MVCC Action Fund 2020 Candidate Questionnaire

MVCC Action Fund’s community organizer, Lazo Gitchos, asked every candidate running for the Okanogan County Board of Commissioners and the contested 12th District State Representative seat to answer three questions related to addressing our climate crisis. Lazo graduated from Liberty Bell High School in 2019 and was a founding member of MVCC’s Liberty Bell Youth Climate Action Group. He is also currently enrolled as a student at Yale but is taking the semester off to work with the Action Fund.

See below to see each candidates’ responses. Candidate responses have not been edited. If you have further questions on any of these topics, we encourage you to reach out to the candidates directly. To stay engaged in MVCC Action Fund’s ongoing climate advocacy, sign up here.

Q: What concrete steps will you take to equitably address the climate crisis in our communities?

Katie Haven (D-County Commissioner, District 2): The first step is to be aware of vulnerable populations and to identify what their needs are. For example, our low-income residents, many of whom are children and older adults, are at higher risk for food insecurity and health impacts from our changing climate. The county should be supporting and working with the organizations that do the essential work of connecting people with the resources that will help them get their needs met. We should ensure that our investments in upgrading infrastructure benefit the people who need it most. And we need to make policy decisions that will ensure our hospitals and clinics can remain viable and available to people who have limited ability to travel. Our county cannot achieve these things on our own. I will cultivate positive relationships with our partners at the state and make our needs known and then seek out funding.

Andy Hover (R-County Commissioner, District 2): Work diligently on water and fire related issues that affect our communities.

Chris Branch (I-County Commissioner, District 1): Realistically, I will challenge the Board of County Commissioners (all three of us) with graphic facts related to climate change to force a pragmatic discussion on the issue. It takes at least two Commissioners to agree on what the science is telling us. Concrete steps to address any crisis requires agreement that one exists. The Community at large can help in that discussion.

Shauna Beeman (R-County Commissioner, District 1): Step one would be to properly address the carbon load on our forest floors. Working with all agencies involved to develop a sensible management plan is key to developing a plan to develop and keep our forests healthy and reduce the risk of wildfires. Working to attract clean business to our communities. Industry and job development are key but in doing so we must make sure we protect our Natural resources and cultural heritages. Develop a simple comprehensive resource plan that addresses water uses in our communities.

Adrianne Moore (D-State Representative, 12th District): I believe major polluters should pay for their carbon emissions. I believe businesses should be incentivized to fit their business model into the green energy economy, that includes requiring those who seek contracts for public infrastructure projects to commit to purchasing partnerships with environmentally responsible manufacturers. I believe working-class people in communities like mine who are uniquely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change should be centered and featured as champions of greenhouse gas emission practices that hold businesses accountable - communities like the12th district are well positioned to stride towards a green economy and build a better life for their families. We don't have oil fields, we don't mine for coal. Every dollar spent on fossil fuels in NCW is a dollar that is drained from our communities and funneled directly to billion-dollar corporations. Rural Washington powered itself through sheer grit and determination -- building hydroelectricity and paving the way for future industry. Our district leads in low-carbon energy production and we are well poised to lead the growth of clean energy. I would say "yes" to our District becoming leaders in the renewable energy market; job pipelines through community colleges and apprenticeships that feed working-class young people into our growing green economy; and policies that specifically transition our local transportation system away from fossil fuels and into renewable energy sources that are generated in our own backyard.

Keith Goehner (R-State Representative, 12th District): For our communities, forest health issues are the most tangible actions we can that will provide environmental benefits and help mitigate for climate change. Healthy forests create carbon sinks which directly addresses a key element of climate change.

Q: What specific action will you take to ensure that our most vulnerable communities, those that have been left behind in previous economic transitions, will be protected in the transition to clean energy?

Haven: Transitioning to clean energy is going to include some form of putting a price on carbon. The most realistic models propose that carbon producers will pay into a fund that will then be distributed to the neediest populations to help them offset the costs of increasing their energy efficiency. Things such as upgrading and weatherizing homes, shifting to more efficient and cleaner sources of heat and cooling, and moving towards a clean energy transportation system. I will make it a priority to identify the needs in our county and work to obtain the funding to achieve our goals. We should also see the transition as an opportunity for new jobs. I will work to establish training programs here in our county that will provide our residents with the skills to qualify them for good family wage jobs in the new clean energy economy.

Hover: Address the issues of heating and transportation costs to fixed income residents.

