The joint session between the two government bodies was intended as a “how we doin’?” kind of discussion, not the least of which was the possible end of recycling as we’ve known it, how to keep our kids off marijuana, that our new county health center might be put on hold due to the chaos in Washington DC, how to avoid “foxes guarding the hen house,” defending public access rights to the beach, getting power from wave energy and keeping vigil: No off shore oil drilling!
The meetings ran on two days during the week and sometimes were specific – other times rather general. But it gave an opportunity to figure where we’re going as a county.
Marijuana Tax Subventions
Right off the bat discussions started with city and county officials trying to figure out what marijuana tax subventions (kick backs to local cities and counties) are going to amount to, now that recreational marijuana is legal in Oregon. County Counsel Wayne Belmont said it’s clear that the state hasn’t figured out what part of the statewide marijuana tax collections will be shared with local cities and counties that allow such sales and that there’s no indication that the up and down amounts are settling down. A lot of that remains a well kept secret, apparently, among state officials in Salem. Belmont says it’s hard to budget without some predictability from the state.
It was also mentioned that the marijuana tax subventions should go primarily to efforts to prevent drug addiction and to encourage young people to never take up the habit.
New County Health Services Building getting a little bit iffy
County Counsel Wayne Belmont reported to the Newport City Council that with all the political shaking and tumult in Washington DC and a possible lack of otherwise predictable federal funding on an array of medical services like ObamaCare and Medicaid, the amount of “unknown unknowns” prompted the county to temporarily slow down the timeline for construction of a new county medical building. And to add a broken leg to a twisted ankle, the ground the building is slated for has failed an environmental test for contaminated soils. The site was used as a long-ago government vehicle fueling facility.
China slams the door on accepting American and others’ “low grade” recyclable solid waste.
The bad news about China’s “about-face” on American and other nation’s solid waste for recycling has thrown everyone for a loop. The Chinese say they’ve got plenty of their own and that the kind of waste they are known for accepting from all over the world is coming to an end. Plastics especially. County solid waste program chief and Newport City Councilor Mark Saelens said that it’s going to close the China door and force the world to figure out other solutions, if there are any. Saelens indicated that there are other ways to recycle the kinds of materials that China won’t take thereby preventing other solid waste from rapidly filling up America’s landfills. Saelens was very clear that the situation is very foggy.
Preserving Beach access at Spring and 13th Street
Story correction on exact location
The council launched in to an analysis of a construction project off the side of NW Spring Street near 13th, where a landowner is making preparations to build a home that will overlook the ocean. The neighbors complained that the work was threatening a very popular neighborhood pathway to the beach below and that he was doing drilling work that may threaten the stability of the soils that nearby homes sit on. Neighbors also complain that the landowner has removed foliage and trees that are needed to prevent erosion of the hillside.
The city Community Development Department stepped in and began monitoring the situation finding that the project could be modified to preserve beach access. The city contacted the owner’s geologic engineer and he was given a copy of the plan that the homeowner is supposed to follow to maintain beach access because the area in question was an extension of a county road. The road was never abandoned by the county meaning that the right of way is still in effect. But it appears that the situation is improving thanks to agreements between the homeowner, the city and the county, although there may be some additional negotiations between the owner and the city on the final layout. Obviously to be continued.
Remember that experimental wave energy project planned off the central coast??
County Commissioner Terry Thompson, who spends a lot of time championing Lincoln County issues with the Oregon Legislature, reported that a wave energy research project that has been in the works for a while, may be coming to the surface after all. Thompson told the gathering that the project is close to being approved during the short “interim” legislative session. Thompson said if it does get the go-ahead, the test generators would be placed five miles off Newport, with sea-bottom electrical cables feeding a beach receiving facility south of Seal Rock.
Councilor David Allen sternly made the point that the project is experimental and not intended to portend the emergence of a carpet of wave energy generators on the ocean floor. Thompson acknowledged that fact but quickly pivoted to the point that if these devices are viable for wave energy production, further engineering and design improvements to the devices could create good paying jobs in the Newport region.
Affordable Housing – What’s being done about it?
The two government bodies touched briefly on the coast’s (and the country’s) deepening crisis over a lack of affordable housing. It was mentioned that Portland’s ‘Proud Ground’ housing agency is working to create affordable single family homes both in Lincoln City and Newport and that plans are moving ahead to provide more.
As a little brighter light in the housing “darkness” it was mentioned that the Lincoln County Housing Authority is no longer advocating for single family affordable homes, largely because they’re a contradiction in terms. Instead, the authority is switching their attention to creating multifamily mid-rise condo/apartments which helps to bring down the cost because at least three families would be paying off the price of the ground underneath them. If constructed in cities, a ground floor dedicated to commercial/retail businesses, with families above, could contribute even more toward paying of the ground costs. Higher lot prices have become a recurring “deal-stopper” when it comes to low cost housing.
Just Say No to Offshore Oil Drilling Platforms
And finally, getting back to a little bit of national politics, as everyone heard early in the Trump Administration, the order went out that America would begin again too exploit it’s fossil fuel riches which includes constructing oil drilling platforms offshore from all three U.S. coasts. The northeast states threw a fit and got the idea scrapped – at least for the moment. The state of Florida threw a similar tantrum prompting Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to nix oil rigs off Florida.
So lately, there’s been a lot of buzz in the news that Trump’s latest attempt to deliver on his promise is to put the West Coast in his cross-hairs. But already local and state governments, along with an avalanche of letters and emails to the White House are making it abundantly clear that West Coast Americans refuse to fancy themselves as sacrificial offerings to the fossil fuel gods. One citizen told the city council that “You can imagine what a Cascadia Subduction Zone Earthquake could do to those oil rigs.” She said the resulting disaster would be unimaginable. Consequently the Newport City Council and Lincoln County officials are firing off Municipal and County Resolutions of Opposition to the addition of any oil rigs off the Oregon Coast. Those notices are already pouring in to the White House from California and Washington.