Monday, December 3, 2012

Council Finally Moves on Bike Plan

Holy moly!

It was another epic night at Council. After about two hours of testimony, questions, and debate, Council finally voted to adopt Bike and Walk Salem and to advance it for a second reading.

Neighborhood Chair Skates
Cory Poole led a large contingent of people who skate to talk to the need for and advantage of a multi-modal transportation system that includes provisions for people who skate.

Paralegal Skates in Suit and Tie
One man talked about taking pleadings to the Courthouse and visiting the Assessors Office on his skateboard downtown - in his suit and tie!

There was also talk of the cemetery as a Goal 5 Resource and suggestions that a walking connection was not consistent with the Goal 5 requirements.

Goal 5 objection may have merit
Bonnie Heitsch appeared to suggest that there was some merit to the Goal 5 objection and that it may indeed be something of an oversight.

I have to say I don't understand the Goal 5 issue.  It will be interesting to see how this shakes out. (See update below.)

Safety Gear
Safety was an issue - and Susan Arbor demonstrated!  But the burden for safety too often seemed to be placed on the person bicycling or skating. There was little talk about the dangers of car use. Councilors and the general drift of conversation was not about the ways our road engineering too often creates problems, but on the need for people who walk and bike to assume a disproportionate responsibility for their own safety.  (People operating cars can't help themselves!)

Even Councilor Tesler talked about people who walk at night and who don't wear reflective clothing, or even dressed in black.

"I wish everybody had a vest like that," she said.

But Councilor Nanke observed that "our former police chief was smacked downtown walking across the street," and said that Salem had a problem with people on foot getting hit.

Salem Bike Club Supports Plan
Larry Miles and Kenji Sugahara came representing the Salem Bicycle Club and Oregon Bicycle Racing Association.

Curiously, Councilor Clem moved to adopt without the skateboarding stuff, even though the inclusion of skateboarding policy was at Council's direction!

Councilor Nanke offered a substitute motion for staff recommendation.    It passed with one nay, I believe, but I couldn't tell who opposed it.  Perhaps Councilor Clem.

Update on Goal 5 Resources:

From the letter of August 8 by Elizabeth Potter and Friends of Pioneer Cemetery:
the proposed Ordinance Bill No. 20-12 does not identify Salem Pioneer Cemetery, originally known as Odd Fellows Rural Cemetery, as a Goal 5 resource to be weighed in the balance with Transportation Goal No. 12....

the specific physical and operational issues and obstacles [involved in a cemetery connection] could well have been defined in consultation with the cemetery stewards at a preliminary stage before the plan was launched into formal review fifteen months ago with the cemetery as the presumptive site for a connector.

The proposed Ordinance Bill No. 21-12 makes no acknowledgement of the status of Salem Pioneer Cemetery in the federally-mandated statewide historic preservation program [as well as Salem's Local Landmark designation] or the attendant requirement for review and compliance if federal funding should figure in a bicycle/pedestrian connector project affecting the cemetery.
Councilor Bennett and the City Attorney had a good bit of conversation over this. Informally, Attorney Tosh indicated that it was something of a moot point, since it was unlikely that anything further would happen on the Hoyt-Rural connection. He seemed to think that the matter would be punted indefinitely into the future, and offered that there would be any number of layers of administrative review any connector through the cemetery would have to pass.

The City Attorney Explains
But he and Bonnie Heitsch seemed to be in agreement in conceding the point that the cemetery did qualify as a Goal 5 resource, and that when the "further study" was undertaken - if it ever was - if the cemetery was going to be involved, the formal Goal 5 review process would have to be initiated.   The difference is in timing.  Potter wanted it at the very beginning.  The City says, since we're just talking about a vague conceptual plan for a connection between Hoyt and Rural, it is not necessary specifically to discuss the cemetery, and we will discuss the cemetery specifically when it is proper to do so.

If you believe, as I do, that there's a way to structure a path connection that enhances, rather than detracts from, cemetery security and preservation, then other than being cumbersome, there's nothing to fear from a Goal 5 review. On the other hand, presumably Potter is appealing to this because she believes it would introduce a delay or burden fatal to the project.

Stepping back, Councilor Bennett seemed to want Council's role to ratify a project agreed upon by the neighborhood and cemetery stewards. He wanted to remove Council as an arbiter or planner, and instead seemed to say - you guys go talk about it, and come back when you're on the same page.

The stance was interesting in light of the Third Bridge process. It is hard to imagine Council saying here, "you guys go talk about it and come back when you're on the same page." Council is going to be arbiter and is going to have to make a decision. 

It is also interesting because there is a sense in which the cemetery problem and bridge problem are both casualties of a tortured public process, one that isn't interested in truth as much as the politically convenient.  The Hoyt-Rural process is officially agnostic about the cemetery, but we all know the cemetery is the most likely place for a connector.  Potter is right about some things.  Similarly, the Third Bridge process is officially agnostic about an alignment, but we all know the fix is in for 4D.  Both processes have gunked up things with legal maneuvering and administrative posturing that obfuscates rather than clarifies. 

 There may be more to say on this.


Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

One person at the meeting has suggested it was the Mayor voting "nay" on the plan.

Gary said...

yeah! This is a step (and a bike trip) in the right direction for Salem.

Cory Poole said...

Councilor Clem and the Mayor wished to strip the skateboard provisions from the plan. All others voted for it.
The Longboard community is very excited.