The News Tribune asked the candidates in contested races for Jefferson City Council in the April 6 election to answer the following reader-submitted questions.
Candidates' responses may have been edited for length and clarity.
Municipalities, businesses and individuals are saving money with renewable energy. If elected to the council, what specific actions will you take to allow Jefferson City to reduce energy costs with renewable energy?
Laura Ward: Everyone has a personal responsibility to improve our environment. Even though individual contributions may seem small, they have an impact if we all make efforts. Regarding renewable energy, our city discussed switching to electric buses, but they are costly. I inquired about adding solar panels to the last firehouse design, but it didn't fit into the budget. We've made some progress by installing energy-efficient lighting and objectives are in the draft comprehensive plan. For movement to occur, there needs to be dedicated funding and a plan that educates, sets reduction goals and implements an audit system to track performance.
Edith Vogel: Jefferson City is provided electricity and gas by Ameren Missouri; I would suspect they have or are working to have renewable energy. If and when those opportunities arise, if elected, I would surely study and ask questions pertaining the ability to reduce energy cost. I also think that there are other entities that provide alternate ways — like solar and wind power — although unsightly for our small community. All power is regulated through the Public Service Commission.
Mary Schantz: I would support efforts to move Jefferson City toward energy efficiency and environmentally sound policies and practices. Working with citizens, businesses, utilities, other governmental agencies, the City Council should develop an action plan to move forward. The plan would include changes to current policies, practices and codes, with a measured and reasonable timeline for full implementation. The plan would need to include all potential outside funding sources such as the EPA and government grants. Sound environmental policies or practices save money, create jobs and help the environment. A win-win for everyone.
Scott Spencer: We should always be looking for ways our city facilities can be more energy efficient. Within the Fire Department, we replaced fluorescent light bulbs with LED light bulbs, weatherized buildings, etc., to cut utility costs. There may be areas within the city that we may be able to institute solar panel installations. Green energy tends to have more upfront cost, so this should only be done when a major repair or upgrade was already being planned. Common-sense approaches to energy conservation would go a long way in cutting energy cost and saving city dollars.
Derrick Spicer: An assessment of energy needs and costs would be a starting place to identify specific instances when renewable energy could provide savings. The savings would need to be compared to the capital outlay that might accompany changes.
Leonard Steinman: I have solar panels on my personal residence. I would strongly encourage the City Council to pass a bill to have all city buildings more energy efficient by using renewable energy sources. It will save tax dollars that could be put to better use than paying for higher increasing cost for non-renewable energy. It is better for the planet and saving our natural resources for the future, which is not renewable. Once the natural resources are gone, they are gone forever.
Ryan Estes: The U.S. Department of Energy and the Department of Transportation provide grants for municipalities to promote renewable energy and reduction of carbon emissions. As both a cost-savings and a way to reduce the carbon footprint and thus improve the quality of our air, I would pursue any measure that would benefit the people of Jefferson City, provided it can be done in a cost-effective manner. Many green technologies also cost a lot of green, so the project would have to make financial sense for the city, too. High initial costs can deter some project until the technology becomes affordable.
Mark Schreiber: We would have to see how many citizens are involved with renewable energy. Anything we can do to save costs, but those costs on energy are regulated by the companies. I'm all for things like electric cars, but my concern right now is we know it takes oil to generate some electricity and that would include some of the wind turbines in some parts of the state. We don't want a bunch of electric cars around and you have no way to recharge them. That's something you have to sit down with people that are engineers and discuss.
Alicia Edwards: I would push for reform and make sure that any new city projects are equipped with solar panels. This will not only reduce the city's costs when it comes to energy but also make sure the City of Jefferson is doing its part in fighting against climate change.
What is your view of the city's 20-year comprehensive plan, and if elected, how would you encourage the City Council to use the plan so that it doesn't just get approved and then shelved away?
Laura Ward: The comprehensive plan acts as a tool to strengthen planning efforts and guide future development, recreation, public safety and preservation across our community. I've attended many meetings where this plan has been shared and believe it sets forth goals for our city's future and provides a strategic map to reach these goals.
Once adopted, the city should actively consult the plan, periodically review it for consistency with current policies and practices, and recommend amendments whenever necessary. It should also be implemented through zoning regulations, public improvements, city services and our capital improvements projects.
Edith Vogel: I sought out info on the city's webpage. It offered YouTube videos to give a "Cliffs Notes" version to what is being considered. The last plan was issued in 1996. At present, it is in draft form and contains 120 pages. The next meeting Thursday at McClung Park is an open house from 3-7 p.m. with a photo exhibit. If elected to council, I will study and discuss with fellow council members. Other candidates running, I assume, would probably do the same.
Mary Schantz: The 20-year plan is an outstanding document to guide the city forward. Taking over two years to develop, the city has given residents numerous opportunities for sharing ideas and giving input. It is vital that the plan be the guiding light for city staff and council in all decision-making. To ensure this, all requests and actions considered should be evaluated against the plan. The plan is a guide, not an edict, but it should be the first document looked to in decision-making.
Scott Spencer: The 20-year comprehensive plan is a forward-thinking exercise. I am especially supportive of the Housing and Neighborhood Goals piece of our current plan. In previous comprehensive plans, the city instituted some of the recommendations which is realistic. Twenty years is a long time, and communities' wants and needs may change along the way. We need to regularly interact with the plan and review our demographics so we can identify necessary adjustments on a regular basis.
Derrick Spicer: The 20-year Comprehensive Plan was written asking for citizen input on many levels. The plan should be regarded as a working document — a blueprint — for the future. Much effort by citizens and municipal employees produced the document and should be embraced, particularly when considering the city's budget.
Leonard Steinman: Good money was spent on the plan, and it should be used. I would encourage the City Council to constantly review and refer to the plan when making decisions that would have long-range effects. It is a guide to be used and not just gather dust. It can be a valuable tool if used correctly. Granted, it is like a living thing and would need to be updated and reviewed to match the current and future times, as things are constantly changing as we have all learned the hard way this past year.
Ryan Estes: The 20-year plan is an important tool for the city; it keeps us mindful of where we want to be, but the plan is just that: a plan. It's a snapshot of an idea that becomes less relevant with each year that passes. As the landscape, physical or otherwise, changes around us, we must be adaptable to social, economic or political changes. The goal of the 20-year plan is to make the city, and thereby its citizens, prosperous. I appreciate the intent of the plan, but the underlying goal is growth and prosperity; that will be my focus.
Mark Schreiber: One of the things we always need to do whenever we've got city staff that are going to be around for a number of years and they're involved in the planning process — for example, the long-term city plan — every now and then, yearly or maybe a couple times a year, we need to sit down with staff and go over those things. We don't want it put on a shelf and forgotten because that's just a waste. That's a waste of money, and it's a waste of staff input and resources that come from staff and citizens.
Alicia Edwards: The comprehensive plan must be used as a foundational document in moving Jefferson City forward. It is crucial in how we make improvements to infrastructure, housing and policing. I would make sure that every measure the city votes on is compatible and is part of the 20-year plan. Jefferson City is a beautiful city and a wonderful place to live, and the 20-year plan ensures it will stay that way for my children and future grandchildren.