With the unprecedented number of Illegal Immigrants, war in Afghanistan and
Iraq, unchecked increases in medical costs, energy prices doubling in less than
a year, nationwide US house prices dropping for the first time since the Great
Depression, and a recession economy America is facing challenges that we have
never had to deal with simultaneously. Government only has pockets as deep as
the taxpayers’. Right now taxpayers are compelled to make major cutbacks because
of 18% increases in food costs, predatory credit company practices; decreasing
home values that frequently exceed homeowner equity; fuel costs approaching
$4.50/gal.; heating & cooling costs which are expected to increase by 30-40%
before the end of the year; and increasing taxes to support government services.
The bottom line is that demand for government services are going to increase at
a time when sources of government revenue are going to be decreasing! We need to
adopt a plan to address three critical areas:
Several of my colleagues on the City Council, and I, recognize the need for making creation of jobs a greater priority than attracting more residents. More residents will add an ever greater burden on the infrastructure of the city and increase the demands on an already overburdened education system and fire department. I will continue, with their support, to advocate that the City engage in an immediate review of the C.I.P. (Capital Improvement Plan) in order to restructure our S.D.C.’s (System Development Charges) to make Molalla more attractive for a business to locate here. I know there are those who believe we should wait until the Comprehensive Plan is approved, but I don’t believe we can afford to wait that long. It appears to me that approval of a plan of this complexity will require longer than the time between now and the end of the year.
We have a critical need for revising our approach to municipal planning to allow more local produce to be marketed locally! Most of our fresh fruits and vegetables are transported an average of 1,500 miles and we are paying the associated costs of fuel and other overhead to bring it here! The more goods and services we can provide locally, the less our costs are going to be. Perhaps we could create an Urban Farm & Forest (UFF) zoning which would cover such things as City Gardens and Open Space (park) designations or even farming activities within the city limits. Another possible starting point may be to revive the “Saturday Market” concept put forth several years ago by Jude Strader, Alice Erickson, and other no less significant members of the community including myself. I believe the time has come to promote marketing local goods and services in this fashion.
As I’ve indicated on numerous occasions (http://www.fyi.bz/A_Plan.htm), these problems are critical but not hopeless if we begin to address them immediately! I have made suggestions to my colleagues on the Molalla City Council that we conduct public work sessions as soon as possible which would allow LCDC and DLC staff to come to Molalla and assist us in implementing the radically changed methods of calculating municipal growth (UGB and URA). These new methods are in response to a situation where gasoline costs are a disincentive for rural living, which means that Molalla may very well lose population if we do not produce jobs closer to where our residents live! It also means that, unless we can shift from a ‘commuting economy’ to a community economy, housing values will continue to decrease in rural areas.The Budget Committee, at my suggestion and insistence over the past two years, has recommended that the City review our energy options in regard to significant energy alternatives and development of a bold and strong energy policy to reduce Molalla’s vulnerability and dependence on energy derived from foreign fossil fuels. City Manager, John Atkins, has some good ideas under review, but the City Council needs to provide more aggressive goal priorities which will escalate these measures. There are Third party ownership arrangements available for organizations which cannot utilize the federal or state tax credits and benefits available for solar, or by entities that prefer not to own and maintain a system or lack financial capital needed to invest in solar. Typical organizations which can not take advantage of the tax policies are typically governments, municipalities, schools, non-profits or other tax exempt organizations.
According to the Energy Trust of Oregon there are two types of solar power generating facility agreement available to a host municipality such as Molalla. The first is a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) and the second is a Flip Model agreement. In both cases a third party business or investor installs, owns, and maintains the solar system and sells the power produced by the system to the host at a fixed rate for a set period, typically 6-20 years depending on the type of agreement. The option to purchase the facility at a depreciated or reduced rate also exists.
The proposals mentioned here require the Molalla City Council to agree to hold public work sessions to address these issues in a transparent and collaborative fashion and to engage the community in resolving these issues. It’s up to my colleagues, on the Council, to take immediate action. We have Council members who are keenly aware of the critical issues we are facing, but we have been somewhat hampered in addressing these issues because of personality conflicts. We must put our personal issues aside and focus on the needs of the community we represent! I am only one member of the Council, and although I can continue to request the Council take action, I cannot do it by myself! I know there are many members of the community who share my concerns, and I would strongly recommend that they contact the Mayor and other Council members and make their concerns known!