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Mayors tout sustainability at Arizona Solar Summit in Scottsdale

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SCOTTSDALE – Press releases and ribbon-cutting ceremonies often herald cities’ sustainability initiatives, but Mesa Mayor Scott Smith would prefer that these be so routine that no fanfare is required.

“Right now when we put solar panels on a building it’s a big deal,” Smith said during a panel discussion Wednesday with three other mayors. “We don’t want it to be a big deal; we want it to be a normal, everyday thing.”

Mayors of Phoenix, Goodyear and Clarkdale also shared their cities’ goals and challenges in fostering sustainability during the Arizona Solar Summit, held at Arizona State University’s SkySong innovation center.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said city management is the key to changing thinking on transportation, purchasing, energy and other areas where sustainability applies.

“My governing philosophy on this is sustainability thinking has to permeate every decision that we make at the city,” he said. “That’s the kind of leadership I want to provide for the city of Phoenix.”

Clarkdale Mayor Doug Von Gausig said smaller communities have the same goals and challenges when it comes to sustainability.

“We have the same kinds of problems, same kinds of potholes and same kinds of energy challenges as everywhere else,” he said.

Over the last five years, Von Gausig said, Clarkdale has focused on water sustainability and transitioning to solar electricity.

“We’re doing things in Clarkdale that will hopefully be a model for other small towns in Arizona and show them how this culture of sustainability is so important for small towns as well as big cities,” he said.

Goodyear Mayor Georgia Lord said her city, in partnership with APS, recently set a goal to have 5 percent of single-family homes using solar by 2015. It exceeded that goal within a year, she said.

Getting leaders and citizens behind such efforts is key, Lord said.

“You have to be sure you bring the people into it so that they can be your force behind the direction you want to go in,” she said.