Question: Salem has been working to improve bicycle safety. What else, if anything, do you think Salem could do to get people out of their cars and onto their bikes for trips shorter than five miles? How could the city do that?
Bennett: The best way to get people out of their cars and walking or on bikes is to provide well-connected, safe routes for those purposes. As the community grows and more people share the roadway, there will be a strong incentive to move out of cars. Salem needs to be ready to offer a well-planned alternative for those ready to change modes of travel. In most cases, the use of foot and bicycle will come from our inner-city neighborhood residents, who live close to work and services.
Peterson: I will work to make downtown more livable. I live in downtown and walk to my engagements within a mile of where I live. City Hall is just across the street. We can start by modeling and encouraging each other to get out of our cars. If Edwin and I can get rid of one of our cars, anyone can. We can also move forward on making Salem more bike friendly. The city can continue to add and improve bike lanes, and connect Wallace Marine Park and Riverfront Park with Minto Brown Park with a pedestrian and bike bridge. Both the Streets and Bridges Bond measure and stimulus funds the city was awarded will allow the city to build more bike paths. The city must also be a leader in educating the public about how bikes and pedestrians and cars can mix more safely. As mayor, I will also participate in the Electrical Vehicle/Federal Grant to install electric car battery charging stations along I-5. In addition, I will support buying new electric vehicles for our own city fleet and installing pollution-control equipment on our diesel cars and trucks.
Question: Portland city planners are working to create "20-minute neighborhoods," communities designed for residents to be able to walk to essential amenities, shop, or dine out in 20 minutes or less. Do you see something similar to this in Salem's future?
Bennett: I do. The city is currently reviewing a mixed-use zone that would meet these needs. There is still a great deal of work to do on this, but the city is under way on the idea. Salem already has many 20-minute neighborhoods that are most commonly in the older part of town where there has been a historical mix of uses based on neighborhood needs. The challenge will be to translate this kind of organic development from the last century onto neighborhoods designed in the heyday of the automobile and keep the residential integrity of the neighborhoods.
Peterson: Yes. I see that vision because I am living that dream every day. I will encourage future development to reduce travel time and to create communities that have resources that residents need — groceries, other retail, churches, schools, and medical and professional services. As mayor, I will support a neighborhood mixed-use plan that will allow "mini-city" amenities to be located in residential areas to reduce the need to drive somewhere else for services and goods.
Question: In a recent online poll at the Statesman Journal, respondents rated protecting and improving the environment as the No. 2 priority for the next mayor. If elected, what will you do to address this concern?
Bennett: Polling shows that residents list jobs and the environment as their top two priorities. The mayor's responsibility is to show the two goals are not mutually exclusive. We can have an outstanding environment, which is one of our greatest economic development assets, and a strong economy. Too often, the two priorities are characterized as in conflict when none really exists.
Peterson: There is no need to wait till I am elected. On Earth Day, I was cleaning up the Shelton ditch with my fellow citizens, installing low-energy bulbs in my home, recycling more and using less. Fellow citizens, join me in making Salem the best city to live and work. Together we can do anything. Read and implement the suggestions in Marion County Waste Matters, Spring 2010. Read the Family Fun Checklist for identifying practical changes to make around the house — www.climateclassroom.org. Watch the "Story of Stuff" video www.storyofstuff.com.
Question: If elected, do you have plans to move Salem to the forefront on environmental issues?
Bennett: There is a range of environmental issues where Salem can take the lead. We have already begun work on our renewable-energy park, which puts the city in the forefront to site new green industries. We also need to evaluate whether to reconstitute the city's environmental commission to advise the council on the range of new environmental laws and initiatives. The city also needs a full evaluation of its natural-resource assets, including parks, streams, the river and open spaces, and include those assets as part of our broad planning processes.
Peterson: Salem must be a leader in livability and sustainability; protecting the environment for our children and grandchildren is an important part of that discussion. Salem as a community has amazing resources on the issues of sustainability. Salem's Sustainability Council is made up of Marion County, Marion Soil and Water District, and Willamette University among others. As mayor, I would push the Sustainability Council to evaluate Salem's natural resources, including our parks, streams, green spaces and the Willamette River, and develop a comprehensive plan to preserve and protect these resources for future generations. The city must be a partner and a leader with these groups in making Salem the healthiest community in Oregon.
Question: Salem is currently the largest city in Oregon to not sign on to the Mayors Climate Agreement Act. If elected, would you sign the Mayors Global Climate Agreement Act? Do you think the city of Salem can do anything to curb carbon-based pollution at the local level or do you think we should continue to defer to the federal/state government?
Bennett: At this point, it appears that state law is moving ahead of climate change agreements and I want to keep that momentum. Regarding the mayors agreement, I would want to review it in light of changes over the past several years in federal and state law and international agreements to determine whether it is out of date. Local action on carbon-based pollution is under way by increasing pedestrian and bicycle access and improved transportation and land-use planning. We also should continue our work on electric car service points and working with utilities in things like "smart grid" projects.
Peterson: Without signing the agreement, Salem has exceeded the action items listed in the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement based on the Kyoto protocols. The Mayors Climate Protection Agreement came to Council in 2005. The council had concerns about the political implications of the act but fully supported the actions outlined in the document. To meld those two conflicting items, the council adopted the action items into Salem's own Environmental Action Plan. Salem has been aggressive in obtaining those goals and taken it several steps further by developing the Salem Renewable Energy Park, establishing the Sustainability Council made up of over 30 local entities engaged in environmental and sustainable-energy actions, in addition to many more strong steps to protect the environment. Yes, Salem can do more. And Salem should not defer to the federal or state government but instead continue to partner with them and Marion County to make Salem the healthiest community in Oregon. Citizens, read the agreement: www.usmayors.org/climateprotection/agreement.htm; then, when I am mayor, let me know your thoughts. If signing the agreement is as important as implementing its goals, then I will listen with my pen ready.