Park City candidates cloak themselves in hues of green
Three of the candidates in the Park City Council contest covered a series of environmental topics during a forum Tuesday night on Main Street, pledging stewardship as they outlined broad issues pivotal to City Hall’s wide-ranging green efforts.
The forum was held a week before Election Day and as a popular early-voting period continued. The event was held at O.P. Rockwell and moderated by Summit Community Power Works, a not-for-profit group with an important role as Park City attempts to win a national energy prize. The Alpine Collective, an organization dedicated to environmental issues, arranged the forum.
The three candidates who participated incumbent City Councilor Andy Beerman, developer Rory Murphy and Becca Gerber, who has held positions in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors indicated they would ensure City Hall continues to press environmental efforts. There appeared to be widespread agreement between them on the broad issues, but each of them at some points touched on individual details.
In one key moment, all three of them told the crowd they believe in climate change. They followed by agreeing that addressing climate change should be a City Hall priority. The crowd applauded after they answered the questions.
The event drew approximately 70 people to O.P. Rockwell, a nightclub on Main Street. It was the second candidate forum in as many nights following a well-attended event in Park Meadows on Monday evening. The two gatherings, taken together, could end up being crucial for the candidates as they were held close to Election Day and during the early voting window.
They could also prove important since the two events drew noticeably different crowds. The crowd at the O.P. Rockwell forum appeared to attract numerous people in their 20s and 30s while the event the day before, held at Park Meadows Country Club, was attended by an older set.
The other three candidates Nann Worel, Hope Melville and Dan Portwood were unable to attend.
The three who participated in the forum described their environmental backgrounds. Beerman, who with his wife is the principal owner and manager of the Treasure Mountain Inn, said he wants to create the most environmentally friendly hotel in the West. He also mentioned City Hall has made the environment a critical priority. Gerber said Park City is dependent on the environment, saying changes would be unimaginable in the city if a changing climate impacted snowfall. Murphy described an academic background in environmental studies and said, while an executive at United Park City Mines, one of his focuses was the cleanup of Park City’s silver-mining legacy.
The moderator, Summit Community Power Works project manager Mary Christa Smith, inquired about City Hall’s move toward declaring energy and emissions critical priorities. Two of the candidates mentioned the word "greenwashing" in their answers, a term used to describe a scenario when a government or other organization pledges to be environmentally friendly but then does not practice environmentalism.
Murphy said he was concerned about greenwashing without showing tangible results. He said the discussions will be ongoing. In the past, Beerman said, City Hall could have bordered on greenwashing, but the municipal government nowadays is pursuing environmentalism. Gerber, meanwhile, said the municipal government could move toward exclusively using renewable energy sources.
An audience member asked the candidates about the environmental issues dating from the days of the silver-mining industry that drove the Park City economy for decades before the ski industry took hold. Murphy said contaminated soils must be addressed even if there is just a small risk to health, adding that officials are not ignoring the issue. Beerman noted Park City is now left with the problem in the post-mining era. Gerber acknowledged she does not have expertise in the topic but said, perhaps, more testing is needed than previously thought.
In another highlight, an audience member asked a question about the prospects of creating a municipal utility to produce cleaner-burning energy in Park City. Beerman said Park City could consider acquiring a small utility company with another city. Murphy supported the idea of somehow creating a municipal utility but said doing so will be difficult. Gerber said Park City should "dream big."
A critic of a Park City workforce or otherwise affordable housing project in Old Town said he is considering an appeal of the Park City Planning Commission’s approval of the development.