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Hundreds vote on goals at town hall

Corvallis Gazette-Times, October 9, 2008, by Matt Neznanski, Reporter

Rod Lawlor put aside a competing interest in Tuesday’s [10/7/08] presidential debate to instead engage in a discussion of sustainability in Corvallis. Lawlor came to Tuesday’s town hall as a professional in the housing and architecture industry, as both a student and a concerned citizen. “I’ve got questions, definitely,” he said. “I’m mostly interested in housing issues. Anything that increases housing density, I’m for.” Lawlor could take comfort in the fact that 450 other residents made the same choice and filled Oregon State University’s CH2M Hill Alumni Center’s main hall to take action on big ideas.

During the third and final town hall meeting, the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition unveiled the work of 12 groups formed to tackle specific topics such as energy use, transportation, education and housing. The groups created broad goals and a host of specific actions designed to move the community toward meeting them.

The coalition is a network of more than 130 organizations and individuals in Benton County dedicated to creating a community in which resources are renewed at the same rate as they are used. Partner organizations include nonprofits, businesses, churches, schools and local government.

Mayor Charlie Tomlinson praised the meeting’s participants and everyone who had pitched in over the summer to create a roadmap for sustainable efforts in the city. “We live in challenging times,” he said. “With optimism for the future, (however), we come here tonight because we believe in making positive contributions and we believe in our call to action.”

City leaders are banking on the idea. This year, the City Council invested $30,000 in the town hall meetings and has promised to use the plan to develop city policy. They have also promised to take the coalition’s findings into account when crafting city policies promoting sustainability next year.

John McEvoy was part of the group that tackled water-related issues. After eight meetings over the past five months, he said, the group was able to reach consensus on a difficult topic. “It wasn’t easy,” he said. “People have written books on water, and to distill it down into outline form, I feel we’ve gotten to the essence of the problem.” The group suggested reducing the amount of water required in the city and reviving its watersheds to support native fish. Both ideas met with approval from the larger group. “I think everyone has the sense that it’s a good effort,” McEvoy said. “Hopefully what happens is people say ‘Boy, I can do that,’ and if a lot of us do that we can get to goals that seemed far-reaching.”

The coalition will now craft a citywide plan for sustainability and present it to the City Council before the end of the year.

Matt Neznanski can be reached at 758-9518 or matt.neznanski@lee.net.

The following goals were deemed worthy of being made top priority by the hundreds in attendance at Tuesday’s town hall meeting. The coalition plans to conduct a more scientific survey in January to gauge broader public appeal. Percentages with each goal are the number of participants who chose that to be the top priority in its category.

Community inclusion - Describe who is in Corvallis and start talking to each other. (53 percent)
Economic vitality - Encourage 50 percent of residents, organizations, government and business to buy local first. (47 percent)
Education - Integrate sustainability concepts into local school curricula and facilities. (70 percent)
Energy - Reduce per capita energy consumption by 50 percent. (48 percent)
Food - Produce 60 percent of food consumed in Benton, Linn, Lincoln or Lane County. (51 percent)
Health and Human Services - Eliminate discharge of and exposure to toxic pollutants. (63 percent)
Housing - Make all housing energy efficient. (52 percent)
Land Use - Create compact, pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use neighborhoods over 80 percent of the city’s area. (34 percent)
Sustain 50 percent of the city with products produced within 100 miles. (34 percent)
Natural Areas and Wildlife - Manage all public and private natural areas to optimize ecological integrity and resilience. (35 percent)
Transportation - Reduce per capita gasoline consumption by 50 percent. (46 percent)
Waste and Recycling - Cut per capita weight of landfill disposal in half. (48 percent)
Water - Cut municipal water usage in half. (51 percent)

GT Reader Comments
The comments below are from readers of gazettetimes.com and in no way represent the views of the Gazette Times or Lee Enterprises.

CarpeDM wrote on Oct 8, 2008 5:26 PM:
" What a bunch of utopian crap ! Why not call for world peace and an end to hunger by 2025 also. "

Ellie wrote on Oct 8, 2008 10:49 PM:
" Carpe, if you weren't there you really have no idea about what was truly involved. It was an impressive array of community members, including academics, business leaders, politicians and educators among others. I'm sure you can contact someone on the committee to get you the details on the goals and steps to reaching those goals. I agree that some of the goals are pie in the sky, but heck, if you're going to dream why not dream big? It sure beats sitting on the sidelines naysaying while other people move on. "

CarpeDM wrote on Oct 9, 2008 8:17 AM:
" Ellie...I was more involved than you know. Its another grab at property rights, anti growth rhetoric , and a diversion of funds/excuse for [more] taxes....to "implement"....spare me. "

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