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Running unopposed for Shane Abma's seat, neighborhood leader helps plan city's climate action plan

There's one election result that's easy to predict: Kathy Hyzy will be elected as the newest face on the Milwaukie City Council.

PHOTO BY: MARK GAMBA - Kathy HyzyHyzy is running unopposed for the seat being vacated by City Councilor Shane Abma, who was appointed in January 2017 to the seat vacated by Karin Power when she stepped up to represent Milwaukie in the Oregon Legislature.

Although this is Hyzy's first time running for public office, she says much of her career has included community organizing, communication, educating policymakers and building partnerships between unlikely allies.

"This is all experience that will help me to keep Milwaukie moving in a great direction," she said. "When I learned that Councilor Abma would not be running for a second term, it struck me as a great opportunity to join a hard-working team of people who are dedicated to creating the best possible future for this community."

Amba ran unopposed for the remainder of Power's term in May 2017. He said the only reason he decided not to run again was because of a lot of restructuring at his day job as an attorney for Metro, which will keep him "very busy" for the next year and a half.

"I was afraid it would be difficult to give the full attention needed to both my full-time day job and the City Council position," Abma said.

Stepping down after helping Milwaukie implement a plastic-bag ban, Abma said the City Council is a "great opportunity" to serve the community on "one of the best, most progressive, most collegial city councils in the Portland metro region."

Abma warned Hyzy that such service also is a big time commitment, so she should be prepared to "work hard and still be criticized at times by people who don't always have all the facts." Abma advised that Hyzy not let that type of feedback get her down.

"As for words of support, I would tell Kathy to do what she believes is right, stand strong and do your homework," Abma said.

Climate-change focus

After getting her bachelor's degree in sociology and creative writing from Linfield College in 1997, Hyzy earned a master's degree in environmental studies from the University of Montana. She's a graduate of Battle Ground High School in Clark County, Washington.

Hyzy spent five years as the executive director of Western Friend, a small nonprofit publishing and community outreach organization for Quakers (the Religious Society of Friends). In 2007, she wrote a 25-page research paper for the Oregon Environmental Council titled "Drop by Drop" on how to encourage voluntary reductions in diesel emissions from businesses.

"Reducing pollution through voluntary means is no easy task, especially in the business world. However, it can be accomplished," Hyzy wrote in the introduction. "Establishing strong working relationships between private, public and nonprofit institutions is key to getting individuals and businesses to take the leap."

Hyzy's experience as a project manager with the Oregon Environmental Council gave her a leg up in getting appointed by Milwaukie officials to the city's 17-member Climate Action Plan Committee. In that role, she helped plan the city's first climate action plan that city councilors unanimously adopted at their Oct. 2 meeting.

By adopting the plan, the city committed to no net emissions by 2040 and becoming carbon-neutral by 2050.

"Thanks to this plan, we have committed to preserving our quality of life for current and future generations," Mayor Mark Gamba said.

The plan includes actions for city departments, Milwaukie households and local businesses, including efforts to reduce emissions, preparations for impending climate change, and a process to capture carbon from the atmosphere.

"This is a bold roadmap for our community to make real progress on climate change," said Peter Passarelli, who will manage the plan as Milwaukie's public works director. "By implementing this plan, we're showing similar cities that towns like Milwaukie can move the needle on climate change and be true leaders."

City-led strategies in the plan are projected to reduce Milwaukie's local emissions by 73 percent over the next 22 years, which is ahead of the pace needed to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. The plan includes dozens of strategies for Milwaukie residents and businesses to help close the remaining 27 percent gap. The city has pledged to update the plan at least every five years to keep up with changing climate impacts and advances in technology.

"Time and again, I've seen the city go out of its way to get residents to be a part of developing the new comprehensive plan, the climate-change plan, what we want our parks to do and be, and on and on," Hyzy said. "I love that citizen engagement is baked in to how Milwaukie is getting things done, and I love that residents care enough to take the time to participate. It's inspiring to live in a place that strives to practice honest-to-goodness democracy, and I feel that it results in better policymaking and greater ownership of the outcomes of the decisions that are made."

Affordable housing

Soon after moving to Milwaukie from Portland in 2014, Hyzy began volunteering as the communications director for the Island Station Neighborhood District Association. As a Portland resident for most of her adult life, she was "used to how a larger city does — and doesn't — work."

Hyzy sees Milwaukie's governance as much different from Portland's. Regular attendance at neighborhood meetings gave her an introduction to Milwaukie's current initiatives and the ways the city tries to engage with residents.

Coming from a large city, Milwaukie's proposed purchase of an Island Station lot for affordable housing struck her as a remarkable effort to engage the neighborhood in the process at an early stage.

"I was repeatedly impressed by the care and professionalism I witnessed in both staff and City Council," she said. "When the city began to explore using a lot in the neighborhood for an affordable-housing development, they didn't just post a notice and leave it up to neighbors to figure it out."

Instead, Hyzy said that Gamba and City Councilor Angel Falconer attended an Island Station meeting last year and invited a half-dozen officials and representatives from Clackamas County and other potential partner organizations to provide the best answers to as many questions as they could.

Gamba said the city's purchase of the 2-acre TriMet lot valued at approximately $325,000 by the county assessor has been delayed. TriMet no longer needs the lot at the corner of 25th Avenue and Sparrow Street after the construction of the Orange Line along adjacent McLoughlin Boulevard in 2015.

"It does have the kind of contamination one would expect from a piece of land that had heavy equipment operating on it for decades," he said. "We will have to clean that up before we can do anything with it. So the project is a little stalled while we work through that."

Milwaukie Community Development Director Alma Flores says the city is indeed still on track for purchasing the property, but she doesn't have an idea yet on when this purchase would come to City Council for an official decision during a public meeting.

Running unopposed for City Council has allowed Hyzy to focus on personal outreach to the community, while still writing a Voters' Pamphlet statement and campaign website at kathyhyzy.com.

"I'd much rather spend my time listening to the ideas and concerns of residents than fretting about how many lawn signs to print and distribute," she said.

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