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Climate activists in Wichita have worked diligently with the Wichita City council and on Tuesday, the council voted unanimously to establish a board to advise them and city staff on environmental concerns, climate change, and finding environmentally friendly ways for economic growth.

The League of Women Voters Wichita took to Facebook to share their excitement. "Many thanks to the 27 different Wichita citizens who stood in front of the city council over the past months, passionately speaking about climate change concerns, and to the eight citizens who spoke in favor of the ordinance today, including our League representative, Tabitha Lehman."

As the ordinance stands currently, Wichita's Sustainability Integration Board will begin working to advance the city's environmental goals, such as reducing emissions and finding economic opportunities that are also good for the environment.

"I think this is a great first step forward, and I don't think we should let the perfect be the enemy of the good," said Mayor Brandon Whipple.

The board will have 14 members and meet quarterly, with the ability to create its bylaws and procedures, including determining how often members meet. 

The initial ordinance, set to be passed last month, would have given the board less authority and direction. Still, activists worked with the city council and administration to improve the wording.

"Many of those activists have been fighting for years, but in January, they started a really hard push to get us to create it, so was that nine months It took, but I'm glad we finally got all of that lined out," said Vice-Mayor Brandon Johnson.

According to reporting from the Wichita Eagle, Some local activists believe the legislation isn't strong enough. They want alternative rules for the number of members and meetings needed and the participation of Wichita State's Environmental Finance Center.

Jane Byrnes, a former Wichita Single-Use Plastic Bag Task Force member, led the campaign to establish a sustainability board. The city council launched the task group in February 2020 to look into the potential of banning plastic bags.

The Environmental Finance Center's participation in the task group, according to Byrnes, has delayed progress.

"It has been excruciatingly slow while Wichita waits and waits and waits," Byrnes said.

The EFC has suggested that a representative body be established, with members possessing the skills and experience required to solve complex sustainability problems jointly, integrate with current advisory boards and operational divisions, and reflect the community's diversity. 

There is no cost associated with the formation of the Sustainability Integration Board. 

Click here to read more about the ordinance: https://bit.ly/3zUjTOI.

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