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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Mark DeSantis: "The city needs to 'LEED' by example"

I sat down with Pittsburgh Republican mayoral candidate Mark DeSantis earlier today to further discuss his candidacy and some of his ideas for improving Pittsburgh. First and foremost, my agenda was to talk about Mark's ideas for making Pittsburgh a leading center and magnet for clean tech and renewable economic activity.

Mark has plenty of ideas, and also has some experience in this field as an advisory board member to Sustainable Pittsburgh, a non profit whose mission is to "affect decision-making in the Pittsburgh Region to integrate economic prosperity, social equity, and environmental quality bringing sustainable solutions to communities and businesses."

The first thing Mark said is that the city government must lead by example. What does that mean, I ask? "The city owns roughly 300 buildings around town. We must start to make those energy efficient. While our financial situation will limited our ability to make all of those green (LEED) certified, we need to start taking steps in that direction."

Great start, as the government leading the way would help increase awareness of climate change and energy efficiency among Pittsburghers.

We then started to discuss Austin Texas and the partnership there between Austin Energy, the city run utility, and the Clean Energy Incubator out of the University of Texas. Mark agreed that we must be creative in our attempt to lure clean tech businesses and startups to Pittsburgh as our financial constraint limit the cities ability to keep handing out tax subsidies. This includes forming partnerships with suppliers, universities, non profits, and councils and incubators like Pittsburgh Tech Council and Innovation Works. What we have here is "a lot of separate individuals and groups out there trying to do different things in this sector, and what we need is an overarching group that pulls together the entire vision for clean tech here in Pittsburgh.

Mark suggested a Clean Tech Advisory Council to oversee all of the individuals groups and consortiums such as the Green Building Alliance, companies looking to develop clean technologies in Renewable fuels and Solar, and the early stage start up companies that are already here in Pittsburgh, like a Plextronics.

One of the most important things he mentioned in regards to the cleantech sector here in Pittsburgh is the lack of collaboration between the city and our universities. Carnegie Mellon has the Green Design Institute, but why hasn't there been any major projects undertaken by the city with the guidance of CMU's GDI?

As you could probably guess, being a technology guy and green advocate Mark has a lot to say on this particular issue. I hope to work with Mark when it comes time to develop more concrete plans, but I like the direction he is going on this issue. See my Democrats for DeSantis blog for more on my talk with Mark.

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