Branch: Communication with the state legislature through my work with the Washington State Association of Counties helps to address any shortfalls in legislation that fails to provide such protection. However, to accurately represent our County interests, there has to be facilitated community involvement and discussion with participation by County government to flesh out the needs of a community to be protected.

Beeman: Land Use planning impacts our daily lives in Okanogan County. What our towns look like and the success of our economy hinge on the future of water availability. We need to develop and put into place a plan that protects our delicate water basins. This plan would allow for flexibility of water usage while still allowing for land development. When properly executed this plan would be simple and relatively free of government regulation while allowing for growth and development in all communities and protecting our natural resources.

Moore: In my decade of work growing a social service organization in Okanogan County, and leading the Long Term Recovery effort established after the devastating Carlton Complex fire, I have seen firsthand the disproportionate impacts of climate change and pollution on low-income communities. We have an important opportunity to pivot towards a strong green economy that will benefit both working families and the environment. For example, to ensure climate change-responsive policies do not adversely affect workers who depend on carbon-intensive industries, I would strive to assess and manage the effects of increasing low-carbon jobs on current workers, including training and job placement in new industry; compensation for income lost as low-carbon industry is developed and workers transition into new placements; protection of essential benefits and continuation of safe working conditions; and thorough planning to develop economic diversification and identify new energy opportunities (including an assessment of workforce assets) across my district. If we do not prioritize the wellbeing of displaced workers throughout a transition to more environmentally responsible industries, we risk repeating the current economic dynamic in Washington State, in which large corporations externalize their true cost of business and hoard profits while working-class people struggle to make ends meet.

Goehner: We have been blessed to have clean hydropower in our communities which has been inexpensive compared to other sources which has been a great benefit. I have worked to recognize hydro as renewable and the providers should be recognized for their efforts in our communities. Protecting the cost of power is critical for economic development in vulnerable communities.

Q: Where does addressing climate change fall on your list of priorities for your upcoming term in office, and how will you measure your success in the area of addressing climate change?

Haven: It is a high priority. I believe that climate change is real, and that it should be a part of every policy discussion. The impacts are felt in almost every aspect of our lives- how we plan for growth and manage our resources, health care, infrastructure, food availability and even access to financial tools such as insurance and mortgages. In the recent past our county has spent time and effort to remove reference to climate change from official documents. I would reverse that trend. Ensuring that climate change is mentioned and considered in our official discussions and documents would be a success. As a true measurement of success is difficult without data, I would like to see our county start being more data-driven in our decision making, and with that in mind I would seek out opportunities to fund some initial data collection with a plan to review and update periodically so that we can measure our progress.

Hover: Addressing water and fire related issues in our communities has been and will continue to be a priority of mine.

Branch: Quite honestly, my interest in preparing for change is not determined by a list of priorities. The action of promoting change for the betterment of our future and preparing for inevitable change are the fundamental principles of my profession and work as a local government official, elected or otherwise. My success as a County Commissioner is measured by whether the elected officials I work with will actually say something like, "Climate change is happening and here is our strategy to change with it." Reaching that goal is a challenge that takes perseverance and patience.

Beeman: Addressing our climate change is important. Having clean air and water is a priority and something we all need to strive to protect. By cooperatively working with communities and agencies I know we can make a huge impact in our County. Our success would be measured by being able to provide water when needed, having healthy fish runs in our streams and rivers and having less wildfire damage.

Moore: Addressing climate change is at the very top of my priority list. Strategies that take on climate change head-on are the very same strategies that will fuel our NCW economy with new jobs; diminish the wildfires that constantly harm our economy and health; and protect the natural environment that is at the heart of this rural place we call home. I know that local climate change action is difficult and can't be done alone. I will rely on the partnerships and relationships we've intentionally built from day one of this campaign to build the kind of community support we need for bold and forward-thinking chance. If elected, I want to see the forward movement of policies that reduce fossil-fuel consumption in NCW; I want to see NCW have a seat at the table so that polices that address climate change benefit our rural people and our rural economy; I want to have a representative who, at last, doesn't take money from fossil fuel companies as they campaign.

Goehner: As a farmer who is dependent on a predictable environmental conditions, environmental stewardship has been a priority of mine. What specific actions we take must be measurable and quantifiable and have beneficial outcomes. We have made significant strides in emission reductions in developments of current activities but we should continue to pursue advancements that ensure that we are not creating more hardship to those that are the most vulnerable and achieve the desired results.