By Cynthia Burton
Inquirer Staff Writer
Philadelphia, PA (March 5, 2007)- Democratic mayoral candidate U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah promised to be the man of 100,000 trees and many, many grass-covered roofs as he presented a plan that assumes he wins the 2007 mayoral race and the one in 2011.
Yesterday at Bartram's Garden, the homestead of the city's legendary horticulturist, Fattah outlined his environmental proposal, which he said would lower the heat in summer, soak up floodwaters in spring, and save money year-round through energy efficiencies.
Fattah's environmental outline reflects many of the ideas compiled by the Next Great City, a coalition of environmental, health, labor, neighborhood and civic groups hoping to influence candidates' stands on issues in this election cycle.
The five Democratic candidates have endorsed a number of Great City's ideas. "The heart of the plan is a faith and belief that Philadelphia can be one of the greenest, most sustainable cities in the country," he said.
At a cost of about $36 million, he wants to plant 100,000 more trees in the city over the next eight years and to better maintain the 140,000 trees already growing along city streets and in parks.
Fattah's 100,000 new trees would be twice as many as Democratic mayoral candidate State Rep. Dwight Evans promised to plant – although Evans promised 50,000 trees in the first four years of an administration. Both candidates shared similar stands, including an idea to persuade commercial building owners to plant grass on their roofs.
Acknowledging that maintenance of existing trees is spotty, Fattah wants to shift some of the burden to residents and business owners. He would ask them to volunteer for training to become tree tenders or to adopt trees. He would also try to change the City Charter so the Fairmount Park Commission, which maintains many urban trees, would be under the mayor's control.
Democratic mayoral candidate and former City Councilman Michael A. Nutter also supports this concept. On the city's roofs, Fattah promises – as does Evans – to pay for grants to get commercial building owners to lay down the sod. He said that in two years, Chicago had grassed over about two million square feet of its rooftops.
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