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Guest Commentary: Sierra Club Questionnaire, Part 3 – Waste Management and Water Treatment

by Alan Pryor

Introduction – Every 2 years the Sierra Club Yolano Group prepares questionnaires for candidates in local races we deem to be seriously contested and/or where there are clear differences between the candidates on matters of interest to the public and/or our local Sierra Club members. We use questionnaires with written responses to allow the candidates to directly express their views and opinions in their own words. We report these in a series of articles on a range of environmentally-related topics.

This is Part 3 of the series in which we report candidates’ responses to a series of questions regarding waste management and water treatment in the City. The candidates responses are in alphabetical order based on their first name.


1st Question re: Proposed Commercial and Multi-Family Recycling and Food Waste Collection

Preamble: The City of Davis waste management plan also now requires mandatory commercial and multi-family segregated recycling and segregated food scrap collection but this City has yet to roll-out these mandatory programs on a widespread basis.

Question: Do you support these measures, why or why not, and how should the City go about rolling them out and enforcing them?

Colin Walsh

Yes, I support these programs with the caveat that onsite composting is the superior option. The City should start rolling them out as soon as possible.

Connor Gorman

I do support these measures since I believe that, while large companies are far more detrimental to the environment than individual consumers, it’s still possible for individuals to (collectively) make a significant impact on things like waste management through recycling and composting. I further believe that commercial facilities and apartment complexes should be required to provide conditions that give individuals a reasonable opportunity to take these types of actions. In terms of enforcement on commercial facilities and apartment complexes, I would favor the same type of plan that I outlined in my response to the previous question around first trying to collaborate and if that doesn’t work, imposing progressive fines.

Dillan Horton

As I noted in my previous response the city may have to rely on residents to spot lack of compliance given the number of properties in those categories. The city in conjunction with university partners must engage in a wide reaching awareness campaign on these requirements and solicit the engagement of the public in their critical role in this transition.

Josh Chapman

As I said in my previous answer, I am in favor of SB 1383, in particular the food waste reduction and rescue components. I really respect Yolo Food Banks efforts to implement those County wide. This is a great opportunity to increase environmental, economic and social sustainability to the most vulnerable members of our community. If elected I would promote massive, large-scale, educational campaigns to apartment owners and the residents to inform and educate them on plan and it’s benefits to the community. This outreach would be followed by followed by enforcement measures that act as a catalyst to change behavior.

Larry Guenther

I support these measures, but enforcement at the individual level is difficult. I believe a program must be easy to comply with or it will not be robustly effective. An efficient way to sort all solid waste at a transfer station seems to me the most likely route to full compliance. Some of the increased cost of this approach will be offset by improved ability to recycle and reduction of the mass required to go into the landfill. Savings will also be realized by having one type of solid waste pickup vehicle. Given that compliance is not 100%, the material is currently sorted anyway. Recology has brought San Francisco to zero-net waste (according to them). Making policy is much easier than enforcement. Enforcement should always be a major consideration of policy implementation.

Lucas Frerichs

Yes, I support commercial and multi-family apartment recycling and food scrap collection. We need to work with our waste hauler partner, Recology, and the commercial businesses and apartment owners to get the ball rolling and work on enforcement. Due to the COVID pandemic, we are also seeing a MASSIVE increase in single use plastics, which is why a statewide policy is needed to reduce the amounts and usage of single use plastics.

Kelsey Fortune

I support the proper disposal for waste to limit the amount we contribute to landfills as well as maximizing the amount recyclable material. As a renter living in an apartment complex, I am happy that we have access to compost in addition to sorted recycling. As with the previous question, I believe that the best strategy the city can implement is encouragement campaigns. Second would be to issue warnings for noncompliance followed by monthly fines.

Rochelle Swanson

I support the measures. However, roll out and enforcement needs to be assessed after the next budget cycle to determine the number of users, costs of the programs and impact on the multi-family units and commercial users. In the current economic climate, staffing levels to roll out and enforce such a program will need to measured against resources.

Will Arnold

I support our waste management plan. I believe it contains important actions toward diverting as much as possible away from landfills. It will be easier to carry out if we have the receiving infrastructure in place and I understand a new analysis is underway. The County WAC is looking at a program, and the City/UCD looking at alternatives as well.


2nd Question: Recyclable or Compostable Take-out & In-Restaurant Food and Drink Containers

Preamble: Davis has adopted a Zero Waste Resolution striving to achieve zero waste by 2025. As part of this program, all food service industry tableware and drink containers must be reusable, recyclable or compostable including a ban on all Styrofoam containers. All waste must also be segregated by organics, recyclable, or landfill but very few fast food or restaurants are currently doing so.

