The city of Bend announced Tuesday that it had raised enough money to hire a sustainability coordinator and move forward on a climate action plan for one year.
That’s a kind of success, but what happens in year two? Isn’t the city always telling us it doesn’t have enough money for police and fire protection? Doesn’t the city have more than $90 million in deferred road maintenance?
The climate action effort looks more like the creation of an unfunded position to make people who worry about the climate feel better, without changing the climate.
Bend’s 2016 climate action resolution established goals to reduce community-wide fossil fuel use by 40 percent by 2030 and 70 percent by 2050. The city government itself has a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030 — no net release of carbon dioxide.
One problem has been coming up with the money to carry out the goals. It takes money and staff time to figure out what else Bend could do. The city estimates it will cost $175,000 a year for two years to get the program going. The city wants to hire a sustainability coordinator “to manage a volunteer advisory committee and a public process to involve the community. The goal is a community-endorsed energy action plan by fall of 2019.”
For the first year, $50,000 will come from the city’s budget, $50,000 from Partners for Places, $50,000 from the Oregon Community Foundation and $25,000 from community donations to The Environmental Center. Only $50,000 from the city is lined up for year two.
Don’t expect the position to go away if the outside grant funding does. As Ronald Reagan said in 1964: “No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this Earth.”
If the sustainability coordinator can find ways for the city to save money on energy, that would be great. Maybe the coordinator can find more than $175,000 a year in savings. That would be an excellent condition for continued employment.