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Martha Bennett, Lora de la Cruz speak about sustainability in respective organizations

PMG PHOTO: CLARA HOWELL  - Representatives from various community organizations hosted informational tables at the LOSN celebration event. Humanity and connectivity were common themes throughout the speeches given by City Manager Martha Bennett and Lake Oswego School District Superintendent Lora de la Cruz during the Lake Oswego Sustainability Network's (LOSN) celebration event Jan. 8.

The goal of the event was to highlight how the community is working to become more sustainable and to inspire others to join in that effort.

Dorothy Atwood, LOSN board member, said the celebration was a great success and that it was helpful to hear the keynote speakers' perspectives on sustainability.

Along with the keynote speakers, there were community groups — representatives from Luscher Farms, Oswego Lake Watershed Council, Backyard Habitat, Hunger Fighters and more — who hosted tables to provide the public with more information about their organizations and sustainability efforts.

"We are in a critical moment now of choice making," de la Cruz said. "They (our children) deserve a healthy world to grow up in and to grow up to."

The City's perspective

Bennett focused her speech on three city-related issues that she would like to have on LOSN's radar.

Bennett said she sees no negative environmental impacts with the increased density that is expected to surface after the recent passage of House Bill 2001 — which requires cities with more than 25,000 residents, or within Metro, to allow "middle housing" like duplexes, triplexes and other multi-unit, clustered housing options to be built on land zoned for single-family homes — and House Bill 2003, which will require the City to study and determine future housing needs.

Bennett said density helps conserve land, leads to more affordable infrastructure provisions and supports transit. But from the "peoples' perspective," increased density is a mixed-bag.

"If it's true that allowing two units on every lot will create more housing that's affordable to folks in the middle class, that might be good for our community. It might allow us to invite middle income folks, including middle income folks with children, who might go to our schools in our community," Bennett said. "On the other hand, it might fundamentally change the characters of some really wonderful neighborhoods, so I think we are going to be in this conversation as a community about 'how do we do this in a way where we get the advantage of this bill or this new change without experiencing the wrong kind of development or allowing development to dictate how that kind of new product comes into our community.'"

PMG PHOTO: CLARA HOWELL  - Lake Oswego's City Manager Martha Bennett spoke from the City's perspective during the event.Sustainability related to transportation has also been at the forefront of peoples' minds — including Bennett.

While walking her dog, Bennett said she's found places where there's a lot of car traffic and no safe pedestrian facilities. She's also noticed areas where there's a dead-end or cul-de-sac, with a park or school on the other side that she can't reach.

Bennett said it's not just a mobility issue — it's about creating transportation choice and caring for pedestrians by creating connections because "every person is a pedestrian at some point," she said.

"I know you're (LOSN members) focused on transit and I know the work you're doing around electric vehicles," Bennett added. "I hope you'll also take this issue up, not in terms of mobility or reducing climate change or greenhouse gas emissions — those are very worthy causes — but in terms of 'how do we use this as a way to make connections in our community?'"

Bennett also noted that Lake Oswego has an amazing quality of life and that economic development is important to pay attention to as well.

She said for a community to be sustainable, it should have homegrown businesses that pay a good wage.

"And to do that, I think you have to be intentional about place," said Bennett, adding that the city's partnership with LOSN should focus on figuring out how to develop a strategy on growing and maintaining businesses that are already here who understand that quality of life.

Children are the future

De la Cruz talked about the connection between healthy schools, a healthy environment and a healthy humanity, and provided the community with an update on the school district's sustainability efforts.

"We know that schools can be major consumers of energy, paper, food, water, cleaning products and other resources," de la Cruz said. "Schools also have the potential to use resources effectively, efficiently and to serve as models of environmental sustainability, while teaching next generations and communities of families by example."

PMG PHOTO: CLARA HOWELL  - LOSD Superintendent Lora de la Cruz was one of the featured speakers at the celebration event. In the six months that de la Cruz has been employed by the school district, she said she's learned about the productive partnership with LOSN, a group which has helped shape the schools to be sustainability role models with waste reduction, school gardens and green efforts like the formulation of green teams and green school certifications.

De la Cruz added that the district has been and will continue to include sustainability elements for bond construction projects and school enhancement projects like using energy efficient systems and sustainable designs.

But one thing that stood out to de la Cruz were letters written from second graders in the district. Upon returning to school after winter break, she received 23 persuasive essays grounded in research about the effects of plastic on the earth, and students made a case for stopping the use of plastic straws and utensils during school lunch.

"I'm so grateful that our students are so brave and courageous and so passionate about the planet they live on ... and that they felt the need and the courage to write me about that," de la Cruz said. "I've let their teacher know that we are already, at the district level, having conversations about what we can do to make some different choices there."

De la Cruz reminded the public that sustainability is grounded in the connectivity of humanity and the implications of peoples' actions.

"We can be a leader in so many ways — academics and beyond," she said.

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