Shawnee mayoral and council candidates on the issues: City level actions on climate change

Shawnee plans to incorporate solar panels into its new fire station in the western part of the city. Photo credit… Used under a Creative Commons license.

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 and mayor in Shawnee.

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?


Michelle Distler (incumbent)

I think it is the responsibility of every one of us to do all we can to contribute to the solutions that address climate change. I am so proud that Shawnee has been a leader in sustainability during my entire time on the council. During my time as a Council Member we led the way with many programs to contribute to this solution. Our LEED certified justice center, we brought recycling to the city and city buildings, and recycling in our parks, we cut our mowing by more than half, started requiring best management practices with our water quality, added the motion sensor lights to our public buildings, we started the adopt a spot program for litter cleanup, we have annual recycling and shredding events, we have established native plantings and natural growth, established an internal Green Team within city staff, required a certain amount of green space with each development, as well as a focus on tree replacement just to name a few initiatives. More recently we have since added a solar panel at fire station 72, converted all of our lighting to LED, brought in electric vehicle parking, and updated our energy efficiencies within our HVAC systems and public buildings. And that’s naming a few of the many initiatives we have already undertaken while always looking for more things we can do within our realm. We also encourage our residents and businesses to do the same and provide information and links on our website. We have received R5 Certification for city hall, the Bronze SolSmart Award, and Tree City USA. I am glad other cities are now following our lead. to not think alike but think together.

Stephanie Meyer

The consequences of climate change are real, and will affect us all, regardless of the location or level of government. While much of the larger policy conversation is certainly happening at the federal level, I think it’s incumbent upon all of us to do what we can to be good stewards of our resources and our planet (which is why you may see me driving my Prius around Shawnee!).

I applaud the work of many of my local government colleagues, including Shawnee’s own Councilmember Constance, for their work to start an important dialogue about opportunities for municipalities to play a role in these efforts through the Metro KC Climate Action Coalition, and am proud to be a member of that organization.

Beyond these regional conversations, Shawnee recently conducted an energy performance audit, and identified several opportunities to implement green solutions while saving taxpayer dollars, including LED upgrades to our streetlights and solar panels at one of our fire stations. We also sponsor two annual recycling days and have installed an electric vehicle charging station at city hall. As we move forward, it’s critical that we continue to look for efficient, economical opportunities to reduce our environmental impact.

City Council Ward 1

Jim Neighbor (incumbent)

Climate change is a world problem, it’s reality. Solving the problem will take the cooperation of billions of people and their governments for decades. Earth is our only home, and we all need to take care of it for today, and tomorrow for the generations to follow. What can Shawnee do? Make sure our building codes are a current reflection the most efficient building and maintenance methods possible; Contract for exclusive use of renewable energy in all City uses; Use natural gas in all city vehicles: (Waste Management uses processed natural gas collected from the landfill in their vehicles. Why not convert ,over time because of cost, to using some of that gas to power City vehicles. Would give “Shawnee Powered” real meaning and publicize the effort.) Move towards the City’s vehicle fleet to become all electric. We need to do our part. A policy statement directing staff to explore renewable/sustainable options as first choices for projects and repairs is appropriate. However, it’s a double edged sword, balance of efficiencies versus costs. I support Shawnee’s efforts to achieve sustainability, reducing our carbon footprint, while at the came time increasing the livability of Shawnee Cost benefit analysis is critical to achieve the upmost efficiencies and proper balance, because we are the stewards of Shawnee taxpayer dollars.

Tammy Thomas

I welcome discussion. Again, this is an area that is massively regulated at the Federal level. Our priorities are Public Safety, Infrastructure, and Property Taxes.



City Council Ward 2

Andy Rondon

Yes, I absolutely support city governments taking steps to fight climate change.

If you are reading this and you are not excited about sustainability, it is OK. For many people out there, the only sustainability measures they have heard include: banning plastics straws & taking away hamburgers. If those are the only things that you have heard of, I understand why you may not be excited about sustainability. And while those things do play a part in a sustainable future, there is no single action we can take that is going to solve this problem. We need to do a lot of little things in coordination with each other.

If we take Sustainability seriously, we could see some of the following benefits, right here in Shawnee:

  • Increased life of our roads by reducing wear and tear resulting in less money spent on road mainentain
  • Increased walkability, which can be used to bring restaurants in and keep them here (see my answers on Wednesday and Thursday’s post for more details)
  • Extending the life of our stormwater system by reducing stress on the system. They are expensive to replace.
  • Maximizing taxpayer dollars by reducing energy costs
  • Cleaner air and water

I have an engineering background and I work in the solar industry. I know how to solve problems, and I know how to solve them in a sustainable way. I take sustainability very seriously and I am committed to making sustainable policies work for Shawnee.

