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Renewable Energy Is A Benefit To Everyone

by Tina Buttell

Sometimes we forget that we’re all in the same boat. Despite our differences, we all prefer clean air and water, safe homes, good jobs, convenient transportation, and we mostly don’t even disagree about climate. We want livable futures for our children, abundant crops, lush forests and recreation opportunities.

Unfortunately, some organizations pit us against each other by exacerbating perceived differences. The Cascade Policy Institute, one of about 160 right-wing think tanks under the SPN umbrella, is one such organization in our area. SPN is a deceptive acronym for State Policy Network, which makes it sound local. It is not. It’s a nationally funded membership group of extremists in the Republican Party that pretends to support low-income, rural folks but is closely aligned with wealthy, corporate business interests, including the fossil-fuel industry. They are known for union busting, voter suppression, climate denial, expanded law enforcement and are associated with ALEC, a notorious ultra-conservative lobby.

Another detractor from our common good is J.P. Morgan Chase Bank that invested over $67 billion between 2016 and 2018 in environmentally destructive tar sands, ocean drilling, LNG (liquid natural gas) and coal. Bank of America and Wells Fargo are right up there too, with more than $39 billion and $35 billion respectively, in oil and gas during the same time. Whether you drive a Tesla or a large pickup truck, where you save and invest, and which credit card you carry, may matter more.

Meanwhile, there are some hopeful examples of constructive collaboration. Rural Development Initiatives, a nonprofit based in Eugene, assists communities to create jobs, connect to financial opportunities and coordinate value chain projects such as the Cottage Grove “Food Hub” and the Garibaldi “Fisheries Hub,” to generate long-term community wealth and economic vitality. Their goal is to shift rural economies away from inequitable extraction of resources and towards a collective, inclusive vision of the future.

A frequent argument against Timber Unity and allies is that “they don’t get it.” This isn’t really true. They are resisting taxation and other changes because they do “get” the threat of rapid, impending change to their way of life. The climate justice movement needs to ease the transition to sustainable industries and lifestyles for those most at risk for loss. In contrast, a frequent complaint against environmentalists is that Oregon’s carbon emissions are too small to matter. Oregon is small in size but is a significant global model for land-use policy, forestry, livable cities, ecotourism and more. Just as each vote counts, each person’s carbon footprint adds up and sets an example. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

An interesting new Clackamas County-Americorps partnership is the RARE program — Resource Assistance for Rural Environments — which will focus on local solar projects and carbon-emission reduction. The Urban Rural Ambassadors Summer Institute between students in La Grande and Portland is yet one more example of a collaborative vision for the future, involving a summer student exchange program with discussions of shared goals, as well as appreciation of differences.

We all can benefit from the transition to renewable energy. Besides contributing to a cleaner, cooler environment, renewables will become more prevalent and affordable even as oil and gas prices continue to rise. Rural communities are earning income from solar and wind farms, and PGE is scheduled to shut down its coal-fueled Boardman plant very soon, closing Oregon’s era of coal-generated electricity.

There are rarely simple solutions to complex problems, but together we can keep our boat afloat. As said by Abraham Lincoln, “We can succeed only by concert. It is not ‘can any of us imagine better,’ but ‘can we all do better?'”

Tina Buettell has lived in rural and suburban Clackamas County for 44 years.

Originally published in Clackamas Review.

Urban Renewal Authorizes $400,000 For ReVision Monuments

By Mark Brennan

The Florence Urban Renewal Agency (FURA) met Feb. 26 at Florence City Hall with a short agenda but faced a decision on whether or not to spend thousands of dollars for two gateway monuments on Maple Street, as one of the final pieces in this phase of the ReVision Florence Streetscaping Project.

The agency began the meeting with Chairperson Bill Meyer welcoming new member Mark Tilton to FURA. The attention of the group was then directed to issues related to the ongoing ReVision Florence project.

The original ReVision Florence called for monuments to be built to welcome people to Historic Old Town Florence. The plan was to have a total of three built and to place two on Maple Street and one on Quince Street.

Unfortunately, the cost for all three of the pieces exceeded the monies budgeted for the project, according to Florence Project Manager Megan Messmer. The scope of the project was reduced by eliminating the Quince Street component from the equation.

