Before we held the Supervisor Candidate Forums on the Environment earlier this month, we asked all the candidates to respond in writing to six questions on environmental and energy topics. This week and next we’ll post the candidates’ responses by district. Find Hunter Mill candidates’ responses to these questions here.
Today we hear from Providence. Five Democratic candidates are running to fill the supervisor seat currently held by Linda Smyth, who will retire at the end of her term. They will face off in a primary on June 11.
The candidates are Linh Hoang, Edythe Kelleher, Phil Niedzielski-Eichner, Dalia Palchik, and Erika Yalowitz. Hoang, Kelleher, Niedzielski-Eichner, Yalowitz, and a representative for Palchik (Sarah Karush) participated in our May 2 candidate forum. Here are all five candidates’ responses to our questions.
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?
HOANG: I commend the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for taking the step towards making the environment and climate change priorities. Climate change is real and we need to do our part to reduce our carbon footprint and achieve carbon neutrality. I support regional solutions like the creation of more efficient recycling facilities. I support complete streets that are welcoming to bicyclists, pedestrians, transit and cars and regional transit and giving residents more options to get out of their cars. I also support the creation of an Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination with the proposed budget of $1 million for 7 staff members.
KELLEHER: The evidence for rapid climate change caused by human activity is compelling. Not addressing climate change is a recipe for worldwide disaster. Everyone must do his/her part, and local efforts take on even more importance as the Federal government cedes its role.
The 134-page Fairfax County FY 2019 Sustainability Initiatives document contains much useful information and guidance for policies to apply both within and without county government. Inside government, I would proceed quickly with those efforts in which investment would be recouped through cost savings, such as replacement of interior and exterior lighting fixtures. Installation of green roofs, solar panels and construction of Zero Energy buildings are essential. The creation of the Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination to advise other county agencies in green initiatives, such as green purchasing, will be valuable. In general, Fairfax County must lead by example in all its operations and capital investments.
Private developments that must go through the entitlement process should be held to higher standards for energy conservation, storm water management, tree conservation and contributions to multimodal transportation alternatives. By-right developments should be held to the highest standards possible under Virginia law, and the county must advocate adoption of stronger measures to the General Assembly.
NIEDZIELSKI-EICHNER: I support the proposed Fairfax Green Initiatives. I highlight on my website that, as Supervisor, I will make it a priority to protect the environment by reducing the county’s carbon footprint, promoting walking and biking, and protecting our woods and streams. More specifically, I will work to:
- Amend the County’s “Cool Counties” goals to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
- Fully employ regulatory, enforcement and acquisition authorities to minimize damage to the environment and prevent groundwater runoff, while increasing open space.
- Implement the County’s Operational Energy Strategy and Energy and Climate Action Plan.
- Incentivize commuters to use alternatives to cars through mass transit, walking, or biking, and by increasing investment in those respective public facilities and services.
- Support the Green Initiatives vison and goals of organizing population density and land use consistent with water quality, air quality, and environmental standards
- Conserve energy in the residential, commercial, public, and industrial sectors.
- Recognizing that climate change and green energy initiatives affect all aspects of County services, support goals under the components of “Quality of Life,” “Land Use,” and “Transportation”
- Ensure that rezoning applicants fulfill their obligations to meet the County’s environmental standards, particularly as relates to energy efficient buildings, erosion protection and stormwater management, transportation demand management, and wildlife, tree canopy and open space protection.
- Incentivize energy-efficient development in new public and private facilities, such as retrofitting county facilities and street lights with LED lighting
I support the proposal in the FY2020 advertised budget to create a new Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination to (a) strengthen staffing of the County’s energy and climate functions and (b) ensure through interagency coordination that the County’s progressive environmental protection and climate change policies flow throughout County operations.
I believe County services and operations can only be improved by further energy efficiency. For instance, in 2007, I secured from my School Board colleagues’ approval of the “Cool Schools Declaration” directing that the school system (a) take innovative and cost effective steps to help our Country achieve the 2050 climate stabilization goal; (b) create an inventory of FCPS greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions and implement policies, programs and operations to further achieve significant, measurable and sustainable reduction of those operational GHG emissions to help contribute to regional reduction targets; and (c) incorporate into our Facilities and Transportation operational expectations – and associated annual performance measures – that we will continue to reduce FCPS’s greenhouse gas emissions and institute environmentally responsible practices such as recycling into the overall Cool Schools program of effort.
