Louisville mayor appoints ‘sustainability’ czar [Opinion: The Arena]

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Czar Greg

Louisville’s new mayor, Greg Fischer, delivered today on one of his main campaign promises:  He appointed Louisville Metro Government’s first Director of Sustainability.  And, no, it wasn’t Jackie Green; it was a woman named Maria Koetter.

Maria Koetter.JPG“Having a point-person for sustainability will not only lead to cost-saving efficiencies in city government, it will help make Louisville a more environmentally-friendly city and serve as an economic development tool by attracting new green industries and jobs,” Fischer said. “Maria has the corporate, regulatory and community background to be an effective leader on this front.”

According to her résumé, Koetter worked for 10 years with the California-based firm Tetra Tech EM Inc., where she managed a variety of environmental projects and initiatives. She also served as “project scientist” for ERD Environmental Inc., involved with soil, water, air and wastewater assessment and cleanup efforts and working closely with the EPA and local and state regulators.  She supervised what are called “USGBC LEED green building projects.”

LEED is a set of building guidelines, created by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), that can supposedly determine how “green” your building is. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It was established in 1998 and is a green building rating system that awards “silver, gold, and platinum” certificates for new or remodeled structures.  LEED “points” are given for such things as solar energy panels or having a bike rack near the front entrance.

bgreen2 logo.jpgOn her Linkedin web page, Koetter bills herself as “President, Principal Scientist” for a “green” consulting operation she calls “Bgreen2 LLC.”  Her educational background consists of a 1989 bachelors degree in Biology and Secondary Education, from Western Kentucky University (formerly known as Western Kentucky State Teachers College).  She has a Teaching Certificate in General Science.

Without a Masters Degree, Koetter could expect to earn around $40k as a Jefferson County General Science teacher.  As Louisville’s Director of Sustainability she will start out at $78,000 a year.  If she is to be provided with an office and a staff, the taxpayers can look forward to a yearly outlay of a couple of hundred grand, so that Louisville can claim to be interested in “sustainability.”

green.jpgReaders will recall that back in October of 2010—during the hotly contested mayoral campaign—environmentalist Jackie Green suddenly dropped out of the race and threw his support to Fischer, the ultimate winner.  Courier-Journal reporter Dan Klepal broke the story with a suggestion that Green was trying to cut a deal with Fischer which would involve Green’s dropping out of the mayoral race and throwing his support to the Democrat.  In return, Klepal predicted that Fischer would promise to appoint Green to a new position as Louisville’s “Sustainability Czar,” once he became mayor.

Green told Kelpal he wanted “significant” input in picking the leader of the Office of Sustainability that would be created in a Fischer administration. Green said he also wanted an assurance that the office will have “authority and priority” in a Fischer administration.  He allowed as how he, himself, “may be the best person to run the office.”  

Of course, the local alternative press went ballistic over l’affaire Green.   Writing in the Louisville City Hall Examiner, we reminded readers that Kentucky Revised Statute 121.055 makes it illegal for any political candidate to promise a job—or any other thing of value—in return for a vote or other support.  Violation of this statute can bring a $10,000 fine, and is a Class D felony, punishable by 1 to 5 years in prison.  More that a little bit snarky, we observed:  “It’s one thing to copy Hal Heiner’s platform, in an effort to appear more main-stream and moderate.  It’s quite another thing to conspire with an environmental whacko like Jackie Green to cut a deal for a pay-off that could land them both behind bars.”

The thrust of our argument, however, was that Green’s public statements on the “Office of Sustainability” promised by Fischer came awfully close to the line of violating the law.  More facts needed to come out, before we would be willing to turn the key in the cell door.

Not so, however, in the rest of the local political blogosphere.  Jake Payne, over at the ‘Ville Voice, concluded:  “Looks like Greg Fischer broke state law in promising a job to Jackie Green in exchange for his endorsement.”  Jake don’t beat around the bush.

Ed Springston, at Louisville News and Politics, has Green and Fischer practically behind bars:  “Mayoral candidate Greg Fischer in his quest to do anything to get elected has violated the law with his deal for Jackie Green to drop out and endorse him. Fischer should be disqualified and charges are forthcoming. Green will be charged as well.”  No ambivalence here.

Over at Louisville Courant, Curtis Morrison threw down the gauntlet:  “Newsflash: If Jackie's out, then I'm with Hal.  For all the homosexuals that plan to threaten and harass me for the next three weeks, bring it. I will not be intimidated from speaking my mind.”

And Republican mayoral candidate Hal Heiner jumped into the fray, issuing a press release, suggesting that, “In order to get his political opponent, Jackie Green, out of the race, he entered into written negotiations to turn over the power and authority of a new government agency in exchange for political support.”  Heiner called upon the Fischer campaign to “…release all documents drafted between the Fischer and Green campaigns so that the public can see exactly what they’re paying for. We should never forget government exists to serve the people, not the self interest of a political campaign”

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