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Cooling the Climate Candidate Forum: Tackling Smokestacks, Tailpipes and Trash Cans


By

On September 30, 2013, Boulder City Council candidates and citizens gathered for the “Cooling the Climate Candidate Forum:  Tackling Smokestacks, Tailpipes and Trash Cans.”  The forum opened with brief statements from Eco-Cycle, Sierra Club, and Community Cycles, each explaining their perspectives on climate change and what the city should be doing about it with respect to energy, transportation, and waste.

Variety was provided and the audience’s and candidates’ interest held by rotating the question topics from energy to waste to transportation. Candidates were paired by random drawing prior to the forum, and each pair answered a question in turn. Not every candidate answered every question, but each candidate answered two questions about each topic over the course of the evening. There were also two ‘lightning rounds’ in which the candidates each had 30 seconds to give their opinions on ballot issues 2E and 310.  The final round of questions was drawn from audience submissions. County Commissioner Elise Jones served as moderator.

Sitting council member Matt Appelbaum was not present, but a brief statement submitted by him was read by Jones at the beginning of the forum.  He explained he was attending conferences on sustainable cities and expressed his appreciation for the forum and the political process in Boulder.  All other candidates were present at the forum.

Recycling

Questions about waste focused on business recycling and how to increase the current 17% diversion rate of businesses in Boulder through incentives for landlords, an ordinance requiring business recycling, or other means. Questions also covered the importance of the city’s 85% diversion goal for 2017 and bringing more awareness to the public about the costs of consumption.

Candidate John Gerstle supports an ordinance requiring businesses to recycle, stating we can’t make further progress in waste diversion without such an ordinance. Sitting council member Macon Cowles similarly maintains we need a law in order to increase the diversion rate at commercial facilities and multi-family housing. Micah Parkin suggested the city require composting too, and proposed a city compost facility with methane capture and use. Mary Young held that to get businesses to recycle, non-ordinance methods should be tried in parallel with ordinance development. Ed Byrne favors garbage disposals as a way of collecting household food waste, along with compost collections for commercial facilities.

Transportation

Questions about transportation included a proposed ‘road diet’ on south 30th Street, widening bike lanes and sidewalks, and reducing car lanes to one each way plus a turn lane. Other topics covered were the Transportation Master Plan’s seemingly self-contradictory goals, how to enable low income folks to travel without cars, and the relationship between density, land use, and the proportion of land designated for bikes, pedestrians and cars.

Byrne thinks transportation changes start with land use changes, and when we build dense neighborhood centers around the city we enable in-commuters and others to live, work, and shop without a car in Boulder. Sam Weaver also connected land use and transportation, and advocated allowing more accessory dwelling units and owner’s accessory units (ADUs and OAUs).  Cowles stated the city can’t drop its single-occupancy vehicle rates unless parking is handled differently.  He noted that the university and downtown, both areas with restricted and priced parking, have lower single-occupancy vehicle (SOV) rates than the rest of Boulder. Andrew Shoemaker, who brought a lawsuit against the city of Black Hawk after it prohibited bicycles on its main street, commented that if  a considerable percentage of residents biked, they wouldn’t fit on Boulder’s existing bike paths.  He feels we need to build affordable housing around our transportation corridors.

Energy

Questions about energy focused on incentives to reduce energy use and encourage solar installations.    Several candidates’ answers offered solutions to the problem of promoting conservation by businesses leasing property. Ballot measure 2H, an extension of a moratorium on oil and gas exploration, was also discussed.

Byrne felt in both energy conservation and parking policy the city should “holster our weapons.” He wants to see voluntary methods used to achieve the desired results. Parkin pointed out that solar gardens are difficult to install in the city now due to Xcel’s rules, and that municipalization would allow for creative incentives for solar gardens and rooftop installations. To encourage conservation by businesses, Cowles suggested methods such as licensing commercial properties and creating ‘green leases’ to allow owners to share in the benefits of energy efficiency measures. Young sees promoting solar thermal as a way to encourage conservation and provide more jobs locally. Shoemaker supports 2H, but noted that it may be overturned by the courts, and we may have to purchase mineral rights of our open space to prevent drilling there. Weaver also supports 2H, although he would prefer not to use condemnation if it can be avoided.

Ballot Measures

The candidates were asked about ballot measures 310 and 2E in a separate round in which each candidate had a chance to speak on these two issues.

All of the candidates were against 310 with the exception of Kevin Hotaling.  Hotaling feels that the potential costs of municipalization are not being given sufficient weight.  Ed Byrne referenced his editorial asking Xcel to pull the initiative. Young stated the issues in 310 are covered under article 8 of the city charter as it was adopted two years ago. Shoemaker, Weaver, and Gerstle all objected on grounds that 310 removes the city’s leverage in its negotiations with Xcel. Cowles and Jonathan Dings commented that the initiative would reduce the city’s ability to control its own future more generally.

Most candidates’ feelings were not so strong on ballot measure 2E. Some candidates felt this initiative was the “positive alternative” to 310, to quote Weaver.  Parkin supports 2E but said that it isn’t necessary, and that the city charter has protections for us. Dings agreed that it didn’t matter much and gave a “little no” to 2E (relative to a “big no” to 310).  Weaver, on the other hand, felt 2E needs support and must pass by more votes than 310 for the city to avoid legal trouble. Gerstle was for 2E on the grounds that it allows representation for county residents who would be served by the utility. Young commented that that’s the only part of issue 2E that she supports.

Closing Statements

Candidates were allowed one minute each for a closing statement. “Greatful” Fred Smith said that he didn’t expect a lot of votes but that he is running to represent the under-represented segments of Boulder’s population. Dings said that he is running as a “human services” candidate to bring those perspectives to the council. Young said that she would “work hard” for Boulder. Byrne reminded the audience that the council should be composed of persons representing the full spectrum of Boulder interests. Parkin said that if elected she would be the only “mom of young children” on the council. Shoemaker joked that he would be the only “dad of young children.”

It was a successful forum and good to see the candidates all gathered in one place to address a topic as important as climate change from three different angles.

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