Metro Divests!!

DSC_0068We are thrilled to announce that Metro has made the fossil fuel divestment commitment! And their investments are already clean! Way to go Metro!

This victory completes the trio of Portland-area governments on the divestment list!

A lot of credit for Metro passing their divestment resolution on July 28th goes to Councilors Bob Stacey and Sam Chase who were the champions of the resolution on the Metro Council. But there were other who were crucial as well. Linda Craig of the 350PDX Divestment/Reinvestment Team kept in touch with Stacey and Chase and made sure the resolution happened. Bryan Brumley, another team member (and also a certified financial planner) whose testimony about how poor fossil fuel company investments have become was what convinced Metro President Tom Hughes to vote yes. Our Team likes to talk about the political reasons for divesting (they’ve committed to sustainability) and moral (they should get their investments in line with their values) but it was the financial argument that counted with Hughes.

Last October, Linda, Bryan and Sandy Polishuk, team coordinator, met with Stacey and Chase and convinced them to champion a fossil fuel divestment resolution at METRO for us, with Stacey in the lead. It took him awhile to get a strong majority of the council on board. Linda was there providing them with answers to their questions, such as what other local governments had divested.

Linda also wrote a sample resolutions for them which went to all the councilors and their Chief Financial Officer. In the course of revision, 350PDX Board member, Rick Brown helped with some science of climate change background and language.

When we thought we were all ready to go, the Metro folks got worried that they couldn’t pass the resolution because Metro has money in the Local Government Investment Pool, investments Metro doesn’t control. The  State Treasurer and the Oregon Investment Council make those decisions, as they do with the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System, PERS, as well. We provided Metro with clarifying language: ‘no direct investment’. With that suggestion, their resolution actually improved because they added that they would urge “the Oregon State Treasurer to discontinue holding securities of companies listed in the Carbon Underground 200™” and directed “the Chief Operating Officer to communicate the contents of this resolution to the Treasurer.”

Supporters were asked to wear orange and meet in the Metro courtyard before the meeting. Team member Taryn Oakley and her daughter and son handed out orange ‘wavies’ they had made for the occasion. In addition to Bryan, Linda and Sandy, Debby Garman and others testified. Debby lives in Washington county and is active in the 350PDX SW and Divest PERS Teams.

The vote was 6-1. The one ‘no’ vote came from Councilor Craig Dirksen who represents District 3, which includes portions of Washington and Clackamas counties and the cities of Beaverton, Durham, King City, Sherwood, Tigard, Tualatin and Wilsonville. Before revealing his vote, President Hughes spoke at length about how he has been on the fence before finally saying that hearing how risky fossil fuel securities have become tipped the balance for him.

Councilor Kathryn Harrington (who represents the District 4 area of Washington County, which includes Northern Washington County, Cornelius, Hillsboro, Forest Grove, Northwest Beaverton, Aloha, Bonny Slope, Bethany, Raleigh Hills, West Slope, Cedar Mill and Cedar Hills) thanked us for being there in our orange and told Debby Garman that she wanted to work with her on getting some of the jurisdictions in her district to follow suit.

So please stay tuned–there’s lots of fossil fuel divestment work still ahead. If you’d like to help get your town or county divested let us know!

More information on what fossil fuel divestment is all about here.