CLEVELAND, Ohio – In a press release expressing support for the STAR Community Rating System, the Kresge Foundation announced the expansion of its test group from 10 cities, to 32. Included in the expanded list are St. Louis, MO, Atlanta, GA, and Cleveland, OH. STAR was founded by a grant from the Kresge Foundation.
Seven broad categories, with five to seven sub-sections in each, comprise the 44 objectives measured by the STAR rubric, and which are measured in terms of seven evaluative goals. The broad categories include the built environment, energy consumption, the economy, education and community, empowerment, health, and natural systems. For example, within the category of Natural Systems, there is a criteria for Invasive Species.
The actions taken by a municipality to obstruct invasive species can be assessed by the seven-fold evaluative rubric for relevance, feasibility, reliability, and more. STAR was created by nearly 200 representatives from 50 cities around the nation and has been in development since 2007.
The Kresge Foundation hopes that STAR will attain the prominence of LEED – the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification offered through the U.S. Green Building Council – which is now “essential for Class A real estate designation in major cities.” The Foundation’s anticipation seems justified by USGBC’s enthusiastic heraldry of STAR’s expansion from ten to 32 cities.
The expanding reach of the STAR System is encouraging enough on its own for its unprecedented ability to give legislators a way to assess the impact of their legislation at the local level and to refer to a consensus-based rubric on where their municipality is ahead of, or behind, the curve, in terms of environmental responsibility and sustainability, social stability, and economic viability.
Beyond the specific goals and outlook for STAR – which is very good, considering USGBC’s track record with pushing LEED to ubiquity – is the fact that NGOs, businesses, private citizens, and local-level government are able to forge ahead with necessary, though at times inconvenient or expensive, steps when federal government is unable.
As the EPA and other environmentally-focused federal organizations experience funding cuts and blocks to the more powerful legislation needed to curtail increasing environmental degradation, the fact that cities would sign themselves up for programs to gauge the way they build, consume, and live is the most reassuring evidence that all is not lost.
Even if a stalemate or gridlock in Washington should continue, America will continue on through the assistance of NGOs like the Kresge Foundation and USGBC, and continue to set an example to the rest of the world for self-regulation. If the emerging BRIC countries are to continue their growth while avoiding the mistakes of Europe and America, they will have the choice to draw on STAR, LEED, and other programs, as well as the data from cities to adopt self-assessment, to balance economic growth with social strength and environmental responsibility.
– Alex Pusateri