Before we held the Supervisor Candidate Forums on the Environment earlier this month, we asked all candidates in every district to respond in writing to six questions on environmental and energy topics. This week we’ll post the candidates’ responses by district.
First up: Hunter Mill. Five Democratic candidates are running to fill the supervisor seat currently held by Cathy Hudgins, who earlier this year announced her plans to retire at the end of her term. The five candidates will face off in a primary on June 11. They are Walter Alcorn, Laurie Dodd, Shyamali Hauth, Parker Messick, and Maggie Parker. Alcorn, Dodd, Hauth, and Parker participated in our May 2 candidate forum. (Messick was invited but had a previous engagement.) Only Alcorn, Hauth, and Parker responded to the written questions.
1. Earlier this year the Board of Supervisors passed a board matter titled Fairfax Green Initiatives, which outlined several steps the county might take to address climate change. As a supervisor, what policies (either from Fairfax Green Initiatives or alternatives) would you advocate to make Fairfax County carbon neutral?
ALCORN: As Hunter Mill Supervisor I would champion development of a Fairfax County Energy and Climate Action Plan for both county operations—three percent of the local problem—and its residents, which generate 97 percent of Fairfax County greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The plan should incorporate the following:
- Affordable Living/Housing Strategy. Focus benefits of this plan (e.g., lower energy bills) on communities that would benefit the most as an extension of the county’s affordable housing initiatives.
- Sustainable Mobility. Prioritize low-carbon transportation options and related strategies around transit, walking, biking, telecommuting, electric vehicles, and emerging mobility options that reduce GHG emissions.
- Incorporate Renewable Energy Strategies into Facility Renovations and New Construction Projects. Plan and budget for the implementation of solar, wind and other renewable energy generation into the County’s Capital Improvement Program.
These elements should be included in an update of the Environment Section of the Comprehensive Plan to put the plan into practice across all county internal planning and land use approvals.
HAUTH: I’m excited and pleased that our current Board of Supervisors decided to take the initiative when it comes to addressing climate change and reducing our carbon footprint. However, it is past time for incremental steps to mitigate this issue. We must take action and these actions must be bold and measurable. First and foremost, Fairfax County must develop the Green Initiative into a plan with measurable goals and hard dates by which we should achieve these goals. The policies I feel strongest about and fully support include moving towards sustainable and renewable energy resources, reducing our waste production, and encouraging local sourcing for food. Working towards sustainable and renewable energy resources would mean that any new developments and businesses coming into the county would be required to adhere to Gold LEED standards as opposed to our current policy, which simply provides incentives for building that meet Silver LEED standards. As Supervisor, I would also champion the requirement for new housing developments to include a proportional number of electric car charging stations. In order to reduce waste production, I propose implementing a per pound surcharge for businesses that produce above a certain amount of waste. Local food sourcing can be encouraged through the use of community gardens. In order to maximize community garden space, we may have to change zoning laws and work with HOAs to allow for vegetable gardens on front yards.
PARKER: The Fairfax Green Initiatives measure recently approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is a key step forward in my goal of making Fairfax County the greenest County in the country. Housekeeping and education at home, within the County’s own ‘company’, is a great way to start implementing communications plans as well as active strategies to begin changing our habits that harm our environment. The Green Initiatives matter introduces a keen sense of urgency and prioritizes timelines and accountability. Metrics should be developed that can provide easy, visual markers to indicate progress; these metrics should be available and regularly shared with our citizens to further impress the need for immediate action.
2. The Virginia Green New Deal includes four objectives: (1) a just and equitable 100% renewables plan that leaves no workers or communities behind; (2) direct large investments and job-training programs in renewables, building an energy-efficient smart grid, residential and commercial energy efficiency, and more; (3) clean water and air for all Virginians; and (4) investments in local-scale agriculture in communities across Virginia. Do you support the Green New Deal? Why or why not?
ALCORN: I support the goals of the Virginia Green New Deal but I am awaiting draft legislation and/or an implementation plan before endorsing it.
