The Ashland City Council is gearing up to enact the Climate and Energy Action Plan (CEAP) now that budget hearings are passed and the public has been clear it wants it enacted and overseen by a newly created position, a director who will be hired.
Dozens testified at budget hearings that this should be among the city’s chief priorities.
The CEAP was created after a roughly two-year process by citizen leaders prioritizing ways for the city of Ashland to lower its carbon emissions, create clean and local sources of energy and involve the city and its residents in more thorough conservation techniques.
The council in its study session on Monday considered ways to create an ongoing citizens entity to strategize and set priorities which would be passed along to a director who will implement it.
Mayor John Stromberg said it would be important in creating a commission or committee to identify what the role of it would be. “There’s a distinction between advising and advocacy. Advocacy is not objective and the council needs objective information,” Stromberg said. “It’s important people know how the community works.”
The discussion points centered around forming a commission or committee, how each would best work and, if a commission is formed, if it would usurp other commissions currently in existence, like the Conservation Commission, which has asked not to be dissolved.
In a staff report the council heard first about establishing a commission, creating an ordinance to do so and setting priorities, including funding for the CEAP by the end of the year.
There is currently and ad-hoc committee appointed by the mayor, but the group ultimately suggested a commission which would be determined by a call for applicants and be selected by a vote of the council. It would be a more rigorous process but one which might engage the public more.
“I really want to look at how we engage people,” said Councilor Dennis Slattery. “How individuals can help will make a difference.”
Councilor Rich Rosenthal, who was part of the CEAP group, urged the council to continue involving youth members. “We need to get going on this. The high school students were invaluable. I also think if we have a subject matter expert who doesn’t live in town, that could still work.”
Councilor Greg Lemhouse agreed that while a commission could be a good idea, the ultimate decision making needs to rest in the hands of those elected. “I think the best way to do government is to elect people who do what needs to be done.”
“We have a CEAP staff person and now we have a commission and I don’t know who supports who?” said Councilor Mike Morris, who urged the council to consider being specific about how it will all work together in order to ensure success. “I’m concerned about powers and duties.”
Councilor Stefani Seffinger echoed the concern that, while the plan needs implementing, it’s important to get all those who have been working privately in the community together. “There’s a lot of different ways to look at how to do this.”
Council directed staff to go back and give a clear idea about the value of a commission as opposed to ad-hoc committee and take into consideration the role of the director in each scenario.
The group decided to bring the idea back to the full council in July.
—Email Ashland freelance writer Julie Akins at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/@julieakins.