Can we possibly expect to understand how our cumulative daily choices affect the world around us? How can we best work together to design communities that offer a better quality of life? This is just what an ambitious USM student-sponsored conference aims to do this Thursday. Students, faculty, city planners, engineers, architects, green builders, planning board members, small business owners, Portland Trails’ visionaries and staff from Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection will gather in Luther Bonney Auditorium on April 8 to learn about opportunities for sustainable development in Portland. Conference participants will be challenged to identify the principles of sustainable land use and create a tool that we can all use to build more livable, more sustainable communities.

This wonderful project was inspired by a USM Muskie School of Public Service class taught by Professor Richard Barringer last spring. Intrigued with the ideas discussed in class, Elizabeth Trice, a second year student in the Community Planning and Development Program, organized a series of potluck dinners for fellow students and friends to continue the discussion of how to create a more sustainable Portland. When this year’s USM convocation topic of environmental sustainability was announced, Professor Barringer encouraged Trice to organize a conference on the topic of sustainability in the Portland Area.

Trice successfully applied to the USM convocation steering committee for a $2,800 grant and headed a committee of dedicated organizers to create the daylong event. The conference goal is to educate public officials and others about sustainability and give them the tools to create more sustainable communities in the Greater Portland Area.

Morning and afternoon presenters will include the Mayor of Portland, Nathan Smith; Muskie School professors Richard Barringer, Mark Lapping, and Jack Kartez; Land Use and Transportation Director of the Greater Portland Council of Governments, David Willauer; and Rich Stolz, senior policy analyst at the Center for Community Change. In the afternoon sessions, participants will work in small groups to wrestle with the difficult issues of how to best address the economic, social and environmental aspects of land use planning.

Committee members who worked with Elizabeth on this project include Muskie School of Public Service Community Planning and Development students Fred Dillion, Kevin Donoghue and Jeremy Gabrielson; myself; Bill Needelman and Wendy Cherubini from Portland’s Planning & Development Department; and Allison Zuchman, an architect at Scott Simon’s Architects in Portland and a consultant with community development non-profits. In addition, a Muskie School Community Planning and Development class, Citizen Involvement and Dispute Resolution, will apply what they have learned in the classroom as facilitators for the Conference’s afternoon sessions.

We invite you to join us in an effort to improve our community, to define sustainable development, to watch professionals struggle with difficult land use decisions, and to affect change in the way we plan development in the Greater Portland Area. Come and learn how other communities have incorporated sustainability into their planning processes and have created more attractive and secure neighborhoods.

Work with other participants to develop a flexible tool that you can use with your neighbors to create a more sustainable Portland.

Sarah Bruss can be contacted at [email protected]

Strategizing a Sustainable Portland

Thursday, April 8 2004 (8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.)

University of Southern Maine, Portland Campus, Luther Bonney Auditorium

Sponsored by USM, the Muskie School of Public Service and the City of Portland

$10 for the morning session, $15 for the entire conference.

Scholarships Are Available.

For more information, please contact Elizabeth Trice at: [email protected]

Footprint is a weekly column about environmental issues produced by USM’s Office of Environmental and Economic Sustainability. We encourage contributions from members of the USM community. Please contact us to discuss your ideas. Phone: 780-4384; email: [email protected]

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