CHICO – Following the decision by Chico City Council to dissolve the Climate Action Commission and reform it into a committee to meet upon request at the last meeting, reactions from community members and environmentalists intensify.
The decision was made at the September 21 meeting when the board was asked to confirm four appointments to the Climate Action Commission.
The Director of Community Development for Planning and Housing, Brendan Vieg, answered questions from the board.
Vieg said it was only in the past two years that the Climate Action Commission has become a standing commission. Previously, the commission was a sustainability working group that met “about nine times a year”.
“Sustainability is present throughout our overall plan. The Climate Action Commission focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adaptation and resilience to climate change. It’s very targeted, ”Vieg said. “There are a number of communities that (have climate commissions). I would say North Sacramento, there probably aren’t that many. Chico has a lot of things north of Sacramento that a lot of communities don’t.
While large cities like Sacramento have committees to respond to the climate, smaller communities, including Davis and St. Helena, also have committees to respond to climate concerns, the vice-chairman of the Commission noted. climate action, Mark Stemen.
“I think if anything has become clear over the past three years with fires, droughts, empty Lake Oroville and heat waves, it’s that climate change is an all-bridge effort, not a one-time effort, ”Stemen said. “I think the idea that we can sort of deal with climate change when it’s practical is really depressing and disappointing.”
Stemen added that doing climate-related business elsewhere is a more expensive initiative, with the commission having only one associated employee.
“There are other places that could do it like the city council, but it’s the most expensive place in town. When city council meets you have all these chiefs of staff and it’s really heavy on staff and really expensive, ”Stemen said. “Our commission has only one. A staff member who is an associated staff member. It’s not a lot of money.
Stemen said that in addition to being disappointed with the city council’s decision to dissolve the commission, he worries about what children will think when they see a reverse trend in the fight against the climate.
“I can’t imagine what that means for someone who is 14, still can’t vote for four years,” Stemen said. “It’s one thing to hope that we’re moving forward, it’s really hard to say ‘Have hope, we’re going our separate ways.’
The motion to dissolve the committee came from Councilor Sean Morgan, although questions came primarily from Mayor Andrew Coolidge and Deputy Mayor Kasey Reynolds.
“It seems to me that if we made it into a committee that got together to achieve our certain goals as a city, we could potentially save staff time and maybe recruiting could actually be a little more interesting.” Reynolds said following information given by Vieg.
Asked about other comments on Monday, Morgan referenced his newsletter in which he said he understood the concerns but reaffirmed the city will continue to focus on climate sustainability.
“The board regularly creates commissions and committees for special needs. Most are dissolved when their work is done. The Climate Action Commission was put into the code for unknown reasons, ”Morgan wrote. “Their work is mandated by the state and included in the General Plan of Chico. Turning the commission into an an-hoc committee that meets when necessary allows for efficiency (which is rarely seen in government) and enforcement. When staff need direction, the same committee members will be available to guide them, we just won’t require a regular meeting once a month.
Butte Environmental Council chief executive Caitlin Dalby said that aside from the decision to dissolve, Tuesday’s vote also violated Brown’s Law.
“Action like this to dissolve a committee takes more than just a vote,” said Dalby. “Even on an issue such as this or the like, must first be an agenda item which is scheduled for discussion and action and placed on the agenda with 72 hours notice to the public. . “
Dalby added that by dissolving the commission and reforming into a committee to meet on demand, it will also change the way the committee is selected.
“Instead of having nominations and the process for verifying those nominations, an ad hoc committee would report strictly to the mayor,” said Dalby. “It’s a little worrying because it makes it less representative of our people and how our city voted.”
Dalby said removing the commission also creates a wrinkle in future developments as the climate action plan designed by the commission is regularly updated by members.
“All of the development that we always talk about has to happen in Chico, especially for low income housing, and to really make Chico a more sustainable place, not only environmentally but also financially, we need this plan. action that has been being developed by the commission to be adopted by city council, ”said Dalby. “In the process, we need it to be reviewed and revised over time as things change.”
The vote to dissolve the Climate Action Commission and reform it to meet on demand received a 5-2 vote without the support of Councilor Dale Bennett and Councilor Alex Brown.
“I don’t think anyone came into this particular agenda item thinking that the Climate Action Commission was going to be dissolved,” Brown said. “I shouldn’t be surprised but I am.”