Greenville Paying $$$ to ‘EcoMobility’ Group

January 14, 2010

Investigative Reports

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The NerveJan Williams
Citizen Reporter

Greenville and at least four other S.C. cities belong to an international environmental organization that, among other things, encourages residents to use their cars a lot less.

And Greenville taxpayers are paying thousands of dollars annually to support that cause.

I had to go online to verify this information. I looked up ICLEI (International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives), now known as Local Governments for Sustainability, and found out that my hometown of Greenville is a member.

The cities of Charleston, Columbia, Spartanburg and Sumter also are members.

In its literature the organization, which has its world headquarters in Bonn, Germany, states that it “connects local governments with the United Nations and other important organizations.”

Among other goals, the group pushes for “EcoMobility,” described as “mobility without dependency on the private car,” which involves “walking, cycling and wheeling toward a sustainable future.”

My next step was to find out how much Greenville pays in dues to ICLEI. I contacted three City Council members last February, and none had a clue what the ICLEI was or even knew that the city was a member.

Within a week they did put me in touch with the city’s environmental program manager, who explained how the city was working to improve greenhouse gas emissions, and that the city belonged to several environmental organizations connected to ICLEI.

The total dues for those memberships are about $6,000 per year, according to the city manager.

At the Feb. 23, 2009, and March 9, 2009, City Council meetings, I presented information about ICLEI and the other organizations, and the “sustainability” goals of these groups.

None of the city council members was aware of the city’s membership in these groups, or that the city paid them dues. One council member explained that council lets the “experts” handle those matters.

In a related matter, a May 2009 newspaper article said the city would be doing a “carbon footprint” study, and the council would approve the expenses. I e-mailed the article to all council members and the mayor, and informed them about an 83-page Brookings Institution report published a year earlier.

That report described how small our “carbon footprint” is compared to other places nationwide.

At the next meeting, the council decided to hold off on the $30,000 expense for its own “carbon footprint” study.

Jan Williams is a former Navy supply corps officer and a retired automotive fabrics development engineer from Milliken and Co. who lives in Greenville.