The city of Ypsilanti's Sustainability Planning Subcommittee held its first meeting Aug. 17 on Eastern Michigan University's (EMU) campus to write a definition of sustainability that will essentially serve as a mission statement for the city's sustainability plan.
The group is one of three subcommittees on the city's Sustainability Commission. Commissioner Brett Zeuner says the plan is intended as a "tool" for Ypsi's city council to use in determining whether its decisions fit with the city's goal of being sustainable.
The subcommittee brainstormed keywords or phrases that should be included in the definition, which needs to be broad and all-encompassing. The subcommittee's recommendations for the definition of sustainability will be considered by the commission at its next meeting on Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. at City Hall. Although the sustainability plan is starting small, Zeuner says it stands to have major implications.
"Water Street happened, in part, because of lack of holistic consideration, and lack of awareness, surrounding legacy contamination. Issues like this will only continue to amplify as our societal awareness grows and our testing methods improve," says Zeuner, an Ypsi resident and environmental justice graduate student at the University of Michigan. "Thus, it is necessary to have a framework in place to address such complex issues that affect the economic, social, and environmental health of our community."
Commissioner Tom Kovacs, professor of meteorology at EMU and head of the university's Environmental Science and Society program, also expresses big goals for the plan.
"My hope for the commission is that we truly embrace the three pillars of sustainability and are able to include areas of the community that I feel are often left out of sustainability plans, which are the urban poor and the local businesses," Kovacs says.
The Sustainability Commission was formed through an ordinance that went into effect in February. The commission started holding its monthly meetings in April.
Nine commissioners, all appointed by Ypsi mayor Amanda Edmonds, serve on the commission. The commission is still seeking two Ypsi residents under the age of 18 to serve as non-voting youth commissioners.
The purpose of the Sustainability Commission is to create the sustainability plan, review and assess what the city has done and is doing in regards to sustainability, and engage with citizens about sustainability issues. The Sustainability Planning Subcommittee is responsible for drafting the sustainability plan and bringing it before the commission.
The commission's two other subcommittees are the Michigan Green Communities Challenge Subcommittee and the Community Outreach Subcommittee. The former is specifically tasked with facilitating the process of registering Ypsi with the Michigan Green Communities Challenge and benchmarking what the city has been doing to promote sustainability and the goals put forth by the annual program, while the latter focuses on getting the community involved in sustainability efforts.
The next Sustainability Planning Subcommittee meeting will be held on Sept. 21 at 6:30 p.m. at the Ypsilanti District Library's downtown location.
Brianna Kelly is the embedded reporter for On the Ground Ypsi and an Ypsilanti resident. She has worked for The Associated Press and has freelanced for The Detroit News and Crain's Detroit Business.
Photo by Brianna Kelly.