Connolly pitches 'Green Agenda' in council hearings

At-Large Councillor John Connolly is using the tripod of committees he chairs - Education, Environment and "A Livable Boston" - to support a four-pronged "Green Agenda." He expects to order City Council hearings for the proposals on Wednesday.

The centerpiece of Connolly's plan will be a push for an Environmental Sciences - new High School - but will also include calling for a carbon neutral neighborhood pilot initiative, global climate change summits in the city's neighborhoods that would focus on energy efficiency, and "continued work" on a bike sharing idea that was picked up by the Menino administration last year.

"Maybe we could figure out a way to get stimulus money behind it," said Connolly of the school idea. "That's a piece where having the greenest city in the world meets having a world-class school system. This school could be a model in green education."

Connolly described the school as a mix of an advanced science academy and a trade school housed in a building stocked with green features that its students could learn from.

"Wherever you fit on the job spectrum, whether installing weatherization on a home or becoming a scientist, you could get an education that would enable to compete in the green economy."

The councillor's carbon neutral neighborhood pilot initiative is derived from a program in Atlanta that steps up the idea of green marketing by creating "carbon-neutral zones" in shopping areas&emdash;thus giving those with the shopping habit a slightly less guilty pleasure. Connolly's twist is creating competition between neighborhoods to race to carbon neutrality.

Essentially, an outside firm would measure each business's carbon footprint - including energy use, transportation and non-recycled waste - and then offer ways to offset that footprint, such as funding alternative energy or planting forests - cutting down carbon production or sucking it out of the atmosphere.

"We have to push this stuff and hope the administration grabs it, but I think the natural fit is with Main Streets," said Connolly, referring to the citywide program that promotes the city's historic business districts.

On the global climate idea, Connolly simply plans to hold small summits that would highlight all the small things people can do to reduce their own carbon footprints, such as installing efficient light bulbs or water-saving fixtures, or weatherizing a house.

"You don't have to spend a lot of money or completely change your life to make a difference," said Connolly.

Lastly, Connolly also said he was following the Menino administration's interest in creating a bike sharing program along the lines of several that are thriving in several European cities.

The major challenge in Boston, according to Connolly, will be getting municipalities like Boston and Cambridge to work together, perhaps by joining in the same contract with a vendor. Boston put out a Request For Information (RFI) last year, but the results have not been released yet.

"It makes people cringe but taking one lane of Congress Street to make it bike-able could be a good idea for instance," said Connolly. "If we could be that city, I think it sets a standard for other cities. I'm sure the outcry from motorists would be terrible at first, but I think people will find it a better place to live - but you're talking about years on that.

"That's the future. You can go there with vision or you can get dragged kicking and screaming."