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Learn more about what the candidates running for nine races in Reno, Sparks and Washoe County have to say about environmental issues.

2022 Elections: Sparks City Council Ward 4 Candidate Surveys on the Environment

Illustration with a KUNR logo and text that says, “Candidate Surveys on the Environment. Sparks City Council, Ward 4.” There is an implied surface with a pencil, a roll of stickers and a ballot box placed on top of it.
Crystal Willis
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KUNR Public Radio

Earlier this year, KUNR Public Radio launched a survey asking community members to share topics or issues they would like to hear about from candidates running in Nevada’s 2022 elections. Many community members voiced concern about climate change and wanted to know how their local politicians would respond to environmental issues. With additional environmental questions collected from a group of University of Nevada, Reno students majoring in a variety of fields, KUNR created a questionnaire for candidates running for nine races in Reno, Sparks and Washoe County.

This election cycle, there are two candidates running for the Sparks City Council seat in Ward 4. Municipal races in Nevada are nonpartisan:

  • Charlene Bybee (Incumbent)
  • Damon Harrell

Editor’s notes: Candidates have been listed in alphabetical order by last name. We have provided candidates’ responses to our questionnaire, and each answer had a limit of 1,000 characters, with the exception of a yes or no question. Responses have not been edited for spelling, punctuation or grammar. Candidates’ answers have been fact-checked, and editor’s notes have been provided as needed. Editor’s notes were also added to provide additional context.

Some candidates did not respond to the questionnaire after being reached out to multiple times; however, we will post their responses if they become available. Candidates were also asked to submit a headshot, and these photos were included upon availability.


Charlene Bybee

Charlene Bybee is looking away from the camera and smiling.
Courtesy of Charlene Bybee
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Charlene Bybee, an incumbent seeking re-election for Sparks City Council Ward 4.

When our region experiences poor air quality from wildfire smoke and high temperatures, how would you assist our community’s more vulnerable populations, including unsheltered individuals and outdoor workers? (We would like to hear your local mitigation ideas.)

During recent wildfires we had a collaborative effort to assist both those evacuated and our local residents. For the Caldor Fire residents were sent to Reno when evacuation centers in Carson City were full. I’m on the Board of the RSCVA and we provided the Convention Center for the Red Cross to set up an evacuation center for displaced residents.

The heat and smoke this summer resulted in dangerous conditions for our vulnerable populations- our seniors and the homeless population . Our senior service agencies in Washoe County and Sparks had a fan drive, asking residents to donate fans throughput the summer. In addition cooling centers can be opened at senior centers, schools and churches both for seniors and our homeless. The CARES Campus is indoors and can accommodate the homeless to protect them both from smoke and heat.

Editor’s notes: Information about the summer 2022 Fan Drive for Seniors is available here. According to a spokesperson for Washoe County, during extreme weather events, the Nevada CARES Campus functions as an indoor gathering place used as a warming center in the winter and cooling center in the summer. The facility’s air filters also render it a safe place with clean air throughout the region’s fire seasons. While bed space at the facility is often near capacity, there is always room in the warming and cooling areas, as well as a day-use area for individuals who need to escape the smoke and extreme heat.

According to a spokesperson for Washoe County, the county’s senior centers function as shelters from heat and smoke. A spokesperson with Washoe County also says that libraries are public spaces that can be used as a respite from the elements, though schools are out of Washoe County’s jurisdiction to designate as shelters.

How will you help ensure that we have enough drinking water for the increasing population of Reno, Sparks and Washoe County? And more broadly, what would you do to improve water management and sustainability in our region?

The City of Sparks has council members serving on several regional water boards working to manage and preserve one of our most precious resources- water. In 2020 the Watershed Protection Plan was developed through a multi jurisdictional planning effort to preserve and improve the quality of groundwater, lakes, rivers and streams that provide our drinking water. This watershed management is vital to both the amount of water we have, especially in drought years, and to address our increased need with the growth of our region.

Editor’s note: You can read the 2020 Watershed Management And Protection Plan For Tributaries To The Truckee River here.

Do you believe that human-caused climate change is real? (Yes or no response only.)

Yes.

What other environmental issues would you like to address for your constituency, and how?

For the City of Sparks we are especially concerned about flood mitigation because the highest level of flooding occurs in Sparks at Vista Narrows. We have made flood control improvements to mitigate the impacts, but our industrial district is next to the Truckee River, in the middle of the flood zone. We would like to move some of that industrial to the land above east Sparks with a current proposed Lands Bill to acquire that land from the Bureau of Land Management.

Editor’s note: You can learn about flooding in Northern Nevada, including at Vista Narrows in Sparks, at NevadaFloods.org. For clarity, Bybee is referring to the Truckee Meadows Public Lands Management Act.

Learn more about Charlene Bybee at Charlenebybee.com.


Damon Harrell

Damon Harrell is looking toward the camera and smiling.
Courtesy of Damon Harrell
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Damon Harrell, a candidate for Sparks City Council Ward 4.

When our region experiences poor air quality from wildfire smoke and high temperatures, how would you assist our community’s more vulnerable populations, including unsheltered individuals and outdoor workers? (We would like to hear your local mitigation ideas.)

In reality there isn't much that can be done reactively; however I think we should be thinking proactively. We literally begged the high-tech companies to come to Washoe county, we need to take the next step into the future and start thinking of ways to reduce our cities carbon footprint. We should be generating our own power via wind, solar and geothermal sources and then using that energy to power a new fleet of alternate energy vehicles.

Editor’s note: While Nevada’s landscape contains potential for geothermal and solar energy developments, the state has a limited capacity for onshore wind power generation, which KUNR previously reported.

How will you help ensure that we have enough drinking water for the increasing population of Reno, Sparks and Washoe County? And more broadly, what would you do to improve water management and sustainability in our region?

I believe the watershed is being managed very well for our area. We have waited far too long to address the wastewater concerns. We need to adjust our impact fees to new citizens and new homes so that we don't have to finance the building of our next facility or the expansion of the existing facility.

Editor’s note: As defined by the Nevada Legislature, an impact fee is a “charge imposed by a local government on new development to finance the costs of a capital improvement or facility expansion necessitated by and attributable to the new development.”

Do you believe that human-caused climate change is real? (Yes or no response only.)

Yes.

What other environmental issues would you like to address for your constituency, and how?

I would like to double down on my previous answer. After begging high-tech companies to move to Washoe County, then using their jobs and new citizens to expand our tax base we need to redouble our efforts to create sustainable energy through solar, wind and geothermal and we need to replace our fleet with alternate energy vehicles.

Editor’s note: While Nevada’s landscape contains potential for geothermal and solar energy developments, the state has a limited capacity for onshore wind power generation, which KUNR previously reported.

Learn more about Damon Harrell at ElectHarrell.com


Click here to view candidate surveys for other Sparks races, as well as city council and mayor in Reno and commissioner in Washoe County.