What follows is a guest editorial from Kassy Killey of the Global Warming Solutions Group of Central Illinois.
Global Warming Solutions Group of Central Illinois is pleased to release the results of its environmentally-focused survey of the 2011 Peoria City Council At-Large candidates. Eight of the ten candidates responded to a five-question survey. Only Eric Turner and George Azouri did not. The candidates were polled for ideas on increasing recycling participation, views on the piggyback landfill expansion, beliefs about human-caused climate change, and approaches to making Peoria a more sustainable city. They were also given a chance to showcase how they are making their own lives more sustainable.
In April 2010 Peoria Disposal Company (PDC) became the city’s waste hauler, offering free curbside recycling with a once-a-month pickup. At that time, PDC told the Peoria Journal Star (5/25/2010) it was targeting 30% participation. Right now, around 15% of Peoria households are enrolled. When asked what should be done, all candidates expressed support for recycling. Many suggested education and incentives. Sandberg would increase recycling pickup frequency and pay for it by reducing yard waste pickups. Spain would fund increased recycling pickups by replacing Waste Management as the landfill operator, a move he believes would save the city $350,000 a year. Summers supports a “pay as you throw” model with free, more frequent recycling pickups. Akeson would study mandatory recycling programs in other cities and look at requiring landlords to provide recycling for all tenants.
Candidates were also questioned about the proposed piggyback expansion of the city/county municipal waste landfill. As background, when PDC won the landfill contract it proposed a 10 million ton standalone expansion. Now alternative designs under consideration include an 18 million ton expansion piggybacked on top of the existing landfill projected to create landfill capacity through 2070. Grayeb, Sandberg and Akeson share the environmental community’s concerns about the long-term integrity of a piggyback landfill. Sandberg also points out that creating excess capacity drives the wrong behavior—burying waste instead of reuse and recycling. Neither Stowell nor Summers believe Peoria should be taking waste from other communities. Weaver, Williams and Spain all see the need for further study.
When asked whether they believed “human activities are the most significant contributing factor to the very real threat of abrupt and disruptive climate change,” five candidates gave an unequivocal “yes.” Weaver and Williams did not fully commit to the belief, but emphasized that regardless of whether climate change is human-caused or not, we must act. Summers flatly answered “no,” but shared his belief that humans need to be better stewards of the environment.
Everyone recognizes that with the long-term fiscal outlook, there will be very limited local, state and federal funds for making Peoria more sustainable. Candidates were asked how Peoria could be more competitive for these scarce funds, what low- or no-cost initiatives could be pursued, and how to best utilize existing tools such as the energy efficiency revolving fund. Many candidates indicated the need for a shared vision and a local approach. Sandberg believes that government is not the solution, using the example of a decision to subsidize downtown parking rather than mass transit. Spain pointed to his track record of securing scarce funds for initiatives such as sustainable streetscapes, storm water management and alternative energy. Summers and Akeson, both vocal proponents of the Heart of Peoria plan to combat sprawl, see dense, walkable neighborhoods as a route to sustainability. Weaver suggests using “global conscience” to determine where sustainability funds are best spent, even if it is not Peoria.
All eight candidates have made laudable personal lifestyle changes. Seven of eight recycle. Grayeb and Spain drive hybrids. Williams and his wife share a car. Sandberg drives his 50 mpg motorcycle year round. Grayeb and Weaver have both made energy efficiency improvements in buildings they own. Sandberg keeps his carbon footprint small in a 1000 square foot home and uses his single-room air conditioner fewer than 10 nights a year. Summers comes from an older, walkable neighborhood. Akeson made the decision to send only one campaign mailing, keeping excess campaign literature out of the landfill.
Global Warming Solutions Group thanks the responding candidates for their thoughtful answers and looks forward to working with the new council to make Peoria a more sustainable community. The candidate survey was intended as a public education tool, not to endorse any particular candidate. To that end, we have attempted to create an unbiased summary and published the full set of candidate responses on our web site, www.gwsolutionsgroup.com. And, regardless of where you stand on environmental issues, Global Warming Solutions Group encourages you to get out and vote on April 5, 2011.
About our group:
The Global Warming Solutions advocates for practical local solutions to the problems posed by global warming. We are a coalition of individuals and organizations interested in a more sustainable Central Illinois. We began as an offshoot of the Heart of Illinois chapter of the Sierra Club in 2007. Anyone is welcome to get involved and help us promote energy conservation, recycling and exploration of alternative energy sources in our community.
Visit our web site at http://www.gwsolutionsgroup.com/ or join us on
Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/gwsolutionsgroup) or
Twitter (http://twitter.com/ciglobalwarming) for details.