A few states like Hawaii and Vermont have set ambitious goals to transition off of fossil fuels, but they are the exception. In June, Hawaii became the first state to plan to generate all of its electricity from renewable sources, in their case, by 2045. Hopefully we’ll see more action from the Oregon Legislature in 2017. But for now, it’s cities that are taking the lead, in Oregon and elsewhere.
Washington D.C. just adopted a plan to get 50% of its electricity from renewable sources like wind and solar by 2032. Their plan will outfit 100,000 low-income D.C. households with solar panels over the next 16 years. What a great idea! Not only does this help them meet their goal, it helps the neediest citizens with their utility bills.
In Oregon, the cities that have been leading the way to a renewable energy future include Portland, Eugene, and Ashland. No surprise there. But they may be joined soon by Bend, a city not known for having a surplus of lefty tree-huggers. Maybe that’s changing, or maybe the good folks in Bend are realizing how much their economy and way of life depend on a stable climate.
In May, the Bend City Council empowered a citizen task force to bring back a plan to move the city towards more renewable energy. The task force has made some recommendations, and just a couple weeks ago the Council held a special meeting to hear the recommendations and take public testimony. The plan is fairly modest, focusing mainly on having the city government reduce its use of fossil fuels by 70% by 2050. However, it also calls for further work to set similar targets for residents and businesses. The Bend City Council is still gathering input, and it’s not certain the plan will be adopted, but we applaud them for having the courage to begin to look at what needs to be done.
This got us to thinking… our Mayor Anna Peterson only has a few months left in her third and final term. What will her legacy be? She may be hoping that citizens will approve her plan for one of the largest and most expensive police facilities in Oregon in the November bond election. Knowing how dubious the rationale is for the $83 million, 148,000-square-foot facility that one Councilor likes to call “the full meal deal,” we have our doubts that this will become her legacy. If this is her plan, it may well backfire.
So here’s another idea. What better legacy could Mayor Peterson have than to be the Salem mayor who began to lead us to a renewable energy future? Because her time is short and she is not big on citizen task forces anyway, she could gather up the plans from Portland, Eugene, Ashland, and from Bend and at least make a start on a plan for Salem, incorporating ideas from these other Oregon cities.
The Bend plan might be a model that appeals to her. It could be a modest beginning. And a fine legacy.