The Cool Schools Declaration was the catalyst for measuring the GHG emission baseline against which progress is still being measured today.
PALCHIK: First of all, I would support the Fairfax Green Initiatives, and especially support for the C-PACE program, for creating a community-wide energy and climate action plan, additional staffing to support projects related to recycling, LED fixtures, and Energy Savings Performance Plans (which we have already championed on the school board).
- Develop a communitywide energy and climate action plan as well as a county-specific climate resiliency and adaptation plan. Count buildings cover 3% of our area and it is important to expand these initiatives to all residential and commercial buildings.
- We need to make sure that drivers have the same availability to charge an EV as they have available to pump gasoline. Partnering with HOAs and EV suppliers to expand this availability throughout the county can save tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
- Engaging energy savings performance contractors.
- Using locally generated clean energy to offset county government usage;
- Supporting the creation of a Fairfax County office for the environment.
- Enhancing communication and coordination with county residents and neighboring counties for coordinated regional action.
- Accelerating the goals and targets set in the operational energy strategy adopted on July 10, 2018 by the Board of Supervisors.
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?
HOANG: I support the Green New Deal. I believe these are goals and aspirations we need to strive for so that we are PROACTIVE as opposed to being REACTIVE. We already late, but we can stop the further detriment of the environment for future generations. Furthermore, the Green New Deal helps address the health, economic disparities in Fairfax County and across the state. Environmental stewardship and job creation can work together to address the global climate change crisis. As Supervisor, I will advocate for measures to accelerate Fairfax’s investments in clean and renewable energy and in workforce development that helps grow green jobs of the future. We have a unique opportunity to lead the green economy by retooling the workforce for the jobs of the future.
KELLEHER: Yes, I support the goals of the Virginia Green New Deal, which is as much an employment plan as it is an environmental one. My opinion has long been that environmental sustainability can result in new jobs. Just as governmental efforts such as the Tennessee Valley Authority brought electricity to rural communities, it is a public responsibility to bring a smart grid, energy efficiency and renewables programs to all parts of Virginia.
NIEDZIELSKI-EICHNER: Yes, I agree the Virginia Green New Deal objectives. We must do our part to protect our planet and fight human-induced climate change. The Green New Deal presents a path to do so while supporting new jobs. I believe Fairfax County must do its part, within its authorities and control, to reduce carbon emissions that drive climate change, push for building energy efficiency, protecting streams, rivers and trees, and ensure access to natural resources for generations to come.
PALCHIK: Yes, I support the Green New Deal because it is a bold and focused on the environment and the investments in people and infrastructure. That being said, I would like to see state-wide and county-specific action plans with measurable and reachable goals to help ensure we make appropriate strides in a timely fashion.
YALOWITZ: I support the Virginia Green New Deal because it creates an aspirational template to address our environmental challenges and create an action plan that is offers environmental justice for the future. It is important to recognize that most communities affected by climate change are communities of color and we all have a duty to make changes if it is within our power to mitigate or directly improve the high risks associated with global warming.
This movement promotes policies that will instill increased environmental awareness among the localities, states and our country at large. In addition, the plan is built on collaboration with economic, business, and community engagement in this process through job-training, local-scale agriculture, and by ensuring that everyone benefits from this platform. It is a win all around for the environment, as well as for economic and social justice, while seeking partnership with the commercial sector.
As a supervisor, how would you work with the school board and the state legislature to advance climate-related issues?
HOANG: Climate and environment issues touch on every aspect of policy and having a full staff dedicated to the work will inform our approach to reach carbon neutral that is results-driven, collaborative and inclusive. I will implement a dashboard/scoring system to increase transparency and show our progress on achieving carbon neutrality and the return on investment. I intend to use this information to galvanize support and engage our residents. I believe the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and School Board coming together for the Green Initiative is a great first step in the right direction to bring awareness to climate change and gain buy in. At the state-level, I will advocate for long-term solutions to ensure that recycling programs adapt to changes and remain viable for all Virginia communities and I will advocate for a comprehensive strategy to reducing our carbon footprint and achieve carbon neutrality.
