Mayoral candidates discuss environment

The mayoral forum began with a warning by moderator Buck Ryan: If you don't believe in global warming, you've wandered into the wrong room.

For an hour and a half Monday night, the four people running for Lexington's highest office responded to questions from people who have no doubt that the climate is changing, that the city needs to reduce its considerable carbon footprint and that recycling should be expanded throughout the region.

Ben Perry of Bluegrass Greenworks asked, for example, whether new city buildings, including a contemplated new government center, would meet the environmentally friendly LEED standards of the U.S. Green Building Council?

Mayor Jim Newberry said that he already had issued an order that would require most new buildings to meet those standards and that "I fully anticipate" a new city hall would be an LEED building.

Vice Mayor Jim Gray talked about the LEED buildings Gray Construction has built, including the visitor center at Bernheim Forest in Bullitt County, south of Louisville.

The city should use such standards in every building and encourage others to do so, Gray said.

Former Mayor Teresa Isaac and businessman Skip Horine threw a wrench into the question: They both oppose a new government center in tight economic times. But Isaac said she had a lot of other environmental accomplishments, and Horine said he might like LEED standards once they are revised for climate variations.

In general, Newberry talked about creating the city's first department of environmental quality and about new bike lanes and walking trails that have been built while he has been in office.

Isaac pointed to things that happened when she had the job, such as the smoking ban and converting standard traffic lights to more efficient LED bulbs.

Gray talked about retooling the old Wolf Wile's department store on Main Street for his company's headquarters and making better use of some of the bright University of Kentucky people who are working on sustainability issues around the world.

Horine stuck with his conservative principles that would restrict government involvement in some environmental matters but seemed enchanted with ideas such as a combination sink and toilet (wash your hands in the sink, then use that water to flush).

Howard Myers, a member of the Central Kentucky Council for Peace and Justice, which organized the forum, said afterward that he was a little disappointed with the candidates' vague answers to some of the questions.

"We hope to have a follow-up and go into more depth when there are just two candidates" after the May 18 primary, he said.