2017 Election 9th Ward Candidate Survey Responses
Candidates for Alderman, Ward 9
What have you done in your personal life to reduce your environmental impact?
To reduce my families environmental impact I have made both large and small changes. To ensure that our home was not utilizing additional energy we updated the windows throughout our entire home to reduce the loss of heat. Our appliances and light fixtures are all energy efficient as well. To work against energy loss, we installed a new thermostat to better regulate our homes temperature as well. Minimizing the use of lights during the day and keeping the washer machine and water heater on the “energy saving” setting are incremental but daily practices we implement. In addition, our family has a produce garden (which we water using two free rain barrels provided by the City of Evanston), every year increase our planting, last year our crop was so plentiful that it allowed us to contribute to the Interfaith lunch programs.
Outside of the home I have also implemented daily practices which reduce my environmental impact including; not allowing my car to idle, brining reusable bags to the store, riding bikes (when possible) more than driving, and opening our windows for cooling the home. While small efforts, I understand that everyday there is something I can do that is beneficial for the environment.
With “1” being most important and “5” least important, how important are environmental issues relative to the many other issues faced by the City of Evanston?
1, most important. Environmental issues are not more important or less important than other issues faced by the City of Evanston. This is not an “either or” issue but rather “both and.” This is the case because the environment affects all other aspects of our quality of life within the City of Evanston.
Evanston is on track for 20% greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction from 2005 to 2016. Would you support revising the Evanston Climate Action Plan to reflect the Compact of Mayors target of 27% by 2020?
Yes. We should strive to reduce our contribution to climate change as much as possible. While I am aware that the goal of 27% is very ambitious, it must be taken seriously and vigorously perused for our health, our children, our water, and our entire community.
Community Aggregation with 100% renewable energy has been the biggest single factor in reducing Evanston’s greenhouse gas emissions. Do you support continuing this program? Yes
As a community we must work together to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. It is vital that the City Council assist Evanston residence in striving to reach the 100% renewable energy goal. This is central to the cities environmental response and will ensure that Evanston is doing all it can to decrease our harmful contributions to climate change.
Would you support a local PACE or other financing initiative to fund energy efficiency and solar investments for Evanston homes and businesses?
As we know, PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) promotes itself as being a straight-forward and effective means of financing and promoting “energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water conservation upgrades.” PACE contributes to paying for solar panels and other energy efficient renewable energy resources for homes and commercial businesses (http://pacenation.us/what-is-pace/). As a city, we should seek out and work with any organization willing to assist in offsetting the costs and assisting our population with installation and regulation requirements.
Most North Shore communities protect trees on both public and private property. Would you support an Evanston ordinance that would protect trees in a manner comparable to these other communities? Yes
Evanston residents are currently burdened with high property taxes, increasing water costs, and increasing fees for other services. Many residents I speak with are very concerned about the increasing tax rate while at the same time experiencing a decrease in service provided by the city. To protect the trees, is a vital component of protecting the environment, we cannot gamble the survival of these valuable assets being compromised because a citizen is unable to afford the cost.
Would you push for local regulation of pesticides, such as neonicotinoids, and help Evanston pass an ordinance regulating them? Yes
We know that pesticides are not without health risks. Regulating pesticides will involve a variety of city departments and without proper implementation, an ordinance has the potential to be ineffective. I would support an ordinance that works with our commercial, residential, lawn care providers as well as our residents to promote pesticide use that is both non-harmful but also affordable.
Do you support the full implementation of the Evanston Bike Plan? No
While bike lanes are a great idea and beneficial to the environment, the current plan is not without its complications. The lanes have reduced the width of the street making it difficult for our emergency vehicles to answer a call for help when the lanes are full. This design flaw can be a matter of life or death to our residents. As a resident who travels Dodge daily, I have witnessed bicyclists who do not follow basic traffic laws, while this is not a result of the Evanston Bike Plan, I do feel that this is an issue that needs to be addressed if the City is going to encourage greater implementation of the lanes. The bike lanes are great a contribution to our great city, but more work and discussions are needed to improve them for the betterment of both bicyclists and motorists.
