Port Angeles City Council candidates weigh in on climate change

Madden is lone hopeful to say it’s ‘been debunked’

PORT ANGELES — All eight candidates for Port Angeles City Council at an election forum last week said they would do something about climate change.

Except John Madden.

Madden, participating Wednesday via Zoom in the Clallam County League of Women Voters event, said that to say it exists is fear mongering and intended to control people.

Candidates for the four positions were given one minute to suggest what actions they would support to reduce carbon emissions and the city’s overall environmental impact. (For a report on other questions asked of Port Angeles City Council candidates at the forum, see Friday’s Clallam County edition of the Peninsula Daily News.)

“Now, global warming has been debunked for many years as unscientific. It’s been debunked for decades now, and the fear-mongers now have morphed that bugaboo into climate change,” said Madden, running against incumbent Mike French.

“There are a number of things you can look at.

“You can put any kind of a perceived problem under a microscope and see things that you wouldn’t ordinarily see, things that could scare you,” Madden said.

“We’ve been scared out of our wits for decades about things like acid rain and institutional racism, most recently, and white supremacy and gun violence.

“All of these things are designed to control the populace, and I think people are getting a clue that this needs to be tempered with a sense of reason.

“I believe most people are fairly reasonable, and they’ve got their eyes open now.”

That position contradicts overwhelming evidence from scientists worldwide.

“The scientific community is certain that the Earth’s climate is changing because of the trends that we see in the instrumented climate record and the changes that have been observed in physical and biological systems,” according to the U.S. Geological Survey at usgs.gov. “The evidence of a warming trend over the past century is unequivocal.”

French said ways must be found to get to “win-win” situations.

Denser housing and mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods create more economic activity and reduce overall environmental impact, he said.

“Urban trees improve the quality of the neighborhood while also reducing the cost for stormwater mitigation,” he said.

“We have people like LaTrisha [Suggs] and Kate [Dexter] who are really much more subject-matter experts than me,” he said, promoting the candidacies of two other incumbents.

“I think that having a really diverse council makes it so that, when issues like this come up, we have a really good, broad base of knowledge about his throughout the council and not every person needs to be an expert on everything.”

Jena Stamper, running against incumbent Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin, said planting lower-growing, faster-growing, less root-invasive trees, which she has suggested for Lincoln Park to mitigate flight-approach hazards for the nearby airport, could have a two-fold purpose.

“If there really is going to be global warming, then that’s something we need to think about now so these trees are mature by the time these things are happening,” Stamper said.

Tourists visiting Olympic National Park are “a huge contributor” to carbon emissions, she said.

“I would like, and this is envisioning for the future down the road, a gondola system of some sort that is a transportation up to the national park so we aren’t having that kind of traffic, but also the walkable city and the parks and having smaller districts and stores in different parts of town to help with that.”

A project proposed in 2015 by entrepreneur Dan Williams to build a $200 million system of passenger aerial trams from downtown Port Angeles to Hurricane Ridge never materialized.

City, state and federal officials said the project would have faced extensive environmental review, and park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum said National Park Service policy prohibited it.

Schromen-Wawrin, running against Stamper, said he has been working to make Port Angeles a more walkable and livable city of neighborhoods that would generate low levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

“It involves us really making that transition in how we work with our streets so pedestrian safety projects like what we see on Lauridsen Boulevard, on Lincoln Street, make it easier for people to walk and bike and take the bus rather than drive in single-occupancy vehicles,” he said.

“That’s a huge part of our fossil fuel footprint, and that has a lot more to do with how we do land use than the specific technology that we use to get around in town.”

John Procter, running against incumbent Kate Dexter, the appointed mayor, said the city’s carbon footprint is minuscule compared to what goes on in the world. He said the future lies in battery-operated vehicles and favors the city switching to vehicles that don’t use fossil fuels.

“Also, charging stations, we need to be addressing those,” he said.

“Another thing coming in the future, and there’s a lot of them right now, is the battery-operated bicycles. I walk the trails almost daily with my little schnauzer, and we see battery-operated bicycles almost all over the place, and I believe there’s going to be more and more of them, and I think those are the ways of the future. Well, maybe not the future, they’re here right now, and that’s about all we can do, I think.”

Dexter said the council is mitigating the impact of stormwater, installing electric-vehicle charging stations and producing a climate action plan.

“Continuing to move through the steps we’ve outlined in the climate action plan will be a really important project for us to continue,” she said.

Suggs, an appointed incumbent, said she agreed with promoting electric vehicles and charging stations, adding that the city needs to consider installing renewable energy systems in buildings.

“We need to keep our growth, our footprint, within our city limits,” she said.

“We need to get people out of the cars. Cars are our biggest contributor to greenhouse gases, so we need to have walkable, living neighborhoods that have been talked about and mentioned here several times.”

Suggs’ opponent, Adam Garcia, said he agreed with her about reducing vehicle usage, switching to a topic that Stamper has focused on.

“But it’s true, you know, our parks right now are not in the best of shape,” he said.

“We have a couple of parks that are very nice, but we have a whole lot more that are not, that are scattered throughout our community, so I think focusing on getting those up and running would be a good thing.”

He added that people should be encouraged to stay downtown longer and shop locally to benefit the business community, “and then also to, in the long run, to impact the greenhouse gases and all of that, that we’re going to be looking at trying to diminish.”

The one-hour, 45-minute forum included questions on COVID-19-related public health measures, public safety, homelessness and affordable housing,

The forum can be viewed in its entirety on YouTube by going to lwvcla.org.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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