Sustainability must be at the heart and conscience of all the city of Denver does -- now and in the future. We can no longer afford the days of wanton consumption without regard for the future. Denver already has a strong culture of sustainability and the state of Colorado is a leader in sustainability technology. The next mayor of Denver must expand on the efforts of Mayor Hickenlooper and Governor Ritter to make Denver a model for sustainability throughout the country.
When I am mayor, the city will initiate a comprehensive review to identify ways to make Denver the national leader in sustainability. I will focus our efforts on alternative transportation, developing green industries and green collar jobs and supporting sustainable urban development. Denver will be a responsible city that improves the environment for future generations.
Denver has the opportunity to become the national model of green energy that benefits our residents with an improved environment, cost savings and providing a means of economic development. My goal is to establish Power Denver, modeled after the local efforts already underway in Boulder and Northern Colorado. Boulder's Energy Future is a city project aimed at reducing cost to the consumer, supporting local business, and reducing the emissions in the city. In Northern Colorado and the city of Ft. Collins, there are internationally recognized energy clusters. These local clusters have the goals of:
- Creating 1,500 direct jobs in the clean energy sector
- Attracting 3-5 clean energy company headquarters
- Creating one clean energy project with global significance within five years and one per year with a regional/statewide impact
- $325 million in economic growth for the region
These are lofty but attainable goals for Boulder and Northern Colorado and can be attainable for the city of Denver. Denver should and will become a leader in these efforts.
I will launch the Power Denver initiative to be facilitated by Greenprint Denver. Power Denver, in conjunction with Xcel Energy and the nonprofit and business communities, will develop a master plan to identify neighborhood-specific energy goals and determine the best way to achieve them. These goals will benefit all with minimal cost to the consumer. The implementation phase of the plan will give preference to local clean-energy providers and consumer incentives.
Power Denver will achieve economic development goals building upon the Boulder and Ft. Collins models. Our goal will be to create 2,500 direct jobs in the clean energy sector. We will involve local colleges and universities, the business sector, nonprofit community and the citizens of Denver in a unified effort to accomplish these goals. We cannot cut our way to prosperity. Power Denver is an investment in our future that will create jobs, increase our tax base and provide benefits for Denver residents and our global community.
Transportation Infrastructure, Materials and Recycling
As Denver's population grows, the city must provide transportation alternatives to gas-dependent cars. This will require improvements to all means of transportation. Denver's infrastructure must first be hospitable for cyclists, bus and light rail users and walkers. I understand from experience the critical role of infrastructure development in sustainability. I led the efforts to redevelop Skyline Park and was the project manager for the development and construction of the Denver Justice Center. Each of these projects resulted in reduced traffic lanes and the addition of bike lanes. We installed "bulb outs" to allow pedestrians to easily view traffic when crossing streets and shorten the time it takes to cross the street. With each of these improvements we made it safer for cyclists and pedestrians and encouraged alternatives to cars.
I will build on my experience from Skyline Park and the Denver Justice Center to improve our infrastructure to attract more users of alternative transportation. I will work with the Department of Public Works to ensure that all improvement projects include important aspects of a sustainable infrastructure such as bike lanes and improved side walks and bulb outs. I will work with RTD and Public Works to design light rail and bus stations into sidewalks and streets to make it safer for riders to arrive at their final destination.
I fully support the expansion of light rail and the completion of FasTracks throughout the metro area. As a top priority, we need to complete the line to DIA. When FasTracks is completed, it will provide alternative transportation for Denver's suburban neighbors when traveling into downtown, reducing the number of cars on our streets and freeways. I also support the FasTracks Downtown Distributor plan. When completed, the Downtown Distributor will use Union Station as its hub for light and commuter rail and bus routes branching out to all of downtown. Using high efficiency buses, the Mall Ride will be extended and new routes will be introduced. This new network of routes will cut travel time around downtown from Union Station to the Golden Triangle. As improvements to roads and sidewalks take place, the Department of Public Works will plan and build with the Downtown Distributor in mind.
As gas prices rise, electric cars will become more common, creating a higher need for charging stations. My administration will take an active role in identifying locations throughout the city and seek business partners to identify the most effective possibilities. The Hyatt Regency at the Convention Center provides designated parking and charging for guests with electric cars. At DIA, the new Canopy Airport Parking provides free charging for travelers using electric vehicles. When I am mayor, I will work with businesses to install stations throughout the city and will see that the energy provided to these stations comes from renewable sources.
As mayor, I will ensure that Denver continues its transition to using long-lasting materials. The Department of Public Works has begun to repave high traffic roads and intersections with concrete. Concrete is more durable than asphalt, better handles Colorado winters and will ultimately save the city money through reduced maintenance and replacement costs. Denver has one of the largest inventories of LED traffic lights. These lights are brighter, last longer, are environmentally safe and save the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The city of Denver currently charges an additional fee for recycling collection. As mayor I will provide recycling and composting free of charge to all Denver homes, including multi-unit housing and businesses. Our current system is a deterrent to recycling and composting. The long-term benefits to Denver will easily out weigh any additional cost the city experiences in the short-term. In just a few short years our efforts will pay for themselves and create a greener city.
