No debate: Northampton’s Ward 7 candidates decry climate change

  • Penny Geis, candidate for Northampton Ward 7 city councilor, speaks with the Gazette on Wednesday, April 10, 2019.

  • Hanuman Goleman, candidate for Ward 7 of Northampton's City Council, April 30, 2019. Staff Photo/Andy Castillo

  • Rachel Maiore Staff Photo

Staff Writer
Published: 9/13/2019 12:08:02 AM
Modified: 9/13/2019 12:07:52 AM

NORTHAMPTON — All three candidates running for the Ward 7 City Council seat affirmed one basic imperative Thursday night: There is a climate emergency.

“I feel strongly that we have to reverse course,” said Hanuman Goleman. “Greed has been far too much of a driver of our economy.”

 “If we don’t get climate right, the rest don’t matter much,” said Penny Geis. “Climate is the reason I’m running.”

“I will be thrilled to be part of planning a resilient future for Northampton,” said Rachel Maiore. “One that serves as a model for other municipalities around climate initiatives.”

The three candidates are seeking to replace Ward 7 City Councilor Alisa Klein, who is not running for reelection in the Leeds-based ward. Geis is a retired county government administrator, while Maiore is the director of the Pioneer Valley Women's March and Goleman owns a publishing company.

The candidates answered the climate and environment-focused questions at a forum put on by the activist organization Climate Action Now and co-sponsored by a number of other organizations, including the Northampton Area League of Women Voters, the Sojourner Truth School for Social Change Leadership and Co-op Power.

The three candidates will face off in a Sept. 17 preliminary election in the ward. The top two finishers in the preliminary will make it to the ballot for the Nov. 5 municipal election. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. this coming Tuesday.

No points of disagreement arose at the forum, with all candidates speaking to the importance of engaging with initiatives to combat climate change and conserve the environment.

Geis championed municipal electricity aggregation, and also brought up the use of microturbines in water and sewer lines. She also said she helped to plant trees at the first Earth Day, in 1970.

Maiore said she would like to see the city adopt an additional carbon reduction goal besides its goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“Something to keep us on track,” she said.

She also suggested using the community lay health workers model as an inspiration for dealing with environmental issues.

Goleman said knowledge about climate change issues wasn’t a forte of his.

“If I were elected, I would really rely on groups like the ones involved in this meeting,” he said. “I would actively seek input.”

On the subject of making state insulation and weatherization programs more affordable, both Maiore and Goleman said the issue is personal for them.

“My family lives paycheck to paycheck in an old home and our choices are very limited,” Maiore said.

His home needs weatherization, Goleman said, but they don’t have the funds for it.

“So sometimes we’re cold,” he said.

Geis said she was able to install a heat pump at no money upfront through the HeatSmart program.

“I didn’t have to pay anything until the project was done,” she said.

Alex Jarrett, a worker-owner at Pedal People who is challenging Ward 5 City Councilor David Murphy for his seat, was also at the forum, where he answered questions before the portion of the event with the Ward 7 candidates.

Jarrett expressed his belief that the effects of climate change on the rest of the world can’t be divorced from local impacts.

“We can’t separate ourselves from our connection to the world,” he said.

Jarrett also expressed support for creating a renewable energy curriculum at local vocational schools.

While Murphy was not able to make the event, he did have a statement read expressing his regret for not being able to make it and pointing to the work done to combat climate change in the city during his time serving as a councilor, including the city’s encouragement of infill development.

“It is my hope that the new Northampton City Council will continue what has been a great council track record of encouraging conservation and supporting responsible energy policy,” he said.

Climate Action Now also sponsored a climate change forum on Sept. 11 with Michael Quinlan Jr., the manager of fine wine at Table & Vine, and Andrew Smith, director of conservation and sustainability for the city of Holyoke, both of whom are running for the Ward 1 City Council seat. Also at that forum was John Thorpe, a probation officer running unopposed for Ward 4 councilor; and Karen Foster, the executive director of All Out Adventures, who is running unopposed in Ward 2.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.




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