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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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Jul 23

July 23, 2022

Posted on July 23, 2022 at 2:14 PM by Sara McKinney

Council is rounding the corner on the last few meetings and decisions before our summer break – and as often happens, we are closing out with bang.  Staff are managing to support councilors in major decisions while also orchestrating the Riverfront Fan Festival for 10 days.  I am grateful to everyone for rising to the occasion and doing their best work when they are faced with so many demands.  

Council has moved forward a couple of important issues: first is a vote to direct the manager to prepare an ordinance banning the use and sale of fireworks citywide both as a fire prevention priority and to assure quality of life in neighborhoods.   Councilors expressed a desire for the City to hold public fireworks displays that would enable the community to celebrate safely together.

Second, Council approved a resolution to refer a General Obligation Bond to the November ballot to renew our on-going commitment to maintain our road system.  This fourth road bond will maintain the same tax rate as the current bond and is noteworthy because Council approved a tripling of the allocation dedicated to biking, pedestrian, and safety investments from $1 million annually to $3 million.

Third, Council voted unanimously to suspend our Sister City relationship with Irkutsk, Russia considering the continued war against Ukraine.  When a truce is declared and peace returns, we can reconsider this relationship and reopen the personal diplomacy and exchange fostered by this association.  Later this year, Council will also return with a broader conversation about our Sister City program overall.

On Wednesday, the 20th, and this coming Monday, the 25th, Council is considering two significant climate actions.  Wednesday’s work session reviewed a report by The Good Company discussing the pathway to decarbonize our existing buildings by 2045. On Monday, we’ll discuss potential code changes to require that new buildings be all electric.   I am not going to try to summarize this work here – The Good Company report is excellent reading that outlines the impact of our residential buildings and recommends key pathways.    Coming work sessions will provide more information on commercial and industrial buildings when The Good Company reports on those sectors is complete in the fall.  

I will say just a few things about my perspective on this work.  First, it is essential and urgent.  I heard a presentation on Friday by “Electrify Now” in which the presenter noted that what we are seeking is systemic change in our energy system, not behavioral change by the individual consumer.  We are not “taking away” natural gas.  We are looking for pathways that will support consumer choices about how you heat your house and water that naturally and gradually lead to investment in systems that respond to climate change rather than in choices that perpetuate the problem.  

That said, this is one place where your individual choices, when added collectively, will have a significant impact on our Greenhouse Gas Emissions.  Decarbonization for single family housing can happen naturally as current equipment needs to be replaced.  The Good Company emphasized that with respect to City policy, focusing on lower income single family homes, whether rental or owned, and mobile homes will have the greatest impact in terms energy efficiency, weatherization, and quality of life.  We are fortunate to have a strong partner in EWEB to further this work.

On Monday, we’ll review our options with respect to requiring electrification.  Again, this conversation will focus initially on residential construction.  In my mind this is straight-forward. The technology exists and is readily available and aligns with our housing priorities to allow more middle housing city-wide and double our housing supply downtown.  Both forms are more energy efficient than larger, free standing individual houses.

As I noted at the beginning, this has been a dizzying week of activity.  I am proud of the City’s glorious welcoming of the world for Oregon 22.   And the weather has certainly helped! On a personal level, I will also share that I tested positive for COVID on Monday, the 18th, and am working remotely and forced to share the excitement and success of OR 22 through TV coverage.  That said, I did not blog last week because I was fully involved with the track events and fan festival.  We have done our best as a city to welcome, celebrate and honor athletes, fans, and guests to our city, while also providing a joyous free outdoor extravaganza for everyone who lives here. I hope you have made the most of it!