Given the climate crisis, the next 10 years may turn out to be the most important decade of the 21st century. Massachusetts is setting ambitious goals and legally binding targets to drastically cut carbon emissions by 2030, on the way to zero net emissions by 2050 to avoid the worst effects of climate change

Cities and Towns must participate in this work to ensure success. This undertaking will bring not only challenges but also tremendous opportunities as they strive to transition away from fossil fuels in a just and fair way that benefits all residents.

Our Select Board will be expected to lead the work here in Needham.  In April, 2021, we asked the candidates running for the Select Board to answer a series of questions to help voters understand their perspective on these critical issues. With a Special Election on December 7th to fill the vacancy on the Select Board, Green Needham has reached out to the candidates asking them a similar series of questions to help voters understand their perspective on these critical issues.

Each question is followed by the answers as submitted by each candidate. We have also provided each candidate’s complete responses in separate PDFs for your reference.

1) Although climate change is a global issue, it has very real local impacts (e.g.: severe weather, air quality, and health). Where does our climate crisis rank for you on our Town’s priorities?  Please share your personal and and/or professional experiences working in this area, if any.

Karen Calton

I absolutely believe that the impact on the environment should always be taken into the strongest consideration in all decisions and policies that affect our infrastructure and public buildings, or development of any kind. As a mom, I am especially aware that we are the stewards of our land and water, and must safeguard our community for generations to come.

Throughout my life, I have been passionate about preserving and protecting our environment. From volunteering on conservation projects, to promoting awareness of steps we can take as individuals, households, or in business, I’ve tried to lead by example, and I will bring this same passion to the Select Board.

Kevin Keane

Climate change is at the top of my priorities! We need to do everything in our power to reduce greenhouse gas emissions which are the direct cause of climate change. In my personal life I have advocated for “green lawns” where we use no chemicals. The powerful single-stroke leaf blowers are a problem not just for their high, deafening decibels, but they are major polluters. The two-stroke engine doing a half hour of yard work creates the same amount of hydrocarbons as a Ford F150 driving 3900 miles. These tools are also doing a deep clean of a property which removes important nutrients that otherwise would be going back into the lawn, creating the need for those dangerous chemicals. I am a beekeeper and work to be sure we have the wildflowers and other vegetation needed for bees to pollinate our world, which includes our food supply. I am also a huge supporter of increasing and protecting green spaces in the Town as well as planting trees.

2 – The Commonwealth has adopted aggressive plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In March 2021, the next-generation roadmap for Massachusetts climate policy codified a roadmap for the Commonwealth to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, with 2030 and 2040 targets along the way.  In June, Green Needham requested that the Select Board commission the creation of a Climate Action Plan for the Town.  Over the summer, the creation of a Climate Action plan was added to the Board’s goals for this coming year.  As a new Select Board member, how will you prioritize and support this work?

Karen Calton

As a member of the Select Board, I will diligently work with my colleagues to see that we address the need for a Climate Action Plan, by seeking input from Green Needham and other organizations, so that we can be as proactive as possible in staying in step with the efforts and progress made on the state level to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Kevin Keane

I am thrilled that the Commonwealth has taken this very important and critical step to set an example for towns/cities to move to net zero emissions. Needham has to do its part to reach this goal, and the Climate Action Plan being developed will do just that. The plan will look at energy use in town by sector (heat/cooling, transportation, etc.) and find creative ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions here in Town. I would love to be a part of the team working on developing this plan, which I believe will include powering, heating and cooling any new municipal buildings using only electricity, and powering that electric power with solar and other renewable sources of energy where possible. My hope is that the plan will include a path forward for all Town vehicles to be all-electric. I realize that developing and implementing an effective Climate Action Plan will still be a challenge in Needham. The challenge will be both in allocating Town resources which will face the hurdle of a very fiscally conservative approach to resource allocation, but also in the need to overcome the inherent conflict between private interest and the greater good. That means that the Select Board must be a vocal and responsive advocate for the plan and the allocation of resources necessary to make it effective,

3 – Needham has an impressive capital plan for both renovating existing buildings and constructing new ones. Although the new Sunita Williams School has solar photovoltaic panels, those were added due to favorable construction costs – they were not incorporated into the initial design. Likewise, energy efficiency is part of the design for the new Public Safety buildings, but they are not designed to be “green buildings.”

A: Would you support requiring that solar PV be incorporated into the design for, and be installed on, all new municipal buildings where technically feasible?

Karen Calton

Without question, as a member of the Select Board, I would be open to reviewing this concept and applying where technically feasible. We should do all we can to incorporate green design and technology whenever possible.

Kevin Keane

Absolutely! From the outset of any new project, the goal and plan should be to build a net-zero energy building, or even net positive energy building if possible.This means that design plans need to start with that premise and with architects that are familiar with designing buildings that are net zero energy buildings. We should also push to update code for residential buildings.

The Select Board and  PPBC must collaborate to assure that climate imperatives in all Town building projects are designed at the onset.

B: Would you support a net zero energy use target for new municipal buildings?

Karen Calton

I would absolutely consider supporting this concept if it is determined by a diverse panel of experts commissioned to create a climate action plan, and is deemed technically feasible.

Kevin Keane

Again, absolutely! As I stated above, the goal for any new upcoming project should be for it to be built as a net zero energy building, and the initial design plans must reflect that. This is also possible when renovating buildings, with some changes to plans, and could become relevant for the Emery Grover project.  The Town already has experience with geothermal heating and cooling, and we should replicate its success.

4 – As the Town works to cut carbon emissions and help Needham residents adapt to the damaging effects of climate change, what can the Select Board do to ensure that the process is fair and benefits all residents regardless of income, race, or ethnicity?

Karen Calton

I think it is critical that the Select Board establish and empower oversight boards comprised of diverse participants that understand the implications of environmental policies on all residents of our community, and that they be proactive in seeking feedback from a cross section of our residents and those that have experience in dealing with similar environmental issues in other communities.

Kevin Keane

As with all public policy, we need to raise the questions of effect and equity whenever we design and implement requirements and public action. These questions need explicitly to be discussed in advance. We need to always be aware of the potential of unintended consequences, and that early adoption should benefit those that can benefit the most.

5 – Please address anything else you’d like to include or let voters know how your service as a Select Board member would further sustainable practices in the Town of Needham.

Karen Calton

As a wife and mother, there is nothing I care more about than making sure my family lives in a healthy environment. Whether it be ensuring clean air to breath, water to drink, or land that is free of toxins, I am committed to seeing that we have the best environment possible in which to thrive and leave to posterity.

Kevin Keane

Select Board members lead relatively visible lives. The public soon learns where you live and what your visible actions and values are. I live my values, and I believe sustainability has to be at the top of everyone’s list.

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