A seemingly simple decision takes nearly four months to gain approval

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

You might think joining a network of cities promoting healthy living would be an easy decision for a city council to make. Welcome to Keizer.

A proposal for the city to join the Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) Cities Campaign spanned a total of four months and just as many meetings before finally gaining approval of the Keizer City Council – after another lengthy discussion – at its meeting Tuesday, Feb. 21.

The HEAL Cities Campaign is a joint effort of the Oregon Public Health Institute and the League of Oregon Cities with financial backing from Kaiser Permanente. The foundation of the campaign is to promote social, mental and physical health with a combination of public policy choices and creation of healthy options that are “accessible, affordable, attractive and convenient.” How that is achieved can run the gamut from putting exercise stations in parks to deciding where to place public transit stations and everything in between. Member cities will also eventually be able to apply for grants to complete HEAL-related projects with a 50-percent match.

The idea was put forth at a meeting of the Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee in November. Deputy City Recorder Debbie Lockhart found out about the program at a conference, and knowing the budget issues facing Keizer parks, suggested talking about enrollment in HEAL as a new potential source of revenue for grants to improve Keizer’s parks.

Parks board members took the matter under consideration and forwarded a recommendation to join in the program to the city council. The council took up the issue at its first meeting in February, where the simple step of proclaiming Keizer a HEAL City hit a wall.

After fielding questions about whether becoming a HEAL member city would cost anything (Answer: no), councilors picked apart some of the finer details of the effort.

Councilor Bruce Anderson raised concerns about whether Keizer would be required to enact policies that might be tailored toward other communities – including topics like dedicated pathways for bicycles and pedestrians, transit-oriented zoning controls and land use and transportation.