Kevin Conway & Mike Turgeon, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
With the catastrophic wildfires of 2017, climate change has already had a devastating impact on Sonoma County. Because Santa Rosa already has an excellent Climate Action Plan, here are four cost-neutral steps that the City Council can take this year to prepare for further climate emergencies while at the same time reducing our carbon footprint:
— Elevate the climate crisis to the tier 1 priority, so that any project before the council must be in compliance with the Climate Action Plan before a vote is taken.
— Establish a council subcommittee on climate to manage the plan so that future climate-related policies can be more readily enacted.
— Pass an electric-ready building ordinance as a first step to requiring all-electric homes.
— Update the Climate Action Plan to reflect current science as staffing and financial resources permit.
However, the climate crisis isn’t even on the council’s radar.
Recently, the council was given a lengthy report on the city budget that was followed by a public hearing on budget priorities. Chuck McBride, the city’s chief financial officer, reported on the sobering challenges our city faces. He pointed out that we need to come up with $6 million to $7 million to balance the budget. The primary reasons for this are lost property tax dollars because of the fires and unfunded pension liabilities.
Another sobering fact is that the city’s mandated reserves is 15 percent of general fund expenditures. That means the city should have about $25 million in reserves. Today, the amount of money stands at about $4 million. Again, this is largely because of money spent after the fires.
Surprisingly, no mention was made of the fact that the fires were the result of the climate crisis.