- For cities in the Ohio Valley to take advantage of a greener economy, local leaders must ensure job creation and benefits in the transition away from fossil fuels, mayors from the region said on a Thursday webinar hosted by Climate Mayors.
- Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said cities' emphasis on environmental sustainability should be accompanied by a move toward a more sustainable economy, and that shift must ensure no one whose job or community could be adversely affected is left behind. Peduto said the transition must win people's "hearts and minds, and in order to win their hearts and minds, you’re going to need to speak to their pocketbooks."
- Youngstown, OH Mayor Jamael Tito Brown said there are plenty of opportunities for innovation in the offing, including in areas of auto manufacturing. Brown cited the development of autonomous shuttles and the growth of electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing and infrastructure as two areas where forward-thinking Midwest cities can be national leaders. "We can’t look to our past," Brown said. "We need to look to our future."
During the webinar, Peduto repeated his call to implement a "Marshall Plan for the Midwest" in the first quarter of 2021, something he suggested last year on Capitol Hill. Peduto said the plan's economic development strategy could simultaneously create jobs and take care of communities, which would help the Ohio Valley "speak with one voice" and be a national leader.
"Our region has a history of building this country once, we can build it a second time," Peduto said.
Dayton, OH Mayor Nan Whaley said there are plenty of opportunities for cities to respond to the challenge of climate change, even as the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has decimated municipal budgets. Whaley said Dayton was forced to close two municipal golf courses due to financial constraints, but is now exploring how they might be used to host a solar array to provide renewable energy, a project that would create jobs locally and ensure the use of cleaner electricity.
With cities needing to find ways to be creative amid financial headwinds and the ongoing threat of climate change, they cannot leave any opportunity unexplored, Whaley said.
"If we have and continue to have winners and losers on an economic driver that we've seen in the past, we're going to continue to have troubles with the overall country believing in how important this is," she said. "It's not only important for our communities, but it's really important for the future of our country as well."
Cities in the Ohio Valley have struggled in the face of extreme weather wrought by climate change, with flooding, tornadoes and landslides all wreaking havoc on local jurisdictions in recent years. And the California wildfires have had a negative impact on local air quality, with smoke being blown into some cities in Ohio.
While the mayors agreed they want a stronger partner in the federal government, and also more help from their state governments, cities can still do plenty to lead on their own. Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said the city's new solar array, from which nearby localities can derive some of their energy, was an example of being "inspired for the wrong reasons to do the right thing."
Cranley said that initiative in part came after President Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate accord, and that it was not an opportunity he or his administration had explored beforehand. If the federal government does not engage on the issue, cities must take the initiative and lead on climate change mitigation, Cranley said.
"We can do so much without a federal partner," Cranley said. "We can do more with a federal partner, but it’s up to us."
The need for an economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic combined with a move toward a more environmentally-friendly future presents a "growth moment for our city and the Valley," Brown said.