As part of our continuing coverage of the West University municipal election and commitment to voter education, Essentials is presenting this candidate questionnaire created by the city’s volunteer Sustainability Task Force. (The task force report is available here, on pages 79-112, to use as a reference for the candidates’ responses.)
2023 West University Place Mayor and Council Candidate Sustainability Questionnaire
1. Please tell us your name, the position you are running for, and how long you have lived in West University Place.
John Barnes: Mayor, 20 years in West U (3rd Generation Resident)
Susan Sample: Mayor
Clay Brett: City Council, lived in West U since September 2016 (6.5 years)
Shannon Carroll: City Council, 4+ years
Matt Hart: City Council. 5 year West U Resident.
John Montgomery: City Council, 17 years
Buckley Morlot: City Council, 4 years
2. What does sustainability mean to you? Is it important to West U as a community? Will you treat it as a high priority if elected?
Sustainability to me means the adoption and maintenance of practices and policies that are both environmentally-friendly and financially sound that have broad community support, so that, once implemented, they are not unduly subject to changing political and economic conditions. West U has committed to sustainability by being a leader in pursuing recycling and by commissioning the Sustainability Task Force. As the Recycling Board liaison during the present term, I have been able to work closely on these issues, including assisting directly with initiatives such as the food waste diversion program currently underway, and I would continue to make these issues a high priority if elected.
Sustainability in the municipal context is balancing environmental stewardship, social responsibility and taxpayer costs to meet our residents’ present needs while ensuring the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
Sustainability means a level of consumption (in consumer choices, capital investment, development et al.) that does not exceed the level of resource availability for current and future generations. Sustainability is a challenge for cities as cities inherently consume more resources than they produce by virtue of concentrating a population remotely from the natural resources they consume. I believe it is this inherently unsustainable nature of cities that creates an obligation for cities to prioritize sustainable development and consumption in their policies. In other words, yes, it Is important in West U as a community – it is important in all communities – and I will prioritize the Task Force’s sustainable framework as the framework within which the city government should work.
Sustainability is the intentional lifestyle or practice(s) an individual or entity engages in in order to promote a healthier, “greener,” brighter, (i.e. more sustainable), future for the Earth and its inhabitants.
The importance of sustainability in West U is paramount and cannot be understated. Named “America’s Best City,” we have the opportunity to showcase sustainability initiatives and lead by example.
I have treated sustainability as a high priority during my first term on Council and will continue to do so if re-elected.
As a member of Council, I introduced the Motion to form the first Sustainability Task Force in West U’s history. I have advocated for electric vehicles for the city, LEED certifications for new buildings, and recently approved two composting vendors as well.
Sustainability reflects common-sense, long-view decision making. Embedding sustainability in our decision-making (1) can help West U and private properties be more resilient to environmental and economic changes, (2) can help save money (both public and private) and (3) can help us contribute to a safer and cleaner environment.
In government, we need to think about the direct and indirect impacts of our choices. On council, I will strive to implement long-term, detail-oriented thinking. But we need the help of the community, like the Sustainability Task Force, to help us see the implications of actions, to think about better ways of doing things and to make suggestions where the long-term benefit of investments outweigh the short-term costs.
I believe sustainability is important to West U as a community. For me, sustainability means finding a way to do something in perpetuity as opposed to ending in exhaustion.
I don’t believe we can execute on every sustainable priority due to cost, but as I have for two years on Council, I will continue to make sustainability a part of each long-term planning discussion.
To sustain a thriving community, we must have access to affordable, reliable energy. Our community has been through devastating storms including Harvey and most recently, Winter Storm Uri. We know firsthand what life is like when the power turns off. As a City Council member, a top priority of mine would be to ensure that our energy and water supply are reliable. I feel it is the government’s job to make sure your infrastructure needs are met; allowing each citizen the freedom and security to pursue their own positive contributions to our city, state, country, and planet.
3. Do you think West U government should have a formal role in promoting sustainability? If so, do you think it is important to build a long-lasting culture of sustainability across West U government departments and throughout the community? Will you pledge to advocate for and help develop this culture if elected? Do you have thoughts on how to do that? If you do not support this or have caveats, please explain.
I do. I think that the best way to achieve a culture of sustainability is through education,
not only with residents but also with City staff. I would support the creation of a rolewithin our Public Works Department focused entirely upon this issue area. Our CityStaff, including excellent individuals like Ed Orozco, do the best they can with what theyhave, but often lack expertise regarding current advancements and industry standards.
Having a subject matter expert in-house, who can keep up with the literature and adviseat both the Board and Council levels, would help both with efforts at communityeducation and in identifying opportunities within the City’s own operations.
It is a city’s responsibility to lead the way on sustainable practices. I pledge to continue to advocate for sustainable city practices. Sustainability efforts with impact would include reducing paper usage, moving to software that will enhance our ability to offer easier paperless interaction with the city for residents and contractors. It also involves sustainable building practices. We have new construction being considered, and the process will be resident-input driven, meaning residents who are interested in sustainable growth must make sure their voices are heard among the competing interests. I also think that continuing and enhancing recycling and waste diversion is a key city service. In the near term, the city will also have to consider EV for certain vehicles in its fleet.
Yes, on all fronts, but I may highlight that a different approach to government practices vs. citizen practices may optimize effectiveness. Directly commanding the sustainable practices of the West U city government is relatively easy, e.g., converting the fleet to EVs by 2030s or optimizing electricity and water use at municipal buildings to maximize energy efficiency, because adoption is not really a variable. If our goal is long-term results, citizen practices may require a more incremental approach. You want to build a positive culture around adoption as you implement it. Waste production and water and energy consumption are absolutely places where all West U citizens can positively contribute, and I think we maximize those initiatives long-term by beginning with an etiquette approach, similar to parking, and later shape policy to achieve new goals by running with the voluntary data.
