Community Voices - Sal Talarico

Sal PicMr. Sal Talarico is the Finance Director for the City of Oberlin and manages the city’s finance department.  He has served the City of Oberlin for 15 years, and a total of 20 years in the public sector.  The finance department is responsible for financial reporting, liability, property and health insurances, utility billing, revenue collections, accounts payable, payroll, treasury and investment management, income tax collections and administration, and debt management. 

What words/images would you use to describe Oberlin?

Images would be that of some sort of nature picture, trees, clean rivers, that would be an image of Oberlin. [Oberlin is] at the forefront of key issues, not just environmental, but just about everything.

What does the word sustainability mean to you?

Survival.

What actions are you (personally or with the city) pursuing to achieve this sustainability in Oberlin?

Most of the sustainability efforts are addressed through other departments- water, wastewater, electric, buildings and grounds division reports to the city manager as well. Here in finance, I have really just 4 people reporting to me, and we help all the other departments, but those decisions on sustainability come from those departments. I know the city has done quite a bit in sustainability especially in its electric generation. But citywide I think there’s a culture for all employees to be as conscious of recycling and energy conservation. I think our employees are very conscious of those things. I think all employers are focusing on those things and I think that the employees in town in particular, whether they’re city or not, have a good grasp of sustainability and, that seems to be a positive trend in my opinion, nationwide and hopefully in the world as well. I think we probably excel more than others.

Do you see a focus on local or sustainable purchasing as important? Why?

We’re in a global economy, so that’s becoming more and more difficult especially with being able to order things through the Internet. Buying locally makes sense if, I think for instance, you don’t remember Leah, but I grew up in a time where I could walk down the street and go to the baker, I could go to a butcher shop, that had a deli, and get within walking distance, really everything you needed.

Are we getting back to that? I don’t know if we can, but maybe something similar. I’ve talked to other people about this, at least from my perspective, it has nothing to do with finance, it just has to do with me personally, about this eco system, this economic ecosystem. Where you have the city in the center of it and then you have, I guess its not too dissimilar to this greenbelt, maybe a greenbelt would be part of it, where you can grow and raise crops and animals to help sustain the city without having to truck it in, plane it in, whatever the case is. But also, you have to have businesses in there, you have to be able to produce something, because otherwise, all you are is a consumer, and not producing anything that helps those outside of your economic ecosystem. What that would be, that would be also sustainable, I don’t know that I know the answer to that.

How can Oberlin community members get involved in creating a more sustainable, more locally focused sustainable economic?

I don’t know that we could get more involved than we already are. But I guess if I could wave a magic wand, what would that be? You know, our goals are all the same. People sometimes argue about sustainability and green, but if you boil it down, 99.9% of the residents, businesses, and people that come to town have the same goals, and that is some sort of sustainability-making sure that this planet is here for our children and grandchildren. The only time we seem to bicker is how we get there. So it’s refreshing, and I think we need to focus on the refreshing piece of it, that our focus and our objectives are all the same. And that is refreshing. So now it’s just a matter of how we get there. And that’s the part we shouldn’t bicker about, but that’s the part we should work together to figure out a way that makes sense.  

 

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Leah Martin-Rosenthal is a first-year at Oberlin College planning on majoring in Environmental Studies. She is from Washington, D.C. and loves backpacking, baking, and teaching.

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Guest March 15, 2017

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Leah Martin-Rosenthal
Leah Martin-Rosenthal is a first-year at Oberlin College planning on majoring in
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