KELLEHER: School facilities provide a terrific opportunity for retrofitting with solar panels and geothermal systems and constructing Zero Energy buildings. As a Supervisor, I would encourage the school board to undertake these initiatives and would work to appropriately fund the school board’s capital improvement program (CIP). In addition, I would work with the school board on ways to encourage more walking and bicycling to school.
As a Supervisor, I would work with other local jurisdictions (through the Virginia Association of Counties, the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, etc.) to educate the General Assembly on the benefits of green initiatives. Virginia’s local governments must have authority to adopt and enforce stronger regulations on air quality, storm water management, energy conservation, tree conservation, renewables/recycling, etc.
NIEDZIELSKI-EICHNER: Build open, solution-oriented relationships. I believe partnerships and relationships are the key to creative solutions in governance, particularly when the focus is on the greater good and not self- promotion. The ideal relationship is one based on mutual trust and respect and is open, direct, collaborative, and synergistic, where the sum is greater than the individual contributions.
Solutions are possible through creativity, innovative investments and through partnerships among federal, state, and Fairfax government agencies, and with the private sector. I will work hard to create partnerships with the private sector, other officials, and any relevant stakeholders to create innovate solutions that incentivize energy-efficient development in the residential and business sectors.
As a member of the School Board, I drafted and led the passage of the resolution to declare Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) a “Cool Schools” public school system, which committed FCPS to be part of the solution to the challenge of global warming. The proposal brought new, cost-effective steps to help our country’s goal of climate stabilization, and committed FCPS to: incorporating new educational opportunities for learning about climate change; creating a new inventory of greenhouse gas emissions and policies to further reduce GHG emissions; incorporating into our Facilities and Transportation operational expectations to continue to reduce FCPS’s GHG emissions and instituting responsible practices such as recycling; collaborating with Fairfax County’s Cool Counties initiative to implement a county-wide plan for overall positive community impact on the environment.
As a former School Board elected official (and as chairman), at-large member of the Park Authority Board, Police Practices Review Commissioner, and current Planning Commissioner, I have many deep relationships within the County and the Northern Virginia delegation to the General Assembly that I will draw upon as Supervisor in pursuit of the Green New Deal objectives.
PALCHIK: I have already worked with colleagues on both boards to help Fairfax County launch the first Joint Environmental Task Force. I will continue to support this work, including with funding for education and implementation. One Fairfax is about our joint efforts as a county serving out 1.3 million residents.
As I have done in the past, I will also continue to work with our state partners, and help elect delegates and senators who support climate-related issues. I go to Richmond every year to advocate for the issues we care about, and will champion our climate-change issues and partner with our electeds and our state organization such as the 350, Faith Alliance, the Sierra Club, and more.
YALOWITZ: The tree in my logo represents my commitment to our environment. In my platform, I have called for increased transportation options such as more sidewalks, pedestrian and cycling paths, electric vehicles, and increased transit options for more efficient transportation that will lead to reducing carbon emissions. As our county population growth continues, we cannot continue to rely on cars that only add more misery to our traffic problems and pollution into the environment. With regards to schools, we need to be smarter about dealing with our capacity and energy needs. I applaud the recent solar initiatives to power schools and I look forward to collaborating with the School Board in finding alternatives to avoid using public parks for new school sites. We should consider building up within our current buildings to create more capacity and rezoning sites across the county for FCPS usage. We can also advance our climate stance by make it part of the instructional curriculum across FCPS and explore options within the schools where we can engage teachers and students to collaborate on climate change mitigation such as using clean energy, reducing, reusing and repurposing waste.
What will you do to protect Fairfax County’s green spaces and streams and to promote healthy habitats?
HOANG: Protecting our green spaces and streams increase the quality of life for all of our residents. As supervisor, I will fight to ban polystyrene (Styrofoam) products that litter our waterways, reduce single-use plastic with plastic bag fee and ban plastic straws, protect Blake Lane Park, propose tree canopy fund to restore and grow our tree canopy, accelerate the County’s adoption of 100% renewable energy for government operations, and support housing and transportation policies that reduce emissions and reduce our impact on climate change
KELLEHER: Areas on private property to be permanently preserved should be dedicated as conservation areas or easements to eliminate future conversion and development. Storm water management requirements must be adhered to, but flexibility of methods provided to find the best option for each individual situation (for example, dry pond, wet pond, bioretention garden, underground sand filters, green roofs). Stream valleys and resource protection areas that are public property should be dedicated to the Park Authority so that they may be properly maintained. The storm water utility fee should be used in part to fund stream restoration projects. New sidewalk projects should use pervious paving materials.