Denver's Green Industry, Education and Jobs
The Denver metro area can become the country's leader in sustainability by developing green jobs. In 2009 more than 1,000 green companies in the metro area provided over 16,000 jobs in research and development, manufacturing, installation and maintenance positions. The Denver metro area is home to the Colorado Renewable Energy Collaboratory, which includes CU-Boulder and the Colorado School of Mines. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has been designated as one of 46 Energy Frontier Research Centers by the US Department of Energy. NREL has partnered with the University of Colorado to develop curricula in business, engineering and law specific to the clean tech industry. Numerous domestic and international renewable energy companies have moved operations to Denver and the Metro Area. While the pieces are in place, it will take the vision of Denver's next mayor to make Denver the leader in sustainability.
We must educate tomorrow's workforce to the vast career opportunities in green collar employment. This emerging industry will depend on our youth. As Mayor I will facilitate a Denver Public Schools partnership with clean tech companies to introduce high school students to emerging green technologies, including solar and wind. I will lobby the legislature to expand the Colorado Renewable Energy Collaboratory to include the University of Denver and the higher ed institutions on the Auraria Campus. Expansion of the program will expose these opportunities to a new sector of the population. I will use the NREL-CU partnership as a model to bring CEOs and leaders of clean tech companies together to discuss how new partnerships create opportunities with our institutions of higher learning.
When I am mayor, I will aggressively market Denver to companies from the renewable energy sector. I will work with our schools, research centers and business owners to develop a plan centered on a workforce trained and prepared to work in green technology. To attract new business we must provide a ready workforce. The plan will identify existing and potential locations for research and development and light manufacturing. Denver will provide incentives to both relocating companies and start-ups with preference in city procurement, tax incentives for locating in a developing neighborhood and incentives for partnering with our schools.
I propose to initiate a Green Job Corps in Denver to vertically integrate the manufacture, sale and installation of new energy products. Denver has the opportunity to incentivize companies to manufacture in our city and incentivize homeowners to utilize these products. For example, a solar company establishing in Denver would not only provide manufacturing jobs, but a city-wide installation initiative would create hundreds if not thousands of jobs in Denver installing solar panels on homes throughout Denver and harnessing the energy of 300 days of sunshine.
Urban Sustainability is the Key
In 2007, Mayor Hickenlooper signed Executive Order 123 setting Denver's sustainability policy and establishing Greenprint Denver. The order states that any new city building, or any city building which undergoes major renovation, will be built and certified minimally to the LEED Silver standard. Any small construction, renovation, existing buildings or projects not LEED eligible will adhere to best practice methods to become as energy efficient as possible. When I am mayor, I will continue these standards for all of Denver's new capital and improvement construction projects.
As project manager of the Denver Justice Center, a $425 million, three-building campus, I led the effort to construct the city's first LEED certified buildings and installed the city's first "green roof." Even with these sustainable enhancements, we were able to bring this project in on time and on budget.
The city's contribution to sustainability goes beyond just ensuring our buildings meet the highest environmental standards. We need to encourage the same from existing building owners, local businesses and neighborhoods by providing the tools to create a more sustainable Denver. Since 2007, Greenprint Denver has been the City's voice on sustainability. Greenprint informs businesses and residents about the benefits of creating a sustainable community and promotes environmentally friendly living. As mayor, I will continue to support Greenprint Denver and I will seek funding partners in the nonprofit and business communities so the message and efforts of Greenprint will continue.
Living City Block was launched in the summer of 2010 with the goal of transforming the block between 16th and 17th and Wazee and Wynkoop into a model of sustainable urban living and commerce while retaining the history of LoDo. The success of Living City Block is encouraging: commitments from 80% of the building owners, street improvements with the backing of the city, and 25 partners from business, government, nonprofit and education communities. When the project is completed, this block will provide economic development opportunities focused on sustainability and serve as a model to not only the rest of the city, but to the entire nation. I will work with Living City Block, Greenprint Denver and the City's Business Districts to complete the Wazee project and identify new locations to implement this successful model.
Think Globally, Buy, Ride & Garden Locally
Successful urban sustainability requires contributions from the entire community. All across Denver, neighborhoods and local businesses are building community gardens, using alternative sources of energy and buying from local producers. As mayor, I will support these continuing efforts by making land and parks available for farmers' markets.
Idle City of Denver-owned land should be converted to community gardens, and laws should be changed to allow backyard chickens and the sharing and sale of backyard produce.
Through the Buy Denver Initiative (BDI), I will promote the production and purchase of local foods and sustainably made goods. BDI will partner with business partners to sponsor sustainable industry workshops for entrepreneurs looking to start or grow their business.
The launch of the Denver B-Cycle program in 2010 and its subsequent success demonstrates the willingness of Denverites and visitors to Denver to use such a program for alternative transportation. As mayor, I will collaborate with B-Cycle to double the number of bike depots and make available, at each depot, helmet renting opportunities.
To learn more about my campaign for Mayor of Denver, please visit www.MejiaForMayor.com where you can sign-up to Get Involved, read about my plan for Moving Denver Forward through Economic Development and find out about Upcoming Events. I always welcome your ideas -- please feel free to post comments here or use the Contact form on the campaign website.