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Bemidji Sustainability Committee one step closer to formal recognition

Members of the Bemidji Sustainability Committee and the city’s Public Affairs Committee met on Monday to discuss the next steps for the Sustainability Committee to become an official city body.

Bemidji City Hall
Bemidji City Hall. Pioneer file photo

BEMIDJI — Members of the Bemidji Sustainability Committee and the city’s Public Affairs Committee met on Monday to discuss the next steps for the Sustainability Committee to become an official city body.

These included reviewing a draft of the ordinance set to go before the Bemidji City Council that outlines the commission’s scope and structure, as well as an example of what the group’s bylaws might become.

“It’s a framework for when we make decisions,” said Linda Kingery, a member of the Sustainability Committee and also serves as executive director of the Northwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership with the University of Minnesota.

First created in 2008, the Sustainability Committee is an independent group that has regularly worked with the city of Bemidji before, but it is now looking to formally join the city’s structure as the Sustainability Commission.

“We’re definitely in it for the long haul,” said Anna Carlson, who is a part of the current Sustainability Committee and an environmental studies professor at BSU.

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With this, its main purpose would be to advise the city on issues related to resiliency, sustainability and green initiatives.

During the meeting when the term resiliency came up, members of the committee emphasized the importance of crafting a comprehensive definition for the word.

“We’ve been working on an evolving definition with our group, as to what resiliency means to us,” Carlson said. “We define resilience as the ability of a community to survive disruption … and thrive in the face of change.”

This ability to adapt to and anticipate change is related to one of the primary goals for the Sustainability Commission, which would be to co-create a sustainability plan with the city of Bemidji each year.

“It’s really a mindset that we’re not going to take actions that cause our children or grandchildren to have fewer choices than we have right now,” Kingery said. “It’s not just about the environment, it’s about the way everything works together.”

The Sustainability Committee has identified seven areas of focus in its work that would continue into its mission as the Sustainability Commission. These include housing, water, energy, transportation, materials and waste, health and wellness, and economic opportunity.

In addition to advising the city, the Sustainability Commission would also be able to partner with outside organizations to collaborate on different projects related to its goals.

The current structure for the commission would be seven members, three of whom could live outside of city limits.

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While each member would have to be approved and appointed by the city council, Bemidji State University, which played a part in the creation of the Sustainability Committee, would be able to recommend an individual to fill one seat.

The ordinance was set to have its first reading at the city council meeting also on March 21 , but it was decided the language for the ordinance still needed adjustment. As such, the council decided to delay the first reading until its session on April 18.

Related Topics: BEMIDJI CITY COUNCIL
Nicole Ronchetti is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer, focusing on local government and community health.
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