By David Ullrich
(member of the IJC’s Great Lakes Water Quality Board)
An important Great Lakes group is turning 10.
The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, founded in 2003 by then-mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago, is celebrating its diamond anniversary at an upcoming annual conference.
The event, from June 19-21 in Marquette, Michigan, will feature climate change adaptation and shoreline management --- two issues central to the IJC’s focus, as well as economic development and mining issues.
Daley founded the Cities Initiative to help local governments get seats at Great Lakes and St. Lawrence decision-making tables. Ten years later, there are more than 100 member cities representing 16 million U.S. and Canadian citizens. And many of the most important tables where cities sit involve the IJC.
Shortly after the Cities Initiative began operations, the IJC invited me as the group’s executive director to be a member of the Water Quality Board, the IJC’s primary adviser on the Great Lakes. The Cities Initiative has participated actively on a Binational Executive Committee since 2003 with Canadian, U.S., state, and provincial officials to improve implementation of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Although not formally a member of that Committee, the Cities Initiative was fully engaged in all discussions. The Cities Initiative is now a full member of a new Great Lakes Executive Committee, and the new Agreement calls for even more extensive municipal participation on the IJC’s Water Quality Board.
The International Bridge, the northern terminus of Interstate 75, and the Soo Locks. Credit: Kate Ter Haar.
Beyond the formal boards, the Cities Initiative has been a member of several committees advising the IJC. The International Upper Great Lakes Study on water levels included Cities Initiative representation, as does a more recently formed Adaptive Management Task Team. Important work on developing ecosystem and human health indicators for the Great Lakes has included a workgroup co-chair from the Cities Initiative.
IJC commissioners have participated as keynote speakers in most of the Cities Initiative annual meetings since its inception, and the IJC has had a booth in the exhibit area for the conferences. These have provided even more opportunities for interaction between the IJC and local governments. In all, the IJC has reached out to local governments extensively over the past 10 years to incorporate local thinking and perspectives into policy development and decision-making on the Great Lakes. The Cities Initiatives has welcomed that genuine gesture with much enthusiasm and has been actively engaged.
For more information on the upcoming conference, see Marquette2013.com. Daley, the Cities Initiative founder, will be giving this year’s keynote address.
--- David Ullrich is executive director of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative.