Friday, December 23, 2016

Flogging the Dead Horse: Notes on the SRC Supplemental Findings

Shall we flog the dead horse? It's hard to say what the next event may or may not be on the epic saga of the Salem River Crossing. Depending on what happens next, there might be more to say; or, also, any further thought right now might be utterly moot and irrelevant. But in the event there might be more to say, here are some thoughts.

Raven on a horse, Bestiary, early 13th century
(British Library, Royal 12 C XIX)
An Omission? 

In the "Findings report" of October 4th, 2016, Section 4.2.1 (pp.162 - 172), two relevant policies from the Salem Area Comprehensive Plan seem to be omitted, Policy 11 and Policy 18. The Findings discussion jumps from Policy 8 to 12 (pp. 166-167), and again from Policy 17 to 19 (p. 168).

Supplemental Findings, pp33-34, jumps a policy
This is repeated in the "Supplemental Findings/16-269-Exhibit 2," section 3.2.1 (pp. 30 - 36).

The Salem Area Comprehensive Plan Policy 11 says:
Local governments within the Salem Urban Area shall develop multimodal plans, services, and programs that decrease reliance on the SOV as the dominant means of travel. Progress toward this objective shall be monitored through benchmarks sets forth in Table #1
Policy 18 says:
The Salem Transportation System Plan shall identify methods that employers can use to better facilitate the commute of their employees, encourage employees to use alternative travel modes other than the SOV, and decrease their needs for off-street parking.
By themselves these aren't killers or anything, and the other adjacent policies are probably more important. Still, I would have expected the findings to reference them, and I find the silence odd and worth noting.

Maybe there are others we'll find. Maybe you have found some.

The Argument's Deductive Shape - Problem of Scholasticism

But more crucially, at least to me, I find shallow and baffling the discussion of Policy 12, that "The implementation of transportation system and demand management measures, enhanced transit service, and provision for bicycle and pedestrian facilities shall be pursued as a first choice for accommodating travel demand and relieving congestion in a travel corridor, before widening projects are constructed." I read that to mean plainly that you gotta try a bunch of stuff first and that it has to fail before you can widen. But the SRC team argues that a shoddy TSM/TDM study is sufficient to demonstrate that nothing but a new bridge can meet the purpose and need. That such a study is sufficient to meet and exhaust "pursued as a first choice." Is there any referee, the FHWA or LUBA or anyone else, who is going to wade in and rule on the adequacy of said shoddy TSM/TDM analysis?

Something that has been interesting about the formal Process is that these foundations and bricks on which later analysis is based, these analytical moments and memos, aren't themselves subject to any Public Comment. So there has never been an opportunity to level a formal critique of the TSM/TDM approach. Just like there has never been an opportunity to level a formal critique of the traffic modeling. There are many other constitutive elements of prior analytical moments that have been similarly immune from criticism.

All of the official moments for Public Comment, those on the DEIS and now on the UGB Expansion, are directed at second-order documents, and the authors of those documents appeal to the prior analytical moments as bullet-proof evidence! ("Look we wrote a memo that proves this! We deduced this necessary consequence!")

This is a structural problem - a "feature" for the SRC team, but a massive "bug" for the public. The foundation analyses that feed into the second-order documents are insulated from criticism and public comment, and then are used as "proof" for conclusions more-or-less deduced from them in those second-order documents.

As long as those more atomic, first-order documents are insulated from critique, you can say anything in them and deduce wrong-headed conclusions from them.

Hopefully they're not building this church on sand!
Estoire del Saint Graal, early 14th century
(British Library, Royal 14 E III)
This is medieval scholasticism in a bad way! It's building a cathedral on sand.

Part and Whole*

It has already been argued here that Goal 1 on Citizen Involvement should apply to the component parts of a process and not just to the process as a whole. The Findings and Supplemental Findings don't really engage this.

Supplemental Findings, p.53
This is another example of a quasi-scholastic argument!
  1. the City has procedures, already vetted and accepted, for public review
  2. the City met those procedures
  3. therefore public review is adequate
But that's not what's being argued here. What's being argued here is that the procedures that were actually followed, whether they met City standards or not, were in fact inadequate if the goal is to meet actual "citizen involvement" and not merely to satisfy some abstract procedure. City Councilors couldn't review thousands of pages of documents, and the Public couldn't review thousands of pages of documents.

Empirically, inductively, the process did not actually give the Public or Councilors time to review and consider.