In a memorandum Messmer provided to FURA directors explaining the decision she wrote, “The budget for this project was $396,000. Unfortunately, both bids came in above the budget and the engineer’s estimate of $416,000, which included a construction estimate of $396,000 and $20,000 in contingency. … Staff does not believe that removing the Quince Street monument would have a large impact on the integrity of the ReVision Florence Project as a whole.”

Messmer’s memorandum also pointed out that when these monuments were originally designed, the Quince Street property across from the FEC was not owned by the agency. Now that FURA has control over that property and is seeking lodging or related developments there, she believes there is value in waiting to construct a gateway at Quince.

The future gateway at this location could include additional directional signage for Old Town that includes lodging, shops, restaurants and the Florence Events Center.

Messmer also wrote that the current ODOT contract will construct the base for a monument at Quince Street that will be usable for another type of monument at a later date.

During the meeting, she recommended that directors accept the negotiated bid and to enter into a contract with Specialty Metal Fabricators LLC in the amount of $375,000, for the construction of the two gateway monuments at Maple Street, which they did.

Messmer also asked directors to authorize the City Manager to enter into Amendment 5 with the Engineering firm Murraysmith for construction administration, engineering and inspection for $57,000, which will result in a net change to the contract of approximately $34,000. The total expected expenditures for the two monuments on Maple Street will be approximately $409,000.

Directors discussed the financial ramifications of the agreement briefly before approving both of Messmer’s requests.

Messmer also presented the directors with an update on the construction currently underway with ReVision and presented a proposal for a FURA Redevelopment Assistance Program, which included suggested eligibility guidelines, program application and an overview flyer.

Directors voiced support for the program and approved moving forward with the proposal.

The second major update of the meeting came from City Manager Erin Reynolds, who provided a recap of the steps taken to this point regarding the marketing of the Quince Street property which is owned by the city.

Community and Economic Development Assistant Sarah Moehrke also made a brief presentation on the property, asking the directors to approve the first phase of landscaping the area at a cost of approximately $5,000.

This phase would remove underbrush and forest debris from the location. A second phase of the landscaping effort would focus on delimbing trees and removing larger brush from the area. The second phase would be considerably more expensive, and Moehrke reported the city would continue to accept bids for Phase 2 of the project.

Directors then approved the request.

The next FURA meeting is scheduled to take place at Florence City Hall on March 25 at 5:30 p.m.

For more information, visit www.ci.florence.or.us/urbanrenewal.

Originally published in the Siuslaw News

Oregon Coast Public Art Trail Back On Track

By: Leslie O’Donnell

With new staff and new plans in place, the Oregon Coast Public Art Trail is on the path to a more promising future.

Marcus Hinz, executive director of the regional marketing group Oregon Coast Visitors Association (OCVA), said he has hired three contractors to inventory public art along the entire coast, one for the north, one for the central coast and one for the south. By the end of spring, the goal is to have identified 80 to 90 percent of the public art along the Oregon coast.

Hinz said public art is defined as art that is accessible 24/7 without fees or admission charges. While murals and sculpture make up much of public art, OCVA will also be documenting what Hinz termed “obscure” art, such as artistic benches or ornate manhole covers.

Public art is a “soft” way to get people interested in coastal communities, Hinz explained. The public art trail is meant to be a shoulder season marketing campaign, he noted.

“Public art is a ‘soft sell,’” he said. “The whole point of an art trail is economic development.”

He explained that when people get interested in visiting an area to view public art, they can then be introduced to museums, theaters, galleries, art studios and other venues in the same communities.

While planning for an Oregon Coast Public Art Trail has been going on for several years, Hinz is optimistic about what is happening now. Acknowledging that they have not made a lot of progress recently due to multiple staff changes, OCVA has changed its strategy so that each newly hired contractor lives in the area he or she is responsible for inventorying, and will be making face-to-face contacts with city officials and others to complete the public art inventory.

“We divided everything into three, and the new staff are renewing relationships with city officials and the local art community, and taking an inventory of public art in their area,” Hinz said.

That inventory includes taking photos, noting the latitude and longitude and address, writing a paragraph to describe what inspired the art, defining who owns the land where it is displayed and citing the name of the artist.

