Communities of all sizes are facing staffing, budget, and time constraints. As the town manager of a small community in Maryland, I have a long list of projects that community members want us to pursue but we just don’t have the bandwidth or the funding. It was such a relief when I found the Thriving Earth Exchange in 2016. The Council wanted to purchase a 60-acre former chicken processing plant and we needed to test the ponds on the property as part of the due diligence. It was an expensive process, but Thriving Earth provided a volunteer scientist who determined the ponds were fine and the Council moved forward with the purchase. We avoided spending $50,000 to $60,000 in testing costs as a result.
While some public finance officers will look at this article and focus on the environmental aspects of what Thriving Earth can address, the program really offers so much more. GFOA’s Code of Ethics speaks to the importance of the finance officer’s role. From my perspective, part of producing results is making effective use of taxpayer dollars. Being able to save my community $50,000 to $60,000 means those resources can be applied elsewhere. In addition, the Thriving Earth program provides project management support and a volunteer scientist at no cost to the community. The community members you serve will appreciate the value that comes from this program.
Diversity and Inclusion
Many communities are addressing longstanding equity issues. The Thriving Earth Exchange can be a resource to communities tackling social justice issues as well. For example, the City of Missoula, Montana, partnered with Thriving Earth and ICLEI USA, to map heat vulnerability in response to community concerns about longer and hotter summers, and their disproportionate effect on vulnerable populations. The result of this effort was a series of maps visualizing heat sensitivity (based on selected socioeconomic factors), heat exposure (based on land surface temperature, tree canopy, and impervious surface), and vulnerability (based on a combination of sensitivity and exposure). (View case study). The work Thriving Earth does in partnership with its communities is in alignment with these values.
That's the environment, I do the numbers
During my career in local government, I’ve seen the role of the finance officer expand. The most effective ones get the numbers right and do their best to meet changing community priorities. Environmental, social, and governance issues are increasingly relevant to rating agencies. Finance officers are looking for ways to meet those expectations and Thriving Earth is an effective partner in this effort.
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