NIEDZIELSKI-EICHNER: I support efforts to protect the many natural resources and native habitats that Fairfax County has to offer. I believe we can more effectively employ already existing regulatory, enforcement and acquisition authorities to minimize damage to streams, native habitats and tree cover.
As a former member of the Park Authority Board (PAB), I know first-hand the challenges Park Services are met with, and the PAB solutions are important to me. I agree with proposals presented in the 2011 strategic plan for communities in Providence District. I believe the County should seek to acquire and protect natural areas in the area, especially those connecting to other natural resources. I will work to protect the existing parks, watersheds, sensitive habitats, and trails. I will work to ensure that utility corridors are managed in a manner consistent with natural resource goals, not just utility service goals.
PALCHIK: I will help promote land use policy and decisions that promote and protect healthy habitats. I will support the work of our partners at Soil & Water Conservation District, and the Friends of Accotink Creek to help increase the outreach and support for stream cleanups, education for homeowners and residents, and corporate responsibility.
YALOWITZ: I have come out very strongly in favor of the preservation of Blake Lane Park, which is being considered for another neighborhood school site. We must preserve what few open spaces we have left- we are a better and healthier community for everyone when we have parks and open spaces. I believe that we can address our capacity issues with FCPS without compromising our open spaces.
How can the Board of Supervisors take the lead in reducing the immortal plastic pollution that threatens green spaces and streams in the county?
HOANG: I will fight to ban single-use plastic bags, plastic straws, and Styrofoam products that pollute our waterways and threaten our green spaces.
KELLEHER: Fairfax County needs to convince the General Assembly to allow deposits or fees to be charged for plastics such as beverage containers and single-use shopping bags. A robust public education campaign and periodic citizen clean-up efforts will be helpful, but even small deposits and fees will make a significant difference in consumer behavior and encourage litter clean-up efforts. (When I first moved to Fairfax County, Northern Virginia jurisdictions had such a deposit law, but it was stricken by the courts as not having been authorized by the General Assembly under Dillon’s Rule.)
NIEDZIELSKI-EICHNER: There are many innovative solutions we could pursue to reduce plastic and solid waste, both on the County-level and on the individual scale.
- County—a plastic bag ordinance, more efficiency in trash service & recycling pickup, digitization of public records to reduce paper & plastic, talk to local businesses and communities about incentives for reducing single-use plastic.
- Individual—I’ve personally signed up for the “plastic free challenge.” I believe we can encourage paper reduction/digitization, incentivize reusable items, educate public about existing waste management and recycling services.
PALCHIK: First of all, we need to lead from the top by ending all funding of plastic bottles (my colleague Pat and I are working on this for the school board), by setting the county up with reusable water supplies for all meetings and community events, and by promoting REDUCE and REFUSE campaigns for single-use plastics. We also need to ensure access to drinking sources and encourage the use of non-plastic materials at park events.
YALOWITZ: My campaign calls for the elimination of single use plastics with a ban, tax or a fee, which would go far in reducing plastic pollution in the county. Many jurisdictions and countries around the world have taken similar steps with great success and without economic harm to the business community. It’s time that do the same Fairfax County. We have 1.2 million residents and can make a meaningful impact on reducing pollution.
What have you done as a consumer, in your work/career, and in your public life to address climate change?
HOANG: While serving on the Virginia Small Business Financing Authority, I provided subsidized financing to Virginia local government, institutional, commercial, and industrial properties for qualified conservation measures, including energy efficiency (lighting, HVAC, controls, envelope, process improvement upgrades), renewable energy projects, and alternative fueling vehicles and infrastructure. With my neighbors, we are standing up and fighting to save Blake Lane Park.
