Sacramento County Board District 5: where are the candidates on environmental issues?

This will be a busy election year for residents of Sacramento County. Depending on where you live, you might vote for a new county representative, city council member, sheriff, and district attorney. And those are just the local races.

If you live in County District 5, you will choose a new representative on the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors. Don Nottoli, who has represented the district since 1994, is not seeking re-election.

The district includes towns like Rancho Cordova and Elk Grove, and extends to communities in Galt and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta like Isleton.

The area is vast, and much of its population is centralized in the ever-growing town of Elk Grove.

That’s probably why the four candidates vying for the seat all come from Elk Grove, which was once one of the fastest growing cities in the country.

with the four candidates at a climate change forum hosted by Sacramento Environmental Council, 350 Sacramento, Sierra Club of Sacramento, Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

Below are the candidates’ answers to questions about carbon neutrality, roaming and transportation.

The following answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Interview Highlights

On Sacramento County’s 2030 carbon neutral goal

Pat Hume: I think when we set strict deadlines, it puts the aggressiveness of the situation in front of us, which is good as a call to action. But it sometimes causes a rush to judgment before we can consider the unintended consequences of certain things. And so one of the things the county can obviously do to achieve carbon neutrality is to use green energy sources. Solar is the most obvious example. But we have a grid that can’t even meet the demands for electricity that are put on it as they exist…And then one of the first things we can do is make sure that all the new buildings coming in are certified LEED Gold or above and ensure the fleet is electrified and operating with SMUD and all of its carbon neutral goals.

Alex Joe: I would wholeheartedly say that the programs we run here in the county reflect the needs of the community and have the community as partners in doing simple things. There are many things we can do to turn off water and lights and check our travel routes when we go out and shop, plant trees – we have very many aspects of this issue that we can affect like individuals and then as a community. Support these areas and give our children the opportunity to see what is needed and what they need to do so that they can help make progress possible.

Steve Ly: I think one of the biggest offenders is Kiefer Landfill. If you look at it, we can’t just bury our trash and hope it goes away. We bury it today, we’ll drink it tomorrow. And so, as one of the biggest offenders across the country, we have to start looking at the landfill and exploring the possibilities of green energy… We have to look at other countries and see what they’re doing. And there are great examples, if you look specifically at Korea and how they’re able to do their system and how they’re able to manage their waste is key. The other thing that’s really important is fleet services, and that’s at all levels.

Jaclyn Moreno: We know that transportation accounts for about 40% of all carbon emissions in this state. And so I think we’re not going to meet California’s carbon targets if we don’t reduce the number of vehicle miles driven, if we don’t reduce the number of cars on the road. And so I think two areas that we can focus on to achieve those goals would be land use – using land use as a tool to get closer to California’s climate goals by supporting an urban growth limit, supporting more conservation efforts for recreation and agriculture and encouraging mixed-use infill development where goods, services and transportation are nearby. And then in terms of transportation…I think it’s extremely important that we work together to develop a bus rapid transit plan to get people moving, to get cars off the road, ensuring that ridership is easy, efficient and reliable.

On how the county should help our most climate-sensitive residents, such as the homeless

Alex Joe: The United States is built on education and the opportunities that come from that education. In this case, where companies will come into [low-income] areas, they pollute, they take a very great privilege in creating problems that lead to disease which is created by clusters of cancer and a myriad of other diseases that are difficult to live with and their property is thereby devalued and effectively taken away of their property. And that goes against the practice of growing wealth that can be transferred to families. Another issue would just be racism and redlining and other factors that exist within our society that have created issues for people of color and other Native Americans and people who are not wealthy to have a restriction built in at birth, often eliminating their ability to thrive.