Despite significant sewer improvements and drainage regulations, continued development and intensified rainfall patterns are expected to intensify future flooding. What city incentives do you recommend to promote private rain gardens, green roofs, porous pavement, and other such steps? How should the city proceed to implement such steps on public land?
The city should hold public informational meting throughout the city to inform the Evanston community of the benefits of private rain gardens, green roofs, porous pavement, and other such steps. The city should also seek ways of assisting in off-setting the cost of these projects as well as assistance with installations and maintenance.
The Evanston Producemobile program suggests that as many as 14% of Evanston residents may be food insecure. What will you do to be sure all people in Evanston have enough food, and healthy food, to eat?
I will seek to work with local food gardens, farmers markets, farmers, and our local restaurants and grocery stores (Jewels, Trader Joes, Whole Foods, and Valli Produce) to encourage them to contribute quality, nutritious foods to our most needy either to food banks, churches meal programs, or Meals at Home. In addition, we need to examine the current distribution location of the Producemobile. Currently held in the parking lot at Robert Crown, the Producemobile is not on a bus line, is held during the day, and is only hosted monthly; this logistics likely make the Producemobile inaccessible to many people and is likely not meeting the goal of providing healthy foods for our residents on a daily basis.
In your past experience, what have you done to support environmental justice? How might the City support promote environmental justice?
For almost three years I have been working to address systemic inequities in our community. Systemic inequalities that correlate with environmental justice include; who can access our beaches, what neighborhoods have quality parks, where the city provides low-cost/free recreational programs. These issues are just an example of ways in which systematic inequalities impact environmental justice. I applaud the efforts that CGE have pursued to make sure our low-income residents are educated and have access to home weatherization opportunities, but that is just a start. If our city is going to meet its environmental goals, we have to think comprehensively. We cannot simply be focused on city buildings etc., we need to think about our citizens and how we can encourage, educate, and make accessible environmentally friendly efforts.
1. What have you done in your personal life to reduce your environmental impact?
I made a conscious decision to live where I work and work where I live to reduce commuting emissions. Now, I walk or ride my bike to work more than half the time, and I get to live in Evanston. When traveling into Chicago for work, I always take either the CTA Purple Line or Metra. Transportation emissions, I believe, are the place we as a society can have the greatest and most immediate impact. To a lesser extent, I recycle as much as I can and avoid excessive packaging whenever possible.
2. With “1” being most important and “5” least important, how important are environmental issues relative to the many other issues faced by the City of Evanston?
Evanston faces numerous challenges. and in my mind several of those challenges are more immediate and pressing than environmental issues. Quality of life issues will inevitably lead back to environmental impacts along the way, however, and there may be significant overlap in matters such as affordable housing. Right now, residents are leaving Evanston every day because they simply cannot afford to live here any more. The earning gap between the haves and have nots is expanding. Evanston must find a way to address this issue — and I think one of the better solutions, microhousing, also reduces the environmental impact of housing developments.
3. Evanston is on track for 20% greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction from 2005 to 2016. Would you support revising the Evanston Climate Action Plan to reflect the Compact of Mayors target of 27% by 2020?
4. Community Aggregation with 100% renewable energy has been the biggest single factor in reducing Evanston’s greenhouse gas emissions. Do you support continuing this program?
While I support 100% renewable as having an impact on the renewable energy market, we should be careful not to oversell this aspect of aggregation. The energy we use here is not produced by wind or other renewable sources, and instead our purchase offsets other energy purchases elsewhere. For that reason, I support 100% renewable as long as the cost difference does not put an undue burden on our energy consumers. It is not worth overpaying if the energy we use still comes from fossil fuel fired power plants.
5. Would you support a local PACE or other financing initiative to fund energy efficiency and solar investments for Evanston homes and businesses?
