Prairie Village council candidates on the issues: City level action on climate change

Prairie Village’s city hall HVAC system uses geothermal technology.

Last month, we asked our readers what issues they wanted to hear the candidates running for local office address ahead of this fall’s local elections primary. Based on the input we received, we developed a five-item questionnaire for candidates running for city council in Prairie Village.

Today, we publish the candidates’ responses to item five:

In recent months, city officials from across the metro area have been coordinating on ideas that local governments can take to address climate change. Do you support the idea of city government taking steps to increase energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions? Why or why not?

City Council Ward 2

Inga Selders

I absolutely support the idea of local governments taking steps to increase energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I also think it is imperative that we continue to collaborate and coordinate with neighboring cities in this effort.

Prairie Village is already proving to be a leader in sustainability and green technology. For several years now, our city hall has been using geothermal energy. We were also the first city to sign on to KCP&L’s Renewables Direct program. Over the past few months we have seen electric vehicle charging stations installed throughout our community.

I think moving forward on any city funded construction project, we must work to make sure we are implementing building materials and practices that conform to the highest levels of LEED standards when possible.

I would also like to see the regulations regarding wind and solar technology updated so that residents can use them to their full potential.

The time to act on this is now, and I am happy to see that our city is already moving in the right direction in regards to sustainability. If elected to the Council I will be fully supportive in finding and implementing ways to continue to make PV a leader in this area.

Serena Schermoly (incumbent)

Did not respond.

City Council Ward 3

Bonnie Limbird

Absolutely. In September, I attended the Metro Kansas City Climate Action Summit along with leaders from across the Metro: city administrative staff, city councilmembers, higher education facilities representatives, corporate facilities managers, and experts from the architecture, design, and construction industry. Private, federal, and not-for-profit organizations around the world have been taking these steps for decades. Most of the information at the Summit was geared directly toward municipalities, because now is the time for city governments to take the reins, adopt sustainable construction policies in our cities, and to collaborate for solutions with the people who actually live in the city.

I have been working in the architecture, design, and construction industry for 20 years, and no project should be designed anymore that doesn’t incorporate sustainable practices. My clients over the years have recognized that there is a strong economic case to be made for sustainability. A case that, for Prairie Village, would directly impact our City employees’ job satisfaction, and therefore, 1/3 of our annual budget. Improved Productivity, Employee Attraction & Retention, and Employee Wellness are all metrics that improve simply by designing all spaces with access to daylight & views and using low-emitting materials.
Additionally, energy efficient design reduces the need for artificial lighting, heating, and cooling. Energy- and water-efficient fixtures, renewable power, and power storage systems ensure sustainable consumption of resources, and therefore reduced costs. These are already items that the City of Prairie Village Public Works team is considering for the new public works building.

Constructing buildings to be efficient for our environment is an investment in our City employees, and I fully support that. I would never design a building for a client without these features, so I would never expect City of Prairie Village employees to work in a new facility without them or the taxpayers of Prairie Village to foot the bill to maintain and operate them.

Lauren Wolf

It is a no-brainer for the City to look for ways to become more energy efficient. When the City is energy efficient, it saves the taxpayers money. While we know Prairie Village cannot solve the entire global warming problem, we should do our part to be good stewards of the environment. But the City itself can only do so much; as leaders, we must empower the residents to effect real change.

Regardless of actions from City Hall, I am seeing encouraging progress on a long-term trend toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions city-wide: our residents will continue to shift towards electric and hybrid vehicles in the next decades, more and more residents are composting and recycling, older coal powerplants continue to be replaced by natural gas and renewables, and small-scale clean energy generation continues to drop in price.

The residents are the biggest consumers of energy and water in PV. Thus, the most effective solutions for sustainability start at home, and the City can do more to encourage that. As leaders, we also need to lead by example in our own lives and do more to connect residents to the resources they need to be effective agents for change. For example, if a resident is updating their landscaping or looking to solve drainage issues on their property, our dedicated Tree Board can help them find and plant native trees that are most effective for drainage, which also means it will save water and survive harsh, dry summers. Similarly, the City can do simple things that make it easy for residents to contribute, like placing more recycling receptacles in public spaces. We should continue to partner with our utility providers to explore more amenities like charging stations and smart power grids that will accommodate those individuals who want to take action.

The City can also take action itself. We should be smart with energy efficiency, push for clean technologies and transportation, and plant more trees where we can. Ultimately, smart environmental decisions now promote financial and environmental sustainability. As your Councilwoman, I will work hard to balance deliberate investment with the very real need to take action for a sustainable future.

City Council Ward 5

Courtney McFadden (incumbent)

Prairie Village has always been a leader in environmental efforts and I fully support our continued efforts to continue on in this direction. As many of you, I have chosen to raise my family in Prairie Village and when I look at the decisions we are making in city council meetings or while serving on various committees I see that we can and should make the choice that will lead to energy efficiency in order to ensure that Prairie Village is preserving our ecosystems for future generations. While I have been on council, we have worked to integrate solar panels to power our parks, put in electric charging stations in our retail centers, fund a city-wide energy audit and are starting an energy efficient Public Works construction facility. I have also been a proud supporter and part of our Metro KC Climate Action Coalition group which looks into regional partnerships and efforts in environmental resiliency. My experience on the Parks & Recreation and Finance Committees, along with the regional relationships I have built, will benefit us as we move forward with environmental initiatives in the future and I look forward to the opportunity to serve our residents in this capacity.

David Morrison

I have been involved for many years with city officials both locally and nationally to take steps to increase energy efficiency and to reduce our carbon footprint. Next month I will be attending a City Summit in San Antonio, Texas hosted by the National League of Cities to look at these very issues. While on city council, I seconded the motion to implement geothermal energy for the municipal complex and attended meetings of the Environmental Committee even after I was no longer an official member.

Greenspace matters to me. I fought the development of what is now Meadowbrook Park. We have a park there now because of that opposition which delayed the development of the entire piece of land. I was part of the “Save the Park” coalition for both Franklin & Harmon Park. As an Eagle Scout, I support the Environment & conservation efforts.

Advancing solar power is one of the many steps that cities are taking to fight climate change. Local governments are fostering solar energy growth by supplying government buildings and traffic systems with solar energy and embracing community solar power initiatives.

Essential infrastructures such as electricity, natural gas, clean water, waste water, transportation, communication, and renewable resources should be part of an automated and integrated network.

Improving road sign and “smart” routing of vehicles reduces travelling length/times and decreases energy consumption and carbon emission.

We can create a more sustainable and livable city by implementing the following steps:

Building Codes: Uniform requirements for new and voluntary benchmarks for existing structures would ensure a “minimum level of energy efficiency.” They should cover design, construction, and operation. The upside for building owners is that such codes promote long-term savings. The single-biggest source of carbon pollution in most cities (60% in Kansas City) is carbon pollution.

Lead by Example: City governments can initiate policies and projects that set an example for the community and foster greater acceptance of and demand for energy efficiency solutions. Cities can start with government-owned buildings and pursue pilots with the private sector.

Data Retention & Collaboration: City governments can & should share operational data across cities (and within city agencies) to reduce costs and improve efficiencies. We do this by collecting data from places like street lights and building sensors from their interactions with city services to provide a better quality of life for our citizens.