VIEWPOINT: What we could learn from Fort Wayne

To be competitive in a global economy, city leaders must embrace change and look for innovative ways to attract jobs and private investment. In Fort Wayne, we are working to save energy and improve air and water quality to build a better city.

We must decrease our dependence on imported oil for many reasons, including national security, cost of living and the need to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Energy and environmental concerns are directly related to economic development and quality of life.

What is Fort Wayne doing to meet the challenge? Our community has developed a comprehensive energy and clean-air plan. The plan was developed by the Mayor’s Green Ribbon Commission. This 11-member group, led by two local business owners, developed policy recommendations to reduce the cost of energy use and improve air quality. Here are some of the recommendations:

Add renewable energy sources,

Reduce the dependence on traditional automobiles and trucks,

Encourage green development.

We’re building our first smart, green
home with universal access. Construction is beginning this month. The home will feature the latest technology in energy efficiency, environmental protection and entertainment.

Key amenities will include bamboo flooring, indoor air-quality monitoring, Web-based health monitoring, and roomby-room energy monitoring. Fort Wayne is pursuing the Smart, Green Home program to promote a design that improves health, reduces energy bills and uses renewable, non-polluting materials.

The home will be featured as a “killer app” broadband application at the first KillerApp Conference April 30 to May 2 at the Grand Wayne Center in Fort Wayne. We were chosen to host the conference because of our innovative approach to using technology to improve government services.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has selected Fort Wayne as one of three cities in Indiana to add energy and environmental objectives into our housing program guidelines. In addition, smart-growth principles are part of the Plan-It Allen program. Plan-it Allen is a Fort Wayne/Allen County landuse and development plan for the future.

Fort Wayne launched a Green City Initiative in 2005 to improve government services and make our city more environmentally friendly. Thirteen city hybrid vehicles are in use. Sixteen city government vehicles run on ethanol, and 300
city vehicles run on biodiesel fuel. The total fuel savings is over $217,000 a year. Idle-reduction software is installed in more than 50 vehicles.

Nearly 6,000 traffic lights have been converted to LED, which has reduced energy consumption 60 percent. We’re repaving our entire 23-mile Rivergreenway network and are working toward creating more than 80 miles of trails and greenways. The city asphalt plant has made improvements to its facility, resulting in 50-percent energy savings.

Our Green City Public Outreach campaign features nationally recognized experts and community leaders who present communitywide speeches and open forums to discuss the importance of green initiatives. Public outreach, community green-build workshops and energy-saving tips in city utility bills are part of the ongoing plan as we work to implement practical, efficient measures to reduce energy and improve air quality.

As business and community leaders, we must recognize the urgency to reduce energy consumption and air pollution. All of us must work together to improve our environment. The work we do today will help produce cleaner air and save money on energy costs. This enhanced quality of life will help Fort Wayne attract and retain jobs.

Richard is mayor of Fort Wayne.

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