Friday, March 5, 2010

City Council on Monday

City council meets Monday, and while there are no large agenda items with bicycle implications, there are a number of smaller things that may or may not impact bicycling in Salem. In aggregate, they show the untidiness of the political process and the difficulties Salem has in truly assimilating ideas of sustainability and coordinating them across multiple areas of municipal activity.

The Good
Activities that increase Transportation Choices

Willamette University is donating directional signage between campus and the riverfront along the Mill Race, Shelton Ditch, and Pringle creek. This give more visibility to an underused and quite lovely resource, the multi-use path system along the waterways! This project arose out of the Salem Downtown Vision 2020 Bike and Pedestrian group.

The Northgate neighborhood will get some funding to finish installation of bike racks at Northgate Park. This will help encourage kids and families to bike to the park! Thanks to Kate Tarter for her work on this!

The Not-so-Good
Activities that increase motor vehicle activity and may hamper increased transportation choices

The city continues to accumulate right-of-way for enlarging Liberty Road some day. This strip is at Pembrooke and Liberty. (Last summer they added a portion near Ewald.)

The city is moving forward on purchasing right-of-way and easements to enlarge the intersection of Market and Lancaster.


Downtown groups are asking for $75,000 to fund a "Downtown Strategic Action Plan" that will guide the way Downtown-Riverfront Urban Renewal funds are applied to redevelopment and other improvements. Hopefully development strategies will include provisions for greener transportation choices downtown.

Finally, two bits suggest timidity and possible resistance in the City to real change. The Salem Community Energy Policy is subtitled, "Partnering to Create the Nation’s Most Sustainable Capital City." The reports on Senate Bill 1059 and on the Electric Vehicle project, suggest that the city is not yet willing to transfer resources from unsustainable enterprises to more sustainable enterprises. Instead, the city is willing to work on sustainability only when new revenue streams appear to support it.

On SB 1059, regarding land-use planning and greenhouse gas emissions (Oregon Environmental Council's analysis here), the report said,
Our biggest concern is the creation of future requirements on local governments that consume a lot of resources without the accompanying funds to carry them out.
And on electric vehicles,
To date, Staff has not embarked on the comprehensive, strategic EV delivery approach...and believe this is consistent with the direction provided by Council. Staff is concerned about the appearance of conflict of interest should the City be percieved as favoring one set of manufacturers - or one mode of transportation - over another. There will be significant budgetary impacts for which the City does not expect reimbursement....At this point, staff does not recommend ramping up staff involvement and committing resources towards Oregon's EV arena to the degree necessary to be successful in this role.

Successfully transitioning to sustainable economies necessarily implies a reallocation of resources from non-sustainable enterprises to sustainable ones. The City and others will in fact need to favor some transportation choices over others. Sustainability doesn't always permit us to have our cake and eat it too!

In December the Chair of the Oregon Global Warming Commission, Angus Duncan offered trenchant words on our current transportation planning:
While this was important progress, the improvements are incremental, and the problems climate change promises will dwarf these efforts shortly....We're at a critical inflection point between business-as-usual and the new challenges and opportunities of a low-carbon world. On the one hand, we adopt emissions reduction goals. On the other, we propose a transportation plan (or design a bridge, or legislate a laundry list of highway projects) that enables emissions to continue trending skyward. We acknowledge the disconnect but excuse ourselves -- we don't have the staff or tools or funding to write different plans; or we'll deal with climate as soon as we clean up this backlog of projects; or our project isn't part of the problem because, well, at least it's slowing the overall rate of emissions growth.

We'll start that diet tomorrow. Right after we finish off this pint of Haagen Daz.

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