“Then we’ll see what we have, and will break it into two phases — marketing public art and destination development,” Hinz said. “We’ll also look at communities where there are gaps, and try to work with those towns to get public art. And we’ll work with each community to see how they want us to build itineraries to market them.”

The contractor for the Central Coast — defined as Florence to Lincoln City — is Sarah Abigail Moehrke. Hinz said she is a RARE (Resource Assistance for Rural Environments) participant from the University of Oregon, works for the City of Florence as a community and economic development assistant and has a background in public art.

The information about public art that the contractors gather will go into OTIS — the Oregon Tourism Information System database created by Travel Oregon.

“That will allow destination marketing organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce and Discover Newport to input the information from OTIS onto their websites,” Hinz explained.

The project is extensive, with Hinz noting that there are more than two dozen incorporated cities on the coast plus tiny, unincorporated areas such as Otter Rock and Seal Rock, bringing the total closer to 40.

“The new contractors have been working about a month, and given the new structure and support from OCVA staff, we’re going to make some pretty quick progress,” Hinz said. “We’re a team now.”

OCVA Destination Management Coordinator Arica Sears is the project leader for the Public Art Trail and oversees the three art contractors.

“This is a great opportunity to see what public art exists along the coast and to identify where public art could be placed,” Sears said. “The project will provide excellent opportunities for off-season visitation at the coast, and is a good way to highlight communities.

“We’re hoping visitors can learn about and have a deeper understanding of ‘place’ while visiting the art trail,” she concluded.

Public art is thriving in many coastal locations, and a public art inventory is already in place in several communities. Catherine Rickbone, executive director of Oregon Coast Council for the Arts (OCCA), said she thinks the idea of a coast-wide public art trail is “great and wonderful.”

She chairs the Newport Public Arts Committee and said that anything that highlights public art — such as the Oregon Coast Public Art Trail — is a good thing.

Newport has 50 to 70 pieces of public art, Rickbone noted, adding that its inventory is geared to inspire cities to develop public art. Newport’s public art ranges from Bayfront murals to sculptures at city buildings and parks, as well as at the Newport Performing Arts Center.

She helped the City of Florence develop its own public arts committee and represented both OCCA and Newport’s committee when Florence unveiled a mural at the Central Lincoln People’s Utility District in that city.

“We continue to grow our public arts inventory,” Rickbone said, adding that the Newport committee is quite active and commissions new works of art.

Sears said that anyone on the central coast with information for or questions about the coastal public art inventory is invited to contact Moehrke at centralart@thepeoplescoast.com.

Originially published in Newport News Times

City Seeks Public Input For Villages At Cascade Head Property

The City of Lincoln City is holding two public forums to discuss the proposed urban renewal boundary and a list of potential capital projects to be completed at the Villages at Cascade Head, a 360+ acre parcel of land in north Lincoln City purchased by the City in 2013.

The first of two public forums is set for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 7, at Ace’s Bar and Grill, 3309 NE Clubhouse Dr. The second will be held 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18, at the Lincoln City Cultural Center, 540 NE Highway 101.

“The upcoming public forum is one step in creating the draft plan which we hope will be ready for Council consideration in July or August this year,” Urban Renewal Economic Development Coordinator Jodi Mescher said. “If City Council votes to adopt the Urban Renewal Plan for Roads End/Villages at Cascade Head area, it could be an important economic development tool to increase financing for priority projects in the new urban renewal area.”

If the Urban Renewal Plan is adopted by the Lincoln City Council, the Urban Renewal Agency can go ahead with capital projects, such as:

Construction or improvement of public facilities including streets, sidewalks, utilities, parks
Streetscape improvements
Storefront improvements
Participation with developers for property improvement
Rehabilitation of existing buildings

City staff has identified a list of potential projects to be completed and the first public forum is to discuss the draft plan and collect feedback on priority projects and projects yet to be identified.

The Villages at Cascade Head, previously a bankrupt vacant development, was purchased in 2013 by Lincoln City for $2.5 million.

For over 20 years the vision for 1,800+ homes at the Villages at Cascade Head has been troubled by foreclosure, developer concerns and expiring city planning approvals.

