Last month, we asked our readers what issues they wanted to hear the candidates running for local office address ahead of the August primary. Based on the (ample) input we received, we developed a five-item questionnaire for candidates running for city council in Overland Park.
Today, we’re sharing the candidates’ responses to question five:
The Metro KC Climate Action Coalition has organized to bring local elected officials together to discuss steps city and county governments can take to address climate change. Do you believe local government has a role to play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and addressing other environmental issues? If so, what steps would you like to see the city take?
City Council Ward 1
Terry Happer-Scheier (incumbent)
We have a recycle plan that includes recycling events a couple a times a year as well as a recycling center for our citizens We have a citizens environmental board that is active in addressing issues. OP has vehicles with low emissions. We have some electric cars and our city buildings are geared for reducing greenhouse emissions. The city government is encouraging new building construction to be LEED certified with the strongest elements. Overland Park has a tree board, Legacy of Greenery that I am part of. We have given out thousands of tree seedlings to encourage planting. I have helped plant over 25 city forests that are planted annually through the Legacy of Greenery efforts. The tree board has also worked with city planning staff to make tree planting requirements in new development mandatory. The city has put in Bike lanes to encourage safe cycling on our streets By putting bike lanes on our streets and incorporating them in our Master plan this can help with air quality. I was part of the committee that developed the plan. It is now through our efforts being used.
All these efforts help reap benefits to the environment. We continue to upgrade or ideas and put them into practice.
Yes, I believe that Overland Park and other local municipalities have a responsibility to address climate chance. I am currently a member of the Metro KC Climate Action Coalition. If I am elected I want to work with the Environmental Advisory Council to promote and develop educational programs related to climate change.
I’d like to see the city, when the time comes, replace any old appliances, lightbulbs, and windows with energy efficient ones. I think that as we are building new construction we need to think about ways that we can use energy efficient, and environmentally friendly building materials. I would like to see the city use the standards of two reputable environmental certification programs. The National Green Infrastructure Certification Program (NGIPC) and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Standards (LEED). I understand that getting these certifications can be costly, and I am not necessarily advocating that we go through the certification process, just that we consider using the standards that these programs have laid out.
As one of the largest cities in Kansas, it’s our obligation to lead the region in finding solutions for our changing climate. I am encouraged by the implementation of a micro transit pilot program. It’s an important step in the direction of building a smart, connected transportation infrastructure. We also need to continue to explore ways to rely on sustainable energy alternatives, like solar, and capitalize on our nation-leading potential for wind energy production
City Council Ward 2
I strongly support the efforts of the Metro KC Climate Action Coalition to collaborate with city and county governments to address climate change. I believe the scheduled drafting of a regional climate action plan will help establish environmental priorities unique to our geographic area and positively impact national efforts. Action on climate change begins with the individual, but we must have city and county-wide involvement to successfully decrease our human footprint and make a real impact on climate change. Local government has a responsibility to make a significant impact addressing environmental issues through the development and implementation of policy and legislation. If people are unhappy with the policies or inaction of Topeka and Washington we have the ability to make a difference at the local level. It can start off with something as easy as ensuring we have safe and properly maintained bike lanes to encourage people to walk or bike to work.
I am not familiar with the Metro KC Climate Action Coalition, but I am interested in learning more about it. I believe climate change exists and think the City should take a look at the issue and investigate cost effective ways to address it. Possibilities may include constructing LEED certified or compliant buildings and making greater use of solar and wind energy. Overland Park can play a role in addressing environmental issues and has done so in the past by sponsoring the City recycling program and various environmental events.
Paul Lyons (incumbent)
I have been an active member of the MKCCAC and support its overall mission and goals. Much can be done in Overland Park to move the city towards less energy usage. Improved energy efficiency means lower emissions of greenhouse gases. In 2016, Overland Park hired an energy consultant to develop a plan to reduce energy usage throughout city buildings and infrastructure. Our capital budget includes millions of dollars to upgrade HVAC systems, install efficient LED lighting in our buildings, and upgrade city streetlights to new LED fixtures. Recently, the city council voted to participate in KCPL’s Renewables Direct program, which will save money and help KCPL increase the amount of renewable energy produced by the utility.
The city has an active Environmental Advisory Council, a committee of interested citizens, which recently gained city council approval for a pilot program that expands collection of recycled materials to multifamily housing in the city. They are exploring ideas with city staff to establish environmental standards for future new city buildings. Recommendations from the EAC will be discussed by the Community Development committee where new proposed standards will eventually be debated by the full council.
I support establishing environmental standards for city buildings, which will continue reducing greenhouse gas emissions by city government. I also support adopting the 2018 International Building Code currently being evaluated by city staff and the development community. It includes enhanced environmental standards that are not presently in city’s current building code. I’m optimistic all stakeholders will agree to incorporate more energy efficiency. This will lower operating costs of all new public and private buildings within the city.
City Council Ward 5
I believe we all have a responsibility to protect our environment. We should take responsibility as individuals, businesses and local government. Overland Park is well represented on the Metro KC Climate Action Coalition and this should certainly continue to be the case. There is no doubt a long list of things we can do as a city, but I have several ideas that seem reasonable and perhaps more immediate:
- Bike Lanes: I mentioned this in a previous response, but we already have a high number of bike lanes in place. Now we need to explore ways to encourage people and families to utilize them. Eliminating just one short trip to the store or the ice cream shop by car can positively impact our environment.
- Walkability: Mixed-use developments can reduce the need to always drive somewhere
for goods and services. These discussions tend to focus on the topic of development, but including green spaces and encouraging walkability also helps reduce greenhouse emissions.
- City Vehicles: As city-owned vehicles need to be replaced over time, we could consider replacing with more environmentally-friendly options including natural gas and/or electric vehicles.
Faris Farassati (Incumbent)
Local governments have an important place at the table when it comes to combating climate change and green house gas emissions. We have seen cities uniting and defining their goals in this regards both in US and Europe independent of their federal governments. As a matter of fact, non-partisan nature of local governments (where applicable) should be a bonus towards looking at the climate issues from the lens of science and not politics!
In the first step the city needs to define achievable goals! The number one target is obviously city operations and infrastructure. We don’t need to look far for an example: Strategies implemented by KCMO government (based on a adopted plan) such as installing solar panels on government buildings, improving public transportation, providing incentive such as loans for commercial and residential energy efficiency improvements, promoting benchmarking energy consumption by commercial entities have all helped our neighbor to be very successful in reducing green house gas. I believe in Overland Park we are also moving that way, one good example is our efforts in installing LED City lights. We have a very dedicated staff and a committed citizen advisory panel on Environment. However, we should be more aggressive and targeted! First we need to study and determine our green house gas inventory and our realistic improvement goals on that basis for the next 10 years. This includes green house gas produced by OP operations. Then, a multifactorial ACTION & EDUCATION campaign can be deployed with partnership between city government and commercial and residential elements to reduce green house gases. Specific actions such as improving the city controlled infrastructure with energy efficient technologies, providing incentives to commercial and residential units for using such technologies, enhancing city connectivity and biking paths, cooperating with our school system in enriching their curriculum with information about climate change and finally updating our codes to demand higher environmental oriented standards, can form our short and long-term investments. Our academic centers, power and water companies and state and federal entities are all important partners in implementing such city-led effort. City social media should also act as a constant source of education about environment for the public.
Did not respond.