KELLEHER: I was inspired to run for a seat on the Vienna Town Council after testifying against a storm water management waiver that the Town sought to grant itself in the development of the Northside Property Yard. My testimony spoke to the importance of managing runoff quantity and quality and questioned how the Town could expect to compel private applicants to comply with code requirements if the Town itself did not. The waiver was not granted.
My voice on the Council was instrumental in changing the purpose of the Community Enhancement Commission to include environmental objectives. This allowed the Commission to undertake several new programs, including Vienna’s Green Expo, which I founded and is still going strong all these years later. I also arranged a presentation by the Fairfax County Arts Council to plug the idea of including public art in the Maple Avenue plan (because interesting surroundings help increase pedestrian activity); the late Mayor Jane Seeman took on the idea and Vienna’s Public Art Commission was created in her honor. I further enhanced pedestrian activity by having benches positioned so that older residents could have places to rest. Vienna was an early adopter of single-stream recycling, and approximately half the waste generated in the Town is recycled. The Council spent the extra funds to have the renovated and expanded Community Center certified to LEED standards. Vienna has won a Go Green Virginia award every year of the program. The Town so promoted “Bike to School Day” that more than half of Vienna Elementary School’s students and parents participated, and “buses” of bikers and walkers were created and continued to thrive.
When my husband and I owned older homes, we added extra insulation to conserve energy, and we purchased energy-conserving replacement appliances. Our current energy-efficient home, built in 2014, is in the transit-oriented Mosaic District, where we can walk rather than drive to most services. We avoid single-use plastics and recycle as much as possible (MOM’s Organic Market is a favorite for recycling many items, even shoes). We consider gas mileage when purchasing and maintaining vehicles. We borrowed a thermal imaging camera from the library to identify any leaks and poor insulation in our home.
NIEDZIELSKI-EICHNER: Environmental issues are not just near to my heart, I believe addressing climate change is – in the nearer term — vital to the continued strength of the communities and economy of our area. In the farther term, this problem is an existential one.
Personally, I’ve taken steps to make my life and my home more energy efficient. I’ve signed up for the “plastic free challenge,” and use reusable grocery bags. I’ve added insulation to reduce heating and cooling costs and gas usage. I regularly recycle items, including newspaper plastic bags. I make sure to keep my home at higher temperatures in the summer, and cooler in the winter. I also choose my food with attention to energy consumption, focusing on more climate-friendly vegetables than meat.
I built my career working with local governments and public works departments on many matters, few of them were more important than protecting and remediating the environment. I served in the Obama and Clinton Administrations in senior positions that had bearing on energy and the environmental policy. I worked directly with our park services as an at-large member of the Park Authority Board. I mentioned that, as Chair of the School Board, I led the “Cool Schools” initiative.
I am currently President of Governmental Dynamics Corp (GDC), a firm I founded as a “public benefit corporation.” GDC maintains a public policy and governance consulting practice that specializes in the nexus of public policy with science, technology, and engineering, particularly in the context of U.S. energy, environment and climate. I am running not only because of my passion for public service and meeting the needs of others, but because I will bring experience, fresh progressive ideas, innovative solutions and new energy to the Board.
PALCHIK: In my career, I helped pass a school board resolution on climate change. I am also a joint sponsor of a budget amendment to fully fund out Get2Green positions, and have attended and participated in the NOVA Outside Student Environmental Action Showcase for the past four years. This year, I was invited to and attended the first Schools for Climate Action Summit on Capitol Hill, and met with students and organizers about how to expand the movement. In my past career in international development, I supported organizations that focused on renewable energy. Currently, I promote and participate in stream cleanings and local green events, and share those with my community.
As a consumer, I reduce my use of single-use plastics by carrying reusable containers and silverware, and I refuse unnecessary plastic packaging as much as possible.
YALOWITZ: From the Board of my Home Owners’ Association, I lead and executed an initiative to install electric vehicle chargers. My community has almost 3,000 residents and we promptly went from 2 electric vehicles to close to 20 within a year. People are willing and able to take a step, and we need to do everything in our people to help them!
I periodically participate in cleanups, support and promote the transition to solar energy in public and private buildings, promote recycling programs and have join organizations that promote this end as well.
In addition, I have changed my eating patterns and committed to a vegetarian/pescatarian diet and instill in my child the same values.