Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts on Climate Change, and how I can contribute if elected to the Ketchum City Council. To me, Climate Change is a component of Sustainability and our individual and collective responsibility for stewardship of the Earth.
One of the reasons I am running is that this Council has been together for six years and has accomplished nothing for climate change.
I am an economist by training and an investment analyst by profession. As you evaluate my answers, my overall approach is guided by the obvious first step for evaluating and prioritizing decisions to mitigate climate impact: put a price on carbon (and methane) and use that in assessing every issue in front of the Council. Without this objective metric, we cannot make reasoned decisions on how to allocate our scarce resources.
1. Blaine County Sustainability Manager, Andrew Mentzer, is working with stakeholders to create a climate action plan for the valley. How would you recommend the use of city resources to support the implementation of the plan?
Having not seen the plan referenced in this question, I cannot evaluate it or speak specifically in how to implement it. My general approach would be to prioritize measures that eliminate the most carbon at the least cost to maximize carbon mitigation.
As a general matter, I think each city in the WRV should contribute to Sustainability in proportion to their impact on the environment and their means. Ketchum is one of the “dirtiest” communities in Idaho, as its economy is “all-in” on tourism, which is one of the dirtiest industries. There is no such thing as “sustainable tourism.” It is all dirty—the only question is how dirty. The same is true for our number two industry, construction.
One-third of the electricity we consume in Idaho comes from coal. Getting coal out of our electricity mix has to be a top priority. One of the things I would like Mr. Mentzer to lead is an evaluation of bringing a microgrid to the WRV to get us off coal. While land is at a premium, it would be easy to install solar at in the airport safety zone (Eccles Ranch).In the meantime, every city in the County should have a green electricity plan with IPC.
One of the key resources of the Council is the posts they hold in other organizations as members of the Council.
-- The Mayor of Ketchum sits on the SVASB and, given how that body operates, has 100% control over how LOT taxes are spent by SVASB.
— The Mayor also sits on the board of Mountain Rides.
— Council Member Breen sits on the Fly Sun Valley Alliance.
— Council Member Hamilton sits on the board of Ketchum Community Development Corporation (KCDC).
— Breen and Slanetz sit on KURA.
In not one of those capacities have they ever reported to the Council on what is going on regarding Sustainability or anything else. Not once.
Each of these entities has a tremendous role in Sustainability. As representatives of Ketchum, our Mayor and Councillors should be reporting back to the Council, on the public record, on what each entity is doing to promote Sustainability. There should be a regular calendar of reporting requirements.
Mountain Rides is a critical part of reducing our carbon footprint. This is not in its mandate. Ketchum, as the largest funder of Mountain Rides needs to change that. Electric buses are nice, but they are even better if their routes are optimized to replace cars. Mr. Mentzer should be on the board of Mountain Rides.
At the County level, Ketchum is the largest financial contributor the the Sustainability Manager Role. The previous incumbent wrote a plan that will be superceded (it appears to have been removed from the County website). That is good news, as the methodology for GHG assesment by the previous plan was deeply flawed. It missed several significant sources of emissions (one of which was construction activity).
At the County level, we should be pushing businesses to de-carbonize, and I hope that become part of the new plan. For example, delivery companies should be using EVs. We should work with architects to design low-carbon LEED-certified buildings, and with contractors to employ low-carbon constructions methods.
One of the flaws in both Ketchum’s Plan and the County Plan is that emissions from the Airport are excluded. The aiport's own plan is…performative. Given that the airport is the single individual contributor of carbon in the WRV, any reasonable plan must include mitigating carbon from air traffic to be credible. SUN is owned jointly by Hailey and the County. Mr. Mentzer should have observer rights on the airport governing board. Given that the aiport is in the business of maximizing flights, and therefore maximizing carbon, bringing in line will require strict governance from Hailey and the County.
In my answer to the next question, I address how the Ketchum City Council can move from planning to implementation to accountability for its own Sustainability program.
2. Given that decisions you make today have climate ramifications for decades to come, what process does the city have, or what process should be put in place, to properly evaluate and prioritize decisions to mitigate climate impact?
By the time the new City Council is sworn in, Ketchum will have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on sustainability plans over the past six years, with nothing to show for it. Not one thing. The process has been performative over substantive.
Ketchum has no process to evaluate or prioritize any decisions, including those around Sustainability. for the past six years, cost/benefit analyses have been few and far between. That is why I am running. As I stated in my Mountain Express ad 10/18 and today, there is a well-established way to run a city, that, if adopted, would make Ketchum effective in achieving the outcomes desired by its citizenry.
It starts with the Comprehensive Plan and goes to implementation plans for each area of City responsibility. The Sustainability Plan is a key component, but Sustainability needs to be build into every one of the City’s plans (housing, transportation, etc.), using carbon as a metric. Then at every City Council meeting, there should be a progress report on one or more of the plans. This sounds obvious, yet in the past three years that I have gone to meetings, it has not happened a single time.
Every plan needs to have specific goals and time frames, with each task assigned to an individual to lead. Each plan would then be assigned to a specific City Council Member to own the responsibilty for accomplishing on behalf of the community. Then each plan has a reporting cycle to the Council by that Councilmember.
Ketchum has a Sustainability Plan that was adopted in 2020. To date, as confirmed by Councillor Hamilton in a recent Council meeting, there has been zero progress made on the plan. Indeed, as far as I can recall, there has never been a report out of the group to the Council. There is no public record of it ever meeting (although it must have). Here is a link to the plan: https://www.ketchumidaho.org/sites/default/files/fileattachments/boards_amp_commissions/page/34457/ketchum_sustainability_action_plan_2020_final.pdf
Many of these items are easy to accomplish—the lack of progress is inexcusable.
