By Jason Pulliam
Des Moines, IA (December 11, 2008)- Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie said the federal government needs to increase by $2 billion annually its assistance to help local governments pay for environmental initiatives. Cownie made the pitch Wednesday to about 20 residents at the new shelter at Martin Luther King Jr. Park, 1640 Garfield Ave. The outline of climate change and environmental initiatives endorsed by Cownie comes from Climate Communities and ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability. The two organizations are pushing for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
This month, the groups hope to recruit 500 local officials from around the nation to back their plan. “Everybody on the face of this Earth is looking at the U.S. to step out and lead on these initiatives,” Cownie told the King Park audience.
Cownie has made environmentalism one of the signature issues as mayor. The organizations’ blueprint calls on the Congress and President-elect Barack Obama to provide more money to local governments for various programs that promote renewable energy, expand the size of hybrid automobile fleets, reduce carbon emissions from public buildings, and strengthen urban forestry programs.
Beyond environmental benefits, Cownie said the initiatives also would save local governments money, an especially important factor now, in the middle of the nation’s financial crisis. “Let’s hope there is a will on the part of our elected officials to move some of these recommendations forward to start making a difference,” Cownie said. “We know that over the next 10, 20, 30, 40 years that we need to change a lot of the ways that we do business,” he said.