Friday, November 2, 2007

What Do Arlington County Board Candidates Think About Global Warming?

I emailed Mary Hynes, Mike McMenamin, Josh Ruebner, and Walter Tejada on Sunday asking for details about their positions on global warming. Ruebner, Hynes, and McMenamin responded; Tejada did not. I even followed up at a different email for Tejada on Wednesday afternoon; still nothing.

Since he replied first, we'll start with the Green Party's Josh Ruebner:

As the Green Party candidate, I care a lot about this issue. Below are my top three ideas for building on the efforts of Fresh AIRE and further reducing Arlington's carbon footprint.

1) Institute pay-as-you-throw trash disposal pricing. This proposal is a win-win, both economically and environmentally. According to a study commissioned by the EPA, over 7,000 U.S. jurisdictions have implemented PAYT, thereby reducing both the volume of trash hauled to landfills and the costs associated with its disposal. The idea is simple. Like water and sewage rates, pay only for what you use. This encourages recycling, composting, and a reduction in consumption by providing a financial incentive to throw out less trash. This can be implemented in a variety of ways-special stickers affixed on garbage bags, county-issued bags, different size trash cans, etc. Why should people who generate less trash subsidize those who generate more through a flat disposal fee?

2) Establish a comprehensive recycling program for Arlington's parks. Arlington's recycling contract is due to expire next year, offering Arlington an opportunity to renegotiate and expand its recycling efforts. Currently, there is no comprehensive recycling program in Arlington's nearly 150 parks. Last month, the Green Party collected recyclables that were thrown into the trash in a few of Arlington's park. Based on the amount of recyclables we collected, we estimate that the equivalent of 5 million one-liter plastic bottles is being thrown out every year in Arlington's parks. If we had comprehensive recycling in our parks, we could prevent 235 metric tons of CO2 emissions being released into the air every year.

3) Expand curbside recycling. As Arlington renegotiates its recycling contract, the County should expand curbside recycling opportunities. Currently, only some #1 and #2 plastics can be recycled curbside. If elected to the County Board, I would conduct a feasibility study to see if it is possible to expand curbside recycling options to include plastics #3-6. Expanding curbside recycling would further reduce trash disposal costs for the County and save energy.

NASA Scientist James Hansen says that we must take action now to stop global warming. Reducing our carbon footprint by 80 percent by 2050 is what we need to aim for as a nation. But global warming isn't just a challenge for the world's scientists – it's a moral crisis for everyone.

As you know, Arlington County and its Fresh AIRE initiative has made us a national leader on this issue. Outgoing County Board Member Paul Ferguson deserves our gratitude for his leadership on this effort. Arlington does a lot of things right – hybrid fleet vehicles and a strong transit infrastructure. An increasingly pedestrian and bike-friendly environment. But even great plans can be improved.

The impact on the environment needs to be a constant factor in Arlington’s decision making.

· Energy consumption and LEED scores must continue to part of all new development proposals.
· I’d like to make sure that ALL buildings used for county activities have had recent energy audits and that a plan to upgrade and retrofit them as needed is implemented in the next 12
months.
· I want to work with small businesses and non-profits to help them reduce their energy consumption and expand their recycling efforts.
· We need to proactively plan the redevelopment of smaller commercial areas throughout the county so that more Arlingtonians can come home at night and do their errands on foot or by bike.
· Expanding the ART bus routes so that reliable, regular service helps more people can get around inside Arlington without a car is also a priority for me.
· Using the proposed Columbia Pike Streetcar to connect Skyline in Fairfax, Arlington and Potomac Yards in Alexandria is also something that I support.

By working together and keeping Arlington's green tradition alive, we can continue to lead Virginia to a clean energy future.
And here's Republican candidate Mike McMenamin:

I am currently a member of the Arlington County Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission ("FAAC"). The FAAC makes recommendations to the County Board on programs that should or should not be implemented. It also looks at the county budget and makes recommendations.

Last year, I voted to implement the Fresh Aire Initiative as a member of FAAC. Currently, there is roughly 1.5 million dollars allocated to the program. We can do more and also help with county costs. For instance, we could allow knowledge based county employees to work from home. This would save the county the costs associated with office space, help relieve congestion on our over crowded roads and save energy. Moreover, I also supported tax relief for owners of hybrid vehicles.

Finally, if elected, I would work to ensure that our two water parks recycle the 30,000 gallons of water used per day for 100 days every year. Today that water goes right into the storm water drainage system. It could be used to water flowers and grass in those parks. We can do better as a county. I believe that fresh Aire is only the beginning. That is why I ask for your vote on November 6, 2007.

I didn't expect every candidate to sit down and craft extensive replies, though I'm thankful Josh, Mary and Mike did. But if Walter and his campaign staff don't have the time to reply to emails at all, why post an email address on your website?

I won't be endorsing candidates; I'll leave that to the Washington Post, Sun Gazette, and Buckingham Herald Tribblog.

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