West U govt should have a formal role in promoting sustainability, and I agree it is important to build a long-lasting culture of sustainability across government and throughout the community. I believe my votes and actions during my first term on Council are evidence that I will advocate for and develop a culture of sustainability. I pledge to continue advocating for and helping develop this culture if I am re-elected.
Our council has already made the following changes throughout the city: build(ing) a sustainable walking trail/green space along Edloe; approved two composting vendors; replaced sytyrofoam coffee cups with recycleable paper cups in employee breakrooms; stopped automatically printing the full agenda packet for Councilmembers at meetings; increased water rates/fees for the highest users; budgeted for EVs. If re-elected, I would like to see these efforts continue.
Yes, the decisions of city government impact our resource use and environment, so we should make those decisions with the long view in mind.
I appreciate the contributions of the task force, and I would continue its operations to aid long-term, sustainable decision-making. To embed this going forward, there should be a permanent commission (similar to, e.g., parks or zoning) to be a “think tank” and advocate for long-term decision making across city government.
I would welcome continued new ideas from the task force, along with review of proposed actions to evaluate the “unseen” implications. For example, where we can make targeted decisions and investments up front that ultimately reduce resource use and impact long-term, it would be helpful to have that input. To get that input is valuable, but it takes effort, focus and a commitment to embedding that feedback in decision making.
West U government can definitely assist in promoting sustainability. West U has already played a role in the use of staff and city publications to educate and promote sustainable concepts: glass, paper and metal recycling, water conservation, composting, solid food waste recycling, and green waste recycling. I don’t believe West U government should be responsible for a top-down implementation of sustainable culture in our community. I believe culture comes directly from resident leadership, or it isn’t sustainable. The highest West U government priority is the efficient allocation of money raised through taxation. To the extent that I can find ways to advocate for sustainability while also meeting high resident expectations for responsible spending, I will. I demonstrated this recently as one of only two votes supporting LEED certification of our new Public Works building design.
I believe in personal responsibility. We should all be doing our part as individuals to keep our community a place where families can prosper for generations to come. As a city council member, I would advocate for increased educational opportunities regarding climate change. I would foster an open dialogue based on data and science.
I would support the sustainability committee as it continues to bring awareness to the citizens of West U and provide opportunities for citizens to participate in sustainability efforts that suit their abilities.
4. List several sustainability initiatives from the recommendations above or from your own priorities that you would commit to advancing as part of the next Council term.
Certain of the initiatives I have already participated in advancing and will certainly continue to support: (1) reduction of household waste (see, e.g., food waste diversion); (2) promoting sustainable landscapes (I have done this through the West U Garden Club, which I personally re-formed last year and which is already engaging with City staff onplantings at our parks and public facilities). Additional initiatives that I would definitely support going forward include (but are not limited to): (1) reducing municipal energy use; (2) reduction of stormwater runoff volume.
As discussed above, I have championed moving more residents to online billing, saving not only paper, but postage costs. With software upgrades, the city will be able to require paperless permitting, so that contractors do not have to come to the city with paper plans. I will work carefully to include sustainable elements in any new construction that the city might undertake. We must stay abreast of municipal best practices in waste diversion and water conservation as well, including the city’s use of smart meters and goal setting for increased recycling.
In addition to the initiatives identified above, I am committing to preserving and expanding the green space of West U during my term, both the active and passive spaces. I think the idea of a community garden is such a wonderful idea. One of my daily activities with my kids is tending to our vegetable garden in the backyard. I think about West U demographics and I get excited about a senior/junior program for senior residents to tend plants with kids in this garden. I also support the Tree City USA framework and wish to expand our Arbor Day Foundation tree cover work.
I will commit to the following, (in no particular order):
1) Advocating for the addition of EVs to the city vehicle fleet. (I previously successfully advocated for budgeting for EVs).
2) With my youngest child starting Kindergarten at WUES in the fall, I will commit to education and working to reduce car idling lines at WUES and other venues.
3) Continuing to promote sustained composting and food waste programs.
4) Ensuring the completion of the Edloe Pathway with sustainable materials and native plants.
5) Working to promote car-free weekend events.
Energy Goal and Transport Goal #1 to reduce municipal energy use/emissions are common-sense goals that have few barriers to evaluation and implementation.
EG2/4 is also appealing because with modern best practice codes for new construction, we can achieve higher-quality housing stock and reduced resource use over time.
WG1 to re-evaluate high-tier pricing makes sense to discourage use, increase system resources and provide stable rates for the less affluent. I list these goals without disparagement to the many great ideas in the final recommendations!
1) Water conservation presents an ideal opportunity to balance the importance of our sustainable goals with the practicality of improved long term economic efficiency. If we learn to use our essential water aquifer less, it will last longer, and will cost residents less capital investment over the long term.
2) We need to re-evaluate our position on gas powered leaf blowers. The existing ordinance is neither practical, nor effective.
3) I’d like to implement the use of porous concrete where possible.
My goals are two-fold: to ensure that every citizen be made aware of the costs and benefits of environmental proposals, and to make certain that West U residents, particularly the most vulnerable members of our community, never have to worry about the city’s infrastructure failing them.
The city’s green space is a huge selling point for our community. I would work with the sustainability committee on introducing native plants as much as possible to any new or existing beautification efforts. I would also encourage our city and neighbors to use smart irrigation systems when feasible.