UPDATE #3: Portland Moving Forward Against New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure

November 16, 2016

teds-imageSometimes it takes a long time for things to happen quickly — in this case, good things.  Portland City Council is finally poised to approve unprecedented zoning restrictions on new fossil fuel infrastructure (FFI) for export or storage, before year’s end.  This process began in 2015, culminating last November with a pair of unprecedented binding policy resolutions, opposing both crude by rail and new FFI.  Over the past year, the Bureau of Planning & Sustainability, the Planning & Sustainability Commission, and now the Council itself have worked to craft zoning ordinances to implement the resolutions.

At this writing, the likely results (scheduled for a final vote in early December) look pretty good — in no small part because of energetic leadership from a grassroots movement and broad environmental coalition.  Stay tuned!

— Ted Gleichman, Policy Advisor, Beyond Gas & Oil Team


Open and Accountable Elections Portland

November 1, 2016

The Problem

Many communities face barriers to their voices being heard in our democracy.  One in three Portlanders are people of color, and yet we have only had two people of color ever serve on our City Council.  The majority of our population is female and we have had just seven women on the City Council.  And sixty percent of our city’s population lives east of 47th Ave, but only two commissioners have come from these neighborhoods

One major reason for this is the high costs of running for office.  Candidates are forced to spend time raising money from a small group of donors.  In the 2012 elections, sixty percent of all money raised came from just a few hundred donors giving over $1000 each.  And they gave three times as much as the six thousand small donors giving less than $250[1].  Candidates today need networks of wealthy donors to run for office.  That prevents everyday people from getting elected and representing their own communities.

The Solution

We need Open and Accountable Elections.  Under this reform, if a candidate agrees to only take small donations from individuals, their small donations are matched and amplified.  This reform ensures that every Portlander–regardless of their background—has a set at the table and a voice in our democracy

Small donor matching has been successful all across our country.  New York City has had it for over thirty years, and Maine, Connecticut, Seattle, Albuquerque, Los Angeles, and Montgomery County Maryland have seen this reform work.  Portland could too.

The Impact

Small donor matching changes how candidates campaign.  Because donations from ordinary people are amplified, candidates have more incentive to campaign in all neighborhoods.  That means candidates spend more time interacting with renters, students, working families, people of color, and Portlanders of every background.

Small donor matching also allows more people to run for office.  Big money acts as a barrier to candidates from low-income communities.  But if we do not need networks of wealthy donors to run for office, people of all backgrounds can participate in our elections.  The people with the most talent—not just the best connections–should be able to serve our city in public office.

Open and Accountable Elections is how we engage more people in our elections, and how we make sure that every person has a voice in our democracy.

Our elections are dominated by big donors.  But we can restore balance to our democracy.  If we match small contributions from ordinary Portlanders, every person can have a voice in our community.

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City Hall, Portland, OR

How Open and Accountable Elections Works

Our democracy can be put back in balance

  • Candidates for mayor, commissioner, or auditor must agree to not take any donation over $250 per election, and to only take donations from individuals.
  • Donations under $50 are matched six-to-one by the city, as long as the donors live in Portland, are over eighteen years old, and can give under federal and state law
  • Spending caps keep the costs down. Mayoral candidates cannot spend more than $380k in the primary and $570k in a general election.  Commissioner or auditor candidates cannot spend more than $180k in a primary election and $270k in a general election.

Our democracy can be responsible

  • Candidates must prove they have community support to qualify for the program. Mayoral candidates must raise $5000 from 500 Portlanders.  Commission or auditor candidates must raise $2500 from 250 Portlanders
  • Throughout the program, all candidates must disclose their contributions and their expenses more frequently than they do now
  • Candidates cannot use public funds to travel out of state, to throw expensive parties, or give the funds to another candidate. They cannot hire their family members, and they cannot go into debt.
  • Candidates must provide receipts to see a donation matched
  • Regulators have ten days to verify each donation
  • The verification process is transparent, fair, and open for the public to review

Our democracy can be a budget priority

  • The program is capped at 0.2% of the general fund, or $1 million a year
  • Public funds are protected, because mayoral candidates cannot receive more than $304,000 for a primary election and $456,000 for a general election in matching funds. Commission candidates or auditor candidates are capped at $144,000 in matching funds for a primary election, and $216,000 for a general election
  • There is no tax increase planned for this program

Our democracy can be fair

  • Violators and law-breakers can be fined up to $10,000
  • Independent expenditures and SuperPACs must be more transparent, and must disclose their donations and expenses on a faster timeline than they do now
  • An oversight commission will evaluate the program and can continually make recommendations to adjust for new dynamics

Open and Accountable Elections can make democracy work for all of us.  Join the many community-based advocates and support this reform for our city.

