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Thursday, September 19, 2013

On yesterday's radio show

We interviewed Mike Ross, a mayoral candidate in Boston.  We focused, of course, on his environmental/energy policies and thoughts on how to build a more sustainable city.

The Boston Globe previously sent questions to all mayoral candidates.  Three candidates did not respond.  We believe that every single person running for office--local, national, international offices--should clearly, unequivocally state their positions on growing an economy while protecting our Earth's natural resources and should have passion and vision for building a brighter, cleaner future.  If they do not, they do not, in our opinion, merit your time or vote.

Here's how Mike answered those questions.  The rest of the responses you can find at the Globe's web site.  We'll break it into two since it is fairly long.   Keep in mind these issues affect every city and town across the globe.  Think about how they apply to where you live as well, and think about whether these answers fit with how you see government's role in crafting a sustainable future.

Mike Ross
Candidates’ responses to environmental questionnaire
August 26, 2013

The Globe sent the Boston mayoral candidates 10 questions on environmental issues. Each candidate’s full answers are provided below. Three candidates — Charles Yancey, Charles Clemons Jr., and David James Wyatt — did not provide answers.  Those that did answer (9)were Felix Arroyo, John F. Barros, Daniel F. Conley, John R. Connolly, Rob Consalvo, Charlotte Golar Richie, Mike Ross, Bill Walczak, and Martin J. Walsh

1. Should the city try to reduce carbon emissions, and if so, what would you propose to do that?

The city absolutely has a responsibility to reduce carbon emissions and to do everything we can to address our city’s contribution to global warming. I support the goals of the city’s existing climate action plan that aims to reduce emissions by 80 percent by 2050 I would work to reduce emissions by supporting more sustainable forms of transportation like the public transit and bikes; I would strengthen programs to help make homes and businesses more energy efficient; increase the amount of electricity the city uses that comes from renewable sources; and increase recycling to reduce Boston’s solid waste incineration.

2. Is the city too ambitious or not ambitious enough by aiming to cut carbon emissions 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050?

Both goals are essential. The challenge for the next mayor will be making sure we stay focused on the immediate goal while aggressively pursuing the long-term vision to cut carbon emissions by 80% in the next 35 years, essentially achieving carbon neutrality. I will do both.”

3. As sea levels rise, do you favor requiring new building codes to put critical systems on higher floors, even if it reduces the city’s tax base? And what about existing buildings? 

How would you respond to developers’ concerns? Anything else you think the city should be doing about rising seas?

We must codify resilient design standards into all new development along Boston’s waterfront and within critical flood zones. I don’t believe it will reduce the city’s tax base. The cost of inaction is greater. Insurance companies are already rewarding properties that are designed for climate resistance. I led a process much like this before, when I pushed the Building Energy Reporting Disclosure Ordinance through the City Council. While there was opposition to the legislation from developers, I brought leaders from the community to the table and we got the legislation passed.

4. As the state moves to ban large institutions from discarding food waste and considers doing so for residents, should Boston act first and require residents to compost or recycle food waste rather than tossing it in the trash?

I led the efforts to expand recycling in Boston as a city councilor. I believe very strongly in recycling — we pay extra so we can recycle at my campaign office. Boston still has a long way to go to achieve the waste diversion rate we need, and curb-side composting is a key part of getting there. I’d favor piloting curb-side composing programs in a few neighborhoods to better understand how to make it a success across the city, with the ultimate goal of expanding them city-wide.

5. Would you support an anaerobic digestion facility to be built in Boston to convert food waste into energy?

Anaerobic digestion facilities are increasingly becoming an important component of our state’s renewable energy portfolio. There are significant benefits to this technology that can turn organic waste into useful energy. I would be open to an anaerobic digestion facility being built in Boston. However, there are important questions that any city looking to site such a facility needs to ask, ranging from how related odors and noise would be managed to what the traffic impacts of the trucks bringing in the waste would be. Through a community planning and discussion process, we can determine if this is a facility that makes sense for Boston.

6. Until recently, despite tens of millions of dollars spent, a raft of new programs, and the availability of curbside recycling to nearly everyone, only about 20 percent of all residential garbage is recycled in Boston, much less than is recycled in other major cities. What would you do to change this?


Despite efforts to increase recycling for multi-family residential buildings and businesses - efforts that I helped lead - Boston still has a long way to go to achieve the waste diversion rate we need. There are a number of steps that we can take in cooperation with the real estate and business communities to reduce barriers to large building recycling that will greatly help us increase recycling rates. While other cities have had success with Pay As You Throw (PAYT) systems, I believe that a residential PAYT system would need to be gradually phased in in Boston as we address basic issues that are preventing greater recycling rates. Things like stronger public awareness programs, greater adoption of basic recycling in large buildings, and recycling in public spaces will all help residents shift their behavior to recycling more ahead of implementing a PAYT scheme. Efforts to reduce waste in our city also must be measured against core principles of environmental justice and must not place a burden on low-income families and communities.

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