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Summary Meeting Notes: July 10, 2013 Infrastructure Equity Policy Expert Group

Summary Meeting Notes
Infrastructure Equity Policy Expert Group 
Meeting Date: July 10, 2013
Time: 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon

PEG Attendees: Susan Aldrich, Roger Anthony, Roger Averbeck, Sara Collier-Weiner, Susan Gilbert-Hartnett, Karyn Hanson,Jackeline Luna Acosta, Jeff Leighton, Karen Meyer, Shoshanah Oppenheim, Midge Purcell, Steph Routh, Joe VanderVeer.

Other Attendees: Courtney Duke & Sara Schooley (PBOT); Sarah Huggins (PP&R); Michelle Kunec-North & Michele Crim (BPS).

PEG Lead: Bob Glascock

Facilitator: Andrée Tremoulet, Commonworks Consulting

View the original agenda, including materials, for this meeting.

Welcome

Presenter: Andrée Tremoulet, Commonworks Consulting

Summary: Andree Tremoulet (facilitator) welcomed the group and outlined the purpose of the meeting – 1) To discuss the City’s process to prioritize infrastructure projects, and 2) To learn how two City bureaus approach this process (Parks and Transportation).

Process Update

Presenter: Michele Crim, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability

Summary: Michele Crim updated IE PEG members on the status of the finalized IE PEG Feedback Memo regarding Part 1: Goals and Policies.  Staff responsible for individual chapters are using it to identify ideas and issues to incorporate into the next round of edits to Part 1, which is due out later this fall.

At this July meeting, the IE PEG will consider existing project selection criteria, and discuss how to incorporate equity considerations into those decision-making processes. In August, the IE PEG will be using the City’s new mapping tool to explore where infrastructure projects have being proposed and to identify synergies, conflicts, and gaps related to infrastructure equity.  In September or late October, there will be a large meeting of members of all the PEGs where IE PEG members will have the opportunity to discuss and explore ideas and issues with other PEGs.

Citywide Project Considerations

Presenter: Michelle Kunec-North, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability

Materials:  Decision-making in infrastructure planning

Summary:  Michelle Kunec-North presented an overview of the various budget planning and processes where infrastructure investment and project decisions are made. She reviewed decision-making processes related to the Citywide Systems Plan, long-range bureau plans, and the 5-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) and the annual budget process.  Decision-making can happen at many points. Factors considered in decision-making include: levels of service and identified needs; regulatory or other mandatory compliance; public support, impact on health, safety, environment and economic risk; opportunity benefits; and effect on future costs. Michelle reviewed the general spatial and time scale that bureaus tend to focus their decision-making – which varies by infrastructure system.

Michelle explained how to view proposed bureau capital improvement plans (CIP), here:  http://www.portlandoregon.gov/cbo/article/405657.  This is part of the City ofPortland’s FY 2013-14 adopted budget.  For each project, there is a project description and project costs for the first five years.  The capital plan’s first year column is committed dollars.  Years 2 through 5 of the capital plan do not carry a commitment.  The document also identifies the project’s objective, general area and overall project cost.

Questions:

  • Will there be standardized decision-making principles? Yes – we are headed in that direction – and the IE PEGs feedback on the Goals and Policies have helped inform that.  Staff are continuing to work on incorporating guidance for implementation (e.g. decision-making approaches) related to equity, prosperity, health, etc. That being said, each bureau will continue to have a unique decision-making approach that works best for their systems and services.
  • How will the IE PEG be able to continue to provide input on this? In August, the IE PEG will be reviewing the maps. Through the all-PEG meeting in September or October, IE PEG members will have an opportunity to continue discussing Part Two with other PEGs. Beyond that meeting, IE PEG members individually can provide feedback through the public workshops, directly with staff, and through other mechanisms designed to capture community ideas.

Transportation Health Equity

Presenter: Sara Schooley,Portland Bureau of Transportation

Materials: Transportation_Health_Equity (slide show)

Summary: Sarah Schooley presented an overview of the grant-funded work that the bureau completed regarding ways transportation can promote health equity. Several partners met for over a year to develop health equity definitions and criteria. PBOT developed policy recommendations for the Transportation Systems Plan, and health equity criteria to prioritize projects. Sara led the IE PEG through an exercise using the quantitative criteria and a series of maps. The criteria include factors related to community need and population served, active transportation, safety, exposure to air toxins and completion of the transportation network.