Question: What should the City do to enforce this Ordinance?

Colin Walsh

First, I would like to see the ordinances strengthened for a total ban on non-compostable plastic straws and other single-use non-compostabe tableware in the food service industries in Davis in the City. There are inexpensive biodegradable alternatives, some of which are indistinguishable from plastic straws. I would also advocate for the ordinance to be updated to eliminate anything but compostable take-out containers in other businesses such as grocery stores. “Reusable” containers are more often than not treated as single use containers, and with uncertainties in the recycling market, it is clear compostable is the better option. Before new enforcement was implemented, I would want to see a new outreach campaign both to the restaurants and residents of Davis. This would include requirements for posting a visual information graphic at every restaurant point of sale. This graphic would include a number to report noncompliance to the city. Businesses that comply could also be given a certification from the city verifying compliance so patrons would know before entering a business or ordering online (like a window decal.) I would like to see a citizen-based task force follow up on complaints and check for compliance. This group could work through our Natural Resource Commission, and much like the tree commission oversees fines for improper tree removal either the NRC or a waste subcommittee could oversee fine application to help enforce the ordinance.

Connor Gorman

Collaboration should always be tried before enforcement. The City should engage with the restaurants that aren’t complying to try and determine why that is and if there’s any reasonable ways the City can help facilitate this process. However, if this doesn’t work then the City should implement progressive fines on restaurants that violate this ordinance and these fines should be used to either help fund environmental measures at the City level and/or help small businesses in Davis. Note that here “progressive” refers to two different aspects of these fines. First, these fines should increase with successive failures to comply. And secondly, they should be higher for more profitable restaurants both because these restaurants should generally find it easier to comply and because fines don’t work as an incentive when they’re too low as a percentage of profits (at which point they just become another, fairly minimal, cost of doing business).

Dillan Horton

Due to the large amount of Davis business this could apply to and limits of city staffing I can’t imagine a compliance inspector visiting every restaurant to check for violations. I think, as with much of environmental law, we’ll have to rely on astute observers in the public to spot businesses that are struggling to get on board. This resident can report this to the city, who can reach out, and if necessary could apply a penalty to those businesses unwilling to get on board.

Josh Chapman

I absolutely support the zero-waste resolution and I would work with fellow city council members to come up with a plan that would direct city staff to enforce the ordinance. If the enforcement measures are unsuccessful than the city should follow up with citations. Education around this with the business community would be critical and I would dramatically ramp up educational outreach to businesses and consumers via the Davis Downtown Business Association and the Chamber of Commerce. I am in favor of the rapid implementation of SB 1383 (Short-Lived Climate Pollutants) and would work with our community and commissions to implement this in advance of the state mandates.

Larry Guenther

(1) Work with county health inspectors to require enforcement as part of routine health inspections. This may require getting this passed county wide, but it seems the time is ripe to move this concept to the regional level. (2) Create a community task force to work with food service businesses to make this program easy and inexpensive to comply with, similar to the county household hazardous waste program. 3. Work with business to determine the real barriers to compliance and address those barriers. In my experience, compliance is much more universal if the program is easy and inexpensive on the part of the people required to comply with it.

Lucas Frerichs

We need to do a communitywide education campaign around the need to reduce our waste, and why some of these materials, such as Styrofoam are bad and banned. We also need to give city staff the tools necessary to enforce the Styrofoam ban ordinance.

Kelsey Fortune

I would first suggest encouragement campaigns. The best thing the city can do is provide free positive advertising for those businesses that comply. The public is supportive of these initiatives, and I believe that they will choose to support businesses in compliance. Second, I would issue a warning to any noncompliant businesses. Warning businesses that significant fines are coming will provide additional incentive to comply with this ordinance. Finally, I would resort to monthly fines on businesses that continue to remain noncompliant.

Rochelle Swanson

The City should reach out to all restaurants and ascertain whether they have the needed receptacles and programs to comply. Considering the economic realities of the pandemic, a transition plan from non-compliance to compliance can be put together with the assistance of Natural Resources Commission, Davis Chamber of Commerice and staff. Steps should be taken to provide the necessary segregated receptacles by the city’s waste removal and recycling company (Recology).

Will Arnold

I support our move to recyclable and compostable food and drink containers. I believe we ought to work with county to help ease disposal of that material. I also recognize that we are limited in our enforcement capacity and therefore must create more incentives for businesses, allowing market forces to lead them.


