ICMA and The Role of Local Governments in Sustainable Development

Local government sustainability is the theme this month for the Washington, DC, based International City/County Management Association’s (ICMA) June issue of PM magazine. The guest editor Tad McGalliard, director of ICMA’s Center for Sustainable Communities, collected articles framing the concept of sustainability. The entire issue (in print and the expanded on-line version) is dedicated to sustainability, featuring articles from managers and academics sharing their visions on the role of local government leadership. The issue also includes discussions about model practices, such as initiatives to promote mixed-use development along transportation corridors and other sustainable land use policies.

The Metropolitan Institute’s Kevin Desouza and Joe Schilling contributed a piece on local sustainability planning to this special sustainability issue. The article “Local Sustainability Planning: Harnessing the Power of Information Technologies,” available online, examines the current landscape of local governments sustainability plans and discusses “smart planning,” namely how  local governments can use information technologies to leverage available networks and develop more nuanced and informed sustainability plans and policies.

Since its creation in 2007, ICMA’s Center for Sustainable Communities has been providing education, tools, and resources that help local leaders build sustainable cities and counties. In 2010, the Center conducted a national survey of sustainability initiatives that have been undertaken by local governments. Based on the results of the survey, and in collaboration with Arizona State University, the Center published a report providing concrete recommendations for policy makers and advocates concerned with implementing sustainability initiatives. The study found that localities are still in the early stage of adopting comprehensive environment and energy sustainability programs, and cities and counties most likely will significantly increase sustainability efforts in the future. Although energy efficiency and sustainability are important goals for many local governments, turning visions into concrete actions remains a challenge. Elected officials and administrators can and will play a paramount role in advancing sustainability by putting policy into practice and leading by example. Leaders should offer citizens visible examples of positive changes that could be made in community life and organizations’ management. Local governments can learn from each other, as progressive localities with broad, integrated campaigns may offer examples of how to incorporate the principles and prac­tices of sustainability into local planning practice.

More recently, the Center announced the startup of a “sustainable communities” blog site that will provide posts, updates, and columns on the issues of sustainability and local government management.