Flagstaff City Council and mayoral candidates have been given the chance to answer a weekly question in no more than 150 words. This week’s question: What do you see as the city’s role in preparing for and combating climate change?
Climate change is an issue requiring state, federal and international actions. The proposed City Climate Change Action and Adaptation Plan must be viewed with a local policy-making perspective: identify what, and how much, it will take to implement it. Community engagement, grants and private-public partnerships are integral in the process of adopting and implementing a local action plan.
The 2012 voter-approved $10 million bond funding the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project is a model environmental stewardship. Forest treatment efforts covering city, state and federal lands reduce the risk of wildfire and post-fire flooding in the Rio de Flag and Upper Lake Mary watersheds. Through partnerships, $5.2 million was raised in leveraged funding.
I also support updating the City’s Energy Code to encourage voluntary participation of property developers and builders to construct new buildings to be more energy-efficient to reduce greenhouse emissions. Sustainable practices in construction are essential to a thriving community.
A realistic mindset about our urgent climate challenges is essential to Flagstaff’s future. I’m running to help Flag become a national leader in sustainability. Critical to that is a bold approach to climate.
The good: Flagstaff’s draft climate action plan, the result of high community input and consensus-building, will serve as a fantastic tool going forward.
The bad: Increasing temperatures and variable precipitation are causing longer, riskier fire seasons. Snowpack — essential for maintaining long-term water — is increasingly unpredictable, complicating water supply models. As other cities face triple-digit heat for longer stretches each year (in part thanks to poor city planning!), droves are racing to our doorstep, bringing big-city changes with them.
The “ugly” details: Adaptation entails assisting vulnerable residents, whose homes and livelihoods are threatened by fire and drought, through watershed protection and forest management, water use efficiency and conservation strategies, emergency preparedness and sustainable new development planning.
As federal and state government rollback climate rules it has become imperative that cities take a larger role in preparing for and combating climate change. Wildfire and flooding are existential threats to our city and we must address the increasing potential for natural disasters before we face loss of life and property.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and it’s very much true. If a 100-year flood hits Flagstaff, we are facing up to $1.5 billion in property damage. This is why the current city council wisely set the goal for meaningful action on climate change, and staff have been working hard on a Climate Action and Adaptation Plan. It will be up to the next council to implement the plan, and I will work diligently to ensure that it does. We must protect Flagstaff from the consequences of climate change.
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We should continue to collaborate with our County, State and Federal partners to clean our forests of materials that could contribute to forest fires.
The voter approved Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project (FWPP) is underway. I hope to get an update shortly on its progress. As a corollary to FWPP, one of the City’s “Environmental & Natural Resources “ goals call for our Fire Department to operate a Wildlife Fire Management program. I support this effort.
Finally, we should continue to protect our precious water resources. As leaders, we need to be proactive with programs that could secure our water supply for future generations.
Local governments have a strong role to play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions within their city limits and governments cannot prepare for the impact of climate change by themselves. Our policies and operations can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare our community to adapt to the impact of climate change.
The usage of water resources is becoming more critical as rechargeable water supplies dwindle. We must be prepared to use reclaimed water as part of our water department source of potable water. Flagstaff and local communities are in need of actions that support the integration, resiliency, adaptation and emissions reductions into existing and future municipal policies and operations.
As climate and related weather conditions change, lives and livelihoods are increasingly as risk. Smart economic growth and community development can support the process of climate change. We do not want to hear the words, "too late."
The city is currently developing Flagstaff's Climate Action and Adaptation Plan. I encourage everyone to participate in this process, and our current council members to push for the strongest policies to help us fight global warming's harmful impacts on Flagstaff and to protect our most vulnerable citizens.
As a council member, I will work with staff and citizens to ensure cost-effective, common sense measures like adopting building codes that save home owners money, easing over-the-counter permits for solar installations as much as is responsible, and helping business and home owners respond to flooding, our changing tourist economy and other challenges we will face.
Meanwhile, I look forward to helping Flagstaff grow our economy with jobs in energy conservation, forest management, renewable energy, responsible building and businesses oriented towards both helping people respond to the challenges, and avoid the consequences, of climate change.
The city of Flagstaff is committed to our Climate Action Plan. This includes expanding our use of renewable energy, encouraging and creating infrastructure for alternative means of transportation, and a variety of education efforts.
For instance, we hold clinics to fix broken household items as well as community meetings about the plan itself. We're also focused on helping Flagstaff conserve more water and helping residents make their homes as environmentally friendly as possible. For more on the city's efforts, visit us at: https://www.flagstaff.az.gov/1605/Sustainability-Section