Highlights of the discussion included:

  • While looking at this through the silo of health equity is useful, it is only part of what should be considered in making transportation investments.
  • Prior to the development of this tool, in what ways were health equity factors considered in prioritizing investments?  Some aspects of health equity were indirectly incorporated into the criteria, but other factors such as the requirements of funding sources and political will tended to play a larger role.  Moving forward, the intent is to establish a framework for decision-making that evaluates a variety of factors that includes health equity among others (e.g., economic development impact, equity, risk).
  • Can you apply these same criteria to projects of different scales and costs (e.g. compare a $250k project to a $57M project)? There is benefit to trying to develop more of an apples-to-apples comparison, where the scale of the impact is considered.
  • Historical spending might be an interesting addition. However, sometimes historical funding may or may not have had a positive impact on a neighborhood. (e.g., Would an expensive new on-ramp benefit or harm a neighborhood?  Who would benefit from it?).  Also, looking at money spent might not capture reduction in risk – which can be more meaningful for some infrastructure services. Thus, considering where money is spent only tells part of the story and may not be a consistent indicator of neighborhood benefit.
  • The health equity criteria also helps highlight opportunities to modify a proposed project in ways that would improve the score – thus making the project rank higher and resulting in meaningful improvements for health equity.
  • Interest was expressed in exploring how these types of criteria could be used for all projects (freight, active transportation, etc.). Population served, versus the population impacted.
  • Funding sources come with constraints. Who is the dominant stakeholder in those decisions?
  • Community involvement is not currently reflected in the criteria but should be.  One way to approach this would be to develop a rating scale based on a basic level of expected community involvement.

Parks Criteria

Presenters: Randy Webster and Sarah Huggins,PortlandParks and Recreation (PP&R)

Materials:  PP&R_CIP_Criteria

Summary:  Randy Webster and Sarah Huggins reviewed the capital project request criteria and rating system. Projects are generally added to the list in the following ways: 1) development of a master plan for a park (done in collaboration with the neighborhood); 2) system plans (e.g. skate park system plan, community gardens, dog off-leash area), 3) maintenance (replacement) projects identified as the conditions are assessed; 4) project proposal process where community members and propose projects – which often comes with help to raise funds to kick-start those projects (e.g. Harper’s Playground); 5) code or other mandates (e.g. playgrounds that need ADA improvements).

PortlandParksand Recreation has a committee that rates project requests based on a set of criteria. Projects get added to the list, and funding options are identified and projects are added to the budget in the fall. The criteria consider legal requirements, public support, conformance with existing plans, improvement to level of service, health and safety, protection of assets or facilities, environmental quality, financing or business opportunity (e.g. grant), and effect on operating budget.

Two of the criteria relate directly to equity: human health and safety, and improvements to level of service. Funding for PP&R facilities are very limited in terms of what they can be spent on – so cost isn’t directly factored into the criteria (beyond financing/business opportunity, effect on operating budget, etc.).

Some of the strengths of the criteria process include broad and deep community involvement in the master planning process.  There is significant bureau involvement in identifying asset condition and maintenance need.  The criteria have been used for several years, so it is easier to compare rankings from one year to the next.

The decision-making points within the bureaus are what we need to get to in order to address equity issues at the core. This is particularly true when we have constrained funding sources. Some of the funding sources (e.g. grants from federal agencies, etc.) are starting to ask equity questions that haven’t been asked before. That may be a silver-lining for accessing those funds.

PP&R is moving toward incorporating equity into all of the criteria rather than creating a separate factor for equity. They think this will give them a richer perspective on making those choices.

Highlights of the discussion included the following:

  • Is it possible to include a consideration of the population served (including demographic information) this into the PP&R criteria? Yes, PP&R is interested in building this into their decision-making in the future. When looking at master planning projects, they do use demographics and number of households served when identifying which parks to master plan first. PP&R considers gaps in their system.
  • Are the same criteria used for regional trails? Yes, they use the same criteria for trails. However, constrained funding sources often dictate what can and can’t be done.
  • Are concerns about equity more likely to surface around operations and maintenance (e.g., picking up litter in the parks, maintaining operable drinking fountains.) rather than around capital projects? For PP&R, operational and maintenance issues are as much about equity as new projects.

To conclude the discussion, Michelle Kunec-North said that today’s discussion focused at a bureau-specific, detailed level.  However, the CSP itself will deal with these issues at a more general level.  She said that the City will be looking for feedback in the coming months on how project considerations can be improved. At the Sept/Oct joint PEG meeting, staff will outline opportunities for IE PEG members to remain engaged as individuals going forward.