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Report details how smaller, older industrial cities can go green, save money, prepare for climate change

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
Saginaw (pictured), Flint, Ishpeming, Pontiac are all examples of small and midsized cities that might benefit from "greening."

After decades of disinvestment and population loss, some of Michigan’s cities feel they’re not able to tackle new challenges such as climate change.

The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy report “Greening America’s Smaller Legacy Cities” outlines different things older, industrial cities can do and how they can get help to get those things done. But cities that take on the challenge will find it will means big changes.

The authors said cities that have adopted the idea of green sustainability had to restructure some of their departments and create a position to break down the walls between them.

“Like a sustainability coordinator or even an office of sustainability,” said Joseph Schilling, one of the authors of the report, adding that there then was an opportunity to rethink and break down some of the silos, giving departments a common purpose.

It’s a change in culture in city government, which is never easy.

“This is hard work when you’re trying to transform a community’s approach. But at the same time, we need to do it now, right? Climate change is not giving up. It’s relentless. It’s only going to get worse,” Schilling said.

With the economic stimulus of federal and state funds, cities can find money and outside partners to help them negotiate the red tape, such as the Michigan Municipal League or federal and state partners.

“Our report give folks a framework and kind of a menu of different strategies, with this focus on what is accessible to a range of smaller, older industrial legacy cities,” Schilling noted.

The Lincoln Institute’s report is free and can be downloaded here.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.
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