Having established policies and procedures did not in this particular case guarantee adequate citizen involvement. We are not asked to evaluate the quality of this bureaucratic implementation of policies. We are asked to evaluate whether the public was able to be involved in this particular situation. The bureaucratic implementation of policies in this particular case, the compliance, however skillfully and accurately done, didn't meet the high-level intent of Goal 1, and in fact tended towards the opposite, and kept the public out of informed review and comment.

Applying criteria that might be met generally for the whole of a process does not certify that parts of the process also met the criteria. And some parts and big and important enough that they should be evaluated independently of the whole.

This problem of the relation of part to whole is repeated in another moment.

Supplemental Findings, p10
In the Supplemental Findings, the SRC team writes:
The criteria cited by commenters (OAR 660-012-0030(4) and OAR 660-012-0035(4)) apply to overall updates to a local Transportation System Plan and/or to performance of the transportation system as a whole. They do not apply to specific transportation projects or to targeted amendments to a TSP (as is the case here).
Now here's a slightly different way to approach the part-and-whole question - which could also be applied to the Goal 1 instance.

Let's take an entire TSP and look at its list of component projects and policies. If you look at each project or policy, one at a time, and say "these criteria only apply to overall updates, and not to specific transportation projects or targeted amendments," then by the time you've reached the end of the list, you have made each project or amendment immune from the high-level goal of "reducing reliance on the automobile."

This is plainly absurd and not the intent of the criteria. So there must be some sense in which individual parts need to be evaluated by the overall criteria also.

You may reasonably say that some small local road projects really are too small to be relevant, and therefore immune. So ok, we'll give you that. But surely the biggest infrastructure project proposed in a generation is not too small, and deserves to be evaluated as an individual project under the criteria. Even if there are some reasonable times when criteria do not apply to specific transportation projects, especially large and transforming projects are substantial enough that they should have the criteria fully applied to them singly, in addition to applying to the whole of an "overall update."

If you want the whole of something to show a certain quality, at some point you have to verify that its component parts also show that same quality. If you want a red blanket, you can't have too many blue threads on the loom's warp and weft! At some point you have to make sure most of the threads are red.

How much blue until it's not red?
On discussions of both Goal 1 and OAR 660-012-0030(4) /OAR 660-012-0035(4), the SRC teams asks us not to worry about the number of blue threads. They're actually red. Trust us, the blanket will be red!


It is significant that neither on the Goal 1 nor on the two OAR bits does the SRC team say that the parts meet the relevant criteria. By dodging that question, and appealing to the shape of the whole instead, they seem indirectly to acknowledge that the UGB hearing by itself did not meet Goal 1 criteria, and that as an individual project the proposed SRC does not meet these OAR criteria.

This blanket has too much blue in it!

* Ha ha! There's a word for this, mereology. I bet Plato or Aristotle or Aquinas or one of the other Churchmen has already covered this exact situation with great analysis and metaphor. If you know, drop a comment!

(Most of the relevant posts on the Salem River Crossing are grouped here with brief summaries.)

1 comment:

Susann Kaltwasser said...

The City procedures for communication with the public don't seem to include two very important elements. 1) a complete set of the documents to be made available unless you either have a computer or can go to the Library and see a hard copy; and 2) ample opportunity to talk to staff about an issue and get timely answers.

This is not just a problem with the River Crossing, but with almost all issues.

Time was when the communication plan included: making presentations to neighborhood associations; distributing a summary document with included - background; essential points; outcomes of the action being considered (called Talking Points back in the 1990s). The assumption that they can put a very long and complex link in a short letter of notice and fulfill the legal requirement of notice is a huge problem.

Truth is that a few years back the mayor asked legal to clarify what exactly was the minimum legal requirement of notice to the public. There in lies a huge problem with our elected officials.

I wonder when or if it will ever be addressed. Until it is, the governing bodies are going to find it very hard to pass important bonds and other funding methods. The public is not totally engaged, but they are enough to understand that they should not trust their government when they are not open. Salem right now is not open. Marion County is not open. SKATS is not open. So, while there may be a lot of technical points that can be argued around the bridge, bottom line is that it will never get built until the public agrees to pay for it.

I appreciate the discussion of Goal 1. I wish someone would file a suit against Salem to challenge whether they are meeting the requirements. I believe they are not.

Again, thank you for making such excellent points for the average person to get better informed!