For more information, visit to www.AVoiceForAllPortland.org

Or contact Daniel Lewkow, Political Director for Common Cause Oregon at 503-283-1877 at Dlewkow@commoncause.org

[1] “In Portland, Elections 600 Big Donors Tip the Scales” The Sightline Institute.  May 27, 2016.  http://www.sightline.org/2016/05/27/in-portland-elections-600-big-donors-tip-the-campaign-scales/

 


Call for Nomination Petitions

October 18, 2016

Sierra Club Oregon Chapter Executive Committee welcomes nominations by petition!

Each year a portion of the Sierra Club Oregon Chapter’s elected at-large Executive Committee (ExCom) reaches the end of their terms. Some decide not to run again, others do. The Chapter uses democracy to hold itself accountable to its membership, so we need good candidates to best represent our members’ interests.

The ExCom sets the Chapter’s budget and strategic direction, is deeply involved in the Chapter’s conservation and political work, hires the state director, fundraises, chooses a delegate to the Council of Club Leaders, and approves litigation and electoral endorsements.

To accomplish all of this, the ExCom meets quarterly at different locations around the state to better facilitate involvement of our Chapter and Group leaders across Oregon. There are opportunities to participate remotely in these meetings and there is periodic e-mail and phone correspondence between meetings. ExCom members sit on or chair subcommittees to further contribute to the Chapter’s work and governance. The ExCom also participates in a planning an annual retreat and additional important events throughout the year.

This year, our Nominations Committee has identified five candidates to run for four vacancies on the ExCom. We value the Oregon Chapter membership’s involvement in this process and welcome additional nominees by petition in accordance with our bylaws.

After receiving additional nominations by petition, we — the Nominations Committee — will finalize the candidate slate for this year’s election ballot, which will go out to members in November. Chapter members interested in getting on the ballot by petition must submit a written petition with the names, member numbers, and signatures of at least 1%, or 200, of the Chapter’s 20,000 members in good standing to the Nominations Committee within two weeks of this notice. The Nominations Committee will accept petition nominations until end-of-day November 1, 2016.

Candidates then get space on the Chapter website to advocate for their election in a brief candidate statement.

The four-week election period will commence later in November and close in December.

The four candidates receiving the most votes will start their two-year terms in January 2017.

Have ideas on who would be a great Executive Committee member? Interested in petitioning for nomination as a candidate in this year’s Oregon Chapter Executive Committee election? Send completed petitions or other inquiries to Nominations Committee Chair, Drew Kerr at kerr.drew@gmail.com. Please send nomination petitions no later than November 1, 2016.

Thank you!

– The Nominations Committee

 


UPDATE #2: Portland Fossil Fuel Policy Zoning Heads Back to City Council

October 13, 2016

By Ted Gleichman, policy advisor, Oregon Sierra Club Beyond Gas & Oil Team

A governmental journey of a thousand miles begins with scaling multiple bureaucratic mountains – a step at a time.  Portland’s path to Keep It In the Ground – working to ban new fossil fuel storage and export infrastructure – got major trailblazing from the Planning & Sustainability Commission (PSC) this week.  We are now on track for groundbreaking new zoning code amendments.

So please Save the Dates: the mayor has scheduled a public hearing for Thursday, November 10, at 2 p.m., with the City Council votes planned for Thursday, November 17.  As always, please wear red.

The high-level backstory, critically important for carrying momentum through to the City Council, was this: in split votes, the PSC basically rejected false equivalency.  Governmental agencies – like the Bureau of Planning & Sustainability (BPS) – have long felt obligated to balance stakeholders, theoretically treating everyone as equal in a Civics 101 sense.

Of course, some animals were always more equal than others: typically, on zoning, it was developers and business special interests.  But the classic theory that everyone has a valid tale to tell no longer works on energy and sustainability issues, because of the rapidly-expanding climate crisis.

BPS has done some terrific work on this, but it is difficult for an agency to recognize that the fossil fuel industries cannot be allowed to be the deciders any longer.  Thankfully, an educated and courageous majority on the Planning & Sustainability Commission generally rejected the weakest parts of the newest BPS recommendations.  Notably, the PSC unanimously refused to carve out special exemptions from the most important infrastructure limits for Northwest Natural.   Overall, the PSC will be giving the City Council a pretty good road map for this effort at a climate landmark.

