Tampa urged to do more to get 'green'

Council members criticize the city for not doing more to implement energy-saving practices.

Published February 9, 2007

TAMPA - Making Tampa more "green" may be one of Mayor Pam Iorio's top goals, but her staff was chided Thursday for not doing more.

City Council members Linda Saul-Sena and John Dingfelder panned one report on the city's efforts to convert its fleet of vehicles to cleaner fuels. They were less impressed by a second report on how the city will promote "green building" methods to save energy and conserve water.

"We haven't done anything," Saul-Sena said. "We've been talking about this for years, and it just seems like it's taking so long."

The middling reviews came a week after Iorio signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, part of an international effort to fight global warming, after local environmentalists noted the absence of her signature. Mayors in 360 cities had already signed it.

On Thursday, public works director Irvin Lee spoke about plans for city vehicles to use cleaner fuels. Soon, vehicles will be using fuel with 10 percent ethanol, he told them. But as for buying hybrid cars that are more fuel efficient, Lee said maybe next year.

"We don't think it's prudent to do that yet," Lee said.

But Miami-Dade County is using hybrids for its vehicles, Saul-Sena said.

"I think you should think this way," she told Lee.

Then Thom Snelling, the city's deputy director of growth management and development services, spoke about the city's plan to adopt sustainable practices, both internally and by regulating or encouraging the private sector to do so.

Snelling referred to a report, dated September 2006, that listed what it was the city has already done that's sustainable.

"I guess we're trying to pat ourselves on the back about how great we are," Dingfelder said, noting that Snelling's report listed fuel efficiency, while Lee had mentioned he's delaying hybrids for another year.

"There's a little irony, there," Dingfelder said.

Snelling agreed there's much for the city still to do. He says he doesn't have a plan yet for adopting new policies, such as a system that certifies buildings for greater water conservation and energy efficiency that has been adopted, either by regulation or encouragement, by cities such as Austin, Texas; Chicago; Gainesville; San Diego; and Washington, D.C.

For now, Snelling said, the Southern Building Code has the standards that construction needs to meet, at least in Tampa.

Michael Van Sickler can be reached at 813 226-3402 or mvansickler@sptimes.com.