It’s not easy being green

The council chambers were packed with business representatives Wednesday night during a discussion about a proposed climate action ordinance calling for the community to reduce fossil fuel use by 70 percent by 2050.

The ordinance, which was originally scheduled for a June 1 first reading, came to the surprise of many business stakeholders, including the Bend Chamber.

“Part of the reaction I’ve heard is, ‘How come I’m just hearing about this and how come the business community hasn’t been involved yet?’” Mike Riley, executive director of The Environmental Center,  told councilors during the May 18 work session.

Councilors were presented with two ordinances. One ordinance proposed the goals for city operations and the community regarding fossil fuel use. The other ordinance proposed creating a commission that would draft and propose the Climate Action Plan, as well as oversee the implementation and progress towards the goals of the plan.

The intention of the ordinance was to be a policy framework that sets specific, measurable goals and a process for identifying things the City of Bend could do to take local action against climate change, Riley said. However, he said a robust discussion from the entire community was needed to determine what specific action steps should be taken to achieve those goals.

“We feel strongly that we need to establish a clear strategic direction and policy framework for City government and the community,” Riley said.

Riley said the most successful communities that have been exploring local ways to impact climate change have ordinances. City government acts as a convener, playing a lead role, he said. Riley said other cities have pursued more aggressive goals, but he wanted to ensure that the goals in the ordinance were both based on science and attainable.

The presenters clarified not every business in Bend is going to have to reduce fossil fuel use by 70 percent; the goal is a per capita goal.

“This is a thing we need to do for profitability, for sustainability of our business community,” Councilor Nathan Boddie said.

Councilors had a discussion about the language of the ordinance being too heavy handed, as well as whether or not a commission or a different type of group should be formed to craft the Climate Action Plan.

“We’re trying to get the entire community on board with relatively minor lifestyle changes,” said Mayor Jim Clinton. “You don’t do that by mandates, you do that by education.”

Councilor Casey Roats said if the language was more aspirational, he believed the concept could gain support from the business community.

“I think we’re off on the wrong foot,” Casey said. “This will turn into a political football without the support of EDCO, BEDAB and the larger business community.”

Councilor Sally Russell said the community wasn’t ready for the ordinance step. She said she’s committed to making a positive change for the environment, but that it needs to be done in a way that properly engages the community and doesn’t jump ahead before the appropriate public process can take place.

“This has the ability to impact every single element in every single household, every single business, in a multitude of different ways: in our pocket book, how we operate, what our expenses are, how quickly our climate degrades. Whatever decisions we make here are going to impact our community,” she said. “If we jump too far too fast and get to the end product before we’ve had a conversation, we are going to splat.”

Councilor Victor Chudowsky agreed an ordinance was premature. He said he was opposed to supporting the ordinance because he didn’t know if the goals were attainable or what the cost of pursuing those goals would be.

Councilors Boddie, Barb Campbell, Doug Knight and Clinton voted in favor of creating an ordinance. They directed staff to create one ordinance establishing aspirational goals with respect to the city and community’s fossil fuel reduction. The ordinance would require the process for creating plans through a steering committee made up of different stakeholders, which would help the city draft the plan for both the city operations and the community at large.

The Bend Chamber believes council took a positive step in pausing to allow some public process to take place.

“The Bend Chamber is pleased that council has slowed down the process and is willing to involve more community stakeholders,” said Jamie Christman, director of government affairs for the Bend Chamber, referring to the first reading being pushed back to July and the modifications to the language of the ordinance. “We strongly encourage businesses to be a part of the conversation that determines these community goals and we welcome the opportunity for our members to be involved.”

Weigh in about the proposed climate change ordinance on Tuesday, June 7 at 8 a.m. during a Bend Economic Development Advisory Board meeting, taking place in council chambers, located at 710 Northwest Wall Street.

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