1/15/08 UPDATE: Story picked up by DailyKos and the head of City's environmental health department gets fired gets transferred.

Here's a tantalizing thought in light of all those green Qs decorating our city of late:

Is the City of Albuquerque greenwashing?

Ahem. Given my intimate experience with the subject as the City's former webmaster asked to lead the creation of another sustainability site (not to be confused with the albuquerquegreen.com one now mysteriously missing but available on the wayback machine and as an image below), I should be seriously weighing in. Ideally without run-on sentences like the one above. Maybe later when I'm able to write something thoughtful...

Until then, read John Fleck's piece in the Sunday Journal (also available here) and tell us what you think.

More local coverage below

[Last updated: 1/15/08 10:30am]

Views: 21

Comment by once banned twice shy on January 14, 2008 at 1:16pm
I know I've got quibbles with the Mayor calling himself Mr. Greenjeans, all the while encourgaging sprawl and additional road construction--rather than investing that money into alternative transportation needs. The money spent on additional/wider roads, that is.

But some local advocates prefer to throw Marty a bone for what he has done for alternative transportation--mostly lip service, since I don't see HIM using alternative transportation, but I guess lip service is better than no service.
Comment by SNM on January 14, 2008 at 1:44pm
I would hope everyone can separate the cause from the politician. The greening of Albuquerque is a good idea and necessary. Unfortunately, a politician has gotten a hold of it and well....this is the result. Were good things done? Obviously. Were gains made? Yes. Were exagerations made to help Marty's Gove..Sena..Mayor for Life campaigns? Yes.

Hijacking of issues and knee jerk reactions are going to be the downfall of the Environmental/Conservation movement if common sense, reason and facts are not an integral part of the movement in the future. It gives critics too much ammo. Ethanol is the prime example of overreaction. Ethanol cars get lower mpg than gasoline vehicles; Food costs are up; Significant water resources are being wasted; The fertilizer being used is dumping so much nitrogen into the Mississippi, that the ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico is now being effected; Ethanol plants account for unacceptable levels of CO2 emissions; The ratio of BTU's used as a comparison of BTU's generated is 1/1.5; And of course we are subsidizing it with tax payer dollars. All of this because it was promoted and hijacked by special interests and the politicians wanted to look good.

The Mayor should be held accountable by those in the environmental community regardless of political affiliation. To support the politician over the cause will only embolden the critics and inevitably do more harm than good.
Comment by Self Serve on January 14, 2008 at 7:25pm
I think a recycling program with city pick up would be grand-until it's easy to be green the bulk of abq won't be...
Comment by chantal on January 14, 2008 at 9:01pm
Personally, I'm with Scott on this one:

"The greening of Albuquerque is a good idea and necessary. Unfortunately, a politician has gotten a hold of it and well....this is the result. Were good things done? Obviously. Were gains made? Yes."

From all the research we conducted to put together cabq.gov/sustainability, it was clear that Albuquerque and actually Mayor Chavez (much as I wanted to believe otherwise) had in fact made significant strides towards a sustainable life here. I think that the Q marketing has cheapened it, making it suspect for many people, and that some statistically-challenged bureaucrats were overly eager to please the administration with glowing (and apparently unfounded) success stories.
Comment by Scott Hale on January 15, 2008 at 12:30am
One could build a pretty good argument that any gains that the "community" of Albuquerque has made has been in spite of itself. And, well, Marty.

It's tragic considering that in the early 90's we had a pretty good start and were well ahead of most comparable cities. I personally think that a lot of the environmental inertia is due to Marty's autocratic and dictatorial political style (NOT to be confused with leadership, in any sense). Until the community steps up and comes together, and manages our environmental sustainability/future instead of deferring to Marty's cronies and self-serving environmental dictates/mandates, I don't see how we can expect anything but more of the same.

Chantal, when I first saw the work you did on the city site I wanted to spit. Not because it wasn't great work and research, it was. What bothered me was the negative context of Marty and the sundry bureaucrats leading (there must be 50 or more Marty references) and the community following. That's not how environmental stewardship/leadership works, and in fact, that's not how most environmental progress in Albuquerque has been made.

