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Mayor candidates discuss Columbia climate concerns

Climate change, clean energy and city efforts was the focus of a Columbia mayoral candidate forum Thursday at the Boone County Government Center in Columbia.

ABC 17 News livestreamed the forum, which you can watch below:

During the mayoral candidate portion of the forum, the two challengers briefly got off-topic.

While answering a question about the possability of a city-school district partnership on public transit, former state Rep. Chris Kelly criticized incumbent Mayor Brian Treece, accusing him of bad lobbying practices.

“(Treece) lobbied against the (proposed city-school partnership) plan that the chamber of commerce and the city and the school district were working on to make precisely that happen,” Kelly said.

He added that Treece’s lobbying firm worked with Preferred Family Healthcare, which is a non-profit Kelly said is currently under investigation for medical fraud.

Treece denied any wrongdoing and said his firm parted with the group after allegations of fraud surfaced in Arkansas. Treece noted that the group was never accused of illegal activity in Missouri and attacked Kelly for his previous history of lobbying for Ameren while working for the city.

“As an attorney, and a judge and an officer of the court, you have an obligation to tell the truth,” Treece said. “I think this is more about your integrity than it is mine.”

After the exchange, the moderator reeled in the two candidates to keep the conversation on the topic of renewable energy.

“This election comes at a critical time, with dire warnings continuing to pile up regarding the urgency of addressing the climate crisis,” Mark Haim, Director of Peaceworks and moderator of the forum, said in a news release. “It is essential for voters to know where the candidates stand on … climate and energy concerns.”

Della Streaty-Wilhoit and Blake Willoughby have committed to participate, according to Haim. Jay Atkins is out of town, and will not be in attendance. Haim said Atkins opted not to send a surrogate to read his responses, and instead submitted a statement that will be read at the forum.

Questions were sent to the candidates ahead of Thursday’s forum.

Streaty-Wilhoit, Willoughby and Atkins are contending for two open spots on the CPS board.

“We hope that those who are elected on April 2 will be well versed in the challenges and opportunities facing us and will be ready to take the steps necessary to move Columbia forward to a cleaner, greener and more prosperous future,” said Carolyn Amparan, chair of the local Sierra Club, in the news release.

The Columbia City Council has committed to enhancing the city’s renewable energy sources. This week the Water and Light advisory board reviewed a draft of the 2019 Renewable Energy Report.

The draft report finds that the city has, so far, met with mandates for energy supply, with 15.67% of city systems consisting of renewable energy sources.

“The renewable portfolio comes from wind (12.33%), landfill gas (3.11%) and solar (0.22%),” the report said. “The total amount exceeds the requirement for 2018 of 15% by 0.67%.”

Wind energy amounts increased significantly after the Columbia City Council signed a contract to receive energy from Crystal Lake III Wind Energy Center in Hancock County, Iowa.

Columbia is mandated to increase their supply of renewable energy regularly through 2028, according to an ordinance approved in 2004.

“According to the current standards, the city shall generate or purchase electricity generated from eligible renewable energy sources at the following levels: 2% of electric retail usage by December 31, 2007, 5% of electric retail usage by December 31, 2012; 15% of electric retail usage by December 31, 2017; 25% of electric retail usage by December 31, 2022, and 30% of electric retail usage by December 31, 2028,” the report said.

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