Moving toward an eco-friendly community is on the minds of the San Mateo City Council, as it will begin to conduct interviews of potential candidates for its new Sustainability Commission.
The council narrowed down 12 of its 37 applicants at a meeting last week. It will invite them for interviews on either March 31 or April 1, said Kathy Kleinbaum, senior management analyst in the Community Development Department and the staff member dedicated to the new commission.
“All the applicants were well qualified in their own way. There was a wide range from Ph.D. subject matter experts to people who are passionate about community sustainability,” Kleinbaum said. “It really ran the gamut. It’s just a very impressive application pool and the council has a very difficult decision in front of them.”
The last commission the city formed was the Senior Commission 20 years ago.
Unlike other commissions, such as the Public Works or the Planning commissions that consider specific projects, the Sustainability Commission will be the first to consider more broad policy directives, Kleinbaum said.
The commission will start by updating the city’s climate action plan, landscape water efficiency and beekeeping ordinances and set targets for greenhouse gas emissions among other environmental issues, Kleinbaum said.
The council and the public have been extremely supportive in developing and furthering the city’s sustainability goals, Kleinbaum said.
“It’s been really exciting. It’s gone really smoothly and the council has been very supportive every step of the way; and very enthusiastic about it, which has been great,” Kleinbaum said.
Councilman David Lim said he’s gratified to see the commission he urged to be formed more than two years ago finally take shape. More people applied for this commission than any other in at least the past 10 years and they have an extremely qualified crop of candidates from which to choose, Lim said.
The council opted for an informal ranking system and every one who received two or more council nods will be interviewed. Two of the applicants, John Ebneter and Greg St. Clair are well known to the council and active in the community and will likely be appointed without interview, Lim said.
Lim said his environmental priorities include water conservation, delivery and the city’s relationship with California Water Service Company, Lim said. However, the Sustainability Commission will be anything but a rubber stamp, it will be up made of free thinkers who will help guide discovery and use its expertise to provide innovative ideas, Lim said.
“Once this commission forms, they are going to be an independent voice that makes recommendations to the council. I certainly have my own priorities and goals, but I want them to take a look at the entire city,” Lim said. “We work best when we’re not just telling them this is what we want, we really have some wonderfully intelligent people in the city that we’re going to draw from.”
Councilman Joe Goethals is equally excited by the skilled candidates and to initiate the commission.
“I can’t wait for them to get started. We just had an amazing field of people who are highly qualified and many of whom work on sustainability issues as their professions. So going forward, the Sustainability Commission is going to be a great resource for the city to adopt conservation efforts and come up with a strategic plan going forward on how to … decrease our footprint on the planet,” Goethals said.
Both Lim and Goethals agree the formation of the commission was long overdue and with a litany of environmental concerns, focusing on bettering the city and the planet needs to be a priority.
“It’s been on the mindset of San Mateo residents for a long time. But I think that we’ve reached a tipping point where the majority of San Mateo residents are concerned about sustainability issues and being good stewards of the environment,” Goethals said. “San Mateo is blessed with great parks and a great shoreline and maintaining those areas for recreation and just enjoying the beauty of them is just important to a lot of people. Not just in our lifetime, but for our kids and our grandkids.”
For more information on the formation of the sustainability commission visit www.cityofsanmateo.org.
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