Friday, June 3, 2022

Climate Action Plan Committee does not seem Positioned for Success

The Climate Action Plan Committee meets next week, Monday the 6th. The agenda and the process it implies still seem a little ad hoc and lacking a sense of urgency.


With the primary Election now complete, and Councilor Hoy the de facto Mayor-elect, Mayor Bennett is a real lame duck and his inclusion on the committee makes even less sense. The current committee may not be properly oriented to the future and best for decisive action.

Why the churn with new members?

Much of the May meeting was a rehearsal of material the Task Force had already thoroughly covered, and it was remedial in that way. Even before that May meeting, in comment offered to the committee, our chapter pointed out some problems with the committee's composition and potential solutions:

We would like to change the odds even more by requesting some changes to this committee. A committee with five members will be stronger, able to resolve disagreements with a clear majority [instead of the current four members]. Councilor Stapleton, now an alternate, would be a great addition as a full member. In the Council meeting that established the subcommittee she expressed eagerness to dig deeply into climate solutions. She collaborated on Salem Bike Vision which can play a big role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, Salem’s biggest source.

We also suggest that Mayor Bennett offer his seat to one of the Councilors who was on the CAP Task Force. There is a steep learning curve to understand and grapple with the complex, interconnected issues of energy, natural resources, transportation, and development. As members of the Task Force, Councilors Andersen and Nordyke, have a head start on working through these questions and have demonstrated commitment to climate action. Either one would be a valuable member of the subcommittee

The committee really should reorganize, with Mayor-elect Hoy the new chair, a fifth member, and a Task Force member restored. It is very strange that the only continuity is Councilor Gonzalez.

On this June meeting itself, superficially the items for discussion look promising, "early implementation strategies." But the formal "short list" contains mainly concepts of low effectiveness. Of the seven, five are rated low. Most of them focus on internal City processes only, the city narrowly understood as a municipal corporation, and do not affect the wider sense of the city as a home for 170,000 people, all of us participating in the creation of emissions.

Five low-effectiveness concepts:

  • Conduct a review of City financial assets/investments to determine extent of holdings in fossil fuel companies.
  • Transition all City-owned fleet vehicles to EVs
  • Implement a sustainable purchasing policy for the City
  • Develop more comprehensive sustainable specifications for City bidding/RFP processes
  • Begin reporting community greenhouse gas emissions on a regular basis

One medium-effectiveness concept:

  • Implement telecommuting and flexible work hour policies for City employees

One high-effectiveness concept:

  • Charge for city-controlled parking

The most promising of these seven, shifting to a paid parking system, appears to be deferred until after the November Election, protecting any bond measure, and to a lesser degree electeds, from static and blow-back.

Punting to after the Election (yellow added)

But aren't all of the "Early Implementation Strategies" supposed to offer "high potential for reducing emissions"? That's what the slide deck in the May packet suggested. So why are five of seven "low potential"?

The subset of 55 should have "high" potential (May)

More detailed discussion of this slide? (May)

The whole set of 55 potential actions identified as candidates for "early implementation" deserves more discussion. How were the seven at this meeting chosen? What about those "in process," "planned to begin within two years," and "required by...state requirements"? These deserve more explicit discussion also.

And if the total subset is 55, and 25 of them are claimed to be "on the way," what of the other 20?

All in all, from the committee composition to the early agendas in May and June, the current committee looks like a suboptimal creation. Council and the Committee should consider steps to strengthen it and the policy concepts on the agendas.

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