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Glendale officials create office of sustainability

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The Glendale city government will soon grow to include an office of sustainability intended to coordinate efforts across departments and serve as a liaison with the public.

“We needed somebody to come in … to look at all of the things that we’re doing now … and coalesce those all together into some single plan of action,” Steve Zurn, general manager of Glendale Water & Power, said during a City Council meeting Tuesday.

Glendale City Council members unanimously supported creating the office, voting to approve a $115,000 contract with consultant EcoMotion to develop it.

According to Zurn, the city’s departments — from public works to parks to the public utility — all pursue sustainability projects but often individually.

Besides integrating the various departments’ work, the new office will inform residents about what work the city is doing and source feedback, he added.

“For the community to have the ability to see comprehensively everything we’re doing is going to be very, very beneficial,” said Zurn, describing it as potentially the most important function of the office.

Some council members voiced concerns about the potential size and function of the emerging office.

“I just want to make sure that we’re not bringing on a sixth City Council member, that policy decisions are made by the council,” Mayor Ara Najarian said.

Councilman Vrej Agajanian said he did not want to see the office inadvertently evolve into a large, bureaucratic body.

According to Zurn, it may be an office consisting of just one person, as existing expert departments continue to do the bulk of the work that the new office will coordinate.

For Councilwoman Paula Devine, launching the office is a logical step, calling it a “step forward” for the city.

Speaking for the Glendale Environmental Coalition, resident Kate Unger said the grass-roots advocacy group supported the creation of the office, as well as the choice of consultant.

However, Unger said the group had suggestions, including having the director of the office report directly to the city manager and broadening the agency’s scope.

“It should be more than a liaison PR office,” said Unger, adding that education and public outreach, while important, should not be the office’s main focus.

“Once its goals are developed, the office needs the authority to hold city departments accountable to meeting them,” she said.

Referencing Unger’s points, Zurn said, “That’s the path we’re going down.”

First steps for the new office will include clarifying its duties and to whom and how it will report its findings and recommendations, Zurn said.

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