Forty-eight percent of local governments have implemented disaster mitigation plans as part of their sustainability efforts, according to the first nationwide study to establish benchmarks for sustainability initiatives among US communities.
Seventy-six percent of local governments indicated they had responded to a major disaster during the past 15 years. Among those, 53 percent had dealt with a flood, 51percent with a blizzard or ice storm and 24 percent with a hurricane.
Thirty-two percent of local governments have adopted a sustainability plan.
The Local Government Sustainability Practices 2015 was conducted by International City/County Management Association (ICMA); the Sustainable Communities and Small Town and Rural Planning Divisions of the American Planning Association; Binghamton University; Cornell University; and the Department of Agriculture.
“Through this 2015 survey, ICMA and its partners can examine the progress of US cities and counties in addressing issues that have a direct impact on a community’s sustainability,” said Andrea Fox, director, ICMA Center for Sustainable Communities. “While there has been much progress since we initiated the survey back in 2010, there are still a number of areas in which local communities can improve to enhance their capacity to endure and thrive.”
"Local governments can take a leadership role in promoting sustainability. We have seen this with some big cities,” says Mildred E. Warner, professor, City & Regional Planning, Cornell University. “But this national survey helps us understand motivators and drivers, especially for smaller and rural communities.”
For 88 percent of jurisdictions, the survey found, “lack of funding is a significant or the most significant factor hindering local sustainability efforts, followed by state or federal funding restrictions (61 percent), lack of staff capacity/support (59 percent), lack of information on how to proceed (51 percent), lack of community/resident support (49 percent) and opposition of elected officials (49 percent).
“When describing staffing, 9 percent had dedicated staff across multiple departments,” the report of the survey said, “another 9 percent had dedicated staff across a single department, and 6 percent had dedicated staff in either the chief elected or chief appointed official’s office. Forty-two percent of local governments had no staffing, recognition of goal accomplishment or task force or committee dedicated to sustainability issues.”
More than three-quarters of local governments indicated they had no sustainable building policy in place, and, “Despite the increasing importance of internet access to sustaining daily living, 84 percent of local governments have no plan or programs in place to provide such access to all residents.”