Breaking down responses to KUNR’s candidate surveys on the environment
KUNR put together an environmental survey for candidates running for city council or mayor in Reno or Sparks and commissioner in Washoe County based on questions submitted by the community.
KUNR’s Natalie Van Hoozer and Shelby Herbert sat down with Lucia Starbuck to discuss what people running for office had to say.
Lucia Starbuck: So Natalie, how and why did you put this candidate survey together?
Natalie Van Hoozer: We asked people to submit questions for local candidates in an online form at KUNR.org. The form was open-ended, but we noticed that people wanted to know about the environment. I also visited a class at UNR, which had a good mix of students with different majors, to gather additional questions.
I then compiled all those questions into a survey and sent it to candidates for mayor and city council for both Reno and Sparks, as well as Washoe County Commission. In our two main questions, we asked candidates how they would protect people from poor air quality and heat, as well as their ideas for water conservation.
Starbuck: Let's start with the races for Reno and Sparks mayor. Shelby, what did those running have to say?
Shelby Herbert: So we ask the candidates how they would provide relief to vulnerable members of the community during hazardous smoke days. For the mayoral races, only the incumbents responded.
Mayor Hillary Schieve pointed to Washoe County’s Nevada CARES Campus, which provides shelter for people who are unhoused. The county spokesperson said the facility functions as a cooling center in the summer with air filters, and anyone is welcome there. I should note, though, that bed space at the facility is often at or near capacity. Schieve’s opponent, Eddie Lorton, is a vocal critic of the city council, and he didn’t respond.
Moving over to the Sparks race, Mayor Ed Lawson suggested using senior centers and public libraries for respite from the elements, and that was a pretty common response. Washoe County confirmed that these spaces can be used for that purpose. Lawson’s challenger, Chris Garvey, didn’t respond.
Starbuck: For the Sparks City Council races, what issues were important to the candidates, Natalie?
Van Hoozer: All Sparks City Council candidates responded, and many of them pointed to the Truckee Meadows Water Authority, known as TMWA, which manages the region's water supply. Members of the Reno and Sparks city councils and Washoe County Commissioners are on the board for TMWA.
Looking specifically at Ward 2, which is Northwest Sparks, incumbent Dian VanderWell spoke about the city's current use of treated wastewater for parks and golf courses as being important. She's running against Johnny Eastwick, who mentioned the need for alternative landscaping that uses less water.
Over in Ward 4, which is Northeast Sparks, incumbent Charlene Bybee is running against Damon Harrell. Both of them touched on the importance of protecting our area's water supply from contamination, and that includes lakes, rivers and groundwater.
Starbuck: Now over to Reno City Council. Shelby, what did you learn there?
Herbert: Incumbent Naomi Duerr is on the ticket for Ward 2; that’s in South Reno. She talked up the program she launched, called ReLEAF Reno, to plant more trees in an effort to combat urban heat. Her opponent, Jay Kenny, didn’t respond.
Incumbent Bonnie Weber is in the race for Ward 4; that’s in North Valleys. She spoke in support of OneWater Nevada, a regional collaborative working toward a sustainable water supply. Weber said that she does not believe that there is scientific consensus about human-caused climate change. She was the only candidate who responded this way. Research by Cornell [University] shows that more than 99.9% of scientific papers sampled in their expansive survey agree that climate change is real and human-derived.
Megan Ebert is Weber’s opponent. She wants to further efforts to clear flammable debris and vegetation in order to reduce the risk of wildfires in North Valleys.
Starbuck: And finally, Natalie, let’s talk about what you heard from Washoe County Commissioner candidates.
Van Hoozer: So only the Democratic candidates responded. Let’s start talking about District 2, which represents the southern part of the county. Keith Lockard wants to see more indoor air purifiers for low-income residents or face masks to protect unsheltered people and outdoor workers. The other candidates in this race, Mike Clark and David Banuelos, didn’t respond.
Let’s move to District 3, which covers the Reno area from Sun Valley down to the airport. Mariluz Garcia wants to reduce pollutants and make sure that underserved communities have a seat at the table about environmental discussions. Garcia’s opponent, Denise Meyer, didn’t reply to the survey.
And finally, District 5 represents the largest geographic region, including Somersett, North Valleys and Cold Springs. Edwin Lyngar encouraged planting more drought-resistant native vegetation in lieu of plants that consume a lot of water. District 5 incumbent Jeanne Herman didn’t respond.
Read the full responses from candidates for KUNR’s survey on the environment.