SEASIDE — Climate change, emergency preparedness and other topics were on the minds of residents who came to City Hall on Saturday, March 31, to ask state Sen. Betsy Johnson and Rep. Deborah Boone questions.
With retirement on the horizon for Boone, some quizzed her about the future of emergency preparedness, her legacy issue.
One of those constituents was Tiffiny Mitchell, a candidate running for state House District 32 — Boone’s soon-to-be former seat.
“I come from Utah, where we have similar issues living on a fault line,” Mitchell said. “Then I moved here and I felt I was moving from one community with emergency planning issues to another facing the same issues. What do you think needs to still happen to make sure this area is prepared?”
Boone, D-Cannon Beach, mostly reflected on progress the state has made, including legislation that created the Oregon Resilience Plan following the 2011 Japanese tsunami, as well as a bill that allows retired medical professionals to practice in Medical Reserve Corps like the ones in Cannon Beach and Manzanita.
Most of the success Boone said she has seen has been on a local level with neighborhood mapping efforts and preparedness groups.
“They’ve taken the wand in the relay here and are putting these ideas into place,” Boone said.
Johnson, D-Scappoose, emphasized a need for clear messaging when it comes to responding to a disaster, after a tsunami watch issued for the Oregon Coast in January caused local confusion.
In a separate interview, Boone said she sees the future of emergency planning in promoting relocation projects like the Seaside School District is embarking upon, as well as supporting more dual-purpose, resiliency-based development.
While there is more to be done, Boone said she feels confident in the progress she has seen since taking office in 2004.
“I’m comfortable leaving now. (Emergency planning) has taken on a life of its own,” Boone said. “I’m sure everyone in this room knows someone connected to the resiliency world.”
What the state is doing to address climate change was also on the audience’s mind at the town hall, including Oregon’s cap-and-trade bill, which failed to move forward in the last session.
The proposal was modeled on programs in California, as well as Ontario and Quebec, Canada, that set a cap on greenhouse-gas emissions and force large polluters to buy allowances if their emissions exceed the cap.
Clatsop County Commissioner Lianne Thompson asked Johnson what it would take to balance making a cleaner environment with the interests of the timber industry, which could be adversely affected.
Progress passing cap-and-trade in Oregon is stop-and-go due to larger unanswered questions about how a law would be implemented after an audit of the state Department of Environmental Quality showed there is inadequate staffing to carry out a program, Johnson said.
How money would be appropriated and to what types of projects also needs to be refined, Johnson said, but she still believes it will be the “signature bill of the next session.”
“We don’t want to accidentally do damage like raising gasoline prices, or put an older mill like Wauna Mill, which employs hundreds of people and invests heavily to reduce pollution footprint, that it’s not regulated out of business,” she said.
Other topics included tax reform, options for an overcrowded Clatsop County Jail, and issues with the Oregon Department of Transportation having enough staff to carry out projects listed in the $5.3 billion transportation package passed last year.