City officials have long-held to the idea that the Villages at Cascade Head will be an economic boon to Lincoln City but have struggled to advance the multi-million dollar investment despite spending an additional $2 million into the site for planning, utilities and other costs typically paid for by developers.

According to sources, developers have put in over $10 million to develop the Villages.

Developers are skeptical on a city-controlled situation where the City can drop hundreds of lots at any given time with a vote from the council. Builders believe they could not compete and the unknowns are too much to risk large amounts of money.

“If the City can sell lots at will or rezone adjacent properties it reduces the value and makes it unattractive,” a prominent Lincoln City developer who requested anonymity said.

Former Lincoln City Mayor Don Williams, who won in a 2014 landslide election, called for a sale of the Villages as part of his campaign.

“I don’t believe the City should be in the land development business,” Williams said. “We were assured repeatedly that we weren’t going to do this, but here we are in the land development business.”

Whatever the City decides to do, it will impact property values for improved and unimproved property throughout Lincoln City and North Lincoln County.

Originally published by Lincoln City Homepage

Port Purchase For Wetland Mitigation Could Be Beginning Of Costs

By Anna Del Savio

The Port of Columbia County board of commissioners authorized the purchase of 194 acres near Port Westward at their Jan. 8 meeting. The land, which the port bid on in November, will be used for wetland mitigation.

Bringing the land up to its full wetland mitigation potential, however, could cost as much as $45,000 per acre, Commissioner Larry Ericksen said at the port meeting.

The land itself cost $452,500. Making the land more effective for wetland mitigation could cost millions more.

“In terms of the wetland quality, it’s very low currently wetland quality. It would not be a valuable mitigation site until a lot of work is done there,” Commissioner Chip Bubl said.

The port only found out about the land auction shortly before the deadline for bids, leaving little time for studying the land quality.

The process to check for wetland mitigation potential “was relatively minimal,” according to Port Planning Coordinator Tabitha Tolsma.

“Basically, soil scientists came out and dug some small trenches and determined that the soil was hydric,” Tolsma said.

Projects that remove or inhibit natural wetlands are required to mitigate the impacts of the project by establishing wetland mitigation elsewhere or purchasing credits from a mitigation bank.

Credits would be available from the port, which would cover the costs of bringing the wetlands up to standards.

“Current practice has been — for PGE projects — they’ve been mitigating on our site, and they’ve been very free to give away our property to mitigation,” Commissioner Robert Keyser said.

Valuable wetlands can have deed restrictions placed on them, prohibiting any development on the land. That’s a concern when companies use unoccupied land for wetland mitigation, potentially jeopardizing any development future.

Keyser advocated for the land purchase over continuing the current practice.

The port is paying for the land out of the general fund but is also looking into financing options, explained Bob Gadotti, the port’s finance manager.

Originally published in Columbia County Spotlight

Falls City Looks To Rehab Building

FALLS CITY — The city of Falls City hopes to build a partnership with Polk County to redevelop a vacant property it owns on North Main Street into an operating business.

In 2017, the owner of the then-Little Luckiamute Clinic donated the property, located at 304 N. Main, to the city. It has since been vacant and falling into disrepair.

The next year, the city formed a committee to explore options to occupy the building, with the possibility that the new tenant would repair the building in exchange for little or no rent for a certain amount of time.

“The advisory committee made a suggestion and that is to partner with Turning Earth Farms, have them fix it up and do a contract,” said city manager Mac Corthell at a council meeting in December.

Turning Earth Farms would have made the building into a community/multi-use center and would have managed it.

“It didn’t work out. When we attempted to negotiate, I think there were some things they didn’t anticipate that they would need to be responsible for,” Corthell said. “It wasn’t a feasible agreement to be made.”

He said the contract was scrapped and so was the advisory committee.

Corthell said having the building vacant and deteriorating will eventually be a liability to the city, so he proposed a plan to put the property into use again.

“It’s in a prime location in Falls City, so we really need to look at moving that thing one way or another,” Corthell said. “We are looking into the cost to get it habitable, and my goal and plan is to discuss the potential of a two-part grant with the county. The county offers an economic vitality grant, if you will. They give out $30,000 for free to businesses that create jobs in Polk County. I’m going to attempt to partner with them.”

