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Guanabara Bay-Chesapeake Bay Partnership

Niteroi, Brazil

Bom dia, good morning. Governor Neves, Vice Governor Grael, thank you for hosting us here in Niteroi.

It’s great to be here with all of you today, in this beautiful city, as we  learn from one another in taking on the great challenges of the Chesapeake Bay and Guanabara Bay.


There is a Native American proverb that “How we treat one another is reflected in how we treat the Earth.”

On my way here I was thinking about the great challenge we face in the Guanabara, and the great challenge in the Chesapeake. The challenge of these Bays really are microcosms of the great challenge and the great work that we face as human beings.

The size of our population on this Earth has now grown to a point, and grows now at a rate that is outstripping the pace at which our Earth can regenerate the resources we need.

There is more that unites us than divides us. We are united not only by the Chesapeake and the Guanabara, but we’re also united by the fact that we’ve been blessed by tremendous natural resources in Brazil and in the United States. But to whom much has been given, much is also expected. So, our leadership is needed in this world. And there is no place more tangible or more visible to demonstrate that leadership than in the waters of the Guanabara and in the waters of the Chesapeake.

The great Mahatma Gandhi said that the world is my village and my village is the world. We might well say the same about our Bays. Because contained within the work that we have to do to clean up our Bays, is not only the microcosm of this great existential challenge of our times, but also an ocean of human potential, an ocean of possibility, an ocean of new technology that allows us to accomplish these meaningful and life-giving connections in ways we never have before.

On the way over I was also reading an article by the AP, and Gelsen Serva was quoted as saying, “The challenge is huge, the effort will be great, the improvement will be gradual.” And I might add to that, “The benefits will last for generations and generations.”

So let me speak to you as a mayor. Secretary Minc said all these things are interconnected, and mayors—I know there are a lot of mayors here today—have a tremendous opportunity to make the link and make the connections in people’s minds between our uses on the land, the way we behave on the land, our patterns of consumption on the land—and how that affects the waters.

When I was Mayor of Baltimore, my take on our Chesapeake Bay program was that we had a lot of Bay programming and too little Bay action. I felt that we needed more Bay action. Because indeed, since all of these things are interconnected, the challenge is connection. And the difference between a dream and a goal is a deadline.

So instead of imagining or wishing that we might have a cleaner Bay 40 years from now, as a mayor I wanted to know what we were doing today that was going to have a benefit right now, that we would be able to measure this year and every year moving forward.

So we applied to this challenge of connection a system of management that quite honestly I borrowed, as any good mayor will. We look for good ideas wherever we can find them. I borrowed a good idea of management called performance measurement. In government we’re often very good at telling you what the inputs are and what the budget is—we’re not so good at telling you what you get for it, or what the output is, or what the benefit is.

So let me flip through a few slides here.  We call our program Statestat. We measure performance across every endeavor of our State government. We do it daily, we do it bi-weekly. We force people on a rotating basis to regularly communicate, coordinate, cooperate—and we are relentless in the pursuit of our goals.

These were the old tenets of city government.  For any of you who are mayors, you’ve heard these. First, if the governor or mayor wants to know, we can find out, but we’ll have to pull all our people off of their other jobs and it will take weeks. These are international. Second, we’ll get to that as soon as we can, but it will take a few months because our budget was cut last year, implicitly by you, you jerk. (Laughter) This one’s my favorite—that’s the way we’ve always done it, or we’re already doing that, or we tried that and it didn’t work. And then the last old tenet is, we hope the legislature forgets about this one before next year rolls around.

Old tenets

So we’ve replaced them with these tenets, and this is what we use in BayStat. It’s timely and accurate information shared by all—not by some, not just by managers, not just by the top branch of managers, but by all, by citizens. Rapid deployment of resources. Effective tactics and strategies. Relentless follow-up. That’s how we run our government in the city, that’s how we run it when it comes to our Chesapeake Bay program.

new tenets

When I was elected mayor of Baltimore, we had become the most violent and addicted city in America. We had to turn around violent crime, and we began by going right into these “kidneys of death,” where so much of the crime was happening.

kidney 99kidney01

So we deployed our resources not based on the old way of governing, where you would divide them equally between every district. Or worse, where you would send the resources to the district that voted for you in the greatest numbers. Instead, we sent our police officers to these two areas. When President Clinton helped us with 200 additional police officers, we sent them to where they could save the most lives.


