Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Oberlin Sunrise Hub Hosts City Council Candidates Climate Forum

Abe Frato
10 out of the 11 candidates for City Council were present at a forum organized by Oberlin Sunrise.

On Monday, Oct. 30, members of Oberlin Sunrise organized a forum to discuss the City’s plans for climate action and environmental sustainability. 

The panel consisted of 10 of the 11 candidates currently running for City Council. The incumbents are Bryan Burgess; Ray English; Eboni A. Johnson, OC ’97; Michael J. McFarlin; and Elizabeth J. Meadows. The non-incumbent candidates are Frieda Fuchs; Libni López; Jessa New, OC ’01; Joseph L. Peek; and Joe Waltzer, OC ’98. Incumbent Kristen L. Peterson, OC ’72, was unable to attend.

The candidates answered questions regarding Oberlin’s current climate action plan and the candidates’ plans to create a sustainable infrastructure. 

The forum was held at the First Church in Oberlin and opened at 7 p.m. with brief statements from each candidate where they were able to introduce themselves and their hopes for the future of Oberlin. The forum was open to all members of the Oberlin community and featured a fair split of both community members and students. Sunrise’s Hub Coordinator, College second-year Lilly Dodson, expressed the organization’s goal of opening communication between students and the town. 

“The last kind of forum that they did was with the candidates and it was run by the League of Women Voters,” Dodson said. “I think it was mostly with the community and I wasn’t even aware the event was happening until after it happened. … We just thought it would be good to hold something else before the election happened just to bring students out to connect with the Council election.”

The Sunrise Movement is a 501(c)(4) environmental advocacy group. Sunrise’s four main principles are ending the climate crisis, creating union jobs, investing in racial and economic justice, and investment in the public sector. The Oberlin Student Hub advocates for climate justice at local and national levels. As of right now, the Hub’s registration under the national movement has expired. The group currently has plans to renew it. 

“We’re an environmental focused, climate justice focused organization,” College first-year and Oberlin Sunrise Movement Communications Leader Rhys Hals said. “I think covering more environmental focuses for the candidates and getting to know their platforms is definitely something that everyone is facing and thinking a lot about nowadays.”

Like many student-led organizations on campus, Sunrise lost momentum during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dodson shared her process for reviving the movement on campus this year. 

“When it stopped meeting, and the hub went away, I wanted to bring it back,” she said. “I held some general interest meetings to try to find people who would put together a leadership team. People came and were really interested in getting involved and helping out.” 

College fourth-year Ben Reider moderated the event and opened the conversation with the panel by asking what they think sustainability looks like in Oberlin. The panel discussed a range of topics including several long-standing issues and developments pertaining to housing and energy consumption. 

“I feel like we partially accomplished our goals,” Reider wrote to the Review. “We got to hear from the candidates and let them speak at length. …  However, on a policy basis, not much separates each candidate.” 

One of the main solutions candidates referred back to was Oberlin’s five-year Climate Action Plan. Released in 2019, the City of Oberlin plans to be completely carbon-neutral by 2030 and carbon-positive by 2050. The plan outlines solutions regarding composting, community workshops, and preserving undeveloped space.

Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and Biology John Petersen, OC ’88, commented on the event. 

“I think we have a City Council in Oberlin that’s already demonstrated substantial commitment to environmental sustainability and to addressing climate change in particular,” Petersen said. “I think if you look around Ohio, you will not find a community that has made more commitments or been earlier in making those commitments. I think the returning Councilmembers have all demonstrated that dedication. I think that most of the candidates who are running have also demonstrated that commitment.”

The City Council election will be held on Tuesday. Seven Councilmembers will be chosen out of the 11 candidates.

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