3rd Question re: Fluoridation of Municipal Water

Preamble: The Yolo County Health Council has continued calls for mandatory system-wide fluoridation of our municipal water supply as a dental decay preventative measure. The Davis City Council rejected this 6 years ago.

Questions: Do you support or oppose municipal water fluoridation in Davis and why or why not?

Colin Walsh

I oppose fluoridation of our water supply. There are many options to add fluoride through toothpaste and mouthwash products if households feel they need fluoride to prevent tooth decay. This gives people choice about fluoridation. Further, new information has surfaced in recent years as reported in numerous repuatble scientific journals that excess fluoride in drinking water and other ingested sources adversely affects fetal brain development resulting in later diminished IQ scores in young children. There are other epidemiological studies indicating other impacts of fluoride on the brain and brain functuions. Until these impacts are fully understood, the precautionary principle demands we chart a very conservative course when imposing mandatory fluoridation of municipal water. Such an action would also impose a substantial hardship on low-income populations who choose not to ingest fluoridated municipal water forcing them to purchase bottled water with the economic and adverse environmental impacts that brings.

Connor Gorman

I believe the health benefits of fluoridation outweigh any potential risks and that Davis would be able to monitor and safely implement a fluoridation program if the City were to go forward with such a program. If this issue came up again, I would certainly take community concerns into account and would consider different options but I am generally favorable toward this type of initiative.

Dillan Horton

Yes I do support the addition of fluoride into the Davis water system as other nearby communities have done to promote better dental health.

Josh Chapman

I really struggle with this one. What we are being asked to do is weigh environmental sustainability against social sustainability and these are issues that impact our most vulnerable neighbors. I really respect efforts to reduce fluoride in water via the distribution of free dental supplies at community based locations such as STEAC and the Yolo Food Bank but in my opinion we need to do more. There are barriers to accessing this these services therefore, we have many community members who are not receiving proper oral care which leads to many more health issues. If I am elected to council and this item comes before the council again, I would rely on local experts to and doctors to help guide my decision making.

Larry Guenther

I support fluoridation of the Davis Municipal water system. I do not know of any health organization that opposes fluoridation of water. I have seen no evidence of health risks to fluoridation of water. It is inexpensive. The argument that people should have a choice of drinking fluoridated water or not is, in my opinion, outweighed by the positive benefits to the entire community of fluoridated water. The CDC named “community water fluoridation as 1 of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.”

Lucas Frerichs

I was on the City Council in 2014, and I voted to oppose municipal water fluoridation. I opposed it for several reasons. I felt that it a type of bait and switch situation…in that the Woodland Davis Clean Water project was sold all along to the citizens as bringing clean, reliable water to our communities, and then, in the eleventh hour, an attempt was made to approve fluoridation with little public discussion. There had been no public discussion/discourse of fluoridation in the lead up to the approval of the project. I personally support topical fluoridation, and know it can be delivered quite effectively via fluoride toothpaste, etc. I do not believe we need to have fluoride in the water supply, where most of our water usage goes to purposes other than being applied to our teeth. I have also supported efforts of the Davis Oral Health Project in receiving funding via the city’s CDBG process. These grant dollars purchase oral hygiene kits which are then distributed to individuals most in need of dental care/teeth fluoridation.

Kelsey Fortune

My understanding is that recent research has shown that fluoride has unintended consequences long term that are not worth the reported dental benefits. I would want to get the opinions of other experts, the community, and learn what other cities are currently doing before deciding.. However, my current position is in opposition of fluoridation at my current level of knowledge.

Rochelle Swanson

Absent compelling scientific evidence that fluoridation in the water supply for all is warranted, I will continue to oppose fluoridation. I voted to oppose municipal fluoridation in the Davis water supply. I believe direct application of fluoride to those at risk is the most cost effective and socially responsible action to prevent dental carries. Many residents opposed the addition of fluoride in the overall water supply. The evidence was not compelling enough to convince me that putting fluoride in everyone’s glass, regardless of access to dental care, was reasonable when compared to the risks. Supporting fluoridation in the overall water supply when there was such strong opposition would have been short sighted and put the overall success of the water project at risk.

Will Arnold

I don’t think we should revisit the fluoride proposal. The citizens and the City have spoken on that issue. As a major supporter of the joint surface water project, I saw this issue as a distraction from the important goal of securing a sustainable supply of clean water. I do strongly support providing access to important dental care to those in need, and I have supported targeted dental healthcare improvements.


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