He said the hope is to get cost estimates to repair the property for occupancy and seek a grant to pay for the work. Then once a tenant has been identified, apply for an economic opportunity grant from Polk County to help the business get started.

He said the option could be more beneficial than selling the property, because it could eventually become a revenue source with a lease, and the city would have more control on what kind of business occupied the property.

William Sullivan, an AmeriCorps Resource Assistance for Rural Economics participant working for the city, said the first step is finding out how much it will cost to rehabilitate the building.

“We will have some contractors take a look at it and get some itemized numbers to bring back to council,” Sullivan said.

Mayor Jeremy Gordon said he liked the idea of spending money on the former clinic to help get it occupied.

“I think the city should invest a little in that property,” he said. “If we are asking people to clean up theirs, we should be taking care of ours.”

Originally published by the Itemizer-Observer

Meet Our RARE AmeriCorps Members: Eva Kahn

Eva grew up in Portland, OR and Hood River, OR. She graduated from the University of Oregon in 2019 with a degree in Planning, Public Policy, and Management. In college, Eva was the coordinator of the University’s student community garden, studied sustainable development abroad in Ecuador, and completed an Honors Thesis on student farming. She has a passion for sustainable and equitable food systems, which is what brought her to the Columbia Gorge Food Bank and RARE. When she’s not working with food, Eva likes to ride her bike long distances, draw, listen to bluegrass, and revel in this beautiful state.

Community and Organization:

The Dalles sits on the banks of the Columbia River, straddling the border of Oregon and Washington. Most know the Columbia River Gorge for its astonishing beauty, the emerging tech and engineering industry, craft beer breweries, outdoor recreation opportunities, and fruit orchards. Despite all its glory, the Columbia Gorge struggles with similar issues facing many rural communities in Oregon. Economic disparity, lack of housing, poverty, and hunger pervade. Columbia Gorge Food Bank seeks to challenge hunger and its root causes across three counties (Hood River, Wasco, and Sherman). It partners with 25 agencies in the Gorge, distributing food to 33 sites. These sites directly assist people in need of food. The food bank also coordinates with the state network of food banks and works on regional-level policy and community issues relating to the root causes of hunger.

Project:

Eva will be assisting the food bank on a variety of projects, including opening two new school food pantries in Hood River County, a Harvest Share program at Hood River Valley Adult Center, and organizing community outreach events. She will also be helping the food bank transition to an independent nonprofit entity by helping assemble a founding Board of Directors and helping write the 501(c)3. She will also be coordinating the food bank’s volunteer program, developing its Disaster Plan, and supporting work around housing security in The Dalles.

Email: ekahn@oregonfoodbank.org
Organization: Columbia Gorge Food Bank
Community: Columbia River Gorge
Population: 82,608
Counties: Wasco, Sherman, Hood River

RARE AmeriCorps Applications for 2020-2021 Now Available!

Are you interested in community building, natural resources, food security, natural hazard planning, economic development or land use planning?  Does your organization have community building, natural resources, food security, natural hazard planning, economic development or land use planning projects that you do not have resources to complete?  If so, you should consider applying to the Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (RARE) Program. Continue reading “RARE AmeriCorps Applications for 2020-2021 Now Available!”

Talent Plans To Drop Fossil Fuels

Talent Energy Efficiency Coordinator Michael Hoch is busy these days answering questions about the city’s clean energy action plan. In November Talent became the first city in Oregon to include such a document in its city’s comprehensive plan, a set of guidelines for development required by state law.

Hoch’s research has found no other city in Oregon that has a clean energy plan as an element of its comprehensive plan. Rianna Koppel, a citizen who helped create the plan, reported her research found the same.

“Several cities and counties have contacted me directly,” said Hoch. They are seeking everything from basic nuts and bolts information on how the plan got created and incorporated … to more detailed information.

While in Klamath Falls Friday for a training session, Hoch met with residents there who are interested in getting clean energy components into their comprehensive plans.

Besides Klamath Falls, Hoch has received inquiries from cities in the Columbia Gorge, including Hood River, and from the Mid-Columbia Economic Development District, which includes three Oregon and two Washington counties.

Among plan goals for Talent is achievement of 100% independence from fossil fuel sources by 2030 to help combat climate change.

