|November 28th, 1910|
|October 24th, 1913|
Every Section of the State Sends Its Brainiest and Most Energetic Hustlers to Aid in the Great Work of Developing the Oregon EmpireAbout a century ago, you see the word "boost" enter the newspaper regularly. It seems to have participated in the new professional cultures of self-improvement, advertising, and public relations.
The pieces are amusing to read, naive and wildly optimistic, full of faith in the power of self-determination and hustle.
If you attend to beer at all in Salem, you'll have noticed the critique of Salem beer in Willamette Week earlier this month. It was not flattering.
| "Everyone was really nice, but I
would not do this again,|
nor would I recommend it to others"
Willamette Week, April 8th
|"...for the most part, Salem has enough going for it"|
(Yet even here the praise is a little pallid)
The truth is almost certainly somewhere in the middle: Even with the Ram and McMenamins having been around for a while, as a whole Salem is an immature beer market. It shows in the locations and sizes of the breweries and in some unevenness in beer quality. It's not a coincidence that taphouses and growler-fills rather than pubs seem to have settled as our civic beer culture's characteristic form (and here). There should be nothing surprising about all this.
By national standards Salem is legitimately a "bronze" bicycle-friendly community. But by the standards set by the nearby college towns and cities, Eugene, Corvallis, and Portland, Salem lags behind. More crucially, in absolute terms we lag woefully behind in complete streets for all users, and in a transportation system that realistically gives people many strong choices in addition to the drive-alone car trip and properly restores walking to the center of urban mobility. It's hard to say just how meaningfully "good" is bronze. Maybe bronze really is just some degree of "not so terrible."
So how should you discuss something that isn't Pollyanna-ish with Panglossian optimism and at the same time not veer off into unconstructive "trash talk," especially as long-time frustration often lurks in the background of critics or even of those offering (over)compensatory praise? Where do you pitch realistic assessment and critique while at the same time celebrating the good that has been done? Salem's not the best place for beer, nor it is the best place for bicycling. But we have nascent "markets" that are working on transforming things, and they are worth great support. But there is much yet to do.
Over the weekend a commenter suggested that a bike boulevard planning effort was worth "unconditional, enthusiastic support," possibly trumping any reservations one might have about its scope.
But does any civic endeavor actually merit that kind of support? There are always compromises and it seems like a realistic sense of civic enthusiasm retains room for reservations. You can still cheer for things you acknowledge are far from perfect, right? Saying "everything is awesome" just isn't credible - and in 50 or 100 years will read as amusing as descriptions of those "aiding in the great work of developing the Oregon Empire."
The failure at the Kroc Center seems like an excellent example of a project with a very sub-optimal outcome in no small part because of uncritical optimism and excessive boosterism.
So that's a long and meandering wind-up to a question: What do you think is the most useful balance between criticism (in the sense of pointing to negative things) and praise about bicycling and transportation in Salem?