There are still some stumble-spots on the trail, of course, and we’ll be working with eco-coalition partners* to identify to the City Council how to smooth those out.  We will give you the full detailed wonk-post in the near future.

In the meantime, if you run into the mayor or a city commissioner at, say, a political event, or the grocery store, be sure to mention that:

 Just like false equivalency has been a core fallacy in our nation’s presidential race**, so too it is a dangerous trap on the path to solving the climate crisis.

The City Council’s core responsibility is to defend the commitments in their November 2015 binding policy resolution to ban new fossil fuel storage and export infrastructure.  Let’s make that happen!

* Columbia Riverkeeper, Audubon of Portland, 350PDX, Center for Sustainable Economy, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and many others.

** Sierra Club has endorsed former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.


Rally sends clear message to State Land Board: “Keep the Elliott Public”

October 13, 2016
On October 11th, nearly 125 Oregonians from across the state gathered on the lawn of the State Land Board building in Salem to send a loud, colorful, and clear message to the State Land Board: the Elliott State Forest needs to be protected and it needs to be kept public. Governor Kate Brown, Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins, and State Treasurer Ted Wheeler are in the midst of a process that could see the Elliott sold off, most likely to a timber company with its sites set on logging some of the last remnant old growth forest in Oregon’s coast range.
Over 100 Oregonians braved the cold and made their way from all over the state. Photo by Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands)

Over 100 Oregonians braved the cold and made their way from all over the state. Photo by Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands)

It was an excellent turnout with a broad cross section of Oregonians that included native Americans, Coos County residents, hunters, anglers, campers, educators, and kids who are growing up with access to the forest.  One of the most pressing and common concerns is the loss of access to the forest if it is privatized. It is unclear exactly how much and how often the forest would be made open to locals and visitors if it was sold. This is just one of the sale “sideboards” that is inadequate or vague. Protection for aquatic habitat would be reduced by the implementation of weak stream buffers from logging and it appears that much of the old growth would be on the chopping block.
Bob Sallinger of Portland Audubon riles up the crowd (photo by Josh Laughlin)

Bob Sallinger of Portland Audubon riles up the crowd (photo by Josh Laughlin)

38 Oregonians testified before the Land Board, and all of the speakers, except one, provided excellent and powerful testimony on the importance of keeping the Elliott in the public trust. One comment that stuck out was by Fregus McLean.  The economic study commissioned by the state land board to determine the “market value” of the Elliott failed to account for carbon sequestration benefits. Mr. McLean, who is running for Oregon House District 7, provided the economic benefit of saving the Elliott for carbon credits.  His figures indicated that carbon credits could be worth as much as $1.25 billion which is six times greater than the “market value” estimate by LandVest Consulting, the State Land Board’s consultant. It is also worth noting there may be a potential conflict of interest by LandVest that should be investigated.
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Speaking up for all the salmon who couldn’t make the trip to Salem (photo by Josh Laughlin)

The economic value of the Elliott far exceeds the value of timber if you account for carbon sequestration and sale of credits plus recreation, habitat preservation, coho salmon fishery, and many other attributes. This is on top of the hugely important ecological and climate values that the Elliott represents. The Oregon coast range is dominated by private timber holdings—lands that have largely reduced to monoculture tree plantations with bare hillsides and a steady stream of toxic herbicides being sprayed from above. Oregon’s three largest state forests, the Tillamook, Clatsop, and Elliott are some of the last refuges for threatened coho salmon, endangered marbled murrelets, threatened northern spotted owls, and an abundance of other fish, wildlife, and plants. These forests are also a massive carbon sink that has the potential to slow and mitigate climate change.

All this could be lost if Governor Brown and Treasurer Wheeler don’t step up with a real, innovative, and collaborative solution. It would be a low point in Governor Brown’s nascent governorship. For Wheeler, who begins his first term as Mayor of Portland in January, selling the Elliott would run counter to the progressive policies he has promised. Hopefully, our elected leaders heard what they needed to.  Lon Otterby, Vice-Chair of the Sierra Club Many Rivers Group and long-time forest advocate said, “in all my session with the State Land Board this was the most exciting and effective event I have participated on.” Let’s hope Lon is right!
Sierra Club staff with allies from Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild (photo by Josh Laughlin)

Sierra Club staff with allies from Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild (photo by Josh Laughlin)

Written with significant contributions from Howard Saxon and Lon Otterby of the Many Rivers Group. To get involved in the Sierra Club’s effort to protect the Elliott, email Chris Smith (chris.smith@sierraclub.org).

