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Council member explains sustainability vote
April 07, 2011 Jerry Purvis   

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On April 4, members of the Gering City Council voted 5-2 to reject a sustainability plan that was developed in 2009.
Council member Larry Gibbs said many aspects of the proposed sustainability plan could work for Gering, but much of is driven by a worldview foreign to rural America.
Gibbs said an often repeated phrase in the plan, “three pillars of sustainability,” is from a 2005 United Nations world summit that determined it “requires the reconciliation of environmental, social and economic demands.”
Gibbs said he’d have no problem if it were strictly a “green” plan. “I’ve been a big supporter of wind energy in Gering from day one. I’m all for recycling when it’s financially realistic. There are lots of good things in the plan, but also a lot of fluff. We don’t need a social program. We need a conservation program.”
Gibbs claimed the sustainability plan in its current form is a social blueprint. One phrase he pointed out was we “must change our thinking from a widening of the haves and have-nots to a shared future.” He said it sounded a lot like another recent political phrase – Share the wealth.
“I’m not against that as a goal for society, but it’s not a government goal,” he added.
Gibbs said he was also concerned that some council members are taking it upon themselves to implement the policy before the full council has approved it.
“How do they have the authority to implement a plan before it’s been approved?” he asked. “That upsets me. That’s overstepping your bounds.”
Gibbs said that after the vote at last week’s council meeting, he was approached by a department head who claimed the plan had been rammed down their throats. “It’s not being accepted as other council members have said it is.”
He said another impractical part of the study is “infilling,” a policy to build houses on vacant lots within an existing subdivision. Gibbs had investigated doing such a project about 15 years ago. He discovered that if new housing is placed in older neighborhoods, the banks don’t appraise it as much as the developer had invested in the house because of the surrounding comparables.
“There are a lot of things we could do if we don’t care whether they can be done or not,” he said. “I support using LEED environmental building standards as long as they’re affordable. When the standards get to the point where it costs twice as much to build a LEED acceptable building, I don’t support that.”
Another item in the sustainability plan calls for “year-round recycling.” Gibbs said the idea of a county-wide recycling center is needed – when it’s affordable. The problem with recycling is that the markets are too far away. Therefore it costs more to recycle materials than to put them in the landfill.
“Other council members have said they don’t see any vision on the part of a majority of council members,” Gibbs said. “I disagree with that. We have plenty of vision; it’s just a different vision. Individual council members need to realize they only have one vote. They don’t arbitrarily have the authority to implement any policy until it’s been approved.”

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