Friday, June 18, 2010

ENVIRONMENT - Marriage of a City, Green + Technology

"Former Factory Town in Iowa Eyes Green Future, Improved Livability" PBS Newshour Transcript (includes video) 6/17/2010


JIM LEHRER (Newshour): Next: another of our Blueprint America reports on infrastructure. Tonight: A factory town bets on a green future. Our story was produced with WNET New York. The reporter is special correspondent Miles O'Brien.

MAN: Good Saturday morning, Michael Kay (ph) here at Farmer's Market, Iowa's oldest open-air farmers market, 165 years.

MILES O'BRIEN: Dubuque is one of the oldest cities in Iowa, home to 60,000 people.

MAN: We're chatting with the mayor of Dubuque, Roy Buol.

Hi, Mr. Mayor.

ROY BUOL, mayor of Dubuque, Iowa: Good morning, Michael.

MAN: Good to see you again.

ROY BUOL: Great to be here on a beautiful day.

MILES O'BRIEN: The people in this old factory town along the Mississippi have signed on to a unique experiment. They're attempting to turn Dubuque into one of the nation's most sustainable cities. The man leading the charge is Mayor ROY BUOL.

ROY BUOL: Good morning, Rachel.

MILES O'BRIEN: He spent decades working at the factory floor at the town's largest employer, John Deere. Five years ago, he ran for mayor on a green platform and won.

How does a guy, a guy who works with his hands at John Deere all those years, become a mayor so interested in the other kind of green, green issues?

ROY BUOL: Well, I can tell you, it all really started for me when my wife and I started being blessed with grandchildren. I just started thinking, you know, what kind of a world are we going to be leaving for future generations, with our consumption patterns and how -- how wasteful we were in our energy usage?

MILES O'BRIEN: Dubuque could have turned out to be a classic Rust Belt story. But, for the past two decades, the city has been working to avoid that fate. Take a quick look: a revitalized river front, a new Convention Center, and a museum. Far beyond the banks of the Mississippi, people are noticing.

The U.S. Council of Mayors called Dubuque the most livable small city in America. "Forbes" magazine proclaimed it number-one small city for projected job growth. Even the federal government is calling Dubuque a model for 21st century economic development.

Dubuque, Iowa, the quintessential city of the future? Apparently so. So, what is it that makes this place a model for sustainability? Buol believes the model starts with community input. Shortly after taking office, he formed a citizen task force to draw up a blueprint for sustainability.

ROY BUOL: And they brought that back to the city council for our approval, and I think they hit a home run. Today, that plan is looked at by other communities as kind of a benchmark.
MILES O'BRIEN: In order to convince younger citizens to stick around, the mayor says Dubuque needs a vibrant, livable downtown.

ROY BUOL: The vision is to turn this area into what we call work force housing. For those young professionals that a lot are coming to town today, we want to redevelop this into housing that they would like to live in at a price that they can afford, and create complete streets to replace what we have here. These streets are 100 years old-plus.

MILES O'BRIEN: Complete streets. This is where the rubber meets the road for rebirth here. The streets, sidewalks, bike lanes, and even public transit are all on their way, now that Dubuque has landed a $5.6 million chunk of last year's federal economic stimulus package.
MILES O'BRIEN: Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was flanked by his counterparts at the Environmental Protection Agency and Housing and Urban Development, the so-called green Cabinet.

RAY LAHOOD: The definition of livable communities, people ask us all the time, what does it mean? It's a community where you can live, you can go to the grocery store, the drugstore, the doctor's office, you can get all over -- all around that neighborhood and around the city without ever having an automobile.

MILES O'BRIEN: That last point is really important. It represents a big policy shift in Washington where, for decades, transportation funding was inextricably linked to building new highways, which created the suburbs and sprawl.

To get people back downtown, Mayor Buol recently cut a deal.

ROY BUOL: The addition of 1,300 people in our downtown work force will most certainly accelerate the realization of our vision for a revitalized warehouse district.

MILES O'BRIEN: The city of John Deere's big green machines is now also home to Big Blue. IBM recently moved in to this newly refurbished energy-efficient landmark building. Turns out IBM came here in part because Dubuque's philosophy synchs up nicely with one of the corporation's new ventures.

ANNOUNCER: On a smarter planet, we can analyze all the data we now see.

MILES O'BRIEN: IBM intends to develop and sell technology to help cities run more efficiently.

V.P. Robert Morris says Dubuque is the perfect place to beta test these new product ideas.

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