UPDATE: Portland Fossil Fuel Policy Work Moves from F to B-Minus

September 7, 2016

By Ted Gleichman, policy advisor, Oregon Sierra Club Beyond Gas & Oil Team

Portland’s Bureau of Planning & Sustainability (BPS) has proposed zoning amendments for review by the Planning & Sustainability Commission (PSC) that are substantially less destructive than the agency’s original plan.  But “less bad” does not equal “good.”

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BPS was charged with implementing parts of the ban on new fossil fuel infrastructure for export and storage that the City Council approved unanimously last November.  Their original draft zoning amendments were filled with loopholes, and basically gave the industry an open door to unlimited expansion.

BPS was flooded with more than 700 comments to the draft plan, the vast majority calling for a true ban on new fossil fuel infrastructure.

To their credit, agency staff reworked their zoning ordinance proposals with very thorough and diligent staff work.  BPS has now proposed to narrow the opportunities for industry expansion in four important ways:

  1. The new zoning would define “Bulk Fossil Fuel Terminal” as a tank with more than five million gallons of capacity – a tad smaller than the current 300+ tanks in Portland, but still huge.
  2. New Bulk Fossil Fuel Terminals would be banned, but new tanks under five million gallons could still be built so long as they do not include the infrastructure necessary to transload the fuels for export.
  3. Existing Bulk Fossil Fuel Terminals would be defined as “non-conforming uses” – a zoning designation that means ‘they are already here but we don’t want to let them in again.’
  4. Changes and expansions to the non-conforming current Bulk Fossil Fuel Terminals would require approval by a hearings officer after a public hearing.  Any approvals could be challenged in court under land use law (which does not include, for example, increased climate destruction).  Almost all of these tanks are in the earthquake liquefaction zones, on dredged soils along the Willamette River north of downtown Portland – a truly insane place to build or expand anything, but especially not dangerous flammable explosive fossil fuel infrastructure.

The basic problem now is that important parts of these proposals do not yet reflect the clear understanding in the City Council’s binding policy in Resolution No. 37168 to move beyond fossil fuels as quickly as possible.

Activists pack City Hall in Portland

Activists pack City Hall in Portland

The new formal proposal will be reviewed by the Planning & Sustainability Commission on Tuesday, September 13, in an open public hearing at 1900 SW 4th Ave., scheduled to run from 12:30-4:30 pm.  You do not need to be a Portland resident to participate in this critically-important hearing!

The PSC will then decide in early October, after an open meeting without additional testimony, whether to forward any zoning amendments to the City Council for review, possible amendment, and approval.  If they do, the Council itself will hold public hearings and vote in late November or early December.

For more information, or to join in as part of the Oregon Sierra Club team in the September 13 PSC hearing, please contact Ted Gleichman, ted.gleichman@oregon.sierraclub.org, 503-781-2498.  And please stay tuned!


Portland Rocks Hard Against the TPP!

September 2, 2016
 By Alexander Harris
Night Crowd - Signs

Artists and organizers on stage for the finale!

On Saturday, August 20, over a thousand Oregonians came together in downtown Portland to “Rock Against the TPP” with musicians, comedians, and activists from around the country. The concert tour’s stop in Portland not only had outstanding music and spectacular speeches, but also featured a photo petition with huge props (TPP Death Star), a beer garden, trade-themed carnival games, and more!

Earlier in the afternoon, dozens of climate activists attended an educational workshop on how the TPP’s policy failures would exacerbate climate change and degrade the planet. Expert panelists drilled into the shortcomings of the environmental chapter and also discussed how the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) process could hinder local climate action in the Northwest. The workshop was followed by a lively march with chants and creative street theater, eventually arriving to the concert venue just before the show began.

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Over a hundred marched and joined the creative street theater!

Erica - Rock Against

Erica Stock, new ED of OR Chapter

The next day, Portland’s Rock Against the TPP festivities ended with a TPP 101 teach in, which gave the 100-or-so attendees a solid foundation to better understand this complicated issue. In all, 58 labor, environmental, and human rights organizations throughout the state played a role in this weekend of action. With the strong leadership of the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign, the Sierra Club, and many others the trade justice movement continues to grow in Oregon!

To continue to build the pressure, Sierra Club members have created a TPP working group open to anyone interested in stopping this trade deal! Our first monthly meeting is Thursday, September 8, at the Sierra Club office (1821 SE Ankeny, Portland). Come learn how you can plug into this important campaign to stop the largest free trade deal in history!

Contact Tom Sincic for more info:
503-901-7519  –  sincict@q.com
      Climate Warriors!
Over a thousand activists from around the entire state demonstrated their opposition to the TPP
Huge crowd