El Paso voters soundly reject Proposition K Climate Charter

El Paso voters have firmly rejected Proposition K, a measure aimed at incorporating climate change policies into the city’s charter. With almost 82% of voters opposing the Climate Charter, the outcome indicates strong opposition to the proposed changes.

Proposition K, a collection of climate policies comprising 2,500 words, made its way onto the ballot after environmental organizers gathered approximately 22,000 verified signatures on a petition last year. However, the measure faced fierce opposition and significant campaign spending from business groups, including the El Paso Chamber and the Consumer Energy Alliance. These groups collectively invested over $1 million in television and web advertisements, as well as campaign mailers, urging voters to reject the proposition. In contrast, supporters of the Climate Charter spent around $30,000 during the election.

Critics of the Climate Charter argued that the measure was overly vague and expansive, with an unclear impact on the local economy if passed. Throughout the campaign, opponents of Proposition K emphasized that the city should be allowed to continue on the path set when El Paso voters approved a bond proposition last November, allocating $5 million to establish an Office of Climate and Sustainability. This office will develop a citywide climate action plan by spring 2025.

Andrea Hutcins, president and CEO of the El Paso Chamber, stated that the campaign was not solely about climate issues. She emphasized the Chamber’s support for climate initiatives and its intention to assist the city in crafting its climate action plan. Moving forward, the focus will shift to collaborative efforts and productive work.

Supporters of Proposition K framed the Climate Charter as a vital tool in combatting climate change in the region. The proposed policies included the establishment of a climate department, tracking air pollution, and exploring the possibility of bringing El Paso Electric under city ownership, among other initiatives.

Even though the election outcome did not favor Proposition K, its proponents believe that the campaign highlighted the urgency of addressing climate change. According to the research group Climate Central, the average temperature in El Paso has risen by more than 5 degrees since 1970, the third-highest increase among US cities, trailing only Las Vegas and Reno in Nevada.

Ana Zueck Fuentes, campaign manager with Sunrise El Paso, expressed satisfaction with the platform the campaign provided to mobilize the community and build a strong movement for climate action. Fuentes acknowledged the delayed success but emphasized that the fight for climate action in El Paso and beyond will continue.

The campaign season leading up to the election witnessed significant spending and intense debates between Andrea Hutcins and members of Sunrise El Paso. Despite their differences, Hutcins expressed openness to working alongside Sunrise El Paso members on the city’s climate plan, acknowledging their shared commitment to the cause.

The Consumer Energy Alliance, funded by business advocacy groups and companies in the energy, oil, and gas industries, invested over $500,000 through its political action committee to defeat the Climate Charter. Matthew Gonzales, the Southwest Executive Director of the Consumer Energy Alliance, stated that the results demonstrated the majority’s belief that Proposition K was not the right path towards a clean energy future for the city.

The defeat of the Climate Charter coincided with the dominance of voters over the age of 65 during early voting. The composition of Election Day voters is expected to be known next week.

Throughout the campaign, opponents of Proposition K argued that the city should continue along the path set by the bond proposition approved last November. The establishment of the Office of Climate and Sustainability, headed by Nicole Alderete-Ferrini, aims to produce a climate action plan by spring 2025, outlining the city’s efforts to address climate change in the region.

Although the endorsement of Proposition K by former El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke and the local chapter of the National Nurses United union garnered some support in the final week, a majority of City Council representatives publicly opposed the Climate Charter. Other city leaders, including retiring El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles, encouraged voters to reject the measure.

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