Alexandria City Council candidates announce how they will tackle climate change – ALXnow

Everything Alexandria
A majority of Alexandria’s Democrat candidates for City Council rank climate action high on their priority lists.
A number of candidates recently expressed their opinions in a Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions and Build Our Future questionnaire.
“The responses show varying levels of prioritization to address climate change and of support for specific policies to reduce building-related emissions,” both organizations said in a press release. “All respondents endorsed continuing investments in our DASH system and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.”
The City’s 2040 Environmental Action Plan was adopted by Council in 2019, and it outlines city goals to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2030 and to approach net zero and be carbon neutral by 2050.
According to the plan:
As a tidal riverfront city, Alexandria is particularly vulnerable to the real and urgent threats of climate change. Old Town is already regularly subject to tidal and weather-related localized flooding that affects the wellbeing of the City. Reducing carbon emissions in all sectors is a key mitigation strategy. City-owned buildings and operations generate only about 4 percent of total emissions, while the remaining 96 percent is from residential and commercial buildings and transportation…
The Democrat primary for City Council and mayor is on June 18.
The candidates
City Council Member Sarah Bagley responded that she regards climate changes as a high priority, that she supports the emission reduction goals for 2030 and 2050, and supports grant funding to retrofit new building projects and existing buildings. She also supports weatherization programs to improve energy efficiency for residents.
“We need to evaluate progress not simply at the rate at which we are reducing emissions but the rate at which we are applying, competing for, and winning state and federal grants and public/private partnerships funds to accelerate that work,” Bagley said. “We need to work backwards from our 2030 and 2050 benchmarks to establish where we need to be or what infrastructures and funding sources need to be in place well prior to those dates to enable the type of projects and retrofits that will be necessary to achieve those goals.”
City Council Member John Taylor Chapman ranked climate change as a “fairly high” priority, and said that Council should have regular conversations with the City Manager on its 2030 and 2050 carbon emission goals. Chapman also supported a stricter green building policy for renovation and new construction projects, but said that he ranked reducing energy use in buildings as a “medium priority” without financial support from state and federal agencies.
“Yes, I believe Alexandria and the region is experiencing a climate emergency and addressing it ranks fairly high on my priority list,” Chapman said. “We should have an annual conversation, separate from our budget sessions, about how we are meeting our targets.”
School Board Member Abdel Elnoubi ranked climate action as one of his top five priorities, and said that reducing emissions from existing buildings should be a city priority.
“Buildings are the biggest concern,” Elnoubi said. “Buildings are the largest emitter, and achieving net zero buildings in government buildings especially and incentivizing greener solutions for residential buildings would be astute indicators of progress. Also setting goals for DASH and School bus fleet replacements and measuring against those goals. Providing more charging stations.”
Jimmy Lewis said that the city is experiencing a climate emergency and supports an “all-of-the-above” approach to reduce emissions from existing buildings. Lewis is a a member of the Traffic and Parking Board and Transportation Commission, and said that the city must add “incentives and stricter requirements” to reduce emissions.
“Given the level of emissions generated, energy efficiency, on-site generation, tree canopy and electrification all need to be priorities for existing buildings,” Lewis said. “We need an all-of-the-above approach, including extensive public recognition, reducing bureaucracy and potential incentives, to drive private landowners and shared equity communities (condos, etc.) to reduce carbon emissions.”
City Council Member Kirk McPike said that the city is experiencing a climate emergency and that tackling it is one of his top priorities. He said that he supports the 2030 and 2050 goals, and echoed Chapman by stating that the city should get federal and state resources to help reduce emissions from government and private buildings.
“A challenge such as this requires an all-of-the-above approach,” McPike said. “Further, we should work with COG as well as the National League of CiƟes to stay up to date on new strategies being deployed successfully elsewhere, and be prepared to advocate in Richmond for increased local authority to adopt such policies ourselves, when needed.”
Jesse O’Connell said that climate action is one of his top-five priorities, and that the city needs to start quantifying the amount of carbon-free electricity (CFE) needed to meet its 2030 and 2050 goals.
“Without a sense of the resources needed to meet the goal–and in turn, a plan to acquire those resources– it will be difficult to measure progress,” O’Connell said. “And electricity is key here, because recent data from the city indicates that 70% of building-related emissions stem from electricity (and 50% of that total coming from commercial buildings).”
Not all of the candidates running for office responded to the questionnaire, but ALXnow followed up with the rest.
School Board Member Jacinta Greene did not respond, but lists climate sustainability as a priority on her website.
City Council Member Canek Aguirre said that he didn’t have time to fill out the questionnaire.
Kevin Harris, president of the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority resident association, said that he was made aware of the questionnaire last week. Harris said that climate change as an equity issue that most harms marginalized communities. He also said that he wants to raise youth awareness with a workforce certification program that would support conservation and flood mitigation efforts.
Jonathan Huskey said that the city needs an increased tree canopy and more energy efficient buildings.
“Climate is a priority issue for the world, and we have to reduce our carbon footprint and save the planet,” Huskey said. “We have to do whats necessary so future generations enjoy the places that we do. My highest priorities are neighborhoods, small businesses and working families, and it’s all of our responsibility, not just in the city to reduce carbon emissions and reduce the effects of climate change.”
Charlotte Scherer, a former magistrate, said that she never received the questionnaire but is fully committed to climate action.
“I believe in requiring LEED building standards for new construction in Alexandria and rapidly expanding the number of EV (electric vehicle) charging stations,” Scherer said. “These measures will help to reduce our carbon footprint and mitigate the effects of climate change.”
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