7 Responses to Champion of transit, climate initiatives picked for HUD post
Obama’s choice to be Deputy Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development is the latest member of his uber-green team.
In a statement announcing his selection, Ron Sims, the county executive of King County, Washington says his work “highlights the connection between urban development and curbing global warming.” Greenwire (subs. req’d) has full story:
Ron Sims said his work in Seattle He also cited “HUD’s critical role in protecting our economic prowess and improving the quality of life for the residents of our metropolitan centers while cutting emissions and preparing us for a warmer world.”
Sims’ nomination follows Senate confirmation of HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, a green building proponent who oversaw New York City’s $7.5 billion affordable housing plan as commissioner of the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development. He is credited with championing energy-efficient affordable housing.
Obama’s picks for leadership roles in several agencies, including HUD, suggest that his environmental agenda will permeate throughout the federal government as agencies look for ways to incorporate it into their central missions.
Sims has made a name for himself as an environmentally conscious government official. He points to his work to reduce traffic congestion by focusing on encouraging walking, biking and transit in King County. As a part of this, the county transit agency, Sound Transit, is developing a light rail system, expanded regional bus service and commuter train service to surrounding communities.
Sims has also pushed for new fuel technologies; his county is the largest purchaser of biofuels in the state. He has protected more than 100,000 acres of green space in King County and increased the county’s trails to 175 miles.
“Here in King Country, he’s been a leader on the issues of climate change and the environment, and he’s been an advocate for transit, as well as being particularly passionate about low-income housing,” said Sudha Nandagopal, spokeswoman for Washington Conservation Voters.
Nandagopal pointed to his efforts to make affordable housing close to where people work as a way to reduce air pollution while providing support for low-income families.
Sims’ focus on affordable housing has won initial support from some urban-development experts. Jorge Vanegas, director of Texas A&M’s Center for Housing and Urban Development, said Sims seems to be a positive choice because of his experience with urban environmental issues.
“You cannot deal with aspects of housing and development issues without having an awareness and sensitivity to environmental issues,” he said.
Vanegas cautioned that the push to develop in ways that are environmentally sound often meets stiff opposition from a variety of groups, meaning that Sims faces enormous challenges within HUD, a sprawling bureaucracy with a nearly $39 billion budget and 8,500 employees.
“He’s one of those that could easily polarize people, but maybe that’s not so much him but what he does,” Vanegas said….
Jason Hartke, director of advocacy and public policy for the U.S. Green Building Council, agreed that Sims faces a tough road but said he is a leader of a growing movement of people supporting the notion that green and affordable housing can help improve the bottom line.
“Across the country, folks are embracing the idea that the transition to a green economy will strengthen the overall economy,” Hartke said. “Over time, he [Sims] has shown these are proven opportunities that help the triple bottom” by protecting the environment, strengthening the economy and preserving affordable housing.
Born in Spokane, Wash., Sims graduated from Central Washington University and then worked on consumer protection issues at the Washington state attorney general’s office and the Federal Trade Commission.
Sims became King County executive in 1996. King County is the 13th largest county in the nation, with 1.8 million people. The county government employs more than 13,000 workers and has an annual budget of $4.4 billion.
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