This blog post was written by Brady Watson, former Civic Engagement Coordinator for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
On Wednesday, January 20th, the Knoxville Mayor’s Climate Council convened for a recap meeting to discuss the work they had done since the body first began meeting in May of 2020. You can view a recording of the meeting here. Knoxville Sustainability Director Brian Blackmon began the meeting by emphasizing that this was not the end of the process, but simply a recap of the work done thus far. Erin Rose, the leader of the equity working group, began by giving an update on that group’s work. The goal of the group remains to evaluate strategies recommended by the technical working groups, but as those are still being identified, the equity working group has not finalized its evaluation metrics just yet. However, according to Rose, the group has conducted several rounds of community surveys to solicit feedback from Knoxvillians. The topics included energy affordability, new technology, energy burden, lived experiences, Knoxville Area Transit experiences, and walkability. The equity working group will continue to work with the rest of the council to evaluate potential strategies as they are developed.
Next, Blackmon gave a quick recap of the meetings held thus far, and made a proposal to extend the process into the Spring. The Climate Council initially intended to present its recommendations in January, but the working groups are still evaluating strategies. So the group agreed to continue working group discussions and wrap up in March; issue additional public surveys for feedback in February and March; incorporate the feedback from working groups and the public into the sustainability work plan; and then reconvene the Climate Council in May to present the work plan for feedback.
Another one of the goals of the Climate Council is to recommend strategies that would be worked into the 2021 budget. Blackmon, Mayor Kincannon, and Policy Director Erin Gill all indicated that the Climate Council’s work was impacting the budget, but they did not give specifics, other than to say that they would work to make sure sustainability was taken into account throughout the budget process. It was also noted that the City Council does not have to approve the Sustainability work plan, so the plan could be adopted rather quickly once finalized.
Finally, Erin Rose asked how the ongoing community surveys would be worked into the plan, and Blackmon pledged that he would take the advice of the equity working group and make sure to put those recommendations into the work plan. There was some discussion on the question format of the survey, and it was agreed that the questions should be framed in a way that both educates the general public on things being proposed and also elicits feedback from the community. Blackmon said he would work with the group to draft the survey and get it out to the Knoxville community.
SACE will continue to be an active member of the Mayor’s Climate Council and push for timely implementation of the most effective carbon reduction strategies. Stay tuned for more updates on this process.