The West Hartford Town Council unanimously adopted a resolution on Jan. 25, pledging to acknowledge the possible impact of climate change in future decisions and to work to achieve net-zero carbon emissions for municipal activities.
By Ronni Newton
With unanimous support, the West Hartford Town Council last week adopted a “Resolution Declaring a Climate Crisis,” and while it may not have been as sweeping a resolution as some wanted, Mayor Shari Cantor said it was important to be able to adopt a measure that could create real change.
The resolution – initially brought forward as a resolution declaring a climate “emergency” rather than a “crisis,” had been previously discussed at meetings of the Council’s Public Works, Facilities and Sustainability Committee, chaired by Ben Wenograd, before being finalized and brought to the full body for a vote. A copy of the resolution that was passed can be found below as a PDF.
“I am pleased to bring this forward,” Wenograd said at the Jan. 25 Town Council meeting prior to the vote. He noted the strong advocacy of high school and college students, as well as scholars, who presented detailed information about the impact of climate change, “a strong argument as to why the town should be taking a role,” and how steps taken at the local level can make a real difference.
“That advocacy has really helped,” Wenograd said. Now the issue is to follow through, he said, urging those who advocated for the resolution to remain involved. “We need to continue to hear your voice.”
Town Manager Matt Hart, in his summary of the measure, noted that “the resolution seeks to acknowledge the serious threat posed by climate change and directs the town to take various actions as part of a global effort to mitigate this crisis.”
It requires the town, under leadership of the town manager, to work collaboratively with stakeholders – including the town’s Clean Energy Commission, Conservation and Environment Commission, Pedestrian and Bicycle Commission, and the Sustainability Advisory Group – to assess the climate change impact of its future decisions and actions, to continue to improve air quality, and to and move toward net-zero carbon emissions related to municipal activities as soon as practicable.
The resolution also calls for the state and federal government “to take immediate action to address climate change,” Hart said.
During the public comment period of the virtual Council meeting, prior to the vote, seven people – including some students – called in to voice their support for the resolution. Another 22 had emailed Council members indicating their support. There were no comments made either by callers or via email that opposed the resolution.
Madeliine Hexter spoke on behalf of the West Hartford Garden Club, and called climate change the single most important issue for the health and welfare of the lints and people on the planet. “Though the present resolution is watered down from its earlier iteration, we still support it,” she said, noting a critically important aspect of the resolution is that it calls for the town to reach zero emissions.
“I was so excited to hear that this was being formalized,” commented Kimberly Hughes, co-director of the West Hartford grassroots organization Root2RISE (root2risewh.org). She said she looks forward to supporting local efforts.
Hendree Milward and Bernie Pelletier, who have also advocated for the state’s Transportation Climate Initiative, were both involved in the earliest discussions of having the Council adopt a resolution related to climate change, and expressed their thanks and support to those who worked on it. Pelletier noted the town has the ability to make a strong impression and should assess the impact of all future actions.
Cantor said the Council gave the final version of the resolution a lot of thought. “We want to make sure that when we have a resolution that we follow through on all the pieces of the resolution,” she said. “There is so much more to go.”
Cantor said the resolution is workable, and something that can perhaps be built on through infrastructure funds the town will be receiving. “We can’t commit to something that we don’t know how to fund,” she said.
Councilor Leon Davidoff said after hearing from those advocating for the climate crisis resolution, particularly the youth and college students, “I just left that virtual meeting in awe and felt that our future is quite bright because the next generation of citizens, town citizens, world citizens, is so in touch with reality.” He said they are much more environmentally conscious, “much more in tune with decisions that impact our lives.”
Councilor Carol Anderson Blanks said climate change, and the impact on the seasons, has made a real impact in many ways, including peoples’ livelihoods. She praised the way this resolution was implemented. “We listen, we work together collaboratively, we use our professional expertise, and then we produce a product,” she said. “We lead … but we do our homework.”
Town staff will be developing a mechanism, likely a software-based program, to track progress, and an initial report will be delivered to the Town Council by September 2022.
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