Viable Solutions

Green jobs are red, white and blue

Chart of $ relation to jobs for green industriesThis past March President Obama signed a jobs bill, noting "there's a lot more we need to do."

Multiple wins if Mayor Villaraigosa succeeds with accelerated transit plan

A train stopping at a station well-planted with treesA shout out to LA Mayor Anthony Villaraigosa for carrying a visionary plan to Washington DC this week that could jumpstart LA's economy while accelerating our sustainability.

He's traveled to Congress to gather support for his "30-10" plan to accelerate construction of the 12 mass transit projects funded by LA's voter-approved Measure R. This measure was passed in 2008 to increase sales tax by a half cent over the next 30 years to build an electric rail system in our traffic-gridlocked city.

The Mayor's request to Washington: give us (federal deficit-neutral) loans to get all 12 projects built in 10 years, instead of 30.

Coordinating our emergency response to the economy and the environment

Los Angeles' economy and ecosystem are in pieces: we need to start connecting the dots, and quickly. Today's combined crises in climate, drought, and economy call for us to urgently recognize the true emergency we are in.

One solution is to look to a rarely used government structure that could be updated and expanded to address our current state of threat.

LA's new Emergency Operations CenterIn the case of a "significant crisis" the heads of agencies - police, fire, sanitation, building and safety, water and power, etc. - are called into an Emergency Operations Center. There they literally look at the big picture, supported by information and intelligence from multiple sources. Together they craft solutions and pool and direct public resources - people, equipment, and funds - in real time, until the crisis is solved.

The city of Los Angeles happens to have a brand-new such center, completed last year. Most of the time it sits unused, perhaps because we don't recognize that we're in the midst of a "chronic emergency."

But it's pretty easy to argue that today's situation - in the economy and the environment - represents a chronic emergency as well as a significant crisis.  Consider:

Mayor's sustainability move could help fix the economy

The city Los Angeles Today - Bureaucratic Silosof Los Angeles's financial crisis, with its painful staffing cuts, is deeply rooted in its environmental crisis.

This may sound surprising. It's a perspective that's certainly invisible to most policy makers.

We hemorrhage cash and jobs, in part, because we are hemorrhaging water and energy. The waste of natural and economic resources is intertwined, and it's time to realize that the solutions must be intertwined as well.

Kudos to Mayor Villaraigosa for consolidating the functions of Environment, Energy and Sustainability into his office. This shows that he and his staff recognize the urgent need for coordinating resource management. It's partly because of the uncoordinated way we've managed the environment that we are in today's mess. And it's critical to understand how we got here in order to create a path out.

When cities like Los Angeles were developed, people didn't understand they were building on an ecosystem. Thus government was organized into manageable departments that didn't reflect a living, interconnected system of air, water, soil, plants and animals. As the city grew, departments became bureaucracies, and these organized into what is known in management parlance as "silos," each with its own responsibilities, infrastructure systems, and budgets to grow and protect.

And so, water supply people didn't talk to the flood control people. Flood control people didn't talk to the water quality people. As new problems arose, cities created new bureaucracies and infrastructure systems to manage and solve them without addressing the problems in the underlying systems that caused them in the first place.

The result: today's massive, systemic, overwhelming waste: of vital natural resources, of taxpayers' money, of water, and of human lives.

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