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Decatur, Clarkston mayors call on Congress to pass Build Back Better Act, fight climate change

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Decatur, Clarkston mayors call on Congress to pass Build Back Better Act, fight climate change

Savannah Mayor Van R. Johnson, II, Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett, Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst, and Clarkston Mayor Beverly Burks urged Congress to pass the Build Back Better Act during a virtual press conference on Thursday, Oct. 21. Photo courtesy of Climate Power.

Decatur, GA — Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett and Clarkston Mayor Beverly Burks joined the mayors of Brookhaven and Savannah on Thursday, Oct. 21, to urge Congress to include climate change measures in the Build Back Better Act.

During the virtual press conference, the mayors urged lawmakers to take the opportunity to make the necessary investments to tackle the climate crisis, create millions of jobs and lower electricity bills for individuals.

The Build Back Better Act provides funding and establishes programs relating to areas such as education, labor, child care, health care, taxes, immigration, and the environment. If passed, the bill would provide funding for management of the National Forest System; safe drinking water, energy-efficiency, and weatherization projects; and electric vehicles and zero-emission, heavy-duty vehicles.

There would also be funding for wildfire prevention, drought relief, conservation efforts, climate change research, and transit services and clean energy projects in low-income communities.

Decatur has experienced the impacts of climate change as residents see changing growing seasons in their gardens, experience hotter summers, and stormwater continues to plague the city during more frequent and severe storm events, Mayor Garrett said.

“Climate change is here, and we know it in Decatur. We see it as it’s happening,” she said.  “Decatur sees climate change as a major threat to our way of life, and we’re taking aggressive steps to mitigate these efforts.”

In the recently adopted strategic plan, residents identified climate change as one of the highest community priorities and have committed to working to reduce those steps. The city is working on creating a clean energy plan that will focus on the reduction in traditional energy sources in Decatur. The city is adding an array of solar panels to its public works building but seeks more funding for additional solar panels on municipal buildings.

“Recognizing that even more drastic climate changes are occurring, the city has collaborated with local Agnes Scott College to develop a resilience plan so that we are better able to withstand some of the we know are coming with climate change,” Garrett said.

The city is additionally working to make progress on its bike lanes and pedestrian paths, and recently adopted the stormwater master plan that identifies four projects to complete over the next three years. The city hopes to also convert all of its lighting to LED lights, create a pilot program for compost collection, and conduct a heat island impact study.

“We’re trying to do our part in reducing our carbon emissions and tackling climate change, but this effort cannot be done just by our city, and like cities alone. We have to have some bold action taken at the national level as well,” Garrett said.

Burks added that the city of Clarkston understands its duty and responsibility to reduce its carbon footprint. The city has taken steps to do so by banning single-use plastics, educating and encouraging residents to recycle, and updating zoning requirements to include solar and energy-efficient development, along with protecting the city’s tree canopy.

The city has also experienced the impacts of weather conditions. The city has encountered infrastructure issues due to stormwater runoff, a declining tree canopy due to development and higher utility cost due to increasing temperatures, Burks said.

“But we know that the reduction of climate change will require a national, and international, intervention,” Burks said. “That’s why I encourage Congress to include climate investments in the Build Back Better act. We will reduce our usage of fossil fuel and increase our usage of non-emitting sources, such as wind, solar and hydropower. More importantly, this is also a job creator. As a reminder, every person on this planet has a duty to leave the earth better than we received it.”

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