Eric Jenkins (incumbent)

Interesting question since I just attended Mayor Distler’s Third Thursdays. The question of what we are doing in sustainability and should we have a standing committee for the purpose of promoting sustainability was posed. The Mayor’s response was very good. We are already doing these things to make us a sustainable community and she expressed that we are actually far ahead of the pack. We have recently discussed the purchase of all streetlights in the city from KCP&L and convert the lighting to energy saving LED bulbs. Following a sustainability presentation, we recently moved forward to examine a wide-ranging set of ideas to reduce utility costs and demands for energy. As the technology evolves, Shawnee is always looking at ways to reduce energy costs and protect the environment in win-win situations. It is important to use some common sense. In some cases, the desire to push green and sustainability concepts are out in front of the current state of technology to be able to accept and implement at a cost that is reasonable and not a budget-buster. I believe as a city councilman in Shawnee I am always on the lookout for new technologic concepts that are cost-effective and can be phased in on a schedule that our funding and many competing demands can accept.

City Council Ward 3 (four year term)

Dawn Rattan

  • Yes I think the city can increase energy efficiency and reduce emissions. Health, prosperity and sustainability go hand in hand.Over time, we have learned to build and operate more efficiently in all parts of our lives. We can begin with audits of the municipal operations to find easy paths to increase efficiency in government buildings and save taxpayers money. There may be opportunities to channel savings to new investment opportunities.Improving insulation, lighting, windows, and using smart thermostats are common ways to increase efficiency and many residents and businesses have already started these efforts. Right sized HVAC capacity for efficient heating and cooling, better water systems, “cool” roofs, and additional automation can take this to the next level.The city can consider incentives, voluntary, or mandatory programs for building with energy efficiency, water conservation, and high performing intelligent design An example is to encourage Net Zero Building, where the building produces as much electricity as it uses for long term savings.

    Finally increased walkability via mixed-use developments is a big win-win. Less driving in a safe & interesting neighborhood will reduce emissions.

    Kurt Knappen

    I support eco-friendly policies that encourage our city to be environmentally friendly. Why would anyone be against these goals IF we can be environmentally friendly without costing the city more money? I will not support ordinances which negatively impact costs to local government, businesses or residents.

    City Council Ward 3 (two year term)

    Lisa Larson-Bunnell (incumbent)

    Absolutely. I am a proud member of the Metro KC Climate Action Coalition. Climate change must be addressed at all levels of government. Our impact at the city level may be small, but it is no less important. Not only are these efforts an environmental imperative, they are increasingly an economic imperative. The city recently conducted an efficiency audit and the council has already acted to implement some of the cost saving recommendations.

    Kevin Straub

    There are certainly basic things that cities can do, over the course of time, to make buildings more energy efficient – and I don’t have a problem with that as long as it makes sense. However, I would not support things like bans on plastic bags or plastic straws.



    City Council Ward 4

    Jill Chalfie

    I was excited to have the opportunity to attend the Metro KC Climate Action Summit in September and to be able to hear from environmental advocates, business leaders, elected officials, and nonprofit workers on what steps we can take to become more energy efficient and environmentally conscious.

    One of Shawnee’s 7 goals – as set by citizens and businesses – is to promote a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly community.

    At the local level, things like upgrading our streetlights to LED and installing solar panels in our new fire stations will reduce maintenance costs and consume significantly less energy – both saving taxpayer dollars.

    We can also make an effort to choose developers willing to invest in sustainable measures. This can help protect subsequent business tenants and homeowners from higher utility costs and keeps the developers from doing the bare minimum as it relates to efficiency measures and quality of materials.

    City codes should also reflect our commitment to sustainability by ensuring that new developments are resilient. Codes can address the amount of green space to be retained, size of paved areas and parking lots, tree planting, and native plants to reduce stormwater runoff. To this end, it is important to collaborate with leaders throughout the region to ensure consistency.

    When cities do things to improve sustainability and increase efficiency, they enhance aesthetics, save money, and do the right thing environmentally.

    Kris Durbin

    In the private industry, I work as a Project Controls Manager – I lead teams who plan and analyze performance on large, infrastructure projects. On one of the projects in my portfolio, my team budgeted and forecasted the time-scaled ROI (return on investment) for efficiency improvements to 250 large, industrial buildings, all owned by the same client.

    I support the idea of evaluating the ROI for energy efficiency improvements to the City’s infrastructure. This approach ensures fiscal responsibility while also prioritizing the most beneficial improvements.