David Owen’s complete Meet the Candidates answer

Question: Do you consider yourself a “green” (environmentally friendly) candidate? Why or why not?

I do consider myself to be a “green” candidate.  In some respects the Town has done a great job in recent years “greening” itself with the electric vehicles, hybrid cars for staff, even watering most of our parks with non-potable or untreated water.  However, there are Town policies that are aggressively anti-environmental.  There is more that the Town can do specifically concerning the dichotomy between historic preservation and environmental stewardship.  Owning and having lived in a contributing historic house in the District for over ten years, I have an intimate knowledge of this struggle for balance.  Quite frankly, I believe that there is too much emphasis on historic preservation at the expense of being ecologically sound.  We cannot ignore the fact that we live at 9,000 feet in a very cold environment.  That fact alone generates a significant carbon footprint from all of us.  I believe that the Town needs to be more “green” in meaningful ways.  We need to find a balance between environmental stewardship, being a destination resort that caters to visitors who don’t live in snow and ice environments, public safety, and historic preservation.  It is important to safeguard our historic district, but not at the expense of common sense solutions that improve our energy efficiency.  In my mind, we have not yet found the right balance.  As a Town Council member, I will investigate the reasons for this imbalance and attempt to correct it.

This is a tougher question than it seems on the surface.  After all, everyone recycles, most if not all the people in this Town care about the environment, we all seem to unanimously oppose an environmentally destructive mine in our backyard, we protect our watershed, the Town forces us to build new houses that are very efficient.  So what does “green candidate” mean?  For one, I am an American, which makes me pretty darn un-green to begin with (2% of the population, 25% of the energy consumption).  For two, I own two gasoline powered automobiles that do not get very good gas mileage.  Two cars, one person?  Not very green.  I could say that I am green for the very small amount of mileage that goes onto those two vehicles, and that I ride my bike everywhere I go in Town, and that makes me “green.”  But really?…  I built myself a new house.  It is too big simply for my needs, indeed it is extravagant, my dream house if you will.  I increased my living space/footprint by two.  Does it make me “green” that the energy usage will actually go down because it is much more efficient, utilizes solar power to pre-heat the water, etc?  So what does this question really mean?

I can say that I want to be more green than the Town government will allow.  I used to live in the old Veltri Homestead at 323 White Rock Avenue.  The house was built in 1893, and while I have done as much as I can to insulate the place, the Town stops me from going as far towards “greening” the house as I would like.  That house has its original windows, wavy glass and all, and while that is cool (downright cold in the winter), and a neat historic element, they have an R factor of -543, or a very small improvement over multiple gaping holes in the wall.  Over the years, I have asked the Town again and again to replace them with new windows that would look the same, but have some insulative value.  Every time, I have been denied, discouraged, and downright slammed for wanting to destroy a historic jewel.  Ah, the joys of living in a contributing historic structure in the historic district!  I have tried every possible “option” the Town has recommended, storm windows, insulating blinds, blah, blah, blah.  Nothing works as well as new, energy efficient windows would.   On a windy day, the insulating shades will “blow in the wind” even though the windows are closed, kind of defeats the purpose of having insulated window coverings.  In the end, we plastic seal the windows from the inside in the winter, burn way too much fracking natural gas to get the house habitable, and then I would wear three of four layers inside my house pretty much November through February to stay warm, if not comfortable.  Because I refused to burn enough gas to make the house truly comfortable, thereby not wasting so much natural gas, does that make me “green” even though I basically have 72+ square feet of holes in my walls?  

There are a lot of things we can do to be more green as a community and individually, and there are steps that we need to take.  I believe that the Town needs to be more “green” in meaningful ways.  It is important to safeguard our historic district, but not at the expense of common sense solutions that improve our energy efficiency, thereby lessening our already significant carbon footprint.  We need to do what is more ecologically sound, and care less about being historically accurate.  I mean really, if it looks the same from a distance does it really matter that up close the glass in that house is not wavy?  We need to find a balance between being ecologically sensitive, a destination resort, public safety, and historic preservation.  In my mind, we have not yet found that balance, although we try.  

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