Sustainable Wellesley’s “Conversation with the Candidates” event on Monday at Wellesley Free Library gave those running for town-wide offices on March 7 a chance to share their views on environmental issues before an audience of interested community members, including a back row filled with students. Sustainable Wellesley is an all-volunteer non-profit focused on ways those in town can address climate change and related topics.
A total of 10 candidates for open positions at the Natural Resources Commission, Recreation Commission, School Committee, and Select Board each had 3 minutes to answer a few questions from Sustainable Wellesley. Most answered them and stuck to their time limit. Topics included everything from how the NRC can help reduce pesticide use in town to how School Committee can address transportation and electrification challenges. Chitchat before and after the podium comments included ice breakers like “So how’d your heat pump fair during the deep freeze?”
This was not an interactive forum, for the sake of conserving people’s time. If I’d had a chance to ask something I might have quizzed candidates on how they got to the library that night, having noticed not a single bicycle attached to the bike rack near the parking lot entrance (granted, this was a 7-9pm event, and I suspect at least a few nearby attendees walked). In fact, I joked about this with Select Board candidate Odessa Sanchez when I saw her upon arriving, and she had a very green answer: “I took a ride share.” I couldn’t deny having gotten there solo via gas guzzler myself.
I won’t get into each candidate’s comments here (visit Sustainable Wellesley’s site for candidates’ responses), but among the themes and ideas were:
- An appetite to protect Wellesley’s ample open space and expand sustainable transportation options as new housing initiatives bring more people to town
- Fostering a distributed nursery in which community members can contribute grown resources, such as milkweed plants, that can be used across town
- Teaching kids about the importance of the environment, but also about the government’s role in supporting or inhibiting change
- Finding ways to ensure school buildings won’t make kids or staff sick
- Viewing sustainability efforts through an environmental justice lens to ensure everyone can benefit
- Paying attention to sustainability efforts in other communities, but don’t assume that if something can’t get done elsewhere it can’t get done here
- Listening to community members before making big changes, such as building on underused lots in areas where lots of building has recently taken place.