After serving 10 years on the City Council, Roy D. Buol ran for the office of Mayor in 2005. His platform was based upon “engaging citizens as partners,” and what he heard from thousands of citizens was a consistent theme surrounding water quality, recycling, green space, public transit, cultural vitality, accessibility and downtown revitalization. During the 2006 City Council goal-setting process, Mayor Buol proposed and received full support from his council colleagues to focus on sustainability as a City top priority, stating “cities that get out in front on sustainability will have competitive economic advantages in the future.” What soon became known as Sustainable Dubuque is a City Council adopted, community-created, and citizen-led initiative whose story officially begins in 2006. A City Council priority each year since, we are continually working to expand awareness, create partnerships, and encourage initiatives involving all sectors of our community. Dubuque became an early leader on the sustainability front.
Citizen Engagement from the Start
Igniting our early efforts was the selection by the American Institute of Architects as one of six cities in the nation to receive a grant for professional analysis and recommendations on creating a sustainable path to the future. The City Council moved immediately to create a city-wide citizen task force, supported by City Staff, to develop a comprehensive definition of what sustainability meant to our community. Aptly named the “Sustainable Dubuque Task Force,” the representation included individuals who brought diverse backgrounds and interests to the process, including local government, schools, utility companies, religious organizations, neighborhood associations, youth organizations, non-profits, environmental organizations and business stakeholders. The group met over the next two years, collecting community-wide input to develop a vision. The process also included presentations to community organizations and businesses to discuss targeted visions and ideas. Additionally, nearly 900 community surveys were completed. The results of these efforts, along with other data collected by the task force, were used to develop the Sustainable Dubuque vision and model which focuses on a balanced approach to life quality and includes “economic prosperity, environmental integrity, and social/cultural vibrancy.” The collective desire of our citizens to create value and a legacy of life quality through sustainable practices and programs was defined.
An Organized & Collaborative Approach By and For Citizens
“Dubuque is a viable, livable, and equitable community. We embrace economic prosperity, environmental integrity, and social/cultural vibrancy to create a sustainable legacy for generations to come.” In order to implement that vision, the task force defined 11 key principles to guide the community’s path to a more sustainable future. These include: Regional Economy, Smart Energy Use, Resource Management, Community Design, Green Buildings, Healthy Local Foods, Community Knowledge, Reasonable Mobility, Healthy Air, Clean Water, and Native Plants & Animals.
Community Engagement is Occurring Across a Broad Spectrum
When the citizen task force brought its final recommendation for Sustainable Dubuque to the City Council in 2008, it came with the support of the private, non-profit, and public sectors, as well as residents because of the grassroots process that had been implemented at the outset. The Sustainable Dubuque framework has become the lens through which city operations are developed and analyzed. Likewise, there are numerous community initiatives active such as Project Hope, Green Vision Schools, and the Petal Project to name a few, along with businesses that are finding ways to save money and improve their environment and their community by implementing the principles that define Sustainable Dubuque.
Sustainable Dubuque is the City’s Brand
Dubuque has established itself as a regional and national leader in its ability to collaboratively partner to achieve community goals. What Dubuque is achieving collectively today through its Sustainable Dubuque model, is the direct result of the knowledge and understanding that sustainability is a balanced approach to long term life quality. It is a rare approach to life quality where no one in the community is excluded…everyone who wants to do so, can participate and contribute. That is what is unique in Dubuque’s ability to continue to innovate and transform. Most recently, the City of Dubuque and its partners are working to create a replicable model of sustainability for cities under 200,000, where over 40 percent of the US population lives. Sustainable Dubuque is who and what we are; it is our Brand; it is our recognizable logo; and it is our future.