I just reread the ABQ Sustainability site and there's all the elements of a great start for the entire community, both in what we have done and need to do. It just needs to be pulled and repurposed, with Marty and cronies grepped out, and replaced with the leadership and vision of the best the community has to offer when it comes to our future and sustainability.
Comment by chantal on January 15, 2008 at 8:54am
Scott, you raise some excellent points regarding the use of a figurehead (in this case, the Mayor) to sell sustainability.

Believe me, I wasn't happy about framing Albuquerque's sustainability story at cabq.gov/sustainability in what seemed to me a political context, but I also wonder if the visibility of leadership on a project is what gives it a face for most people. Think Steve Jobs (who definitely doesn't build all those iPods) being the public face of Apple.

Or maybe the concept of sustainability needed a leader *internally* to push it through the bureaucracy and break down the fiefdoms of information hoarding. Sadly, there's a good deal of inertia at City Hall so I can see how forcefulness is required to make something -- anything -- happen.

Anyway, I think using the frame of sustainability to guide decisions about local governance is admirable. I'd like to see leadership with long-term commitment to Albuquerque bring it all to legitimate fruition.

RE recycling, the City does have curbside recycling. Here's some more info:

Curbside pickup

About recycling in ABQ
Comment by SNM on January 15, 2008 at 9:43am
Is this any different than 'An Inconvenient Truth'. I watched the movie and in the end felt sorry for Gore, because he clearly had not gotten over losing his Presidential campaign. Good movie, Good science, too much Gore. But if not him who....And that is why he won the Nobel. Somebody has to start it.

In the 70's plans were made for the Chama river project. Good foresight to our current water problems. Conservation only works when we conserve resources. And part of conserving resources is efficiency. I believe Marty can be congratulated on pushing the city to reduce water consumption by 30%. Hopefully, that percentage was not exaggerated, but that was the start. So many efforts were born from this beginning and not all from the City of Albuquerque.

My wife and I started SustainableNewMexico.org, shameless plug, in April 2006. It was initially a school project for Dr. Milne's Sustainable Living class at UNM. (Incidentally, that class has matured into a Minor Degree at UNM.) Since deploying the site, the CABQ site came on line, along with a two other sites. In addition, the largest builder in the state is building green exclusively; Other's are following suit; Green consumerism is now common place in NM; Building codes have changed; So much progress in such a short period of time.

Leaders come and go and Marty is on his way out, but his efforts brought real results. I made the initial comment that the Mayor should be held accountable. He should also be given credit for helping kick start a movement that brought change. I just hope that ABQers will see the results and look beyond the selfish campaign to the reality that is the sustainable movement in NM.
Comment by Robert S. on January 15, 2008 at 11:58pm
What I want to know is why inept people are transferred in city government. Instead of firing EHD head Alfredo Santistevan, he was transferred to another department to probably mess that one up too (as much as you can being a deputy director).

Time to kick out Marty and with a lot of his inept department heads and see if we can find a mayor that assigns duties based on competance rather than assign top slots to donors.
Comment by chantal on January 16, 2008 at 8:21am
Robert, sounds like you may know more than I do, but here's what I learned about how govt works:

It's nearly impossible to fire anyone in City Govt due to liability issues primarily. Once someone is "tenured," having been there 6 months as a full-time employee, that person has a job for life. To me, this is one of the primary problems in our local govt because you can't reward good motivated people and you can't fire non-performers. Ignorance, laziness, complacency, and lack of relevant skills can only be reprimanded with a transfer in most cases.

Santistevan, like most Directors, is appointed at the will of the Mayor which I think makes it easier to can him entirely but I could be wrong.
Comment by Robert S. on January 16, 2008 at 2:10pm
I don't know more about you with regards to how jobs in government work. All I know is I'm tired of seeing city employees mess up and not be canned (only be transferred to possibly mess up another department within city government).

Too bad there is a tenure system in place - it seems you only have to perform well for 6 months and then you can mess up the rest of your career and get your pension. Maybe government would work better overall if we got rid of tenure and giving jobs to donors or "Friends of Marty" and have people keep their jobs if they are motivated, great at what they do, or if they make good hiring decisions (to eliminate heads blaming their employees for their messups).


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