Saturday, February 28, 2015

Legislative Update, Week 4 - Back to Normal

With Governor Brown sworn in, we won't be following the Hayes-Kitzhaber story very closely. But one new development is interesting as it relates to transportation. The shadow consultant on the CRC had a shadow role in Cover Oregon, it turns out.

Willamette Week's view in 2013
Was this prescient or what!
More on McCaig and Kitz in Willamette Week:
In public, Kitzhaber assured Oregonians he was working diligently with state officials to find a solution for the website’s woeful performance.

In private, however, Kitzhaber handed oversight of the Cover Oregon mess to a secretive campaign consultant who liked to call herself the Princess of Darkness.

By her own admission, Patricia McCaig knew virtually nothing about health care reform or the reasons Cover Oregon had crashed. Her primary mission was not to save a beleaguered state program but to get Kitzhaber re-elected.

Emails that Kitzhaber’s office tried to delete from state computers show McCaig was effectively in charge of all decision making for Cover Oregon beginning in February 2014.
It just looks real messy.

So, the bills and commentary. Milestones and movements are highlighted in green. (See more relevant bills or movement, drop a note in the comments!)

Bike "safety" and licensing:
  • SB 177 Bike licensing and repeal of Bike Bill
  • SB 551 Bike licensing and repeal of Bike Bill 
  • HB 3255 Requiring additional reflective clothing at night
BikePortland on HB3255 and reflective clothing.  Portland BTA on bike licensing bills. Here's a review of the Oregon history again, when we had an ineffective licensing program from 1899 - 1913. (And the numerically consecutive bill, SB 176, prohibiting Sharia law, and introduced at the request of the same constituent, was a winner in the Oregonian's Oddball Bill Bowl.)

Other Bike-relevant and transportation bills:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Cherriots Defers Measure for Weekend and Evening Service; Other Board Notes

The Cherriots Board meets tomorrow, Thursday the 26th, and there are a number of items of note in it.

Perhaps the most interesting is the decision to defer action on a possible ballot measure for weekend and evening service.

You may recall that there was some discussion of trying to put a measure on the May ballot of either a property tax or a payroll tax that would fund "phase II" of the system realignment - aka "Moving Forward" - and bring some weekend and evening service to Salem.

They consulted with the Chamber of Commerce - and a striking omission in the board materials is the letter from the Salem Chamber of Commerce!
[GM] Mr. Pollock and Board members met with the Salem Chamber Public Policy Committee on January 8th to present Phase II of the Moving Forward plan and receive feedback on expanding service within Salem-Keizer Transit’s service area and how to fund it. The Chamber’s Board of Directors voted on this issue at their January 21st meeting and sent Mr. Pollock a letter with their findings. [minutes from Jan 22 board meeting]
That's as much as Cherriots is sharing. The letter or a summary of its recommendations is nowhere to be found.

That makes you a little suspicious!

Especially considering that there is a full slide deck on a poll that Cherriots commissioned.

Regular folks give more support to a payroll tax

Property tax not as favored
(I don't know all the ins-and-outs of this, but as I recall many years ago the Legislature carved out a special prohibition for Salem-Keizer on a payroll tax. There's an untold story here somewhere in all this. Maybe readers will know more. Additionally, it's too bad that Cherriots didn't seize the opportunity in the polling to compare taxes for the Salem Alternative to taxes for Transit: To ask area citizens, if you got to pick between these two tax packages and services, which would you choose?)

In any case, the disparity between the transparent presentation of the poll and the hidden nature of the Chamber's letter is worth registering.

The upshot: Delay.
Staff recommends the Board delay any decision on when to file notice until further community input is received and considered. Consequentially, this would eliminate a ballot measure for the May 2015 election. Staff also recommends the Board direct the General Manager to seek out additional community input, as proposed above, and bring a report of the finding to the May 2015 Board meeting.
This shouldn't actually surprise us. The timeline had seemed compressed, and so at least from here, this seemed like the most probable and expected outcome.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Pioneering Pinot is in Peril, Actually; Climate Change Threatens Much

The front page story on Oregon wine was great to see.

It deserves every bit of the attention.

But remember the stories about the early grape harvest last fall?

Warm summer meant early fall harvest
About the harvest Harry Peterson-Nedry at Chehalem said:
Since October began, we’ve had five more 80F+ days and our Cumulative Degree Days now rest at 2681, the highest I have ever seen in the Willamette Valley, 2500 being the boundary between Region 1 and 2 (Cool and Not-so Cool!). [italics added]
A couple of weeks later he noted still more heat, with "degree day accumulations of 2800."

