Wednesday, March 11, 2015

UPDATE: Humans not to blame for global warming, Utilities chair says

Posted By on Wed, Mar 11, 2015 at 10:51 AM

click to enlarge Merv Bennett, standing, proclaimed that global warming isn't caused by humans at a candidate forum. He chairs the city's Utilities Board, which could play a role in reducing the city's carbon footprint. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Merv Bennett, standing, proclaimed that global warming isn't caused by humans at a candidate forum. He chairs the city's Utilities Board, which could play a role in reducing the city's carbon footprint.

UPDATE: Longinos Gonzalez Jr. says he does believe in climate change but adds, "How much is attributable to people is unknown."

"I neither denied global warming nor deny humans contribute to it," he tells us via email. "I believe I said something like, indications are that we are warming and that humans have an impact. It is not known if the human contribution is a little or a lot."

This blog has been updated to show he is not among candidates who disavow global warming. Also, Vicki Tonkins said at the forum she does not believe in global warming.

—————-ORIGINAL POST WEDNESDAY, MARCH 11, 2015, 10:51 A.M.———————————————————————-

The chairman of the Colorado Springs Utilities board says global warming is "cyclical" over millions of years and not human-caused.

Merv Bennett, seeking his second term as an at-large representative on City Council in the April 7 election, expressed that archaic thought during a Council candidate forum Tuesday night at Stargazers Theater that drew about 50 to 60 people.
"I don't view it as man-caused right now," Bennett said in response to a question from Independent publisher John Weiss.

Bennett's response is important, because Springs Utilities, overseen by City Council sitting as the Utilities Board, is playing a role in either reducing the city's carbon footprint, or not.

Bennett wasn't alone. Other candidates who deny global warming or deny humans contribute to it were Al Loma, Longinos Gonzalez Jr., and Joe Woyte. 

Glenn Carlson, among others, however, said it's a problem that Colorado Springs should help address. "I absolutely believe in the signs of global warming," he said, adding that Colorado Springs should position itself to be "a hub" for figuring out how to combat climate change.

The city was, after all, the first municipal utility to embrace community solar gardens, though the Utilities Board hasn't been aggressive on that front more recently. It's also installing a new device on the downtown coal-burning Drake Power Plant that could prove to be a new generation of pollution-control equipment. And candidate Bill Murray has said he thinks the city should promote the technology to others, including China. (Utilities would get a cut of the action, should the new technology be sold to power providers.)

Nicholas Lee agreed with Carlson. "Global warming is a fact," he said.

Bennett sidestepped a question posed by Colorado Springs Business Journal reporter and columnist John Hazlehurst about whether the candidates felt they had the expertise to oversee Utilities.

"Decisions need to be made in the best interest of the city and citizens," Bennett said, adding he supports a review of Utilities governance. That's being pushed by certain developers and community leaders, who have proposed Utilities be run by a board appointed by the Council and mayor, or that some members be elected by voters, a concept that Council has resisted several times over the last dozen years.

In response to another question from Weiss, Bennett said he would refuse to vote in favor of placing a measure on the ballot regarding retail sales of recreational marijuana, though he would support a petition process. Which isn't saying much, considering a petition process wouldn't need any support from Council. If enough signatures are gathered on any petition, the measure must be referred to the ballot as long as all the i's are dotted and t's crossed.

Others who agreed with Bennett were Vicki Tonkins, Loma and Gonzalez.

But most disagreed. Murray said he would ask Councilor Jan Martin, who leaves office next month under term limits, to head a community panel to make a recommendation on the marijuana issue and that he supports the right of people to vote on it.

Said Lee, "City leadership has ignored the voice of the people," a reference to a majority of city residents voting in favor of Amendment 64, which legalized recreational marijuana.

Andrea Chalfin, with KRCC, asked when it would be appropriate to seek a tax increase for city services and infrastructure.

Carlson: "We're past that point."
Lee: "The time is now."
Woyte: "I'm not supportive of a new tax."
Gonzalez: "The city didn't spend $6 million it had for roads last year."
Murray: Didn't commit, saying he would "protect your funds" and use them for the purpose for which they were intended.
Tom Strand: "Tax has become a four-letter word." Not in favor of a tax hike until "we've looked at every other option."
Jariah Walker: "I don't want to raise taxes if we don't have to."

Larry Bagley, a candidate in District 2, spoke briefly by himself. His opponent, Kanda Calef, did not attend the forum.


Candidate forum:

The Council of Neighbors and Organizations will host a mayoral debate TONIGHT from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Centennial Hall, 200 S. Cascade Ave.

Amy Lathen, Marylou Makepeace and John Suthers have confirmed their participation. Joel Miller will participate if his work schedule allows. The candidates will address these issues, among others: How candidates will work with neighborhoods, CONO and regional governments to solve community challenges; code enforcement; transparency in government; maintenance of roads, bridges, stormwater systems and other infrastructure and how to fund these needs; and economic development.


Ballots in the city's all-mail election will be mailed starting Friday through March 23. On March 24, the City Clerk's Office will begin counting them.

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