This month we talk with Gill Sorg, Council Member for the City of Las Cruces, NM. Las Cruces was awarded a 3-STAR Community Rating in October 2015.
I have served as a City Councilor for the City of Las Cruces since 2009. I have been a longtime advocate of sustainable programs and projects both within the City government and community at large.
I recognize the importance of benchmarking the City’s progress in becoming a sustainable community and supporting national and international programs that share a collective message about local and global challenges and best practices.
Why did Las Cruces decide to join the Leadership Program and pursue STAR Certification initially?
The STAR certification program takes a holistic view of sustainability by examining economic vitality, environmental stewardship, and social equity. This comprehensive snapshot helps the City better understand the interdependency of these three sustainability pillars and encourages us to look for innovative ways to create win-win strategies that address our many concerns. One notable example in Las Cruces is how the recent designation of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument has strengthened our economy and community’s appreciation of its natural resources.
How does your 3-STAR Community Certification reflect Las Cruces’ commitment to sustainability?
The City of Las Cruces considers the 3-STAR designation as a baseline that describes our challenges and successes. There are many actions that the community has initiated and we hope to see the cumulative effect as we move forward. STAR has given us the metrics to help track our progress.
Now that Las Cruces has become certified, how will you or the City use the results moving forward?
Collecting the data encouraged many conversations both within the government and with the larger community. In the upcoming year, the City’s Sustainability Office will be hosting a series of round table discussions to examine the interrelations of the STAR data and develop strategies with the community to focus our priorities.
Did the STAR certification process reveal anything about Las Cruces that you did not know?
I have a better appreciation of how challenging it is to build data collection into community and City programs.
How will you use the information you have gathered from STAR to benefit your district and/or Las Cruces?
Everyone appreciates the rigor STAR went through to identify metrics for sustainable practices. The City of Las Cruces intends to fold some of the STAR metrics into its comprehensive and strategic plans. As staff builds data collection into its enterprise resource planning management program it will help facilitate decision making. Hopefully, these same practices can be utilized by our community partners, as well.
Are there any specific issues that Las Cruces faces that the STAR certification will help to address?
As with many communities, organizations and City departments can work in silos. The holistic nature of the STAR certification brings together new people, more information and better solutions. It is not a specific issue, but a better way of addressing complex, interrelated issues.
Are there any areas in the STAR Framework that Las Cruces did not receive credit in and that you see the city council helping with in the future?
The City Council is supportive of many sustainable issues that continue to challenge our community. I am particularly concerned with the City’s responsibility to address climate change and hope to champion many efforts in this area. STAR helps me recognize the breadth of this work.
Do you have any advice for other elected officials that are considering helping their community pursue STAR certification?
It is a very large-scale effort that illuminates the City’s work and brings the community together. It is most successful when leadership supports and recognizes the value of this process.