City Council unanimously passed an ordinance Nov. 20 that amended the comprehensive plan to include the clean energy element. Talent’s Planning Commission had recommended adopting the element.

With support from Rogue Climate, a group of Talent residents started work on the plan following an October 2015 envisioning workshop. Volunteers worked for more than 1,000 hours to create a plan that became Talent Clean Energy Action Plan 2018-2030.

“When we started this plan, a big focus was climate change … and to step away from fossil fuels and come up with a plan B or C,” said Ray Sanchez-Pescodor, who participated in the plan development from the start. “We also wanted it to make common sense financially. The suggestions we are making make good financial sense, some in the short term and especially in the longterm.”

The element is a basis for policy and not policy itself, said Community Development Director Zac Moody. But it spells out potential implementation strategies in a number of areas, including transportation, housing, energy efficiency, conservation, city facilities, education, the economy, infrastructure and energy generation.

While work was done for plan adoption, the city and groups also focused on acquiring clean energy installations for Talent. That has included solar panels for the Community Center, an EV charging station and work with Oregon Clean Power Cooperative, which led to $149,000 in grants for solar installations at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival production building, Jackson County Fire District No. 5 headquarters and the downtown civic center campus.

The latest clean energy upgrade for the city will bring four EV charging stations to city-owned property behind Camelot Theatre on Seiber Street. Pacific Power awarded a grant of up to $10,000 to assist with the project. While the city will purchase and install the stations, they will be operated by a commercial charging company.

Hoch helps coordinate the energy projects and is involved in other efficiency efforts, such as a LED light bulb give away that took place last spring. He monitors energy consumption and reports that energy use in city facilities is on track to achieve a 30% reduction in use by 2020 compared to 2015.

One element of the plan calls for a feasibility analysis on a transition from the current investor-owned utility model to a consumer-owned or community choice aggregation model. During the public hearing, Pacific Power General Business Manager Christina Kruger voiced concerns about that language.

“Pacific Power assets in this community are not for sale,” said Kruger. She said the firm applauds many parts of the plan and that some of the implementing strategies would require partnerships with Pacific Power and other entities such as Energy Trust of Oregon, with whom they work. She asked that language on creation of a city utility be dropped from the plan.

Council members and Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood said that feasibility studies would be conducted prior to any decision on changing utility providers, but that it could create competition where none exists.

“It sort of lifts us out of the monopoly situation we are in and creates an opportunity for us that may motivate us all to work in a partnership way we haven’t before,” said Ayers-Flood.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

Originally published in The Mail Tribune

Mescher to battle blight and preserve Lincoln City with Urban Renewal Agency

The newest addition to the City of Lincoln City is coming off a stint as a Peace Corps Rural Aquaculture Extension Agent in Zambia, and will now turn her attention to historic preservation and improving our economic development toolbox.

Jodi Mescher will spend 11 months working as Economic Development Coordinator alongside Urban Renewal Agency Director Alison Robertson doing what Urban Renewal does: attracting job producing private investments that will improve property values, improve the area’s visual quality and establish a positive linkage between the area and the Pacific Ocean.

“I’m happy to be here,” Mescher said. “I’m excited to see what we can do while I’m here.”

Mescher is here as part of the Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (RARE) program, connecting trained graduate-level people with rural communities for an 11-month period. Administered by the University of Oregon and funded by Americorps, Meshner is here to assist Lincoln City in the development and implementation of plans for achieving a sustainable natural resource base and improving rural economic conditions while gaining community building and leadership skills.

Mescher will focus on the economic development toolbox and identifying underutilized properties. She’d also like to make Lincoln City a Certified Local Government (CLG) to qualify for federal grants from the National Park Service to promote historic preservation.

She received her Bachelor of Science degree from Ohio State University in 2015 for Environmental Economics and Sustainability and was a Student Assistant in the Department of Planning and Design at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio in 2016. She spent time in Africa with the Peace Corps, providing technical assistance selecting and constructing fish and rice farm sites, increasing the local economy and nutrition.

Mescher is overflowing with ambition as evidenced by traveling halfway across the world to teach people how to farm fish and rice. It will be interesting to see what the future has in store for this go getter.

Originally published in the Lincoln City Homepage