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Keeping in touch: Notes from the Mayor

Mayor Lucy VinisThis blog aims to nurture our conversation and understanding of the issues before us. Every week, I will provide a weekly update on the activities in the city government, my activities as mayor, and brief reflections on progress, opportunities and challenges. You are invited to respond with reactions, insights and questions. We do this work together.

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Feb 15

Weekly Recap- February 15, 2019

Posted on February 15, 2019 at 4:38 PM by Nicole Bernstein

Council is in the midst of a series of meetings related to climate change.  On January 30th they considered an array of options for reducing our dependence on fossil fuels through our franchise agreement with Northwest Natural Gas; and this week, held a joint session with EWEB to better understand the utility’s capacity and planning for increased conservation and use of renewable energy sources.

Of immediate concern is the relationship of EWEB’s electrical capacity with respect to possible reductions in our reliance on natural gas.  There are a couple of quick, salient points: first, the most effective “smart electrification” efforts focus on conservation and energy efficiency, transportation, and synchronization of supply and demand.  Utilities gage systems based on peak demand and for this reason, trying quickly to shift many homes from natural gas, for example, is not the most effective decarbonization strategy.  The peak demand at dinner time would double the electricity that EWEB currently provides at that time of day – and that doubled electricity could not currently be provided by renewable sources of power.

Second, EWEB’s general manager, Frank Lawson noted that the broadest impact will be “economy-wide” because of the way power is bought and sold regionally.  This is why EWEB supports the carbon pricing legislation under consideration in Salem. It is a “least cost” approach; recognizes the value of hydropower, promotes local control, and offers regional links in the west between Washington, Oregon and California to participate in the energy market.

EWEB plans also call for expansion of electric vehicles, including the possibility of shared electric vehicles to enable folks who can’t afford to buy an electric car to benefit from the clean technology. This relates to the city’s Transportation System Plan and our discussion coming on Monday in a joint meeting with the LTD board to review the “Moving Ahead” options to expand our transit system. 

On Wednesday, council devoted the entire session to a presentation and discussion of the Community Safety Revenue Committee’s report.  This committee of three city councilors and five community members was tasked by council to review and recommend a permanent revenue strategy to support expansion of our community safety – including more police, 911, community court, ambulance, homeless and youth services.  Their recommendation is a “hybrid” payroll tax that would be paid by both employers and employees.  This method is simple, sustainable, fairly low- impact on both businesses and employees, but capable of raising desired $22 million increase over a six-year phase-in period. Council will have a workshop on Saturday, February 23, to further discuss this report and recommendation, as well as to review progress on the other two focus areas from 2018’s workshop: housing and homelessness.

We continue to hear at the public forum and through email from many people concerned about5G small cell antennae installations.  There is deep concern among some about health hazards and demands that the city should stop these installations.  This is regulated by the FCC.  Any technology that complies with FCC rules can be installed – the city and EWEB are not empowered to block these installations.  We are ahead of many cities in our existing ordinance, passed in 1997, that regulates where antennae can be permitted. Further, the FCC has ruled that we can no longer charge fees for the use of our Right of Way for these installations.  The city has joined other cities in suing the FCC over this loss of local control and income.


Finally, a shout out to Churchill High School’s “Black Lives Matter” display.  I was invited by Kevin Summerfield to see this thoughtful, moving, and sadly enlightening exhibit including short bios of dozens of black Americans shot by police across the country in the past two decades.  It’s a timely call for recognizing the facts of discrimination and working to do better.