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Near Nature 

by Doug Nadvornick & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & M & lt;/span & ary Verner admits her newly approved "Near Nature Quality of Life Initiative" carries no enforcement powers. "It's just a statement of the city's goals for 2007," she says, "and putting into one document all the things we're already doing and should be doing to make this city a better place to live."

In her four-page resolution, the councilmember lists five themes she believes Spokane should continue to pursue: smart growth, air quality/energy efficiency, water stewardship, waste reduction and healthy lifestyles.

"It's important to me that this not cost the city anything extra or cause any unfunded mandates," says Verner.

She believes smart-growth options, using the city's Centers and Corridors strategy, will help Spokane continue to grow in an orderly way and allow it to preserve green spaces, improve transportation and help developers build the infrastructure the city needs.

She touts Spokane's planned investments in upgrading its wastewater treatment plant to reduce phosphorus emissions and its work to retrofit the city's diesel vehicles to help them burn fuel more efficiently. She says the city has a financial interest in encouraging its employees to exercise and eat well: projected lower health insurance premiums.

"Some of these things have near-term benefits," Verner says. "Others are longer-term."

Verner says her resolution is a natural follow-up to Mayor Dennis Hession's signing of the Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement. Spokane is one of more than 400 cities to have endorsed the agreement.

Her plan mirrors the mayor's agreement in that it requires the city, by 2012, to develop and follow through on a plan to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions to 7 percent below its 1990 levels.

"Whether or not you agree with the global warming theories," Hession said at a recent City Council meeting, "this is something that benefits Spokane. It really incorporates two concepts -- saving energy and saving money."
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