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By Brian Stimson of The Skanner News
Published: 03 January 2011

Metro Councilor Robert Liberty will be resigning his position on the Metro Council to become executive director of the Sustainable Cities Initiative at the University of Oregon.

Effective Jan. 15, Liberty will leave the council to lead The Sustainable Cities Initiative, one of the University of Oregon's "Big Ideas" that will help shape the school's academic priorities and develop national solutions to various problems. The program, at Liberty's alma mater, "aims to transform higher education with community engagement, interdisciplinary collaboration and sustainability study to influence public policy."

Liberty told The Skanner News that it wasn't a job that he sought out, but after beginning the interview process, realized it was a good fit for his talents and interests. Liberty says he's long been interested in social justice and equity in city planning. The new position will allow him to formulate and test new models of sustainability.

He said he feels he's done a good job bringing these issues to the forefront during his term in office.

"I feel Metro has been paying attention to these issues much more than before I arrived 6 years ago," he said.

This year, the Sustainable Cities Initiative will focus their efforts on Salem, with the help of more than 60 students. Liberty says his new position is not an ivory tower, nor the director of merely a think-tank. He says they will be looking to find applicable solutions to problems rooted in the real world.

With less than two years left on Liberty's term, the vacant seat will be filled with an appointment by the Metro Council. All interested persons are encouraged apply and the council will be advertising the vacancy for at least four weeks, with one week of public comment, before making the appointment.

Liberty is the second commissioner to leave Metro in the last year. David Bragdon, former Metro Council president, left in September 2010 for a position in New York City as Mayor Michael Bloomberg's director of Long Term Planning and Sustainability.

"Robert Liberty, like the Oregon planning system, has a national reputation for leadership in livability. As a former colleague of Robert's on the Metro Council I know he will boost the University of Oregon's ability to help cities across the nation become more sustainable and equitable," Bragdon said in a statement.

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