Roy Buol Creates a Greener Dubuque
Democratic Municipal Officials are known for two important qualities; a passion for innovation and the ability to provide common sense solutions. DMOs are adept at achieving progressive policy goals while still keeping things practical. Rather than see their vision as an unachievable ideal, the best municipal officials use their aspirations to introduce sustainable changes. As heads turn towards Iowa for the 2016 presidential election, let’s cast our gazes at a DMO who knows how to turn progressive values into economic boons. Meet Roy Buol, Mayor of Dubuque and DMO of the Month for August.
Under Mayor Buol’s leadership, funding for arts and cultural projects grew from zero to over 2.3 million dollars. The city invested in undertakings like the America’s River Project on the Port of Dubuque. The $400 million educational, entertainment, and historic riverfront site consists of restaurants, hotels, casinos, a museum complex, and hosts a thriving roster of festivals. Installments like the Art on the River Project support local and national artists with a $1,500 stipend while contributing to Dubuque’s growing tourism sector. The city takes a commission on sales, allowing them to continue the cycle of showcasing artistic talent. By cultivating cultural hotspots like the America’s River Project and Art on the River, Buol has done much to beautify the Mississippi waterfront, create jobs, and develop Dubuque as a tourist destination.
Just as investing in the arts built an economy around the port, Mayor Buol began repurposing the vacant and forgotten factories of the Historic Millwork District into fiscally productive cultural spaces. The area has been redeveloped into a mixed use neighborhood that incorporates green technology into preserved historical architecture. Mayor Buol has continued his efforts to reposition Dubuque as a Midwestern arts hub, centering festivals and exhibitions around newly remodeled buildings in the district. Jobs feature heavily in this planning, with the environmentally refurbished units being converted into office spaces and providing the city an opportunity to invest aggressively in green jobs training. Mayor Buol and city residents are witnessing the transformation of the area from one of abandoned mills to a vibrant cultural community.
Just as an investment in the arts made Dubuque a hub for tourist dollars and revitalized communities, the city’s devotion to sustainable environmental development is turning heads and growing economic opportunity. The city partnered with IBM to install smart utility meters on water and gas lines. After a voluntary pilot project, the program expanded to include every home in the city. This transformed an invisible drain on municipal resources into data citizens could observe and self-correct, resulting in a 6.6% reduction in water usage, 50 million gallons of water saved, and a revenue increase of $180,000. Buol also championed the Community Climate Action & Resiliency Plan, a greenhouse gas reduction initiative with the goal of reducing output 50% by 2030. While such plans are commonly considered to be laudable but impractical, Dubuque has used its sustainability efforts to bring in grant money, lure a horde of green businesses to the city, and reduce municipal service costs. Mayor Buol has multiplied the city's work by investing in community members. $2,500 grants are available to residents and businesses with their own plans for sustainable community projects, decentralizing progress and giving citizens a stake in their neighborhoods. Through impactful environmental initiatives, Mayor Buol is living up to his platform of “engaging citizens as partners”.
Iowa is home to a true city of the future. Government, businesses, and private citizens have come together building communities around the arts and sustainability. Far from a utopian experiment, Dubuque has become a city where businesses want to invest, young people want to live and work, and government saves money on good policy. Mayor Roy Buol is the visionary behind these accomplishments. As presidential contenders flock to Iowa in advance of the primaries, they should make Dubuque their first stop. There is plenty to learn about smart governing from August’s DMO of the Month.
Roy Buol was first elected mayor in 2005, having served as the Second Ward Council Member since 1995. Last year, Mayor Buol’s efforts earned him the 2014 Public Leadership in the Arts Award for Local Arts Leadership for cities with a population under 100,000. Under Buol’s stewardship, Dubuque has lead the state in job growth, dropped unemployment to 4.8%, and topped lists for the best places to live. He sits on the Energy, Environment, and Natural Resources committee at NLC. To learn more about Mayor Buol’s successes, be sure to visit Dubuque this October for the 8th annual Growing Sustainable Communities Conference.
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