I support any weatherization, energy efficiency, or solar energy investments in Evanston homes and businesses. The PACE program is just one of many we should be pursuing.
6. Most North Shore communities protect trees on both public and private property. Would you support an Evanston ordinance that would protect trees in a manner comparable to these other communities?
We have to balance private property interests against environmental goals. Evanston’s particular layout, predominance of small lot sizes, near complete development of available land, and high percentage of property off the tax rolls makes it inappropriate for a private tree protection ordinance. It is difficult enough to navigate the zoning process already — if we add mandatory tree protection into the mix the difficulty increases outside the benefit such an ordinance would deliver. That said, I could support a mandatory tree replacement program — if you remove trees for development, you must replace them elsewhere in the City.
7. Would you push for local regulation of pesticides, such as neonicotinoids, and help Evanston pass an ordinance regulating them?
Evanston is 8 square miles. Regulation of pesticides must come from the County, State or federal level to have desired impact. I would support such regulation at the Cook County level. Further, enforcement of a City ban would be unwieldy at best. I do support the City’s efforts to regulate its own use of pesticides, and I would support an ordinance targeted at Northwestern and the hospitals (“any entity owning more than ___ square feet of property, whether tax exempt or not…”) regulating pesticide use.
8. Do you support the full implementation of the Evanston Bike Plan?
While I support the bike plan, the planning of future protected bike lanes such as the Dodge Avenue corridor must include input from our police and fire departments. The more people on bikes, the more quality of life improves in Evanston. That said, bike lanes cannot come at the expense of significant increases in ambulance response time. We must be more intentional in our planning of bike infrastructure.
9. Despite significant sewer improvements and drainage regulations, continued development and unpredictable rainfall patterns are expected to intensify future flooding. What city incentives do you recommend to promote private rain gardens, green roofs, porous pavement, and other such steps? How should the city proceed to implement such steps on public land?
We must continue to innovate, test, try new and radical ideas, and learn from our experiences. Porous pavement must continue to improve. The environmental impact of having to replace permeable parking, as we had to do on Davis Street, likely overwhelms any benefit obtained. But it is worth it to keep trying new ideas until a workable solution can be found. Also, the City must relax its overzealous policing of front yard rain gardens. Property standards must be shown the benefit of rain gardens and stop writing citations to residents for grass height. If necessary, City ordinances must be changed to permit such features. On public land, rain gardens should be educational opportunities as well.
10. The Evanston Producemobile program suggests that as many as 14% of Evanston residents may be food insecure. What will you do to be sure all people in Evanston have enough food, and healthy food, to eat?
We must continue to promote farmers markets all over the City. While I understand the “food desert” concept, I do not believe Evanston has a massive problem in that regard. That said, any identified need should be addressed either through farmers markets, the Producemobile, or education and computer access to Peapod or other food delivery programs. The library is providing hotspot and laptop lending with a take it home program in the works. Sometimes the simplest solution is the best and most environmentally friendly — we can teach residents how to shop online if they tell us fresh food is too far away. Should any barriers arise (credit cards, LINK on the computer, etc.) the City can and will work to remove such barriers.
11. In your past experience, what have you done to support environmental justice? How might the City promote environmental justice?
My work reporting for the RoundTable on the Advanced Disposal Waste Transfer Station helped assure the tax collected remained in the community when the initial City staff report recommended keeping a large chunk in the legal department. My reporting on the James Park water quality issue forced the City to come clean and communicate with residents regarding alleged contaminates in City drinking water. In both cases, the location of the environmental hazard, I believe, cried out for environmental justice. These things would not happen in the lakefront or in Northwest Evanston. The City must directly involve the affected residents in every decision that could result in environmental impact, and lines of communication must stay open and transparent. It is unconscionable that we filed a lawsuit claiming our water is contaminated without ever alerting south side resident. This cannot and must not ever happen again.
Thank you for all your hard work protecting our environment for all of Evanston.