Local candidates sound off on the environment

At the Candidates Environmental Forum, moderator Chip Latham listens to county commission candidate Gary Schmidt, who’s sitting between his opponent Bob Larkin and Sparks City Council candidate Julie Ratti.

At the Candidates Environmental Forum, moderator Chip Latham listens to county commission candidate Gary Schmidt, who’s sitting between his opponent Bob Larkin and Sparks City Council candidate Julie Ratti.

Photo By Kat Kerlin

Nearly all of the 18 candidates who participated in the Candidates Environmental Forum last week say they’re against rampant sprawl, in favor of clean water, green jobs and clean energy and believe global warming is real. Their differences, at least as presented to this crowd of environmentally-concerned citizens, were in their nuances of approach, priorities and background.

For example, Toni Harsh, a district 1 Washoe County commission candidate, said she was “very much in favor” of the WC3 ballot initiative that aims to balance growth with available, sustainable water resources; she carried the initiative. Her opponent, John Breternitz, said he was “definitely in support of the concept of WC3,” but that it would be redundant, as building permits already require developers to buy the surrounding water. “We already have processes in place that limit [water] resources,” he told the audience of roughly 100 people, a size several attendees said was the biggest they’d witnessed for the annual event.

The forum, featuring candidates for Washoe County Commission, Nevada state assembly, Reno City Council and Sparks City Council, lasted three hours and was sponsored by Nevada EcoNet, Scenic Nevada and the Sierra Club. Topics ranged from sprawl to plastic bags, billboards and alternative energy. Where do the candidates stand on the environment? Here’s a brief snapshot of some of their responses.

Neal Cobb, district 3 Washoe County Commission candidate, on “clean” coal-fired power plants: “The technology has not panned out … but if they’re ever able to come up with something, I think it could help bridge the gap.”

Jessica Sferrazza, Reno City Council Ward 3 candidate, on the best way to benefit the environment: “Preserve as much open spaces as possible,” she said, citing the Flood Control Project. “The city of Reno adopted an Open Space and Greenways plan, but we need to find funds to fund it.”

Bob Larkin, district 4 Washoe County Commission candidate, on leapfrog development: “It depends on the project. … Each has to be looked at in and of itself.”

Gary Schmidt, district 4 Washoe County Commission candidate, on whether the city has devoted enough planning to green projects: “No,” he said, saying the city has been subsidizing sprawl rather than focus on infill development. “Infill growth … will reduce the number of miles we drive each day. That’s the core problem, and the biggest green problem. It transcends into our quality of life.”

Julie Ratti, Sparks City Council ward 1 candidate, on the biggest environmental challenge in Sparks: “The Master Plan hasn’t been updated in 18 years,” but it’s currently under revision, and residents should tell the city what they want now, as it’s not likely to be revised again any time soon, she said.

Pierre Hascheff, Reno City Council candidate, on investing in a green economy: “I think it’s a fallacy to think we can’t improve the economy with green collar jobs. I’m 100 percent for it … Renewable energy is the perfect opportunity for business and people concerned about the environment [to intersect.] People understand about global warming; they get it.”

David Ward, Reno City Council candidate, on investing in a green economy: “I really see an opportunity on the state and federal level for green jobs,” he said, adding that Nevada has great opportunities for renewable energy, especially solar and geothermal energy.

Dan Gustin, Reno City Council Ward 1 candidate, on water importation: “I have a conversation with myself: … If it warms up, will we have that water pack we need, or does it come through faster than we want? … We should make every effort we can in water conservation. I don’t think importation is the answer.”

Wayne Melton, ward 5 Reno City Council candidate, on landscaping parking lots: “We should have the same goal for good quality of life, including parking lots and green. … I do believe the earth is heating up, and green is becoming more important than ever. We need to do more than is already being done to ensure we have more green.”

Dave Aiazzi, ward 5 Reno City Council incumbent, on landscaping parking lots: “It’s not about more landscaping, it’s about having fewer parking lots. The city has encouraged taking the bus, more walking and biking, requiring less parking.”

Julie Ratti on banning plastic bags: “I think it’s a no-brainer. Communities across the country are moving in that direction, and I support that.”

John Breternitz on dumping on public lands: “The laws are there. … We need to enforce the laws that are here at this time.”

Neal Cobb on dumping on public lands: “I’ve personally paid for more than 20 dumpsters I’ve cleaned up after these people. It’s a very serious problem.”

Gary Schmidt on dumping on public lands: “Deal with illegal dumping by using common sense: First, dump Waste Management as soon as possible. … [Also,] provide a place for people to deposit their materials for free. The cost of cleanup goes substantially down if we just allowed people to dump for free. [And provide] educational programs about where to dump.

Jessica Sferrazza reminded the audience that everyone got a free dump voucher in their water bill, which they can use during October.

John Gwaltney, district 24 assembly candidate, on wind development in the region: He supports it as long as it doesn’t damage scenic vistas.

David Bobzien, district 24 assembly candidate, on alternative energy development: “The Assembly is talking about how transmissions in the state [discourage] bringing renewables here.” He says we should partner with the federal government and private sector to develop transmissions and further alternative energy development here.

Daela Gibson, district 26 assembly candidate, on regulating Off Highway Vehicles (OHV) use: “I’m an off-road vehicle user myself, but I’m a responsible off-road vehicle user, and not everyone is that way. It’s not unreasonable to have a license and registration for those and have a fee for the use of them because people do a lot of work to clean up after them.”

Bernie Anderson, district 31 assembly candidate, on Yucca Mountain: “The opportunity to tax the federal government by placing nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain was never attractive to me because I don’t trust the federal government.” He doesn’t trust their science or the way they’ve developed Yucca Mountain and thinks it would be bad for the state.

David Bobzien on inadequate input from the environmental standpoint at the state level: “We passed a bill last session to place a conservation advocate on the State Environmental Commission, which deals with industries in the state. Because the problem is, there is no environmental perspective on the State Environmental Commission. It’s awaiting appointment from Gibbons, but, unfortunately, this hasn’t happened yet, and there have been questionable appointments [suggested.]”

Robert Townsend, district 25 assembly candidate, on public versus privatized partnerships: “Given how we’re strapped for cash in this state, the only way to subsidize the forward-looking programs we need are going to be public-private partnerships. The nice thing with renewables is we actually get to use it. At least they can’t move a solar concentrated array out of the state.”

Debbie Smith, district 30 assembly candidate, on an environmental issue that keeps her up at night: “The state budget impacts all of us, and the issues we’re talking about. We can’t have good monitoring, oversight, we can’t move forward when we have the [budget problems] of this state … [Renewable energy] will be a huge discussion in the upcoming session. It has to be good policy that benefits the state and you, the taxpayers.”