Council is in a steady march toward big decisions in a couple of major areas.
First is the deliberation about investments in the Riverfront District. The city is moving forward to develop the infrastructure for this new neighborhood – including three new streets that are the focus of citizen votes. The Riverfront District is also planned to be the site of a new city plaza and a redeveloped steam plant. Council’s meeting was to review the available funds available for these projects; a modified development plan if the bids on the infrastructure prove too high; as well as consideration of a longer list of additional projects that council could chose to support with Urban Renewal funds. The next iteration of this discussion is coming soon – November 13th, with a follow up conversation on the steam plant in December.
In a similar vein, on Wednesday council reviewed the initial design for the renovation of the Park Blocks and Farmer’s Market. The City engaged 10,000 citizens in a range of events and media outreach to glean public priorities about the desired components of this public space. This conversation is related to, and a few steps ahead of, the discussion of a new city hall, which will share the block with the Farmers’ Market. Staff will return to council in December for a discussion of goals and key design characteristics for the new city hall; and in early 2020 with a more refined plan of the town square design with cost estimates.
Also this week, council received the second in a series of reports about the Climate Action Plan (CAP) 2.0. Last time, council reviewed the transportation strategy, with a focus on electric vehicles. At this meeting, council reviewed the impact of heating buildings on our GHG emissions, and the array of options for reducing those impacts. The choices were divided between existing buildings and new construction. For existing buildings, the choices include increased energy efficiency, conversion to electricity from gas, or efficiency requirements for multi-unit buildings. New construction choices bring council to consideration of regulating or prohibiting the extension of new gas infrastructure, among other options. Both new and old construction would benefit from a state-imposed cap and invest program to incentivize decarbonization if the state legislature can pass a bill in 2020. Council’s deliberation of the NW Natural franchise agreement could also include incentivizing decarbonization at the local level. Council will have another discussion of the franchise agreement in December; and will act on the CAP 2.0 in January.
Finally, council heard a success story. The commitment to installing high speed fiber in our downtown core has connected 82 buildings to cable that is half the price and 10 times faster than previously. Six companies are competing to provide internet service; and many of the 50 tech companies within blocks of Kesey Square made the decision to locate in our downtown because this fast connectivity is crucial to their businesses.
In the midst of all of this, council also voted 6-0 to support a resolution opposing any efforts to limit access to reproductive services in the state, particularly abortions. This resolution was instigated by the loss of abortion rights across the country as many states are passing legislation to curtail and criminalize reproductive health care. As a woman who entered college in Ohio in 1970 when abortion was legal in only NY and California, I can personally attest to the trauma and danger inflicted on young women who don’t have access to affordable and appropriate reproductive health care. I appreciate Councilor Syrett for bringing this motion forward and for council’s approval.