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Why ‘sustainability’ is key

July 14, 2017
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

To the editor:

As my pursuit for public office progresses, I have been asked by several constituents what does the word sustainability mean and why is it such an important part of my platform. Sustainability, in its simplest definition, is viewed as a three-legged stool that depicts people, profit, and planet - in order for the stool to stand properly, all three legs must be considered. This concept can be applied to anything from a business, to your family, and to our city. It's about utilizing less to serve or do more and keeping the long game or vision in mind.

In my Goodwill days, my sustainability focus was on things like utilities, procurement of supplies, and making cash from our trash. Placing 2-inch signs next to light switches to remind our team to turn off lights when not in use. Then, creating a benchmark that showed how much we saved in electricity costs since implementing those simple signs. We overhauled our supply orders in bulk to get the best price that eliminated shipping costs and created a system of disbursement by tracking the use of those supplies to determine the appropriate time frame to reorder. In 2010, I reviewed all 25 retail locations where we had trash service and studied the size of container per location and frequency of pickups. By decreasing the size of containers and the amount of times these receptacles were hauled, I saved $75,000 in trash expense within a 12-month period. In addition, we increased our collective understanding of trash versus recyclable commodities, creating revenue streams from items we previously paid to discard such as metals, plastics, glass, and ceramics. I want to apply these same concepts to our city by making many of our programs and resources self-sustaining.

An example is our charter schools. While it is great that we received nearly $3 million in support from the state, what happens when those funds are no longer available? We need to look at how we can assist our charter schools with fundraising plans to supplement their revenue so that their operating costs do not fall on the city and ultimately the taxpayers in the long term.

We talk about the Bimini Basin and the concern of water quality. The solution proposed by the Army Corp of Engineers is to open the Rubicon Canal to flush out impurities and improve water quality. While that solution will give us immediate relief, what about the long-term water quality? How can we fix the problem on the "front end" and create a more sustainable solution? We should consider partnering with Lee county and the City of Fort Myers to develop a joint marketing and education program that teaches our residents what items or materials not to dispose of in the water. Those types of efforts will sustain our water quality for generations to come.

What about quality of life for our kids? I mentioned in my kick off speech, that we need to make our city a place where our children will want to come back to and lead/invest in the community where they grew up. The Future Makers SWFL Coalition, a regional initiative to transform SWFL's workforce, provides a staggering statistic where only 37 percent of the working age population in our region has education beyond high school. We need to look at this as a work force development opportunity and ensure our kids understand how they can invest in trade or higher education needs to fill in-demand jobs for our city, filling the void in our local industry. Marine related jobs, building inspectors to handle our growing real estate, industrial trades, medical careers etc. that relate to the diverse resources our city offers. We should look at partnering with Lee Health on the types of jobs they have difficulty filling to address our growing and aging population. Also, we should consider opportunities to bring medical equipment manufacturing to our city based on recommendations from Lee Health.

By planning and implementing policy with sustainability in mind, we will be able to benchmark and track the success of our efforts. These measurements will mirror the efforts in our city's strategic plan and partner with our comprehensive plan.

Jennifer I. Nelson

Candidate for District 4



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