This week, the National League of Cities announced that it would award a $10,000 grant to Roeland Park to continue efforts to organize a metro-wide response to climate change. While the city of Roeland Park is the designated recipient of the grant, Kelly said the money would be used in large part to continue the cross-city regional collaboration that began late last year. The organizers of the December workshop have gone on to create a group called the Metro KC Climate Action Coalition that will focus on “drawing down greenhouse gases, improve climate resilience and generate corresponding economic, social, health, and quality of life benefits.”
Roeland Park Selected for Prestigious Resiliency Program with the National League of Cities
Roeland Park is one of eight cities that will receive support
ROELAND PARK, Kan.— March 12, 2019 — Today, the National League of Cities (NLC) announced that Roeland Park, Kansas, would join the 2019 cohort of the Leadership in Community Resilience program. Each of the eight cities chosen will receive $10,000 in direct financial support as well as technical assistance and professional development opportunities to help them meet community-specific resiliency goals.
The eight cities selected for the 2019 Leadership in Community Resilience Program are:
Anchorage, Alaska; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Denton, Texas; Durham, North Carolina; Evanston, Illinois; Jersey City, New Jersey; Park City, Utah; and Roeland Park, Kansas.
“From the western fires to the increased hurricane activity ravaging the coasts, climate change is a real threat to our nation’s cities, towns and villages,” said Clarence E. Anthony, CEO and executive director of the National League of Cities (NLC). “We are excited to welcome eight new cities to our annual Leadership in Community Resilience Program. Through collaboration, innovative approaches, and an unmatched passion for supporting their communities, I’m confident that these local leaders will advance policies and programs to address their biggest local challenges.”
Roeland Park is a first ring suburb of Kansas City, and is one of 80 municipalities within the metropolitan area. Like residents of other municipalities, Roeland Park residents are highly dependent on neighboring jurisdictions both economically, socially, and share the same ecosystem. Likewise, climate risks such as drought, increased heat, and flooding do not stop at man-made borders and must be addressed by multiple jurisdictions working in coordination.
“Climate change is indisputably real and one of the most daunting challenges of our day,” said U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids of Kansas’ 3rd District. “I’m proud to see Roeland Park, in collaboration with our neighboring communities, at the forefront of the effort to create a climate safe world. I look forward to partnering with them in this endeavor.”
While Kansas City is far from coastal, it is expected to be one of the cities most impacted by climate change. One study, "The Climate Disruption Index," ranked Kansas City as the metropolitan area fifth most potentially affected by climate change, due to urban heat islands and extreme drought. The city is expected to see 20 more days above 90 degrees than its rural counterparts. Further, heavy rains are already occurring twice as frequently when compared to past years. Increased flooding is challenging the storm water infrastructure.
The city recognizes this need for cross-jurisdictional collaboration on climate issues, and Mayor Mike Kelly is chairing an effort to establish a Kansas City Regional Climate Compact. Along with his co-chair, City of Shawnee Councilwoman, Lindsey Constance, the group compromises dozens of local jurisdictions, non-profit and for-profit organizations, academic institutions, as well as local utilities and equity partners.
“There has been momentum in the metro region amongst elected leaders to do our part toward creating a resilient and greener metro area, but we needed a vehicle in which to work together,” said Roeland Park Mayor Mike Kelly. “We are excited that the Metro KC Climate Action Coalition can serve that role, and very proud that Roeland Park is at the forefront of this effort.”
With NLC’s support, Roeland Park will inaugurate an annual summit for regional practitioners and local elected leaders in September of this year to elevate the importance of metro climate action in the Kansas City area. Roeland Park leaders and their partners hope to attract and engage a variety of interested parties and highlight key topics. With increased attention, education, and practitioner recognition of climate and resilience issues in the metro Kansas City region, the team can then begin to leverage this widespread regional support to advocate for resilience issues at the state level, and can coordinate and actualize key, long-range, multi-jurisdictional projects that will boost the region’s ability to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the current and imminent impacts that climate change will generate.
