GOSHEN — By a unanimous vote, and before a packed house, the Goshen City Council took a bold step toward a greener future.
The council passed a resolution during Tuesday’s meeting that states an intent to be more environmentally conscious and sets goals to achieve that standard. The 6–0 vote followed approximately an hour and 15 minutes of discussion by residents, adults and teens alike, who overwhelmingly voiced support for the resolution.
The crowd at the meeting was standing-room only, with the audience ranging from a large amount of teens and college students to adult residents.
The proposal calls for the city government to reduce carbon emissions, increase energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy, and build up the city’s resiliency to climate change.
Outlined goals include achieving carbon neutrality by 2035, penning an emissions management plan, increasing the city’s tree canopy to 45 percent by 2045, pursue greenhouse gas assessment and storm water management programs, implement a climate action plan by 2021 and create a new city office of sustainability, the document shows.
“I am going to work hard to make sure that we do all that we can to achieve the goals that are in here,” said Mayor Jeremy Stutsman. “We lose nothing by trying, and we lose everything by not doing anything.”
The resolution was brought to the council by the council’s youth adviser, Felix Perez-Diener, and members of the Goshen High School Youth Caucus. Stutsman noted he believed this was the first time in Goshen’s history youths brought a proposal to the council for passage.
“The resolution we present is the result of months of hard work … This resolution is a public statement that the city of Goshen will take more initiative to make the environment of the city greener and encourage wider community involvement in improving the quality of life,” Perez-Diener said. “I urge the council to support this resolution to make the city of Goshen a cleaner, greener, happier place to live.”
The discussion of the resolution included a nearly 20-minute presentation by members of the Youth Caucus as they took turns displaying information from their research.
Jonathon Snyder spoke on facts of climate change; Sophia Sherrill covered the effects of climate change; Dylan Steury presented the economic and health benefits of being more environmentally conscious; and Simon Hertzler-Gascho promoted the proposed tree canopy increase, saying the amount of trees in Goshen would grow from about 32,000 to about 78,000.
Following the students, 19 people spoke mostly in support of passing the resolution. Many who spoke were Goshen High School and Goshen College students.
“If we continue to not do anything about climate change, the weather patterns will get more crazy, it will most likely get warmer, and nature will suffer,” said Skye Steury of Goshen.
“It feels good to know that our mayor, our city council, and our Youth Caucus have considered the part we all play in the health of our planet, and are poised to continue leading in this way,” David Kendall of Goshen told the council
“We only have one earth,” said Kendall’s daughter, 7-year-old Poppy Dee. “I love playing outside in my back yard with my neighbors. I also like playing in the parks and breathing fresh air.”
Stutsman noted the resolution joins about a half-dozen similar resolutions that have been passed by communities in the state, including South Bend this week.
He also clarified the resolution does not place mandates on residents or businesses in the city, but focuses on efforts by city government. The resolution is also non-binding, but makes a statement on goals to achieve.
The next steps following the resolution will include talking to the council about potentially creating the new city sustainability office to lead implementation of the stated goals.
Councilman Mike Orgill was absent from the meeting and did not vote.
Aimee Ambrose can be reached at aimee.ambrosegoshennews.com or 574-533-2151, ext. 316.