ASUAF hosts Prop. 2 debate

Erin McGroarty/ Sun Star Reporter
Oct. 11, 2011

At the Proposition 2 debate Oct. 3, 2011 in the Hess Rec Center, newly-appointed government relations director Josh Banks introduces the two debate participants and lays out the rules of the debate. Erin McGroarty/Sun Star

At the Proposition 2 debate Oct. 3, 2011 in the Hess Rec Center, newly-appointed government relations director Josh Banks introduces the two debate participants and lays out the rules of the debate. Erin McGroarty/Sun Star

Representative Tammie Wilson and Sylvia Schultz took the stage at the Hess Rec. Center Oct. 3 to debate 2011’s Proposition 2 Clean Air Initiative. Representative Wilson represented the anti-Proposition 2 campaign, while Schultz represented the pro-Proposition 2 campaign. The student government’s public relations committee, President Mari Freitag and newly-hired government relations director Josh Banks set up the debate.  The debate took place the day before Fairbanks voters rejected the proposition. 

Freitag introduced the two sides of the debate at 5p.m., and laid down the rules. Each debater had seven minutes for an introduction, five minutes for a rebuttal, and some time for a closing statement and questions from the audience.

“Really, we are just trying to get the information out there, and get UAF students involved in our borough elections, ” Banks said.

Schultz introduced the problem and spelled out exactly what the passing of Proposition 2 would have done to help that issue. Proposition 2 laid out plans to clean up the air around Fairbanks by removing unclean hydronic and coal heaters and replacing them with heaters that burned cleanly and cut down on emissions. Three thousand community members signed a petition to put the proposition on the ballot.

“This proposition would put a ban on heavy pollutants to begin with,” Schultz said, “Therefore, there would not be a later need for periodic burn bans to clear the air.”

The proposition also would have given citizens the opportunity to receive tax credits to change out their old stoves for cleaner ones. Schultz discussed the fact that 1,000 micrograms of unhealthy particulates have been found per cubic foot of air near Wood River Elementary, causing many lung conditions in the students as well as the teachers. In comparison, a “good” air rating have levels from 0 to 40 micrograms, and “moderate” is a reading between 41 and 80 micrograms. “Hazardous” ratings are measurements over 500 micrograms, according to a chart from the Fairbanks North Star Borough website.  This is an important issue because it has to do with the health of our community, Shultz said.

“I’m just a mom,” she said, hugging one of her young daughters, “I am involved in this campaign not as a previous member of the government, but as a community member working toward a healthier place for us to live in.”

Following Shultz’s introduction, Representative Wilson began by saying that Proposition A was only put into effect a year ago. Fairbanks should give Proposition A a chance to have an effect on air quality before trying to pass a new proposition, Wilson said. The initiative would work better if it were continued in a smaller, individual effort, Wilson said. Rather than putting an all-around ban on these unhealthy heaters, it would work better for volunteer teams to go door-to-door offering assistance in swapping out unclean heaters for new ones. Wilson disagreed with Proposition 2 because it would have targeted more than just the unclean hydronic burners. It would also disturb those who burn cleanly and rely on wood as a primary heat source, she said.

“Next thing you know, there will be the government coming in with wood cops and deciding how we should live day to day,” Wilson said during her rebuttal, “If you want more and bigger government, then by all means, vote for this proposition.”

Borough voters ultimately rejected Proposition 2. According to election results, 60.3 percent of voters were against the proposition. Voters who posted in the Fairbanks Daily News Miner’s election discussion feared that the proposition would put a blanket ban on an entire class of heaters, not simply the ones producing unhealthy air.

“UAF holds such a collection of young voices,” Banks said. “I think it’s really important that we see that the campus provided students with the information to allow those voiced to be heard.”

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