As an example of the dysfunction: at their meeting on 10/16, the Council deliberated for 45min on purchasing an EV versus a gas pickup for the Water department . And then they decided they needed more information before making a decision. This very same Council that voted unanimously that every new city vehicle should be an EV… three years ago. It’s in the Sustainability Plan they adopted.
Given that biggest economic activity regulated by the Council is construction, there are many things we can do in that arena.
— change the building code to require LEED certification of all new construction
— require heat pumps for new construction
— require drought resistant landscaping and minimize turf
— require new homes to install energy saving devices; especially important for second homes. Provide incentives for retrofitting with smart thermostats.
— minimize the use of natural gas in new construction (e.g., stoves)
— require demolitions to be offered to companies that recycle building materials
— require P&Z staff memos to provide an assessment of the GHG impact of each new construction project
Require hotels and AirBNB management companies that operate in Ketchum to implement eco-friendly practices that conserve water and minimize GHG.
Pursue an evaluation of Ketchum for a micro-grid if the larger County community won't. This could go beyond solar to include geothermal—much of Ketchum used to be heated by geothermal and ten home still are.
Implement a clean electricity program with IPC for the entire city while we look at a microgrid.
Use whatever influence we have with the Forest Service to require Sun Valley Co to purchase green energy for Baldy and to employ the least GHG emitting technologies for running the ski operation.
Implement curbside cardboard collection. The current Council rejected this for political reasons, as it will slightly raise collection rates. It would increase recylcing and reduce car trips to drop it off.
Change our contract with Mountain Rides to maximize its impact on getting people out of cars
— require it to use route optimization software
— implement direct airport routes and move the airport stop to the airport; time routes to match with flights
— evaluate pros/cons of EV bus service to Boise airport in peak seasons
Change the light at Main/SV Rd to reduce car idling at that intersection.
Change our Dark Skies ordinance to go beyond external lighting fixture to addressing total lumens.
Invest in workforce housing on the south end of Ketchum and in the Light Industrial zone to minimize housing impact and reduce commuting.
If it is not too late, stop the rebuild of the Water Treatment Plant and contract for a new one. New systems offer superior performance on smaller footprints at a lower cost than what Ketchum is pursuing. In particular, we could be capturing the methane from our waste water with a new system (as well as testing for health pathogens). Ths could be a source of revenue for the City, as it is for other cities. Right now we transport truckloads of sludge that are 97% water to Ohio Gulch for dumping. Like Hailey, we should have an onsite dewatering process that returns more water to the river and minimizes the number of truckloads we dump. We should also stop providing Sun Valley with free water for irrigation of its golf courses unless they adopt eco-safe maintenance practices. And stop providing free water to Weyakkin for its lawn watering.
Educate the public to insinkerate their organic waste—this puts it into the water treatment system where the methane from its decomposition can be captured (if we address this at the facility).
Materially increase water charges for volumes beyond basic human needs to better conserve water.
Stop taxing locals to promote tourism. Local taxes should go to mitigating the sustainability impact of tourism, not subsidizing it.
3. Is there anything else you want to tell your voters about how you would work to address climate change if elected?
I think it is important for CACWRV members to hear more than promises from candidates, and to examine at what they are doing absent politics to take care of the planet.
A big part of my life is working with the people who are most impacted by climate change, yet who have contributed the least to it. Whether I am elected or not, I will continue my work toward both global warming mitigation and advancing climate justice.
In my leadership role at BOMA.ngo, I led the organization into climate remediation by local tribes. Here is a link to what we are doing: https://boma.ngo/what-is-green-reap/
The impact is massive—more than I can ever accomplish on Ketchum City Council.
I am on the board of directors of Dragonfly Energy Holdings, a publicly traded manufacturer of lithium batteries. I used to work as a transportation analyst, and I introduced the company to a new market of providing batteries to heavy trucks to replace the dependence on diesel idling. It will save hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. We recently signed a contract to shift our supply chain from China to materials that have been recycled in the USA.
I am semi-retired, and have focused most of my retirement savings in impact investments. Much of that is in affordable housing, but also in sustainablity companies..
— Hempitecture, an Idaho-based producer of hempwool insulation.
— Dendra.io, an environmental remediation company that repairs the ravages of mining.
— Agroforestry Partners that introduces trees into row-cropping to improve soil quality and mitigate topsoil erosion. We just planted 22,000 American Chesnut trees in Kentucky.
— Preservation Ranch, a project in Southern California that will permanenty preserve over 13,000 acres of land for endangered wildlife.
— My family has a vineyard in Argentina. I am coverting it to become one of the first 100% organic vineyards in the country.
---I co-founded a small company in Vermont that does local recycling of coffee grounds as fuel pellets, as a cleaner alternative in a community that burns wood for heat.
Locally, I am a long-time supporter of the Wood River Land Trust and a supporter of and volunteer for the Wood River Trails Coalition. After the last election, I donated my excess campaign funds to the poop fairy at the Environmental Resource Center.
I recently completed a University of Colorado course on renewable energy, and I am certified as an ESG Competent board member. I am a Life Member of each of the Sierra Club, the Adirondack Mountain Club and the Appalachian Club. I am a member of the Adirondack Reserve, which has kept 7,000 acres forever wild.
I love Ketchum and will do everything I can to help make it a more sustainable community.
Whether I am elected or not. But I do hope you vote for me.