Communities Press City Council on Biomass Incinerator

On Wednesday, August 11, 2010, community groups from Springfield, Massachusetts came together to ask the City Council to revoke the siting permit for Palmer Renewable Energy, which would use demolition waste streams as an energy source. As previously showcased by The Springfield Institute, neighborhoods in the City have two primary concerns about using this technology:

  1. That the incineration process will decrease, increase harmful particulate matter, reduce air quality and lead to adverse health effects for the community like asthma and other problems.
  2. That demolition waste is not a clean, renewable energy source which State and Local governments should be promoting.

For more information about community organizing around this issue, visit Springfield


El Sol Latino – May 2010: Arts, immigration, energy, education & more!


El Sol Latino, May 2010

This month’s issue of El Sol Latino features the Riverview Senior Dancers, a Springfield group that promotes culture and fitness through Bomba and Plena, two afro-Puerto Rican folkloric dances that get your groove going and blood pumping! It also highlights a new sustainability and green jobs initiative in Holyoke known as Energía, an effort to make multifamily and commercial buildings more energy efficient.

El Sol complements this edition by taking a close look at national and international topics: a piece on the recent Arizona immigration bill, an Op-Ed by Dr. Brian Rachmaciej on how national education policy should place more importance on parental involvement, and news from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

All that and more for May. You can have a great read by picking up a copy or clicking here to view online. Enjoy!

Environmental justice/land use photo-tour of Springfield at WNEC Law School [Updated x2]

Yesterday I talked about environmental justice and land use with Ben Rajotte’s students at Western New England College School of Law. Van Jones (Obama’s exiled green jobs czar) set the stage with this excellent video (below). And I followed up with a guided photo-tour of Springfield’s most dramatic built environment equity issues (environmental justice tourism!). Download the slideshow here (PDF, 11.5 MB).

UPDATE: My friend Bill Childs (see his WNEC “Blawg” here) alerted me that the commercial activity around the Basketball Hall of Fame is not all national chains. Onyx is owned by two local guys (WARNING: annoying music!), one of whom is a WNEC alum. And Max’s is a regional chain.

UPDATE: Relatedly, today’s NY Times piece, “Slumbering Pittsburgh neighborhood reawakens,” is about the revival of a Pittsburgh neighborhood (East Liberty). The article refers to a “community plan” that called for “attracting shoppers to a broader range of businesses than the aging mom-and-pop stores that remained, reviving the street grid, and creating jobs and better housing.” Big boxes are never neighborhood upgrades, but I couldn’t help but consider the possibilities of attracting national chains but requiring that they are scaled appropriately, located downtown, and pedestrian-friendly.

WRSI/WHMP & Ch40 cover policy course and biomass

Monte Belmonte from 93.9 The River (WRSI) ran a great interview (listen here) with me and two students discussing our course and biomass in Springfield. And Channel 40 (WGGB) joined us at our final class trip (Human Service Forum Legislative Breakfast), and provided another opportunity to reference biomass in Springfield (watch here).

Students take on 4 local and timely policy topics [video]

Have the posts on this site seemed a little sparse lately? I haven’t been slacking off. In fact, I’ve been busier than ever working with twenty-one students from Amherst College, UMass, Hampshire, Mt. Holyoke, and Oberlin in the context of a January term course on applied public policy. The group split into four policy teams, and recruited a “client organization” for each:

  • The charter schools team linked up with the nascent Springfield Promise Neighborhood Committee
  • The biomass team linked up with Arise for Social Justice’s biomass taskforce
  • The food security team linked up with the Holyoke Health Center and the Holyoke Food and Fitness Policy Council
  • The homelessness team linked up with Interfaith Housing Corporation in Amherst

We have been working hard to include a very diverse range of stakeholders (not just the client org itself), with an emphasis on underrepresented groups. And we have been using a variety of media in order to tell a compelling story. You can see what we’ve done in photos, videos, and words on our splashy course web site (a wiki, really). Students will present their work at a special event at Amherst College on February 4th at 5PM (reception at 4:30). All are welcome. RSVP here. The students have done amazing work,. We are excited about raising the level of debate, and broadening participation in the debate of these regionally relevant and timely issues (does that sound like a familiar objective?). Click on my face to see a CH40 snippet about the course, and here’s an interview by Monte Belmonte with me and two students that aired on WRSI and WHMP.