Jaclyn Moreno: [Senate Bill 1000] required local jurisdictions to develop an environmental justice plan and include that environmental justice plan as part of the overall plan. And I know for District 5, the North Vineyard community, it was included in this study. As with any equity issue, it’s really important to talk to the people most affected by the challenges that will arise with climate change. And that means not only including their voices in the potential problems that will arise, but also including their voices in the solution. To fight homelessness, we have to talk about housing. We need to talk about site plans. The City of Sacramento is the only jurisdiction that has a site plan at this time. We need to force other jurisdictions, including Sacramento County, to create site plans and make sure people have a place to go.

Pat Hume: We’ve spent about 200 years with bad behavior, and we’ve really spent the last 40 years trying to recognize it. And “when you know better, do better”, as Maya Angelou says. So I think the number one thing…the county can do is use planning and zoning effectively. As I always say, the best way to reduce vehicle miles traveled and traffic congestion is to put people where they live and where they want to be closer to each other. I’ve been working…to try to bring passenger rail to town, to try to expand light rail, to try to work on more frequency and coverage for our transit system, as well as to have capacity road for the electrification of our vehicles, which will still require roads to travel.

Steve Ly: When I was mayor, I was on the air quality board, and one of the things we did was we had monitoring stations all over the county. And part of that is knowing when a certain area isn’t advised to actually be outdoors. Not only this type of approach, but also ways to deal with it appropriately – ensuring and monitoring that the biggest polluters are controlled. Now, when it comes to the homeless population, or the homeless population, what really needs to happen is housing first. Across the country, when you look at communities, if you find the house, that solves the first problem, and then you can then look at some of the other problems that come with it – either mental illness, drug problems, skills not techniques, technical skills – that need to be addressed. And of course number 3 deals with affordable housing across the country.

On reducing carbon emissions from transportation, which is the number one cause of emissions in California

Steve Ly: The first thing is to have a robust public transport. When I was on council we talked, we deliberated on a bus rapid transit system – building regional public transport where you can actually take a light rail in the south of the county and be able to get to the airport . These are things that would undoubtedly alleviate road congestion and also pollution. And again, going back to the municipalities, I think the municipalities, respectively, in the region really need to move towards electrifying their fleets. When I was on the environmental mayors of the United States Conference of Mayors, we talked about this – leveraging our buying power to be able to get deep discounts on electric vehicles, and that makes sense . For us to really move properly in this direction, we need to stop talking about it and start doing it.

Jaclyn Moreno: Experts agree that we need to reduce vehicle miles traveled in order to meet climate emissions targets set by the State of California. We know that Elk Grove will have two train stations, and I’m glad those stations are good for moving some people. But the point is, one, we need to move more people, and two, people will still have to go to these stations, which ultimately won’t reduce the vehicle miles traveled much… I think that the best value for money will be to create a bus rapid transit plan linking our regions with clean energy buses. When we have fast, reliable and efficient services, we will use these buses, but not without a comprehensive awareness program also in place.

Alex Joe: Florida has toll roads that stretch from Orlando to the Kennedy Space Center. These toll roads are very clean and efficient, but for the occasional snake or turtle. They are smooth and very convenient for transporting people from point A to point B. To achieve similar opportunities here in Sacramento, we have secondary roads to our major highways that may have tolls. We have corridors to build between different parts of Sacramento County. What we should be doing in addition to building these corridors is to promote the use of hybrid vehicles and electric vehicles to reduce impacts. Now, I don’t believe we should expand on Watt Avenue once more, and I think the connections between Rancho Cordova and Fair Oaks should be explored.

Pat Hume: I focus on mobility options, and it differs depending on whether you are traveling intra-regional, inter-regional, or mega-regional. And we need to empower people to make solid choices about what suits their lives and their transportation needs. But the one thing I will say is what we see with the electrification of the fleet, it does great things for GHG emissions, but it does nothing for congestion… One vehicle miles driven, the definition of that is whether it takes you a minute or an hour, it’s still a vehicle-mile traveled. And so if we build ourselves into a state of frustration with congestion, we’ve done great things to improve our air quality, but we haven’t really improved people who want to have individual mobility.