Friday, June 5, 2020

JC Penney to Close downtown Store - and brief City Council Notes

JC Penney has announced it will be closing the downtown store. It joins at least Nordstrom and TJ Max. (There were probably others in the mall proper also, but they aren't top of mind here.)

April 10th, 1917 and more here on the first store site
The company is closing 154 stores, so this is not merely something about Salem in particular, but is about the Pandemic accelerating structural changes in department store and big box retailing.

Moved to PDX, still breaking Salem news - via twitter
It is also another sign that our current conception of downtown as a drive-to destination like a mall is not at all sustainable, and that we will have to build more housing and create a larger market with people whose demand is satisfied with a greater proportion of walking trips. Autoism by itself can't sustain the downtown economy. No amount of free parking would have prevented these changes.

From 2008: more downtown housing
With a larger downtown population constituting a market itself, businesses will return.

But as long as we conceive of downtown businesses as having to be a drive-to anchor tenant, or as drafting off a big drive-to anchor, we will likely continue to see long-term erosion.

Council Agenda

Council meets on Monday and the agenda is light for our interests here. Two bullets only.
Long piece in
today's paper
Not on the agenda directly (though the big budget resolutions are), but likely a topic at Council will be the Police response to demonstrations. There's evidence that the policing has engaged in preferential bias. Hopefully Council will remember that with the process for a new Chief and with the opening of a new Station, Council has some leverage and there may be more opportunity here.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

City Considering more Outdoor Dining Downtown

As others have already noted, the most recent City Manager's update has news that the City is exploring how to "safely provide portions of downtown streets for outdoor dining."

It might be helpful to let your City Councilor know you endorse and want to get this going for summer!

"bustling cafe culture" (May 21st)
More outdoor dining! - City Manager Update, May 29th
The Auto Camp

As a bit of historical trivia for a century ago, and representing a kind of early autoist expansion, before we had Pringle Park, the Albert family and then the City operated a free auto camp. Now we hope to unwind some of this expansion and revert public space back from cars to people.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

As Jason Lee House Site has Layers, so History Telling has Layers

On May 31st as the Tulsa Race Massacre was unfolding in 1921, a note on the front page of the afternoon paper here said "the spirit displayed by the early pioneers" was a "true expression[...] of the Anglo-Saxon race."

May 31st, 1921
I was going to write about Tulsa, but more relevant here in Salem is the story of Jason Lee. It is striking how strongly writers over the decades centered not just his whiteness, but the centrality of "the Anglo-Saxon race." Tulsa is not directly our story, but Jason Lee and the ways we have understood him is very much our story, a substantial part of our self-understanding and origin story, and peeling back the layers in the telling of that story is as important as digging through the physical layers of dirt at the house site.

February 1st, 1884

Pity the Suffering Roads: Framing on Gas Tax and Driving Misses Important Points

Opposite today's large front page story and picture about people protesting police brutality, there's a story about suffering roads.

Front page today
Especially with the placement on the front page, it may be a little tone deaf.

The story focuses on more rural communities in Marion County and their dependence on gas tax money for roads.

But more than unfortunate page placement and headline word choice, the frame totally assumes that our present arrangements for driving are "normal" and something to which we should return as soon as possible. It's strangely mournful and only about loss, treating cars rather than people as the primary index and locus of loss.

In a daze about driving loss
But of course there are positive facts about the decline in driving. Just a couple weeks ago there was a story about the decline in carbon emissions.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Federal Grant to Fund Electric Buses for Cherriots

Here's some good news, a little old now, and you may already have seen it, but it's especially welcome this weekend.

Cherriots Board Chair - via Twitter
Keizer Times has a longer story. The Federal Transit Administration doesn't appear to have the announcement yet.

The Low or No Emission Vehicle Program has been around for a while, with the first round of grants announced in 2016. Cherriots may have submitted applications before.

Route 11 mainly on Lancaster Drive

Friday, May 29, 2020

New Station needs New Chief: Take City Survey on Next Leader

New Building, New Chief
The City's starting the public portion of a search for a new Chief of Police.
Ralph Andersen & Associates is beginning the recruitment process for the new Chief of Police for the City of Salem. The City of Salem invites you to take this survey regarding the future of the City of Salem Police Department. The survey will begin an open conversation about what is needed in the next Chief of Police.
Chief Moore has seemed like a nice and responsible fellow. Yesterday he published an open letter about Minneapolis saying "we do not teach any of our officers to control a suspect’s actions by kneeling on their neck." That is a good statement, but the initial frame of "tragic events across the nation" is not wholly adequate to the structural elements in play here. It's not some random tragic event, but is one instance of a deep and enduring pattern across the country. The frame of tragedy operates as something of a euphemism in this case.

Front page of Minneapolis Star-Tribune today

New Parkscore Misses Mark in Salem

Circulating on social media this past week there was a new "parkscore" from the Trust for Public Lands, modeled after the successful walkscore concept.

Salem rates a 70, and a map purports to show areas of need. But it does not pass the sniff test and I am not sure what the algorithm is actually assessing.

Here are areas in South Salem very near Woodmansee and Wendy Kroger Park that the algorithm says are in "very high need" of a park. But they are touching the park. The park is right there!

Two red "very high" need areas are immediately adjacent to parks
in South Salem, Wendy Kroger and Woodmansee Parks
(the color scheme also is awful)
There are other instances of red "very high" need areas actually being closer to a park than orange "high" need areas.

From a high level, the assessment of east Salem between I-5 and Cordon Road seems closer to the mark.

But the mapping project needs feedback and to go through another round of iteration and refinement before it can be really very useful. Its score of 70 does not seem reliable yet and Salemites should not be quick to cite it for or against anything.