And over a period of time, Baltimore was able to achieve one of the most impressive reductions in violent crime in America.


We apply those same principles of CompStat and CitiStat now to BayStat and the clean-up of the Bay. We are not so much trying to suppress crime, as trying to suppress the amount of nitrogen, and the amount of phosphorous, and the amount of sediment that flows into the creeks and the streams and the rivers of the Chesapeake Bay.


Annually, Don Boesch and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science gives our Bay a grade. And as you can see, we have been struggling for decades to keep our Bay from totally collapsing. We have put in a lot of effort, and we are seeing signs that we’re getting closer to a healthier Bay tipping point by 2025. As you can see, it has been a struggle. A little bit of uptick of late.

These are the grades that we publish. Every citizen can see them. They’re online, and there’s always a big press conference about it. The reporters always want to know why aren’t we getting an A yet this year? Because, the actions have to happen in order for the progress to start following on.

baygrade   bayhealth

We also have other systems for monitoring of the waters of the Bay. GIS is our common platform, so that you can go down to see, what is the health of the streams in my town, in my neighborhood, in my city?

Connection—it’s all about connection.

eyesonbay streamhealth

We also use GIS to identify those areas with the greatest amount of impervious surface—that blacktop that creates the stormwater runoff that carries the pollution into the Bay, as we work to mitigate that.


These are some of the indicators that we look at—the Bay grasses, which help us to keep the water clear. Nature’s filters. And we’re seeing a healthy track in terms of bringing back the bay grasses. We also have a blue crab population that at one point was looking like it was going to totally tank—that population is coming back.

baygrass  bluecrab

We’re always looking for the right metaphor. Try this one: What do you do with the bathwater when the city and the suburbs and the land all take a bath? That’s a bear in the tub—the tub might be a metaphor for the Chesapeake Bay or the Guanabara Bay—there’s a lot more that that bear does in the tub than simply rinse off his fur. (Laughter)


So, the causes.

We’ve sometimes said that cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay is like trying to move up an escalator that is constantly and ever more rapidly moving down. The things that cause it to move down are increased population, which increases the phosphorous and the nitrogen and the sediment. Our challenge is to do better sewage treatment, better farming practices, better stormwater management, better land use and road policies, so that we can move up faster than the escalator is moving us down.


And so this is how we do what we do.

We look at where the nitrogen is coming from, we map our goals, and we see what the sources are for nitrogen pollution in each part of the state. And those actions that allow us to measure whether we’re improving over time.


Wastewater treatment plants and the progress they’ve been able to bring us over time. We set the goals, we drive the actions.


Stormwater runoff was actually one that was moving in the wrong direction. We only recently, within the last year, put a regimen in place in the legislature that allows us to mitigate and remediate some of that mass of blacktop that was washing the pollution into the Bay.


Septic systems. When we weren’t investing in the sewer lines, developers started jumping those sewer lines by putting in huge housing developments, and doing it on septic systems, which consume more land and are designed ultimately to fail. One or two doesn’t make a big difference. But if you put 200 in an area, and then multiply that again and again and again, that really get into your water and mess things up.


All of this is posted online, so that every citizen can go and see whether we’re improving within their particular watershed—within their “streamshed.” They can also see some of the different challenges. In our urban areas, the big driver is sewage discharge. In some of our farming areas, the big challenge is the farm runoff. You can see the pie charts in a way to actually give the citizens who are in charge of our State the ability to see–as the executives they really are–whether our better decisions are resulting in better results. Whether our better choices are achieving a healthier and better future for our waters, and for our children.

So, you get the point.

