. For example, we have seven indicators to measure progress towards our goal of clean air. This is a start towards monitoring our sustainability goals at the city, but with Ann Arbor's sustainability framework project, we are taking a more integrated approach. We want to expand upon the environmental indicators and track progress towards our social and economic goals as well.

Other cities at the conference had examples of social and economic sustainability indicators. For instance, Minneapolis has a set of indicators that includes health and community sustainability factors. However, a key challenge to creating indicators is where to start. A message I took from other cities at the conference was to start with what you can get your arms around.

Last week, Ann Arbor started on this step. Four of Ann Arbor's commissions met to set priorities for the city within four areas (climate & energy, community, land use & access, and natural systems). We are now creating clear targets and actions in the upcoming sustainability action plan project that will begin in January.

To learn about other approaches beyond the triple-bottom line approach to think about sustainability, check out the lecture given to the city's energy, environmental, park advisory, and planning commissions. Also, look for the September 27th joint commission meeting on CTN's webpage soon!

Jamie Kidwell: Ann Arbor has 200 sustainability goals... and counting

Last week I attended the Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN) Conference in Denver. Check out the Sustainable Cities Institute website for more information on USDN and for local government best practices. At this conference, over 75 local government staff members from across North America gathered to talk openly about successes and challenges in moving sustainability initiatives forward at the local government level. Conference attendees included many of the frontrunners in sustainable and green initiatives, like Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver. From Michigan, Ann Arbor and Dearborn joined the conversation about how best to become more sustainable cities.

What are some of the steps Ann Arbor is taking to become more sustainable? We are taking a more integrated approach to planning.

With 24 plans in place and two more in progress, that gives Ann Arbor 26 plans. These plans contain over 200 goals. Additionally, city council resolutions and ordinances also set goals for the city of Ann Arbor. For instance, Ann Arbor's goal to use 30 percent renewable energy in municipal operations by 2015 isn't in Ann Arbor's energy plan, it sits in a council resolution. That leaves Ann Arbor with 200 goals…and counting.

How does this make Ann Arbor different from some of the other cities at the conference? Ann Arbor doesn't have a traditional sustainability plan, unlike some of the other cities, but sustainability goals are embedded into our current city plans. The next step is to integrate these plan goals into one overarching framework.

Ann Arbor's sustainability framework project is an 18-month project that looks to reorganize goals from city plans into four planning areas. This framework will not replace any of the city plans but will aggregate all city goals into one central location. The goal of this project is to institutionalize sustainability into future city planning and to increase accessibility to the city's sustainability goals. Reorganizing city goals into four planning areas (climate & energy, community, land use & access, and natural systems) creates a new lens to look at city plans. The framework will help identify converging goals seated within different plans and foster a more integrated approach to planning.

For instance, all city goals related to natural systems can be found in one place. Goals in the natural systems planning area aren't just from the natural features plan; Ann Arbor's transportation plan and the parks, recreation, and open space plan have goals aimed at improving our natural systems as well.  For information on the actions to achieve these goals, one can refer back to the original plans. This isn't a new plan, but instead is an exercise in taking stock of what goals we do have, and evaluating our current plans. I think of this process as an inventory of city goals. What do we have, what don't we have, and where do we go from here?     

Because Ann Arbor has a number of sustainability goals in place, a next step of the sustainability framework project is to prioritize goals and create a sustainability action plan that helps track progress towards our goals.

The end goal of the sustainability framework and action plan is to better track progress towards the city's sustainability priorities and increase awareness of our progress on these goals. If you're interested in checking out some plans from other cities, Philadelphia Greenworks and Santa Monica's Progress Report are useful resources.

For more background on Ann Arbor's process of building its sustainability framework, refer to our blog, which follows this project from its start!

Matthew Naud: Sustainability hums with the cross-pollination of city departments

There is a lot of talk about sustainability these days.  I am going to start with some of my high-level thoughts – mine and only mine – on what is working in Ann Arbor and where we have opportunities to advance in both marginal and more significant ways.  

