Columbia mayoral candidates discuss environmental issues at forum

Columbia mayoral candidates gave their views on Wednesday on the energy and climate issues facing the city as it works toward a greener, more energy-efficient future.

Five local groups — Citizen’s Climate Lobby of Columbia, Climate Leaders at Mizzou, Mid-Missouri Peaceworks, Osage Group Sierra Club, and Renew Missouri — hosted an online forum focused on energy and climate concerns.

Candidates were given the seven questions to ask them in advance to prepare their answers, which could last from 1 1/2 to three minutes.

Randy Minchew did not participate in Wednesday evening’s forum.

Candidates for Columbia City Council can participate in another energy forum on Tuesday.

Here are four questions posed to mayoral candidates and excerpts from their responses:

Are you familiar with the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan? Are you generally in favor of its implementation?

Barbara Buffaloe previously served as the city’s sustainability officer and project leader for the development of the climate action and adaptation plan.

“It was very important to this really meaningful plan that it not become one of the plans that historically sits on the shelf of city offices,” Buffaloe said of the thought process that led to the plan creation. “It’s about establishing climate action as a priority at city council and in the community.”

The council should have more frequent meetings with the climate and environment commission to ensure the commission has the resources it needs to improve outreach and education, Maria Oropallo said.

“I would like some of the recommendations to be quickly adapted,” Oropallo said. “I think a lot of them are doable now.”

Further examination of the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of water and light conservation programs would be beneficial in the future, she added.

Tanya Heath said she supports the plan but wants to make sure any expectations set out are realistic so everyone can be involved in achieving the city’s goal.

“I think we absolutely have to do everything realistic we can,” Heath said. “I would like to dig deeper and talk to both sides so that we can listen and find a positive path with all knowledge.”

Although David Seamon is supportive of the plan and its implementation, he said there is a need to take a closer look at the plan’s implementation as some aspects may not work for all people in the city, especially especially those with low incomes.

“Columbia should be a regional leader in climate justice,” Seamon said.

Sustainable practices may be seen by some as only achievable by wealthier individuals, leaving parts of the population out of the conversation, he said.

Do you want to support the target date of 100% electricity produced from renewable sources by 2030? If not, do you see a way to achieve the necessary emission reductions?

Heath opened up the conversation on the topic, saying she thinks the city needs to identify the source of the large amounts of energy consumption so it can work with those sites on workable solutions.

Tanya Heath

Reducing emissions and taking action on renewable energy are important, but the conversation should not lead to shaming those who must make adjustments, she said.

“We need to have a realistic assessment of where most shows come from,” she said. “We need to work with these people or companies as soon as possible in order to get the best result as quickly as possible.”

Oropallo presented a potential solution to help achieve the 100% renewable energy goal, which is to find a way out of the city’s coal contracts so that the purchase of renewable energy sources has its best. effect.

“Without getting out of coal contracts, I don’t know if we will effectively reduce our emissions, no matter how much renewable energy we buy,” she said. “I think our first order of business should be to get out of these coal contracts.”

Continuing his earlier view regarding awareness of the effect of decisions on low-income populations, Seamon said that while he agrees that the transition to renewable energy would have a positive impact, it should be avoid dramatically increasing utilities for those who cannot afford the associated upgrades.

“We need to focus on the opportunities we can seize once we commit to this more aggressive goal,” he said in support of working to achieve the goal by 2030.

Buffaloe suggested that frequent checks with Water and Light be made to ensure the necessary steps are being taken in the right direction.

“Before we can add more renewable energy to our grid, we need to think about what programs are in place that help people save energy in their homes,” she said.

What policies would you suggest to increase the use of public transport, walking and cycling, reduce the use of fossil fuels and encourage the transition to electric vehicles?

“As long as transit is under public works, which is a service, and the airport is under economic development, that tells us all we need to know about how the city has prioritized transit “said Oropallo.

Maria Oropallo

The conversation around transportation needs to be revisited to find a solution that benefits everyone, she said.

Seamon posed questions that he believes need to be considered as the conversation continues about Columbia’s public transportation system: What best serves the people of Columbia? How does the city ensure that certain populations are not isolated due to lack of access?

“I want to make sure the city listens to users of specific roads and crosswalks, trails and paths,” he said. “…Our transit system must serve current riders, grow ridership, and be reliable for the long term as Columbia continues to grow.”

More than a quarter of Columbia’s greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation, Buffaloe said.

She touted the importance of working towards completing the city’s sidewalk master plan, which could inspire community members to walk and cycle to their destinations.

“You have to think about where we build our homes, where we build our businesses, and how we connect the two,” she said.

Like the other candidates, Heath added that people just need to consider taking public transport more often than they drive their own vehicle.

“We have to figure out how to make the bus system much better,” she said. “We need to talk and educate how safe, clean and efficient it is.”

She suggested that in the future, colleges could look for ways to encourage freshmen and sophomores to use buses as their primary mode of transportation.

Would you be likely to support science-based municipal regulations that would apply to all defined sensitive areas that are annexed to Columbia?

Rock Bridge Memorial State Park and Gans Creek Wild Area are two of the sensitive areas the event’s sponsors want to protect as they came before City Council to propose a conservation overlay, which would delay the annexation of land bordering these areas. .

“We should think about how to encourage housing on vacant and underutilized land currently within city limits,” Seamon said. “With development in or near sensitive areas, the city must ensure parties are mindful of both the impact of clearing and construction on adjacent properties.”

David Seamon

Any scientific regulations should take into account the characteristics of the areas such as geology, slopes and altitude, he added.

Bringing in experts to ensure sensitive areas in Columbia are protected could benefit the region itself and help city staff, Buffaloe said.

“We have to make sure that we protect our beautiful natural wilderness areas in Colombia,” she said.

Gans Creek and Rock Bridge State Park are important properties that need to be protected, Heath said in favor of implementing the additional regulations.

“I agree that it’s important to have science-based city regulations because then it’s easy for people to talk about the same things logically rather than emotionally,” she said. .

Oropallo also spoke out in favor of regulations that would help define sensitive areas in the community and protect them. She said future land use maps need to be fleshed out and adding a conservation layer to sensitive areas would be a feasible way to protect land, she said.

She supports the city clarifying the definition of sensitive areas with respect to further infrastructure development, she said.

“I hope our planning staff will welcome this kind of clarity about how Columbia can develop and protect our beautiful land, identifying conservation priorities, updating development regulations, and providing education and assistance. “, she said.

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