Vice Mayor Nguyen forecasts a “Greener” Bay Area
La Oferta interviews City Councilperson Madison Nguyen on the future of Bay Area environmental initiatives.
1. Where would the City of San Jose like to be in ten years as far contributing to Silicon Valley's green initiatives? What does a "Green" San Jose look like to you?
San Jose's Green Vision Plan that was approved in 2007 lays out a pathway for San Jose's green future.
The technology hub of Silicon Valley provides an inspiring and exciting backdrop for any conversation about green innovation and initiatives, but as a city we are really focusing on the families that contribute to San Jose's vibrant communities. That's a focal point of the Green Vision plan.
A city as large and diverse as San Jose cannot move forward with green initiatives that ignore the real issues of working families. San Jose needs to continue to integrate our housing solutions with low carbon emission transportation solutions to make an overall greener city. A city that reduces carbon footprints by encouraging quality housing in locations that are public transit friendly is a city that can sustainably grow with any economy. Ten years from now I hope that San Jose has more walk-able urban villages that encourage greener lifestyles and a continued expansion of solar technology to make those homes more affordable.
2. What needs to happen in the bay area for drivers to see a complete conversion from gas to electric cars like Tesla and Prius? What about San Jose going from coal/nuclear energy to solar energy in the future?
I think that for there to be a major conversion from gas to electric we're going to need to see more affordable models offered by a more diverse marketplace. As more car manufacturers broaden their offerings we won't have to make a choice between a $100,000 Tesla or a Prius. I think that California's bold emission standards are playing a role in moving us closer to that ideal future marketplace. Nissan's Leaf and Chevrolet's Volt are exciting to me primarily because they demonstrate that this market is in fact growing.
San Jose has already taken major strides in addressing the switch from traditional power sources to solar power. Energy Efficiency Solar PV is a major part of the city's strategy to become 100% renewable energy sourced- that's one of the goals in San Jose's Green Vision. The Solar PV constructed at the Central Services Yard became operational in December 2010 and they are expected to deliver 75% of the facility's total electricity needs.
3. What are the biggest pollution issues San Jose faces? Who are the biggest polluters in San Jose?
We all play a major role in reducing the city's environmental footprint and the most important place we can look to reduce pollution in San Jose is at home. Reducing energy consumption is a major issue that the city is addressing through several programs.
Through our new citywide program, Green Energy Match, San Jose residents can earn rewards for energy savings efforts at www.greenenergymatch.org
You may have noticed the bike lanes that are being added throughout the city. This is another effort to reduce our overall energy consumption and to ensure we can safely support sustainable population growth while ensuring that there are viable transportation options.
4. How does the city of San Jose educate the Hispanic community on environmental issues when Spanish is a first language?
Major trends do translate across all language barriers--as someone who is not a native English speaker, I can certainly confirm that. I think that one of the most telling signs has been the acceptance and understanding of the plastic bag law that came into effect this year. In my own district and throughout the city, I've seen the targeting of youth to be a major asset in getting the word out. In our own home, my siblings and I often served as my parents' translators.
Making sure that kids understand the importance of recycling and energy conservation makes a huge difference in a family's overall participation in programs. Our schools have been doing an excellent job with that component. Bilingual outreach has traditionally been an important strategy for the city and I know that as the Hispanic Community continues to grow, so will the city's outreach efforts.
5. Are the city of San Jose and the surrounding cities friendly to companies who are green? How so?
When a company considers moving to San Jose they know that they will have strong support in a business friendly environment. As a council we've worked to streamline permitting, incentives and other programs that bolster economic stability. The Environmental Business Cluster that was founded in 1994 by the City of San Jose and San Jose State University's Research Foundation is the largest clean-tech business incubator in the nation and one example of a business friendly endeavor that is building industry throughout Silicon Valley.
Corporate campuses in San Jose have been national leaders in adopting green building standards and eco-friendly business practices. You can see that here at San Jose's downtown Adobe campus. They've been nationally recognized for multiple innovations. Being eco-friendly is a part of the business culture here and we have strong local leadership.
6. What incentives is San Jose offering to green companies and who are the best companies pushing for a green way of doing business?
San Jose has a new website: www.choosesanjose.com, which focuses on facilitating the permit process and working at the speed of business. Businesses can really look at what San Jose can offer them in terms of a high quality of life for their employees and a supportive business environment that encourages local government collaboration.
7. What obstacles do green companies face in today's economic environment?
I think that the biggest obstacles that green companies face is accessing a well-trained workforce that is prepared for the new challenges of 21st century green technologies. This is where organizations like Work to Future and CTC here in San Jose can make a difference. Re-training workers for the green economy is important for San Jose to maintain its leadership role. SJSU and our other area universities have consistently provided the kind of academic training to support these workforce needs.
We also need to focus on educating our small and medium sized businesses on how they can take advantage of existing programs that encourage green business practices. Currently, San Jose's website, www.businessownerspace.com has a green assessment tool for our businesses to learn how they can work with city, state and federal resources to build greener and more successful businesses.
Start-up access to capitol is a challenge- our region has more venture capitol to support emerging green industries, but demonstration capitol and experimental capitol outside the academic sphere is still a challenge. That's where San Jose's Environmental Business Cluster is vital. As a city our staff has been very solution driven.
8. What green activity do you feel is the most important for the city to embrace at this time?
In order to advance our Green Vision Goals in reduction of energy usage and overall consumption we'll need to be proactive. City staff is constantly looking for new partnership opportunities and new programs to cut back on our energy consumption.
Recently, with the opening of the Newby Island Resource Recovery Park, the nation's largest and most advanced recycling and organic waste disposal facility, 96 new jobs were added to the economy. As we make improvements to move closer to our zero waste goals, San Jose is also enriching our job market and ensuring that our entire community will benefit.
Interview by Sharon McElhone
Photo by Eliana Cespedes
This article originally appeared in La Oferta »
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