Opinion | Jessica Burley: Environmental goals top priorities | SummitDaily.com

Opinion | Jessica Burley: Environmental goals top priorities

Jessica Burley
Frisco Town Council candidate
Jessica Burley
Courtesy photo
  • Occupation: Sustainability coordinator for the town of Breckenridge
  • Years in Summit County: 10 
  • Family: Partner, Worth Parker; daughter age 2
  • Civic involvement: Northwest Colorado Council of Governments’ Water Quantity and Quality Committee, Colorado Communities for Climate Action, Mountain Towns 2030, Summit Climate Action Collaborative, Peak One Neighborhood HOA, Zero Waste Task Force, Town of Frisco Grants Committee.

Frisco is special because of our amazing environment, and we should strive to have a mutually beneficial relationship with it. Since being in office, I have helped lead the adoption of the Climate Action Plan, 100% renewable energy goals, multimodal community development, single-use bag fee program and sustainable building code. These are cutting-edge policies that set the foundation for a more sustainable, healthy and thriving community. We can no longer wait and see about the impacts of development on our small town, but rather we need to guide that development with smart decisions for Frisco’s future.  

Transition to net-zero

It’s time to act. We’ve done the modeling, we know the science, and we can get there. Transitioning to net-zero is scary because it’s venturing into the unknown, and it’s shifting our incentives, subsidies and policy direction away from business as usual and toward something that is perceived as being nebulous. But communities have transitioned through much more difficult times with great success. We don’t want to be victims of a shifting baseline where we forget the changes we’re already experiencing in our climate, ski seasons, runoff and summers. It’s time that we quit being a burden on our resources and design systems that work within the carrying capacity of Earth. It’s being done all over the world. Our visitors are beginning to expect it. Our state is rapidly becoming a leader. But it doesn’t have more impact than it does on our local residents. Striving to achieve net-zero will shift our paradigm, save resources and money in the long term and help make our community a better place to live, work and play. Why wouldn’t we strive for that?

Housing Helps program

This program has the potential to increase the housing pool for workforce housing through our existing housing stock at a much lower cost than building new. This will save on new build stress to our water and sanitation infrastructure, parking assets and congestion woes. It will help create a sense of community in neighborhoods that often sit vacant for a majority of the year. It will keep working families in Frisco. Currently, the town has appropriated a limited amount of funding to this program. However, it’s woefully inadequate for the size of the problem. I am prepared to fund this program more substantially because the return on investment is totally understated. A study that looked at the ROI for the Vail Indeed program showed a $2.6 million increase in household spending in town and over $100,000 in increased sales tax revenue, which was an ROI of 5%. For every 100 deed-restricted units, the study estimated it saves over 40,000 commuting hours for the workforce at a carbon pollution reduction of 845 metric tons. What does this mean? Communities are healthier and more vibrant and residents spend less time creating traffic problems when they live and work in town. 

Pay-as-you-throw trash program

Over 7,000 communities in the U.S. operate or have programs that incentivize a reduction in household waste and an increase in recycling rates. It’s called “pay as you throw.” Residents in Frisco already pay for other services based on how much they use. Think of your water or energy bill. The less you use, the less you pay. Price signals help achieve desired outcomes. So why do we still pay a flat fee for our trash no matter how much we generate? This leads to a lack of consideration for purchasing habits, consumption and waste generation. The single-use bag fee in Frisco was implemented in January, and I can’t tell you how many people now bring reusable bags to the store or simply don’t use bags at all. Has it totally solved the single-use bag problem? No. However, we are seeing behavior change. So what’s all the fuss about pay as you throw? It’s fear of the unknown. It’s fear of having to pay more for your service. Well, what if we told you that you have control over how much you pay? If you reduce your trash use through consumption decisions and through recycling, you will pay less than a neighbor who has the biggest and most obnoxious container available. Who doesn’t want to save money? Who doesn’t want their neighborhood to look better with smaller containers on the curb every pickup day? 

Jessica Burley is one of five candidates for three open seats on Frisco Town Council.

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