Community safety, people’s rights, and climate optimism: My legacy of service in Ferguson Township

As I’m getting ready to step down at the end of June, I will be reflecting on my three+ years on the Ferguson Township Board. I’ll start with accomplishments that I have spurred or been truly honored to be a part of. While I’ve initiated some of these, they all required work from the other board members, our (awesome) staff, and citizen volunteers. We have…

…funded body cams on our police officers because safety is of the utmost importance and we want our police to be accountable. To their credit, the Ferguson Township Police Department supported this move;

…passed a resolution recognizing the rights of all people no matter where they are from, what their sexual orientations are, and used those resolutions to make sure that our contractors respect those as well;

…used zoning to keep fracking, injection wells, and liquid pipelines out. We know that gas infrastructure threatens water supplies and the climate;

…passed a Sourcewater Protection Overlay that protects the top of the watershed. As a headwaters community, we want to be proactive. In my view, there’s much more to be done in this regard at the regional level, especially where impervious surface and chlorides are concerned.

…worked with our Council of Governments to create a Sustainability Planner position to work in regional climate action planning;

…passed a stormwater ordinance indexed to peak storm intensities as they increase with the changing climate;

…passed a Net Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions resolution in 2017. It demands the township created a plan to draw down our emissions to zero by 2050 in a way that is fair, transparent, and economically feasible. The resolution, slightly modified, was adopted by Harris Township and another that’s been brought up to date and will be voted on in State College Borough;

…created a Climate Action Committee that is performing a greenhouse gas inventory and generating a Climate Action Plan and helping us figure out where and how we can act at the local level. The Chair of that committee, Brandi Robinson and I, wrote a piece that was featured in The Washington Post in January. This is a small step but part of the structure that we the people need to put in place to act on this global issue at the local level. Our committee and their work have inspired other townships, like Patton Township, to start doing an inventory as well;

…purchased land of exceptional stormwater and drainage value and enhanced its social and environmental value. What was a wood lot filled with invasive species is now a park where our citizens are planting trees with our Arborist and elementary school children, planting pollinator habitat, supporting songbird migration, and putting in trails for walking, running, and even mountain biking;

…invested in solar energy and green building at no additional taxpayer expense. These include a public works facility designed with principles of care, beauty, and neighborliness, onsite solar generation, solar placed on a regional park facility upon its completion, and the pursuit of a regional intergovernmental solar power purchase agreement;

…not increased taxes on our residents;

…and maintained a fund balance.

The climate resolution and the investments in solar and green building started with me, but they are not mine in any way. Our board and the people of this region support them. They aren’t without skeptics or detractors. Some folks worry that the public works facility is too expensive. Because we have been designing for low impact, high efficiency, and solar generation from the beginning, we have controlled costs. Some people worry that solar isn’t viable in Pennsylvania. I can list a dozen of more companies that are active in Pennsylvania right now including Cypress Creek, NextEra, Lightsource BP, Community, Glidepath, and more. They are attracting tens of millions of dollars in investment and employing thousands of people. Their projects are providing clean and carbon-free electricity that’s cheaper than natural gas, coal, and nuclear power.

It’s an exciting time and I’ve been honored to play this role.

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