I think of cities as complex systems.  Most cities are in many lines of business – making water, treating wastewater, managing stormwater, installing and maintaining all of the infrastructure to support these systems, building bike and pedestrian facilitates and roads, providing recreational opportunities, protecting natural and historic areas, building buildings, managing waste, recycling and composting, fire and safety, emergency management, housing, and education, to name a few.  Many of these systems are ours, some cross over into other jurisdictions, and for others we have to rely on good behavior by upstream residents to keep our drinking water sources and air quality clean.  
"Sustainability" is about taking an integrated systems approach to managing how we deliver city services.  It's about creating an organization that moves away from departments and instead supports staff working together across the systems we manage.  It's about hiring the right people and letting them be entrepreneurial.  It's about having really good data so your good people know what you have and how best to manage it.

Good People

I am fortunate to work with some very smart people committed to making Ann Arbor a better place to live.  That group of good people is pretty broad and includes city staff, managers, commissioners, graduate student interns, local businesses, faculty, and residents.  We have staff who look for new and improved ways of doing things and then work across the organization to make the city more efficient in the way it delivers services.  This often leads to a more integrated approach to designing projects, and ultimately better projects.  Our commissioners spend hundreds of hours each year at public meetings and sitting on committees with residents helping to design recommendations to improve the city quality of life.  Public meetings can be a lot of work but more often than not city planning and projects are better because of resident input.  We also get a lot from our smart university students working on projects that would otherwise never get done.

When I started in 2001, we had 14 departments and over 1,000 employees.  We now have four service areas (public services, community services, safety services, and financial services) and less than 750 employees.  As part of the reorganization, the Systems Planning Unit was created to manage projects and coordinate the long range asset management of the city.  Systems Planning brings together engineers, GIS specialists, the energy programs manager, the transportation program manager, urban forestry & natural resources coordinator, stormwater & floodplain program coordinator, capital improvements, the water quality manager, solid waste/recycling/composting, the environmental coordinator, and a senior planner into one group.

For example, as we move forward on an urban forestry and community management plan, we have staff with expertise in forestry but also GIS mapping (street tree inventory of 50,000 trees and city canopy cover data), stormwater (trees can hold ¼ inch of rainfall), energy (shading and implications for solar installations), street construction (creating favorable spaces for street trees), and climate change (looking at carbon sequestration and other climate benefits of urban forests).  Other parts of the organization bring staff with expertise in the role of trees as habitat and possible food sources.

We also have commissions that help to make recommendations to city council on a variety of sustainability areas.  The planning, energy, park advisory, and environmental commissions are four key groups of residents that take a deeper look into how the city can improve and develop new programs.

Good Data

We have very good spatial data for most of our systems.  We know where all of the water, wastewater, and stormwater pipes are.  As we should, but some cities do not.  We also have a person who models each of these systems as we seek to better understand how they work and interact.  Someone had the foresight to scan 14,000 of these pipes as built drawings so you can now walk into a room and pull up a map of the city – double click and see the original engineering drawing for a water pipe installed in the 1920s.  This significantly reduces the time needed to plan a project and better insures that opportunities are not missed.

We have had an energy office longer than most cities – many still do not.  We have one person whose job – after reviewing hundreds of meters and bills – is to oversee the seven million a year we spend on natural gas and electricity, decide how to buy it and where we can be more efficient, and also look at our transportation fuels.  We know that this office has saved three million dollars in energy costs and four million in operation and maintenance, not counting millions in grant dollars to support other efforts to green our fleet and further alternative energy goals.

We have developed a State of Our Environment Report website where we have organized 60 indicators around 10 environmental goals developed by the environmental commission and approved by city council.  It is a lot to look through but you will find our waste diversion rate (43% city-wide, 51% residential), data on reduced phosphorus loading to the Huron River (17-28%), creekshed metrics, impervious surface measures by creekshed, among others.  

So…Sustainability is about good people and good data.  It is an integrated and coordinated approach where multiple benefits are created from projects and we lose as few opportunities as possible when large capital investments are made.  We will be starting more of a discussion with the community around many of these issues in the near future.  Look for a series of sustainability lectures with the Ann Arbor District Library beginning in January 2012.