County supervisor candidates weigh in on environmental issues
The local chapter of the Sierra Club recently put a series of questions to the three candidates aiming to represent part of Davis on the Yolo County Board of Supervisors to gauge their positions on a number of environmental issues.
Incumbent Jim Provenza and challengers Linda Deos and David Abramson all responded with detailed written answers to those questions, which covered everything from how to reduce carbon-based energy use and greenhouse gas to how to manage solid waste, transportation and water; land use and development and more.
What the Sierra Club Yolano Group found: “All candidates are equally worthy of receiving Sierra Club endorsement for this election based on their environmental views and proposed policies.
“We believe all of the candidates demonstrated a remarkable understanding of the specific environmental pressures facing the county and the general climate crisis facing our planet,” the group stated on their website.
“All seemed genuinely cognizant of the necessary urgency in responding to these challenges. Indeed, in our opinion, the candidates for this office are among the most environmentally knowledgeable and committed slate of candidates to ever run for supervisor or any elected office in Yolo County.”
All of the questions and candidates’ answers are available on the group’s website. And while some of the questions focus on issues somewhat outside the purview of the Board of Supervisors, others elicited answers from the candidates on some of the more pressing concerns county supervisors face on a regular basis.
The three candidates weighed in, for example, on the topic of preserving and protecting farmland.
Abramson expressed gratitude “that Yolo County has protected farmland and development of natural lands,” and said he would “continue to fight for open space preservation and infill development.
“Farmland needs to continue to be protected, and we must provide support for helping farmers transition to regenerative, habitat-friendly and economically-sustainable practice,” Abramson said. “We must build collaboration between cities and our county to promote ecologically-minded infill development and support a local food system that provides economic security for our local farmers and protection of habitat and ecosystems.”
Provenza, meanwhile, touted the work he has done during his three terms on the Board of Supervisors so far.
“I was responsible for Yolo County’s (agricultural) land preservation ordinance. It is one of the toughest in the state,” said Provenza.
That ordinance requires a 3 to 1 mitigation for loss of farmland in rural areas and 2 to 1 in areas close to cities.
“Enforcement of this ordinance will help us to protect farmland in the future,” said Provenza.
Additionally, he said, “I have worked to assure that state and federal water and fish projects do not hinder agricultural production in the Yolo bypass. I successfully advocated for a change in these projects that considers the planting schedules of local rice farmers. This will allow for the protection of both fish and farmland. This change also benefits the Yolo Wildlife Area since the wildlife area depends upon rice farming to fund its operations.”
“Going forward, I plan to support more local processing of farm products,” said Provenza. “This will promote the long-term viability of our local agricultural operations.”
Deos said as part of her climate action plan, “I believe it is critical that we ensure that rural counties like Yolo that have committed to preserving farmland and avoiding sprawl, are fairly compensated by the state.
“The fact is, each acre of agriculture and open space conserved saves nearly 100 times the amount of GHG emissions that would result if the land were converted to urban use. But our tax code benefits communities with big box stores at the same time it penalizes communities with large amounts of farmland. These perverse incentives must be changed.
“I would also seek to secure state and federal support for farmers seeking to transition to regenerative agricultural practices,” Deos said.
On the topic of the Yolo/I-80 Corridor Improvement Project, a CalTrans proposal that could include adding lanes to I-80 to reduce traffic congestion from the Yolo-Solano county line through the city of Sacramento, the candidates offered similar perspectives as well.
Deos expressed concern that “such changes could hurt our local community, such as our farmers who rely on access roads for farm to market, while negatively encouraging even more single person/vehicle commuters.
“Consequently,” she said, “I am skeptical of these modifications and would encourage more community input and alternative proposals. We must increase the reliability and use of mass transit.
Abramson also called for more community input to “find out what commuters need and design solutions that take those needs into account alongside our climate action goals.
“I think widening the roads is a band-aid solution for a very real problem that needs to be addressed (traffic congestion), yet the real solutions lie in improving our public transit system, and transitioning towards a 100% renewable and efficient transportation system,” he said.
Provenza said the information provided to date on the CalTrans proposal “is too vague to base an opinion on.”
“Measures that improve the flow of traffic through improved metering and realignment of lanes make sense,” he said. “The emphasis should be on getting commuters into buses, trains and other public transportation.”
All three candidates also agreed that the county should follow the city of Davis’s lead and adopt a zero-waste ordinance and mandate the elimination of non-reusable, non-compostable and non-recyclable food and drink containers.
Said Deos: “For years the (United States) has been exporting our trash to China and other developing countries because we have been profligate in waste. Meanwhile, countries like Sweden have led recycling revolutions and significantly reduced the trash they contribute to landfills, a major source of methane emissions.
“The climate crisis means we must do everything possible to create a more sustainable planet, and this is a relatively simple step,” said Deos.
Abramson noted that “there is no ‘away’ when we throw things in our landfill bins.
“There are no markets right now for the majority of recyclable products, and they are being put into the landfill, so I would focus especially on supporting the use of compostable to-go materials.
“We have tools available to transition to a zero-waste Yolo County. The Yolo County Landfill is a world-class center that is continually making innovations and improvements. Davis has a good model for how to implement waste management and I would support implementation and support for residents in Yolo County to help us achieve that goal countywide.”
Provenza was succinct: “The current waste level is not sustainable. Elimination of non-reusable containers is a simple step that will have a positive impact on the flow of waste in Yolo County.”
All of the questions posed by the group and candidates’ full written answers are available at https://www.sierraclub.org/mother-lode/yolano/local-elections.
Meanwhile, the three candidates will appear at a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters Davis Area on Sunday where they will be asked about a variety of topics.
The forum will be held in the community chambers at City Hall, 23 Russell Blvd., from 3 to 5 p.m.
— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy.
Crossposted from the Davis Enterprise
Printed in the January 22, 2020 edition on page A1 | Published online January 21, 2020 | Last Modified on January 28, 2020 at 8:38 pm