At yesterday’s Santa Barbara City Council meeting, council members elected a new mayor pro tempore to serve as the city’s backup mayor and approved a report that will fuel the city’s attempts to become more environmentally sustainable.

At the meeting, council member Helene Schneider was chosen to replace Roger Horton as mayor pro tempore. The council also heard and approved a report from the Green Team – a Santa Barbara County committee established in 2005 to help the county become more environmentally friendly – detailing the city’s environmental impact on the area, as well as some measures it could take to reduce that impact. Approval of the report is one of the first steps in the ongoing Sustainable City Program that could require government offices and city-owned properties to use more renewable resources and reduce the amount of waste they generate, Schneider said.

Mayor pro tempore is a position rotated annually among council members. The mayor pro tempore acts in place of the Mayor Marty Blum when she is absent or unable to perform official tasks, Santa Barbara City Clerk Services Manager Cynthia Rodriguez said.

“The mayor pro tempore is key to the city when the mayor can’t fulfill her duties or is on vacation,” Rodriguez said. “At these times, the mayor pro tempore is responsible for stepping up to fill in her shoes.”

In addition to serving as a regular city council member, the mayor pro tempore is required to take on extra leadership and ceremonial roles in the city council and the Santa Barbara community, Horton said.

“I ran some meetings and attended ceremonial events for [Blum],” Horton said. “I also went to luncheons and gave proclamations and small talks. I would say I was pretty busy.”

The council also talked about the development and progress of the Sustainable City Program. Before the meeting, Schneider said the council would hear and discuss a report from the Green Team committee.

“The discussion will be about how the city runs as an organization and about what internal work can be done as an employer and an organization to become more sustainable in everything,” Schneider said.

Schneider said sustainability in city offices, properties and the city’s network of around 1,500 government employees could be achieved by making an effort to minimize waste, use organic and recyclable materials, reduce the use of toxic materials, and carpool.

“At the meeting, we will look at reports of what’s happening now and what challenges we have for the future,” Schneider said.

Horton said he is interested in how the Sustainable City Program will impact the city financially.

“It’s my desire that we know what the program will cost, and that we work that into our projections,” Horton said.

A committee, whose members include Blum, Schneider and council member Brian Barnwell [[ok]], was formed at the meeting to continue the work detailed in the Green Team’s report. Schneider said the committee is not currently collaborating with UCSB on the program, but the city’s plans for sustainability have been influenced by the university.

“We look to UCSB in comparing [the] best practices,” Schneider said. “It has accomplished some things we would like to emulate. We can learn from each other.”

During the meeting, the council also voted to appoint Horton chair of the Finance Committee and council member Iya Falcone as chair of the Ordinance Committee.