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Program approved by voters at the November 2018 election moving forward despite questions about it impacting more businesses than expected

PMG FILE PHOTO - Supporters rally for the Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Fund outside City Hall during the 2018 November election.The City Council appointed the first five members of the Portland Clean Energy Community Benefits Fund Committee on Wednesday, Sept. 25.

The committee will help administer the fund that was approved by city voters at the November 2018 general election. The program anticipated to raise between $54 million and $71 million through a 1% city business license tax increase on large retailers doing business in Portland. The funds are to be spent on clean energy projects that primarily benefit marginalized communities.

"The Portland Clean Energy Fund is a nationally acclaimed model for climate action and I am excited to have such a dynamic and talented slate of appointments on the PCEF committee to help ensure we get it right," Mayor Ted Wheeler said of the appointments.

Although it was approved by 65% of voters, the fund has proved controversial after the city ruled it applies to more types of businesses than supporters said during the campaign, including garbage collection companies, which are raising their fees to pay it. As first reported by Willamette Week, the McDermott Will Emery law firm is researching whether the fund can be challenged in state or federal court for violating the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution, which limits states' authority to regulate business conducted across state lines.

The Portland Business Alliance, which opposed the measure, is staying neutral on the idea of such a challenge while seeking exemptions to the increase for certain kinds of businesses.

Once confirmed, the five committee members will nominate four others to be confirmed by the council on the board. After all nine positions have been filled, the committee will reviewing applications for funding and awarding grants for community clean energy projects. It will also maintain a public website of information on the committee's activities, membership, and policies.

Each council member nominated a member who was confirmed Wednesday afternoon. The council members and their nominees are:

Mayor Ted Wheeler: Maria Gabrielle Sipin, a professional transportation planner, public health professional, and community health advocate with extensive experience working with low-income communities of color, people experiencing homelessness, and LGBTQ youth in clinical and community settings on mental health services, transportation access, and housing.

Commissioner Amanda Fritz: Dr. Megan Horst, an Assistant Professor in the school of Urban Studies & Planning, Portland State University. She brings substantial urban agriculture and local food systems expertise that is recognized both locally and nationally. Ms. Horst also brings a strong equity lens and experience in food justice work.

Commissioner Nick Fish: Michael David Edden Hill, a journeyman electrician who, in addition to experience in wind power design and deployment, also brings experience in construction management on one of the largest solar photo voltaic systems in the country. Edden Hill has a solid understanding of informal support ecosystem necessary to support paths through pre/apprenticeship programs.

Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty: Shanice Brittany Clarke, the Director of Community Engagement at Portland Public Schools. She brings deep community engagement experience having worked directly with 75 to 100 community organizations annually that serve Portland's diverse communities. In addition, Clark is also a national delegate on the Climate Justice Alliance and currently sits on the boards of OPAL Environmental Justice and the Coalition for Women's Identities.

Commissioner Chloe Eudaly: Robin Wang, a seasoned business, nonprofit, and community leader that with a passion for deploying capital to benefit underbanked communities. As a former owner of a small business focused on sustainable living, he brings a wealth of expertise in both sustainability and small business operation. Wang is also the executive Director of a local community development financial institution and volunteers on several boards.

"We have such a committed and talented group of people joining the PCEF committee,. I'm excited to see what comes next as we continue building a program that is the first of its kind in the nation, thanks to the community's efforts," said "Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who co-sponsored the measure before she was elected to the council.

You can read the council materials about the fund and nominees here.

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