Climbing the mountain of climate change policy

By: Rachael Rees van den Berg

Bend City Councilors continued the conversation on climate change policy Wednesday night during the Bend City Council work session.

“We are trying to represent the community and what the people we represent want us to do,” said Mayor Jim Clinton.

On July 21, councilors heard testimony from more than 40 people at a special city council meeting. Councilors also received more than 100 emails with comments on the topic. Gillian Ockner, senior policy analyst for the City of Bend, presented the matrix of common themes that derived from the meeting to councilors. She said there was a desire for community collaboration on the issue, partnerships to engage the community in realizing goals, immediate action and more analysis.

The councilors agreed unanimously to pursue reducing the greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel use for city operations. But, when the question of “Should the community have a plan to reduce greenhouse gasses?” was put on the table, the thoughts varied.

Councilor Casey Roats said the council needs to show the community what efforts are already being made through existing processes and plans for growth and the future.

“I think there’s a lot we can point to and make it aspirational… I wouldn’t want anyone to think that we have no plan (and) nothing is getting done, therefore we have to have this document to move the ball forward,” Roats said. “I think if we educated the community as to what we’re already doing, it might actually put some people at ease a bit.”

Roats said council lacks the jurisdiction, the resources and the authority to do more than what’s being done to meet the state mandates.

Councilor Victor Chudowsky had similar concerns. If specific targets were identified in the community plan to reduce fossil fuel use 40 percent by 2030 and 70 percent by 2050, he said council would be making promises it couldn’t keep.

“Yes, we should have a plan, but I think it should be something realistic, focus on things that are under the City’s control… and just be more honest about what kinds of reductions we’re actually able to make,” Chudowsky said.

Council Nathan Boddie stressed the importance of committing to goals.

“Can anybody tell me what a non-aspirational goal would be?” Boddie asked.

“My New Year’s resolution to work out,” Roats responded.

In all seriousness, the language of the Climate Change Resolution was a lengthy topic of discussion. Councilor Doug Knight said he hoped softening the language to be more aspirational, replacing the phrase “we will” with “seek to” would allow the council to achieve some unanimity.

“Goals are something that yes, you aspire to, but that you seek to achieve and through that seeking, you place yourself on a path,” Knight said. “Part of what the intention of this resolution is, is to create a path by which we can find efficiencies and if it turns out that we have to turn back down 300 feet shy of the summit of Mt. Everest here, then that’s something that we have to do, we choose to do for our own safety or for the benefit of the city in this regard and the community. But none the less, we still had the aspiration and we still sought to climb the mountain and we chose a path that we thought was going to be the most efficient and a path that we felt would assure us the highest percentage of success.”





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