Direction, balance, connection.

The solutions—best farming practices, we map these as well. In the old days, we used to only map how much it would cost. Now we map how many acres we actually cover. We set a goal, and we measure performance, and the graph tells us whether we are moving in the right direction. The goal is the green, and the red is what’s actually being done in terms of cover crops. We’re now doing four times as much acreage in cover crops as we were just seven years ago.


Wastewater treatment plants. Every citizen in our State pays a certain fee every month, that’s called the flush fee by some, the flush tax by others. But it helps us to pool our dollars together and do the upgrades. There are some little towns and little cities that would never ever be able to afford to do the upgrades for their water treatment plants, were it not for what we’re doing together, as One Maryland.


I mentioned actions we are taking to address pollution from stormwater runoff. Septic sprawl and pollution is another source that we are now taking actions to reduce.

Another thing we’ve done with GIS, that common platform, is to do an ecological ranking of every piece of land in our State, so we know where that minimal amount of green liver, green kidneys, green lungs are located, so we can protect them. Many of them happen to be the habitat that protects the headwaters of those tributaries that ultimately flow into the Chesapeake Bay. Any citizen can go on this map and see where we’ve made purchases of land for Open Space—whether it’s contiguous, whether it adds to habitat, whether it increases river or stream buffers.


That in turn has informed our awareness of the land that we have to protect for agriculture—for our food security.


The two of those together–GreenPrint and AgPrint–then tell us where we should be growing, and where we shouldn’t be growing. We want to grow where the infrastructure already exists, or where it can be upgraded with an environmental benefit—that also comes from having people located with greater density and less environmental impact.


Finally, we encourage people to participate in this great work through a host of stewardship  actions. One of them is planting trees.


Another one is raising oysters, if citizens live on a waterfront property. Those natural filters of the Bay. I saw some of those efforts when I visited the Grael Project, raising the mussels on the buoys out there in the Bay. We look to involve our citizens every day in every way in what we’re doing, because ultimately, public servants come and go.

We all have term limits. From the day we were born, we started down the road on those term limits. But the hope is that with deeper awareness and broader understanding, we can sustain that level of effort necessary to move us more quickly up that escalator to a healthier Bay than land use tradition and the forces have been moving us down.


In conclusion, I don’t believe that any of us have entirely figured this out. But together we can. And that is why this partnership is important.

How can we ever hope to clean up the atmosphere or to protect the planet from climate change—let alone clean our oceans—if we can’t clean up the Chesapeake Bay and the Guanabara Bay?

Stated differently: We Marylanders understand that small things done well make bigger things possible. And so what you’re doing here in the Guanabara, what we do in the Chesapeake, we truly believe can be a powerful force in this world; showing all of humanity what’s possible. With green design. With deeper awareness. With an understanding of the interconnectedness not only of our lives but the dependency and interdependency we share with the other living systems of this planet.


As a boy, one of my very favorite teachers, in second grade, was Sister Christopher Marie. I went to Catholic school, and I thought this was about the coolest nun that I had ever met. Because Sister Christopher Marie was not only an artist, not only taught us about Jesus and religion—she also was a scientist. She taught us about the water, she taught us about the crayfish, she taught us about the insects. And she taught us something else that is very important.

She taught us to love the other living systems of this Earth. And she taught us that God loved this Earth so much, that He sent us His only son to redeem our Earth.

As I travelled around Guanabara Bay this morning, on the water, and looked at the beauty of this place, I saw that iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer looking over the hill at us. I could not but help to think that with His arms outstretched He was calling on us to be co-workers with Him, in this work of Redemption.

Because working and wishing are two different things, aren’t they? Work can be measured, and wishes cannot. For wishes mankind looks to heaven for falling stars, but for this Great Work of the Guanabara and the Chesapeake, God looks to Earth and to us.

There is only one superpower on this small planet, and it is the power of love. And it is capable of creating the new connections that will give all of our children and grandchildren a new and healthier tomorrow. Thank you all very much. (Applause)

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