Minneapolis Political Committee
2009 City Council Candidate Questionnaire
What would be your top 3 environmental priorities as City Council Member?
Care for the environment must go far beyond the obvious environmental issues (green roofs, solar power, fuel efficiency, etc.) Most of the decisions of City Council have environmental consequences which should be considered. We must always think of how our actions affect our home on this earth. My actions will be guided by the need to:
reduce energy consumption,
reduce the consumption of limited natural resources,
reduce waste, and
preserve open space and natural environments.
Though they may not seem to some to be environmental issues, the following three priorities are areas where Council decisions will have a large environmental impact:
Keep our housing out of the landfill. The foreclosure crisis is rapidly becoming a crisis of evictions, vacant houses, and demolitions. The city should be encouraging the maintenance and repair of existing housing. Current city policy tends to lead to demolition by imposing a high annual fee on vacant buildings, providing inadequate protection against theft and vandalism, and imposing overly strict standards for rehabbing buildings once they have been declared condemned.
Discourage the building of unneeded housing, office buildings, and commercial buildings. The greenest building is the one you don’t build. We already have a glut of empty condos and retail space. The current city plans to build more “mixed-use” developments may sound nice, but the current economy does not justify more housing and more commercial space which will either stand empty, or compete with existing buildings which will become vacant. The city is rightly concerned about vacant buildings, but our policies are leading to more vacant buildings. It is not green to heat and maintain buildings which are not needed or not occupied. And of course it should go without saying that we should not be using public money to subsidize the building of new stadiums!
To save our earth, and to help our city flourish in the future, we must build a sustainable economy. Our current economic crisis shows the folly of encouraging speculation, excessive consumer debt, and over-production. We need to see that basic human needs are met. City development policies should encourage industry, retail, and services which serve our most important needs, and development policies should discourage excessive consumption of luxury goods or the building of luxury housing. We may not be able to stop the wealthy from consuming far more than their share of precious natural resources, but there is no reason for a democratic government to encourage or subsidize it.
In what areas is the city moving in the right direction (toward sustainability) and in what areas are we lagging?
The city has taken important steps to be conscious of the environment. For over a century, we have valued and protected our parks and open spaces in a way that is the envy of other cities. More recently, our city has established important programs to reduce the city’s own energy consumption, promote alternative energy projects, and promote bicycling, to name a few. It is encouraging that the city has developed a “greener” consciousness.
The city is lagging in addressing more fundamental issues such as the ones in my answer to the first question. The city must also do more to reduce the waste that is being land filled or burned. We must encourage reduction, re-use, recycling, and composting (especially reduction!) with the goal of achieving Zero Waste. The current proposal to increase the capacity of our downtown garbage burner is a step in the wrong direction!
Please list policy ideas or initiatives you will advance to help meet or exceed at least three of the targets in the Minneapolis GreenPrint.
The GreenPrint is an important plan, and I support most of the initiatives in it. I am sorry that I do not have the time to research the GreenPrint and specific new initiatives in order to give a well-considered answer to this question. On City Council, I will work with the Sierra Club and other organizations and individuals who have more knowledge about a wide range of specific initiatives than any single Council member could ever have.
What will you do as a city council member to improve water quality in our lakes, creeks and rivers?
We need to continue the important work of reducing storm water runoff. I think the most important additional work is to discourage or prohibit the use of harmful chemicals and excessive fertilizers on lawns.
In light of the current proposal to eliminate the Park Board, what, if any, reforms do you feel are needed? What specific ideas do you have for implementing changes?
I believe it is important to retain an independent Park Board. Democracy is enhanced by checks and balances. An independent board gives city residents greater input into specific park issues, and a place to go with their ideas and concerns. While I disagree with some Park Board policies, I don’t believe that a structural change would be wise.
What environmental experience will you bring to the City Council?
Most of my political and activist experience has been in other areas, at the national level and at the city level. I have been an anti-war activist for over 40 years. Of course, though it is not a City issue, ending war and greatly reducing our military budget would be the single most important action to save our earth!
I will bring my education and experience as a mechanical engineer to the City Council. My technical background is probably unique for a Council member, and it would help to inform my opinions on the many technical issues that confront the Council, particularly in environmental issues. An engineering background gives a different perspective and a different way of weighing the options when considering alternative technologies.
I have also worked for 17 years as an auto mechanic at my own shop. I have taken a great interest, both personally and professionally, in automotive emissions and fuel economy issues. Much of the energy use and pollution in our city comes from transportation; I feel I have good insights into those problems.
What is your greatest environmental accomplishment?
I can not claim any personal accomplishments. Most environmental achievements are the work of large numbers of people working together for decades.
Nevertheless, I was active in a recent cause that resulted in victory for our local environment: the fight to stop the development of the “Midtown Burner”, a wood-burning power plant that was proposed for the Phillips neighborhood, just blocks from my home. I was active with Mpls Residents for Clean Air and with Neighbors Against the Burner. I helped plan our work, I helped petition and build support, and I helped lead the lawn sign campaign. I also wrote a technical paper challenging the spurious claim by the developers that the emissions from the plant would have been no greater than that from 25 additional cars in the neighborhood. I was able to find the facts and do the calculations on that because of my technical background mentioned in the above answer.