"I consider myself incredibly lucky that I have the opportunity to serve in a district with eight municipalities, all of which have strong leaders in locally elected positions” said Kansas state Rep. Rui Xu. “Climate change is going to be one of the defining issues of the next several generations, and with progress slow at the state level, I am very thankful for Mayor Kelly and Roeland Park taking leadership at the local level."
Now in its third year, the Leadership in Community Resilience program is generously supported by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Wells Fargo. NLC also announced that the program had established technical assistance partnerships with the Thriving Earth Exchange and ecoAmerica, who will provide additional tools and resources to support the cohort of cities.
To apply for the program, officials from each city submitted a proposal detailing a specific resiliency challenge in their community and a proposed event or project that could address it.
Past participants used their participation as a springboard to form invaluable partnerships, hold resiliency summits and workshops, and implement innovative infrastructure projects.
“As a lifelong educator, a mother to two, and elected leader, my focus is on preparing children for the future, and doing everything in my power to ensure that the future our children are living into is full of hope and possibility,” said Shawnee City Councilwoman Lindsey Constance. “The momentum and subsequent action being generated through leaders in our region is helping to transform our generation’s biggest challenge into our greatest opportunity.”
KC-area cities will take action on climate solutions if Washington won’t
BY LINDSEY CONSTANCE AND MIKE KELLY
SPECIAL TO THE STAR
On Saturday, Dec. 8, 130 Kansas City Metro-area leaders, approximately half elected office-holders, from both sides of the state line, met to learn and discuss climate resilience solutions aimed at reducing the amount of carbon in our atmosphere. Many of the strategies discussed enhance quality of life, while also providing cost savings and economic benefit.
Recently, The Star has published multiple news articles and several op-ed pieces on the pending challenges of climate change and its impact on the metro area. This is with good reason: Recent reports such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the fourth iteration of the National Climate Assessment make clear that the time for conversation is quickly dissipating and the need for action is imminent.
Although not a coastal city, Kansas City remains on the front lines in the need for climate resilience due to an expected increase in high degree days, periods of excessive drought and increased extreme weather such as severe rains and flash flooding.
While we agree that those in the White House have abdicated their role as leaders in protecting the nation’s health and environment, we recognize that local leaders are the ones best equipped to enact meaningful and expedient solutions to climate change. Cities have been the hubs of culture and innovation for centuries, while being home to the majority of the world’s people and thus, emitting the majority of the world’s greenhouse gases. Consequently, the creative and innovative solutions, as well as the greatest opportunity for emissions reductions, flow from urbanites.
Kansas City is a prime example. Since enacting its Climate Action Plan in 2008, greenhouse emissions have decreased from municipal operations by 40 percent. As KCP&L’s largest single customer, Kansas City is negotiating with the utility for the opportunity to move to a 100 percent renewable municipal operation fuel mixture. This is meaningful action that should not be dismissed.
Other municipalities are ready to follow suit with solutions designed to improve efficiency, save money and reduce greenhouse emissions. We will implement these solutions in our individual municipalities where we can, and will partner with other communities when it makes fiscal sense. As the layer of government closest to the people, we can have the quickest and most direct impact on our residents.
We are not naive. We know that if the world is to meet its goals of keeping global temperature increases below catastrophic levels, some level of federal action will be necessary. This action, if it is to occur, will be slow, brutally opposed and defanged through partisan negotiations. In the interim, we will keep working to identify and adopt actions to make Kansas City’s metro communities healthier, resilient and economically vibrant.
Dec. 8 was our first, but by no means last, meeting to discuss these solutions. The Star, and specifically columnist Steve Rose, remain welcome to join us. We look forward to hearing from you.
Lindsey Constance serves on the Shawnee City Council and Mike Kelly is mayor of Roeland Park.
Climate change workshop offers measures cities and counties can take now to combat the global threat.
Scientists with the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently released a report warning the world has little more than a decade to get global warming under control, or face dire consequences if it doesn't. A pair of elected officials in Johnson County, Kansas, aren't waiting for state or federal government to lead the way. They've organized a workshop for other officials and leaders to learn what cities and counties can do now, both collaboratively and singly, in the battle against climate change.