Dubuque still leads on sustainability

Last year Bleeding Heartland discussed some promising changes in Dubuque, thanks to the vision of community leaders who launched the SustainableDubuque initiative in 2006. Now called the “Dubuque 2.0” sustainability initiative, the program has helped bring the city a long list of recognitions and awards.

Government and public entities: The U.S. Conference of Mayors named Dubuque the country’s “Most Livable Small City” for 2008. The Economic Development Administration (an agency within the federal Commerce Department) gave the an award for “excellence in historic preservation-led strategies” in 2009. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation and Department of Housing and Urban Development selected Dubuque for sustainability pilot programs, also in 2009. The Iowa League of Cities named Dubuque an All-Star Community this year.

Business groups and business-oriented media: Dubuque landed on Sperling’s Best Places top ten “Most Affordable Places to Live and Work” in 2009; was third best in the country for job growth, according to Careerbuilder.com in 2010; and was the seventh best city under 200,000 population in “Economic Growth Potential,” according to Business Facilities magazine in 2010. Dubuque also won an Excellence in Economic Development award this year from the International Economic Development Council, while Forbes.com named it both the “Best Small City to Raise a Family” and “Best Smaller Metro for Projected Job Growth” nationwide.

Non-profit organizations: Dubuque came in third place at the International Awards for Livable Communities in 2010 in the category of cities with populations between 20,000 and 75,000. The city won the 1000 Friends of Iowa 2010 Best Development Award in the leadership category for its recently adopted Unified Development Code, which “promotes best practices in sustainable development and will serve as a model for other cities in Iowa.” (Side note: Dubuque also contains more private Best Development Award winning-projects than any other Iowa city. Most recently, the “beauty and authenticity” of the Hotel Julien historic rehabilitation earned it the 1000 Friends of Iowa 2010 Best Development Award in the renovated and commercial/civic category.)

Too many Iowa politicians portray eco-friendly policies as bad for business or economic growth. Dubuque is proving that sustainability makes a community more attractive to potential job-creators:

According to Mike Blouin, president of the Greater Dubuque Development Corporation, the cachet that comes with operating a business in a sustainable region is becoming increasingly important.

“A growing segment of companies — manufacturers and service providers — want to be a part of this trend,” he said. “They want to be a part of communities that are into sustainability, and they believe it will be easier to attract the kind of workforce they want there. Or companies may manufacture items used in these sustainable communities. Whatever it might be, they want sustainability to be a part of their message.”

He added, “You can be pro-economic development and be sustainable. They’re not mutually exclusive. A smarter city is not the initial thing companies look at, because they still have to make money. The community has to make sense overall, but if it does, sustainability could very well be a deal-maker. If there are a half-dozen cities in front of a company, it may look at smarter sustainability and see that it fits the company’s philosophy. Final decisions are made by those kinds of factors.”

In 2009, the IBM corporation renovated the historic Roshek building in partnership with the city of Dubuque and selected the city for sustainability pilot programs. After the jump I’ve posted more details on some projects implemented this year. These benefit the city by finding ways to reduce costs and use of resources, and benefit IBM by promoting technologies it hopes to sell to other cities.

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Events coming up this week

I didn’t manage to compile calendars the past couple of weeks, but I wanted to get back on track today, because there are lots of newsworthy events happening in the coming week around Iowa.

I don’t think I’ll be able to make it to the DAWN’s List reception honoring outstanding Iowa Democratic women tomorrow. I’d appreciate it if someone who attends would post a comment or a diary here about the reception.

Other notable events this week include a symposium in Des Moines about Iowa’s 2008 floods, a sustainable communities conference in Dubuque, and a public workshop in Ankeny about competition and regulatory issues in the agriculture industry. Details on those and other happenings are after the jump.

Keep checking John Deeth’s blog for news about statewide, Congressional and state legislative candidate filings, which continue through March 19.

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Year in review: national politics in 2009 (part 1)

It took me a week longer than I anticipated, but I finally finished compiling links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage from last year. This post and part 2, coming later today, include stories on national politics, mostly relating to Congress and Barack Obama’s administration. Diaries reviewing Iowa politics in 2009 will come soon.

One thing struck me while compiling this post: on all of the House bills I covered here during 2009, Democrats Leonard Boswell, Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack voted the same way. That was a big change from 2007 and 2008, when Blue Dog Boswell voted with Republicans and against the majority of the Democratic caucus on many key bills.

No federal policy issue inspired more posts last year than health care reform. Rereading my earlier, guardedly hopeful pieces was depressing in light of the mess the health care reform bill has become. I was never optimistic about getting a strong public health insurance option through Congress, but I thought we had a chance to pass a very good bill. If I had anticipated the magnitude of the Democratic sellout on so many aspects of reform in addition to the public option, I wouldn’t have spent so many hours writing about this issue. I can’t say I wasn’t warned (and warned), though.

Links to stories from January through June 2009 are after the jump. Any thoughts about last year’s political events are welcome in this thread.

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A few links on passenger rail and transportation policy

Governor Chet Culver rode a train from Iowa City to Chicago Sunday, promoting passenger rail links en route to the Midwest High Speed Rail Summit, which starts Monday.  

After the jump I’ve posted some news relating to passenger rail in Iowa and nationwide, including a follow-up on Congressman Tom Latham’s attempt to transfer funds from high-speed rail to the highway fund.

UPDATE: From the governor’s office on July 27:

Governor Chet Culver and Governor Pat Quinn today signed a Memorandum of Understanding to coordinate efforts by Iowa and Illinois to establish passenger rail service from Chicago to Dubuque and from Chicago to the Quad Cities and Iowa City.

In addition, Governor Culver joined leaders from eight states who signed a Memorandum of Understanding in support of regional high-speed rail. That agreement includes, as a key goal, extending passenger service from Iowa City to Des Moines and on to Omaha. […]

Following the signing of the eight-state high-speed rail agreement, Iowa and Illinois officials signed a separate agreement that spells out action to be taken by the transportation departments in both states.

Click here and scroll down to find links to the rail agreements signed in Chicago on July 27.

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The best news you didn't hear about yesterday

A House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing featuring two low-profile cabinet members won’t make a splash even on a slow-news day, and certainly not when a juicy story like the AIG outrage has so many angles to explore.

But take my word for it: big news came out of yesterday’s Congressional testimony by Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan and Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood. The cabinet secretaries announced

a new partnership to help American families gain better access to affordable housing, more transportation options, and lower transportation costs. The average working American family spends nearly 60 percent of its budget on housing and transportation costs, making these two areas the largest expenses for American families. Donovan and LaHood want to seek ways to cut these costs by focusing their efforts on creating affordable, sustainable communities.

I explain why this is important and welcome news after the jump.

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