This has been a big week with a vote to ban fossil fuel infrastructure in new low rise residential buildings permitted after June 30, 2023; and a vote to refer to the voters in May a renewal of the levy to support Parks and Recreation maintenance.
The vote on fossil fuels is contentious and council’s division on this issue reflects the community’s division. I believe council has done the right thing. We have been on this path for several years; and specifically moving toward this vote since July 2022. We have received mountains of public comment and councilors have been well-informed on the choices and on the perspectives of their constituents. I have written about this ordinance many times: when it was first discussed in July, a majority of council acknowledged that this action was “low hanging fruit” in the sense that it doesn’t impact existing residences, falls clearly within the city’s authority, and is a relatively straightforward code change.
If we cannot take this action, which impacts very few of the people who have testified in opposition, I ask what IS this community willing to do to address climate change? I have no doubt the controversy will continue, but am proud of councilors for following through on their commitment to act.
In a less contentious discussion, Council on Wednesday voted to move forward to the ballot a renewal of the five-year levy to support increased programming, maintenance and safety in city parks. Staff had presented three options in a previous work session:
1) keeping the same rate as the current levy, $.19/$1,000 or $49 per year. It has the advantage of staying the same; the disadvantage being that with the cost of inflation and the increased parks and facilities to maintain because of additions in the past four years, it will result in a reduce level of programming, maintenance and safety.
2) increase to $.32/$1000 or $83 per year, which would catch up with those increased costs to retain promised improvements; or
3) increase to $.37/$1000 or $95 per year, which would provide funding for an enhanced level of service, particularly with respect to public safety.
At the last work session, Councilors struggled over finding a balance between responding to the community’s investment, value and importance of the parks and recreation system as essential to our quality of life, while at the time understanding financial constraints and lower support for the higher tax rate in the community survey.
At this week’s meeting, the staff presented a fourth alternative which was approved: $.26/$1,000 or $67 per year that would provide the continued level of service offered in Option 2, and add two additional parks ambassadors to enhance public safety.
It was a challenging discussion, and I think councilors landed on a responsible and responsive compromise.