This is a Moms Clean Air Force exclusive interview with Councilwoman Melanie Houston of Grandview Heights, Ohio. Melanie has been working on issues of oil and gas operations with Laura Burns, our Moms Clean Air Force Ohio organizer.
What is unique about protecting your community’s resources?
Grandview Heights is a vibrant, small community in Central Ohio. We have approximately 7,000 residents and are located just a few miles outside of downtown Columbus, Ohio. Our city has walkable streets, excellent schools and community gathering places, and an amazing sense of community. It’s a terrific place to raise a family. One common challenge we face is continuing to preserve and grow our greenspaces as our real estate is so valuable for economic development. A more unique challenge is our size. While we have a very progressive community and some great sustainability efforts such as our “walking school bus”, we have challenges implementing bolder sustainability goals because our city staff is so small and many of our of staff wear multiple hats. Additionally, our council member roles are all part-time.
As a parent are you concerned about the effects of climate change on your children and the children of your community?
My four-year old daughter is the biggest source of inspiration for me as I undertake my climate work, and she recently accompanied me to testify in front of the EPA on the America’s Clean Power Plan roll back. If we don’t step up to the challenge of climate change, we risk leaving our children worse off than we were. For anyone who wants their kid to have a bright future, that is unacceptable. A large part of my work on Grandview Heights City Council will be advancing sustainability goals while also pursuing opportunities to keep our kids safe and healthy. Often times, these two will go hand-in-hand.
Why is a bipartisan effort so important, and how can efforts to address clean air and climate change be achieved in our current political climate?
Climate change should in no way be a partisan issue. While we have reached a new level of political polarization in this country, there are also hopeful signals that we can break this pattern. One example is that young conservatives are much more likely to accept climate science and to support climate action. Another example is the number of powerful women running for office and stepping into leadership roles.
Is there anything you’d like to share with Moms Clean Air Force’s members?
Despite federal rollbacks on climate policies, I am still hopeful for the future. I am hopeful that as younger leaders replace older leaders, and as more women step into office, we will see real progress on climate policies. Research shows that when women get into office, they are more collaborative (and able to work across the aisle) and pass policies that are good for families and children. Emily’s List has seen the number of women expressing interest in running for office rise from 1,000 to 20,000 in the last year. I am also hopeful because cities large and small are publicly acknowledging and taking meaningful steps to address climate change.
Melanie Houston was elected to Grandview Heights City Council in November 2017. Melanie is also the Director of Climate Programs for the Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide advocacy organization. She has spent the better part of her career fighting for clean air and water for Ohio’s families. In 2016, she helped secure a landmark bill to better protect Ohioans’ drinking water from lead contamination. Melanie lives with her husband, Michael, and her 4-year-old daughter, Quinn, in Grandview Heights.