Metro's Robert Liberty to head Sustainable Cities Initiative


The University of Oregon's Sustainable Cities Initiative has hired Metro Councilor Robert Liberty as the program's executive director. Liberty will start in the newly created post Jan. 18.

Liberty currently represents 240,000 residents in northeast, southeast and southwest Portland on the regional government's council, where he has served since 2005.

The Sustainable Cities Initiative is a multi-disciplinary effort to transform higher education with community engagement, interdisciplinary collaboration and sustainability study to influence public policy. The initiative is one of three OTREC-supported initiatives for 2011. This support has helped the initiative blossom, and hiring an exectuive director is indicative of its growth and continuing success.

As executive director, Liberty will build relationships with state and federal policy makers and others to grow the program, which integrates research, education, service and public outreach around issues of sustainable city design.

"Robert's expertise is a great fit for the leadership opportunity we envisioned with the role of executive director," said professor Marc Schlossberg, co-director of the Sustainable Cities Initiative and OTREC associate director. "SCI will have greater impact on national policy, research and community change with his leadership."

Liberty has worked for 30 years at the neighborhood, city and county, state and federal levels of government as an elected official, as a staff attorney and executive director of the nonprofit organization 1000 Friends of Oregon, as Senior Counsel to Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), and as an attorney and consultant in the private sector. He brings experience with smart growth, sustainable planning and development, land use, transportation planning, and land conservation programs.

"This is great news for the University of Oregon. Robert Liberty will provide national and international leadership in research and policy for sustainable and livable cities and towns," said Blumenauer, founder of the Livable Cities Caucus in Congress. "I look forward to working with him in his new role in our common efforts to make the nation's cities more livable and more sustainable."

The Sustainable Cities Initiative works at a variety of scales, from regions to individual buildings, actively seeking solutions to sustainable city design problems. SCI organizes a number of initiatives annually, including an expert-in-residence program and the Sustainable City Year (SCY) that teams students with city officials to plan for sustainable futures. For 2010-11, faculty and students are working with Salem, Oregon's capitol city. The SCI effort is notable for its integration of a variety of academic disciplines in service to creating more sustainable communities.

"I am looking forward to working with the dynamic faculty members at the University of Oregon to expand the impact of the Sustainable Cities Initiative across Oregon and the nation," Liberty said, "building new partnerships with governments, business, nongovernmental organizations and other universities."

David Bragdon, who served with Liberty on the Metro Council, said Liberty has a national reputation for leadership in livability. "I know he will boost the University of Oregon's ability to help cities across the nation become more sustainable and equitable," said Bragdon, director of long-term planning and sustainability for the city of New York.

SCI is part of a consortium recently awarded a Smart Growth grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to further the livability and sustainability agenda of the Eugene-Springfield region. This was the only grant awarded in the State of Oregon, and one of 45 grants awarded across the country. The initiative also recently won the Bridge Builders award from the Partners for Livable Communities in recognition of its interdisciplinary engagement of scholars, community leaders and project partners.

Liberty is a graduate of the UO Clark Honors College, Oxford University, where he attended as a Rhodes Scholar, and Harvard Law School. In 2002-03 he was a Loeb Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

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