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"A society built on green design, sustainable energy and closed loop systems, a civilization afloat on a cloud of efficient, non-toxic, recyclable technology." ~~Alex Nikolai Steffan

7.27.2012

BIG BEND ENVIRONMENTAL FORUM RECAP

There are 173,051 registered voters in Leon County and City of Tallahassee.  Enough interested individuals showed up Thursday evening to fill the seats at the City Chambers and hear candidates discuss their views on the environment, green jobs, septic tanks, sustainability and alternative energy.  


Candidates for the City Commission Seat One present were:


[there is no incumbent running for this seat]
Daniel Parker
Delaitre Hollinger
Steve Stewart
Eric Friall
Scott Maddox
Bob Fulford


Candidates were asked what was the most important environmental issue facing Leon County today and what would the candidate do to resolve the issue:






Parker:  public education and personal responsibility for the environment
Hollinger:  waste water, phosphates and nitrates in the water 
Stewart:  central water and wastewater treatment, getting the public to accept central wastewater treatment, transportation is another issue along with growth management policies
Friall:  water and water quality
Maddox:  protection of our canopy roads, protection of Wakulla Springs and the springs to the south of Leon County
Fulford: contain urban sprawl and growth management, all environmental issues are tied together.

To what environmental group do you belong and/or support? 

Parker:  St Marks Refuge
Hollinger: none
Stewart:  none
Friall:  Leon County Advisory Water Resource Committee
Maddox:  none
Fulford:  Friends of Wakulla Springs

What have your and your family done to move toward a more sustainable lifestyle?

Parker:  buy local, compost, utilize a rain barrel, recycle, children walk to school
Hollinger: garden, participate in the City's E+ program
Stewart: wife watches the thermostat, improved home insulation, home energy audit 
Friall: had City conduct home energy audit, upgraded HVAC system, used City program to upgrade home insulation
Maddox: recycle, walk to work
Fulford:  installed energy efficient gas applicances, recycle, drive an older model car that gets 31 mpg.  

The Urban Services Area has been determined to be adequate to address the community's needs through 2030.  Should the Urban Services Area be expanded before 2030?  

Parker:  No
Hollinger:  Yes
Stewart: very reluctant, won't say no 
Friall:  Yes
Maddox:  No
Fulford:  No

What should be the City's priority in protecting its natural resources?

Parker:  accomplish 90% of what's in the comprehensive plan and maintain the urban service area, use visioning to ask neighborhood residents what they want to see in their own neighborhood, for example, for reuse of existing buildings such as the recently vacated K-Mart store on the Parkway.
Hollinger: emphasize sustainability, create a community for young people
Stewart: need an independent review of the smart grid, the process was never independent and it should be.
Friall:  create community where one can live, work and play
Fulford:  encourage infill, preserve neighborhoods



Does the candidate the extension of Blueprint 2000 tax?

All candidates responded 'yes.'

What can the City do to better protect Wakulla Springs?




Parker: public education, an expansion of public wastewater systems may not be the only answer
Hollinger: look at different ways to treat wastewater
Stewart:  know who the experts are and listen
Friall: undertake a septic tank inspection plan, reduce nitrate load in the sprayfields
Maddox: make sure the City is a good neighbor, that the system is not discharging improperly, utilize strategies from TAPP such as dealing with pet waste, and public education
Fulford:  do what needs to be done, do away with personal waste without putting it on our drinking water.

Specific questions to candidates:

Hollinger: 




How can the City prevent urban sprawl?  the City is already encouraging developers 











to do that--grow within the urban services area.














Stewart:  Do you ride the Star Metro Bus?  No, never, only the Trolley.

Parker:  How can the City encourage developers to preserve and protect existing neighborhoods?  Need projects that residents can feel good about. Developers and the City need to show residents the big picture.  

Maddox:  Do you support increased development in the Lake Jackson area?
No.  Represented a client who wanted to develop in the area, but as an attorney, one cannot always pick the issues.

Fulford:  Do you support a tax or utility fee to fix septic tank issues?  Yes; pay a little to fix up the systems.  

Stewart:  Do you think climate change is related to things that are man made?  Yes.  The science indicates we need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.  This calls for the need for more conservation.  


Hollinger:  Are you familiar with the City's Sustainable Action Agenda?  Yes.


