Elgar Companion to Sustainable Cities
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Elgar Companion to Sustainable Cities

Strategies, Methods and Outlook

Edited by Daniel A. Mazmanian and Hilda Blanco

Against a backdrop of unprecedented levels of urbanization, 21st century cities across the globe share concerns for the challenges they face. This Companion provides a framework for understanding the city as a critical building block for a more sustainable future within broader subnational, national and continental contexts, and ultimately, within a global systems context. It discusses the sustainable strategies being devised, as well as the methods and tools for achieving them. Examples of social, economic, political and environmental sustainable policy strategies are presented and the extent to which they actually increase sustainability is analyzed.
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Chapter 14: Developing sustainable cities indicators

Kent E. Portney


One of the earliest manifestations of the push for sustainability in American cities is contained in a number of cities’ efforts to develop indicators of sustainability, and to develop these indicators within the context of an indicators project. This chapter examines four major aspects of sustainable cities indicators. First, it briefly describes the indicators projects or efforts in six cities selected here for comparison – Austin, Texas; Boston, Massachusetts; Jacksonville, Florida; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Santa Monica, California; and Seattle, Washington. The focus here is on what specific cities have actually done in their indicators projects, not on trying to prescribe in any comprehensive way what cities could or should do in their indicators initiatives. Second, it looks at a sampling of the indicators used to measure the environmental, social and economic dimensions of sustainability, and indicators that stand at the intersection of these three dimensions. This includes a discussion of the promises and pitfalls of relying on a relatively small number of indicators as a method of trying to understand the sweeping idea of sustainability. Third, it looks at the processes used by sustainability indicators projects in cities – the processes used to develop indicators. And fourth, it examines recent trends in some cities to incorporate indicators projects into their performance management systems in order to maximize the chances that improvements in sustainability results will be achieved as a matter of public policy.

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