Pinot is in peril!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Local MPO says "NO" to Amtrak, GHG Reduction, Meets Tuesday

The Policy Committee for our local Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Salem-Keizer Area Transportation Study, meets on Tuesday the 24th, and there are a few items of note. (Agenda and full meeting packet here.)

Old Business

OTF Principles for Legislative Package in 2015
Last month as the  Committee was debating Legislative positions for the prospective big transportation package, there was a few interesting split votes. (The Committee usually works by "consensus" and unanimous votes are the norm and preference, so this stood out a little.) From the minutes:

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Editorials on Low-Carbon Fuel and Third Bridge Need to have a Talk

Could we just get these editorials to talk to each other?

You know, like "connect the dots..."

From the editorial:
The transportation sector accounts for 36 percent of Oregon’s greenhouse emissions. Could equal or greater reductions be achieved by less-intrusive measures? Traffic congestion, and the resulting emissions, might be cut significantly by encouraging state agencies and other employers to further stagger their office hours and work shifts, so employees avoid rush hours.

And let’s face it: Despite years of prodding, most Oregonians have yet to join carpools. Neither have organizations made the switch to virtual meetings, which would reduce travel. It’s ludicrous that people usually testify in person during legislative hearings instead of via video....

In short, of all the ways to reduce greenhouse emissions in Oregon, is the low-carbon fuel standard the most cost-efficient and effective? [italics added]
Of all the ways to reduce greenhouse emissions and congestion in Salem, is the Third Bridge the most cost-efficient and effective? Could equal or greater reductions be achieved by less-intrusive measures?
Last summer

Earlier this week

Saturday, February 21, 2015

City Council, February 23rd - More Streetlight Fee and Historic Preservation

At Council on Monday there are two  matters on which Council has asked for more information and discussion before making a final decision. In and of itself this is not new, but with a much smaller agenda than there was on the 9th, the proportion of "revisiting" is high, and this seems like a hopeful sign that maybe this Council as a collective body will engage in deeper probing more often, and be less quick simply to rubber stamp a staff recommendation.

On the Streetlight fee, Councilor Andersen has proposed a different fee schedule, raising the amount for large businesses and apartments, who under the first proposed fee schedule would be charged proportionately much less than a regular family household. That seems like a fine conversation and debate to have! (See previous discussion here.) (Monday night update - letters mostly against it here and here.)

Starkey-McCully block, detail, 1964
University of Oregon (Elizabeth Walton Potter)
As the Urban Renewal Agency, Council also asked to learn more about the yearly property taxes they would forgo if the Salem-Keizer Education Foundation gets urban renewal funding for the Starkey-McCully block (circa 1869) and stays exempt from property taxes. The Salem portion of the taxes look to be $1,673 - so let's call it an even $2,000. The Foundation is asking for $300,000 from the City. In a way-simplified calculation, it would take 150 years of $2,000 property taxes/year for the City to get back the $300,000 grant.

(Obviously $300,000 today is worth way more than $300,000 in 150 years, but someone with better accounting skillz will have to figure an appropriate discount rate and all. And if the total proposed investment is about $2 million, the building's assessed value will be higher, and the yearly property taxes the City would forgo commensurately higher, but the City apparently couldn't get even a SWAG on this value. Someone should be able to model this!)

This is what I don't get about urban renewal and tax increment financing. How the heck does an investment like this (considered chiefly as urban renewal to generate a tax increment and not primarily as historic preservation) actually pencil out for the City? Why don't we have a good answer?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Motorcycle Crash Points to Contra-Flow Emergency Lanes; other newsbits

A motorcycle crash and a jumper blocked portions of the bridges this week. The events themselves are sad and have rippling effects for family and friends.

For the rest of us, the events and news become stories about traffic congestion. (It is terrible to use another's misfortune to illustrate an infrastructure solution, but here we go.)

The incidents illustrate ways we misuse excess capacity on the bridges and create a false narrative that we need to build a super-duper expensive new bridge.
Traffic might be backed up some on Marion...

Some queuing and slowing on Marion Street
(Yet it's not even total gridlock)
But there's plenty of room on Center.

Free flow and wide space on Center Street
One or even two lanes could be used for west-bound traffic
(Both traffic cam clips from during the crash and lane blockage.)

By developing a plan for contra-flow two-way traffic on either bridge when one bridge is fully or partially shut down, we could also use surplus capacity during rush hour. This would cost a lot less than a new bridge or even adding lanes to the existing bridges.