HAUTH: Yes, I fully support and have signed onto the Virginia Green New Deal. I believe the Green New Deal is a great outline on which to move forward because it is the bold legislation we desperately need. The time to work towards living in sustainable communities is now and this plan does so while keeping the special needs of Virginia in mind. I specifically like that the Green New Deal Virginia addresses climate change action while also being economically sustainable and socially aware.
PARKER: I must first admit that I simply don’t know enough about the initiative to sign on with full support. The overarching goals are certainly impressive; I’ve not found the strategies, tactics, costs and schedules that would better inform me of feasibility.
I do support greater implementation of renewables. I am in favor of most initiatives to reduce immortal plastics. I support initiatives and incentives for local-scale farming and believe in our equity proposition.
I am a strong supporter of employment initiatives including better job readiness out of high school, emphasis on certificate training for all fields/trades both in high school and through our community and traditional higher education system and job training by the private sector. Here in Northern Virginia we currently have over 180,000 jobs unfilled; the Virginia Green New Deal’s emphasis on worker training and employment is not compelling.
3. As a supervisor, how would you work with the school board and the state legislature to advance climate-related issues?
ALCORN: As supervisor I would support funding for efforts by the school board to incorporate renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements into the FCPS Capital Improvement Program. As supervisor I will also work with the School Board to have a coordinated legislative package to advance climate-related issues in Richmond. And once the board package is approved individual board members can participate in advocacy efforts in Richmond, and I would be happy to lobby these measures personally.
HAUTH: As a supervisor, I would work with the school board to encourage the education of our students as it relates to the environment and climate change. By educating the young in our community, we would be starting conversations between families and our communities. Specifically, I would encourage establishing community gardens in our schools and elevating the work of our FCPS Get2Green program. As far as working with the legislature goes, I would work to be an advocate for our community and lobby our local Delegates and Senators to introduce more legislation that addresses climate change. In the Hunter Mill district, both Delegate Mark Keam and Delegate Ken Plum have endorsed the Green New Deal Virginia, however, they could use some support in Richmond, so an effort to help flip the House and Senate in November is warranted.
PARKER: As supervisor I would work for continued economic success to provide the school board a fully-funded budget. I would work to open the dialogue with the school board to understand its priorities and collaborate toward shared goals.
There is so much opportunity within our schools and with our students to change habits, elevate awareness and emphasize best practices. These behaviors then move beyond the campus to the home or workplace, disseminating the message throughout the community.
The Board of Supervisors cannot impose curriculum, but it could influence such decisions.
We must be relentless in lobbying the state legislature to act on environmental issues, perhaps working on specific components of the Green New Deal.
4. What will you do to protect Fairfax County’s green spaces and streams and to promote healthy habitats?
ALCORN: I support full implementation of Chesapeake Bay regulations and related Resource Protection Areas to protect water quality and green spaces. I also support stepped up enforcement of encroachment into protected stream valleys owned by the County Park Authority. And I support additional outreach to other owners of stream valleys and green corridors like homeowners associations to educate and partner with them to achieve or maintain healthy habitats.
HAUTH: I am active with Rescue Reston and have worked to preserve our golf courses in Reston. Specifically, I was very involved in saving the Reston National Golf Course from development. As Supervisor, I would ensure that our zoning laws don’t allow development on our open and green spaces. In order to keep the water clean, I would make sure that any development coming in keeps their water drainage in mind. I will also be persistent when it comes to involving our community in these decisions. I will ensure that anyone I appoint to our commissions, will be fully committed to protecting our green spaces and habitats.
PARKER: As Supervisor I would continue to fund the Environmental Improvement Program, support new funding for the consultants and staff identified in the Fairfax Green Initiatives plan and the Park Authority’s programs including the stewardship program.
Of course, I would continue support of the ordinances in place such as Chesapeake Bay, Wetlands, Floodplain and Stormwater Management. I would study and ask experts to inform as to what further measures or adjustments might be needed. I believe in continued support of open spaces and inclusion of those policies in Comprehensive Plans.
