Mayor highlights environment in major speech

The year is getting off to a promising start! On January 28, 2019, Mayor Tom Koch mentioned several green initiatives in his “State of the City” address. They include issues that QCAN has been advocating for, including a plan to increase the fraction of our electricity sourced from wind and solar, called green municipal aggregation, and the creation of a group to study the feasibility of collecting food waste in a separate bin on trash day. He also wants to ban plastic bags in Quincy, plant more trees, protect marshland as a hedge against sea level rise, and improve the energy efficiency of city buildings and vehicles. Read his full comments below:

The environment we leave our children and grandchildren remains one of our most enduring challenges. It is also those very same young people of today who inspire us to act.

I was fortunate enough last year to sit with students at Central Middle School who had just completed a project asking them to identify solutions to a major problem we face as a society. The passion and knowledge these students shared with me was truly extraordinary and has stayed with me all these months later.

The students spoke of the devastating impact of discarded plastic on our environment, particularly on our ocean ecosystems and the chain reaction of widespread consequences caused by an unhealthy ocean. Thanks to the passion of these young people and that of many of others in our community, our administration will present to the City Council in the coming weeks a ban on single-use plastic bags and a ban on single-use plastic alcohol containers.

The students also talked about the dangers of greenhouse gas emissions and their near and long-term implications for all of us. This is nothing new. But listening to young people talk so passionately about it gives me great hope for our future and should drive all of us to act now.

To that end, based on a discussion started by the City Council some months ago, we will present legislation that will allow our residents to receive electricity from renewable or clean energy sources. This energy aggregation program, which will give our residents a choice in how their electricity is generated, will not only help our environment but also holds great potential for cost-savings on monthly electric bills.

And it was also the Council that recently began a discussion about the potential of a citywide composting program. Working in collaboration with the Council and a community-based task force supported by the Quincy Climate Action Network, we’ll conduct a feasibility study with the goal of piloting an organic waste diversion or composting program.

Two years ago, we installed LED lights on all 6,000 of our street lights. Five years ago, we installed solar panels on more than a dozen of our school buildings, creating more than 2 megawatts of power. We invested through what’s called net-metering credits in solar fields in Southeastern Massachusetts, saving the City millions of dollars in energy costs.

Our first electric car-changing stations will be installed at the new South-West Middle School and the new Hancock Parking Garage. We’ll continue to explore higher efficiency practices when it comes to the city’s vehicle fleet and ensure new buildings – including a new public safety headquarters – are built to the highest efficiency standard possible.

These programs point toward our future, but we must also move to address the environmental threats we face today. The storms of last March – and others in recent years – show without a doubt that our community’s 27 miles of coastline needs immediate protection. This year, we’ll present to the City Council a funding request to rebuild 8,000 linear feet of seawalls along some of our most vulnerable areas from Merrymount and Houghs Neck – seawalls built higher and stronger than those that currently exist.

We also finalize a five-year sustainability plan that touches on virtually every natural threat we face and how we plan to address it – from coastal storms to inland flooding in places like West Quincy. That includes studying the potential of a regional hurricane barrier that would protect all Boston Harbor communities – the first step of which includes planning money currently before the City Council.

Protecting our coast and other vulnerable areas ties closely to the health of our existing natural resources – the acres upon acres of tidal wetlands, our freshwater brooks and ponds, our passive open spaces. This is part of the reason why we proposed expanding the role of the Park Department to incorporate the stewardship of these assets as part of what will be called the Department of Natural Resources. The proposal, pending before the City Council, creates a management structure that puts the responsibility of protecting and enhancing these resources into a single department. The health of our wetlands is an absolutely critical component to protecting our coastline, and their viability should be entrusted to a designated City department.

Protecting our environment also means a substantial expansion of our tree planting efforts – the health of our urban forest is critically important for our quality of life and our environment.