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Wednesday vote expected to be another major step toward implementing the Clean Energy Community Benefits Fund program approved by voters.

What is happening? On Wednesday, three days before Earth Day, the City Council is poised to take the next major step toward implementing the Clean Energy Community Benefits Fund program overwhelmingly approved by voters at the November 2018 general election.

Mayor Ted Wheeler has asked the council to authorize a temporary interfund loan not to exceed $2.6 million from the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability's Solid Waste and Management Fund to the program to provide interim financing for its startup costs, including hiring staff.

What is the fund and program? Portlanders overwhelmingly voted to create them at the November 2018 general election. The ballot measure, passed by 65% of voters, imposes a 1% surcharge on large retailers doing business in the city.

It is expected to raise between $54 million and $71 million per year for clean energy projects, green jobs training, and programs that reduce greenhouse gases and promote economic, social and environmental benefits. The spending will help the city meet its climate action and equity goals.

The money will be deposited into the fund and then distributed as grants to nonprofit organizations, which submit applications to meet the goals outlined in the initiative measure. They include energy conservation and green job training programs targeted at low-income communities and communities of color.

Who will approve the spending? The measure requires the council to appoint a nine-person oversight committee of experts and community members, modeled after the successful Portland Children's Levy, which will recommend which projects get funded by the council.

The committee also will evaluate and report on the effectiveness of the funded programs in meeting their stated objectives and the overall goals of the measure. In addition, the fund will be subjected to an annual financial audit and a performance audit every two years.

What has the council already done? The council unanimously approved an ordinance to write the authorizing code and create the first positions on Feb. 21. "We are discussing 300 to 500 jobs new jobs yearly," Nate McCoy, executive director of the National Association of Minority Contractors of Oregon, said at the hearing. He estimated the program will create 300 to 500 living-wage jobs per year doing such things as installing solar panels on the rooftops of affordable housing projects.

Can I apply to be on the committee? The city is not expected to accept applications for the committee until later this spring. But those interested in learning more and following the program's progress can sign up for email notifications at www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/article/705673.

What else can I do? You can give the council your opinions of the fund and program at the contact information found at www.portlandoregon.gov. You also can testify at the hearing scheduled for April 17 in the Council Chambers, City Hall, 1221 S.W. Fourth Ave., Portland. The full text can be found at the agenda link on the city's website.


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