Additionally, I would engage with my large network of sister counties and jurisdictions in green sustainable issues; the environment is not aware of our land boundaries.
5. How can the Board of Supervisors take the lead in reducing the immortal plastic pollution that threatens green spaces and streams in the county?
ALCORN: The Board of Supervisors could adjust county procurement practices to encourage procurement of alternatives to single use plastics (e.g., plastic straws). The Board could also ask General Assembly to authorize Fairfax County to enact restrictions on the use of plastics that are common threats to green spaces and streams.
HAUTH: Firstly, as Supervisor I would encourage a surcharge on businesses that produce above a certain amount of waste. By doing so we would encourage businesses to reduce their waste production. This would especially help restaurant and food businesses by encouraging alternative packaging options that aren’t plastic. Most of our plastic pollution comes from drink and food, so it is important to address this issue at its root. Secondly, I would also support the introduction of a plastic bag ban in our county.
PARKER: The Board must consider taxing plastic bags. The Board must remove vending machines that offer plastic containers for liquids. The Board must install high-quality water fountains in and at all County facilities. The Board must engage with the school board to removes all immortal plastics from its schools. These are small steps, but they would send a strong message.
6. What have you done as a consumer, in your work/career, and in your public life to address climate change?
ALCORN: I started my environmental career working on the Mantua Tank Farm spill in 1991 as an aide to Providence District Supervisor Kate Hanley. I then worked for nearly a decade supporting the USEPA Office of Solid Waste and other federal agencies on a variety of pollution prevention efforts. I then transitioned to more private sector work including co-founding a startup in 2003 that explored how private landowners could benefit financially from revenues associated with their property’s ecosystem services. When that did not succeed (too soon) I ran my own consulting firm from 2004-2010 during which I co-founded the National Center for Electronics Recycling, set up the initial state-wide electronics recycling program for Oregon DEQ in 2008, and consulted with several Fortune 500 companies on their corporate electronics recycling programs. In 2010 I was hired by the Consumer Electronics Association to be their VP of Environmental Affairs and Industry Sustainability, a position I still hold at the organization which is now called the Consumer Technology Association. In this role I have led development of a commitment by the consumer tech industry to measure and meet GHG goals consistent with the Paris Accord, and the initial report of this program will roll out later this year.
HAUTH: In my personal life, I have made a conscientious effort to reduce the amount of waste I produce. I intentionally choose products with less packaging or choose packaging that is recyclable/reusable. I’m also the driver of a Prius. While an electric car would have been my preference, charging stations are not easily accessible and therefore it was not the best option. I also eat a mostly plant-based diet and encourage vegan options when at public gatherings. I have also volunteered to clean up our streams, roads, and green spaces.
In my public life, I have been an advocate for preserving our green spaces. I was a very active member in preserving our golf courses in Reston. As the owner of a yoga studio, I encouraged our clients to purchase eco-friendly mats and even created projects to reuse worn-out mats by turning them into flip-flops. Introducing clients and yoga teachers to the benefits of a plant-based diet based on Ayurveda as well as the positive environmental impact was an essential component to my teaching.
- In 2010, worked with my company to commit to LEED certification for new construction projects
- Took the LEED certification class
- Worked with Fairfax County to find funding for Capital Bike Share for implementation in Reston
- Committed my company to provide a large Capital Bike Share station at property
- Chaired Dulles Corridor Rail Association Board of Directors which worked for 16 years to bring Metro into the Dulles Corridor
- Led the ‘LOUDOUN RAIL NOW’ grassroots coalition to secure Phase 2 of Metro’s Silver Line when it was in jeopardy
- Do not use plastic bottles (but for milk)
- Do not purchase water in a plastic bottle
- Use reusable bags (or no bags) when shopping
- Consolidate online shopping and request single shipment
- Take Metro and bus when appropriate
- Use ‘clean’ laundry detergent and do not use dryer sheets
- Try to use wax paper rather than plastic as much as possible
- Pre-plan errands and outings to drive in the most efficient route possible
- Take short showers and try not to overrun water tap
- Use efficient light bulbs