Parker:  Would you support a change in the City utility policy related to the generation of solar energy that goes back to the grid?  Yes, support a change for how the City deals with excess energy generated by solar when it exceeds the customer's usage.  

Maddox:  What is an effective tool for the City to use to reduce dependence on fossil fuel?  Public education.

Fulford:  What can the City do to reduce carbon emissions?  Right now, the City is dependent on natural gas, which is a clean energy source.  However, the City cannot continue to rely upon one source of energy and must expand to alternatives such as solar and wind generation. 

Friall:  What improvements can be made to the City's bus system?  The City has made changes, however it still needs to look at the connection points which need improving and there is a lack of shelters for riders who are waiting for a connecting bus.

Stewart:  How can the City improve pedestrian and bike mobility?  Use Blueprint 2000 funds for improved bike paths and sidewalks.  

Parker:  If elected, what environmental issue are you looking forward to voting on?  Supporting green building initiatives.  

Maddox:  Would you support a program similar to the City of Gainesville's Utility Feed-in Tariff?  Yes.  Would support taking a look at it.  

Hollinger:  How can the City support business initiatives and protect natural resources:  One example is to expand the City's support of community gardens.  



Fulford:  How could the City provide disincentives for single occupancy vehicles--similar to specific traffic lanes in Broward and Dade counties?  Make it less expensive for a person not to use their car.  






Candidates for the City Commission Seat Two present were:
Andrew Gillum, incumbent
Nicholas Halley
Jacob Eaton
David Riddle


Candidates were asked what was the most important environmental issue facing Leon County today and what would the candidate do to resolve the issue:



Gillum:  Planning for future growth and development, the City needs to hold land development to developable areas within the urban services area.


Halley: Educating children about recycling 

Eaton:  Water quality and the need to create artificial wetlands  
Riddle:  Consumption of fossil fuel.  Residents need to drive as little as possible and slow down.  





The Urban Services Area has been determined to be adequate to address the community's needs through 2030.  Should the Urban Services Area be expanded before 2030?  


Gillum: No
Halley: Yes
Eaton: Yes
Riddle: No

What have your and your family done to move toward a more sustainable lifestyle?


Gillum: shop local, use reusable shopping bags instead of plastic
Halley: recycle, garden
Eaton: recycle, combine car trips
Riddle: recycle, set thermostat high in summer, utilized City energy rebates

To what environmental group do you belong and/or support? 

Gillum:  PowerShift
Halley:  None
Eaton:  None
Riddle:  None

What should be the City's priority in protecting its natural resources?


Gillum:  addressing the challenge of diversifying the city utility's generation, right now 90% dependent on natural gas, need an aggressive plan to diversify fuel sources that generate power
Halley:  how to improve recycling, looking at innovative programs such as Recycle Bank
Eaton:  lower residential utility rates and equalize these rates with those paid by commercial and state government
Riddle: increase experience in growth management, the City needs to decide where it wants to go when it comes to growth.


Does the candidate the extension of Blueprint 2000 tax?

All candidates responded 'yes.'


What can the City do to better protect Wakulla Springs?


Gillum:  stop permitting septic tanks in Leon County.  Provide incentives for homeowners to go on City central sewer system or utilize more efficient septic tank systems
Halley: utilize programs such as TAPP, educate the public about disposal of yard waste, compost, dispose of pet waste properly  
Eaton: provide for the protection of wetlands
Riddle: through protection and regulation. 


Specific questions to candidates:

Riddle:  How can the City encourage more bike riders?  Through enforcement of the rights of pedestrians and bikers.

Eaton:  How can the City prevent urban sprawl?  Effective use of growth management that focuses on downtown development and infill.  Use of existing properties like the current site of the Fairgrounds which has potential for development.  

Halley: Do you support a citywide ban on plastic bags?  A ban may not be the best use of City resources.  Recycling efforts may be better than banning plastic bags.  

Riddle:  How can the City encourage infill?  The City should not change neighborhoods just to accommodate development.

Gillum:  How was the development on the former site of the Miracle 5 theater approved?  The infill development does not seem in the best interest of the surrounding neighborhood.  This development came in under a pre-existing approval. Would like to see a more walkable area developed around the area, including Mid-town on Thomasville Road.  The City needs to look at why the road widens to six lanes in front of the development where the Whole Foods Market will be located and then goes back to four lanes after Betton Road.  

