City Hall loses a top man­ager on cli­mate


The city’s man­ager of en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity has de­parted from her job just as coun­cil has de­clared a cli­mate emer­gency — and it was un­clear on Fri­day whether she’ll be re­placed.

Me­lanie Kawalec was still work­ing for the city when coun­cil de­clared a cli­mate emer­gency at a meet­ing on Sept. 23. But on Fri­day her voice­mail mes­sage at City Hall stated she no longer works there.

It’s un­clear whether she quit or was fired.

Kawalec didn’t want to com­ment for this story and city com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager Bren­dan Wed­ley said the city doesn’t com­ment pub­licly on per­son­nel is­sues.

Guy Hanchet, an ac­tivist who was in fre­quent con­tact with Kawalec over com­mu­nity sus­tain­abil­ity projects, al­leges she was dis­missed.

Hanchet, a mem­ber of the en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist group For Our Grand­chil­dren, called it “a gi­ant

step back­wards.”

Kawalec’s dis­missal in­di­cates to him the city “isn’t se­ri­ous” about back­ing up that cli­mate-emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion with ac­tion, he wrote in an email.

“I’d re­ally like to see how they in­tend to fill this void,” Hanchet wrote.

The city’s sus­tain­abil­ity projects have switched de­part­ments at city hall, Wed­ley wrote in an email to The Ex­am­iner on Fri­day.

Al­though pre­vi­ously man­aged by the com­mu­nity ser­vices depart­ment, they’re now the purview of in­fra­struc­ture and plan­ning ser­vices, which also over­sees ar­eas such as tran­sit and water.

Wed­ley wrote that sus­tain­abil­ity work “more di­rectly aligns” to plan­ning de­ci­sions (the depart­ment was re­cently asked by a res­i­dent to con­sider buy­ing elec­tric buses, for ex­am­ple).

But he added that it’s “too soon to say” whether the job va­cancy left by Kawalec will be filled.

“The city will re­view the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and ad­just as nec­es­sary to en­sure that it is well­po­si­tioned to con­tinue to sup­port sus­tain­abil­ity work in a way that re­flects the pri­or­i­ties of coun­cil,” Wed­ley wrote.

Sheldon Laid­man, the city’s new com­mis­sioner of com­mu­nity ser­vices, said this week the city will carry on with its sus­tain­abil­ity projects through a dif­fer­ent depart­ment.

When asked whether it the lack of a sus­tain­abil­ity man­ager could stall or nix those projects, he said “ab­so­lutely not.”

Still, Hanchet wrote that he’s con­cerned.

He ex­pects coun­cil “to set di­rec­tion” and city staff to en­sure the city moves “in that di­rec­tion.”

“This move in­di­cates a se­ri­ous lack of com­mit­ment on the part of staff to fol­low the di­rec­tions im­plied by the dec­la­ra­tion of a cli­mate emer­gency,” he wrote.

“I fear it shows that politi­cians have no in­flu­ence on staff ac­tions. Is City Hall bro­ken?”

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