Eaton:  What can the City do to help protect the water quality in Woodville?  Again, the concept of artificial wetlands on the southside of Leon County can be used effectively to filter water and run-off.  

Gillum:  How can the City balance business and natural resources?  Smart developers know and understand the importance of Tallahassee's trees and natural surroundings.  To be an successful business, it has to account for this as a part of any development.  

Halley:  How can the energy used by the City be more environmentally friendly? 
The City needs to not be dependent solely on natural gas.  

Riddle:  Should the City require buildings to be constructed according to LEED standards?  Yes.  The City has limited natural resources.  







Candidates for the County Commission at Large Group 1 present were:
Akin Akinyemi, incumbent
Fred Varn
Emily Fritz
Mary Ann Lindley


Candidates were asked what was the most important environmental issue facing Leon County today:


Akinyemi:  excessive energy consumption
Varn:  water quality and the balance between small county flavor and growing businesses






Fritz:  septic tanks and the lack of a central sewer service in some areas
Lindley:  the Florida Legislature which has undone 40 years of protecting Florida's environment and water quality.

Does the candidate the extension of Blueprint 2000 tax?

All candidates responded 'yes.'

There are 39,000 septic tanks in Leon County.  Should septic tank owners be charged a fee to create a management entity to oversee regulations on these septic tanks?

Akinyemi:  would support regulation with a small fee 
Varn:  would support an inspection system to hold households accountable for maintaining their septic system.  (he disclosed that his house is on a septic tank system that he maintains and thinks all residents should do so)  
Fritz:  would have a concern about taxing existing homeowners, may be other alternatives.
Lindley:  County should provide incentives for maintaining septic systems.

Does the candidate support a program to retrofit septic tanks and if so, how would this be paid for?

Akinyemi:  Yes and provide homeowners who cannot afford it with assistance 
Varn:  No position; indicated county and residents should work together to form a solution
Fritz: Yes, impose a fee on homeowners only when it's necessary  
Lindley:  No position, more public discussion is needed, would like to see a rebate or incentive to cover cost of the inspection if the tank is found to be OK. 

What role does the County have in facilitating Green Jobs?

Akinyemi:  County should actively pursue federal funding and should assist small businesses through programs such as micro-loans.  County is currently working with Workforce Florida to train individuals in certain green jobs where there are employment opportunities. 
Varn:  everyone needs to come to the table to identify how to balance the protection of the environment with the needs of businesses
Fritz:  the County should streamline and simplify the Comprehensive Plan, making it clearer for a developer what it needs to do.
Lindley:  County needs to address urban sprawl and while supporting infill development, recognizing that sometimes it has not been done well in the City and County.


What makes Leon County unique?

Akinyemi:  it is one of the areas leading the nation in the number of green and LEED certified buildings
Varn:  trees, canopy roads, rivers 
Fritz: trees, canopy roads, rivers, etc. 
Lindley:  trees, canopy roads, outdoor recreational opportunities  


The Urban Services Area has been determined to be adequate to address the community's needs through 2030.  Should the Urban Services Area be expanded before 2030?  

Akinyemi:  No
Varn:  No
Fritz:  Yes, if the infrastructure is available
Lindley: No


Specific questions to candidates:

Lindley:  How are your environmental views different from those of the incumbent?  they are not dramatically different.

Akinyemi:  What are your top two environmental goals for the County?  curb urban sprawl and reducing consumption of resources, recognizing that recycling is important, but residents and government must work toward reducing waste and reusing whenever possible.  

Fritz:  The State recently preempted local governments from banning plastic bags.  Would you support the County in limiting or banning plastic bags, despite the action by the Legislature? No, the County must work with the Legislature to change this, but it would definitely not be the priority issue to present before the Legislature.

Varn:  What should the County be doing to promote safe bike and pedestrian mobility? Promote walking and bike riding 

Akinyemi:  Does the candidate support a unified City/County parks and rec department?  This may be doable in the future.  We already have examples such as the planning department and EMS response which work together.

Fritz:  Do you support private, toll roads within the County?  No, toll roads such as the ones in Orlando are inconvenient and annoying.  However, the "Phipps Road" project should be allowed, although it should not be allowed to charge a toll.  

Lindley:  Do you support solar powered initiatives for the County?  Yes, although expensive, solar should be explored, along with wind energy.  



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