Saturday, March 23, 2013

City Council, March 25th - Airport Control Tower Apocalypse!

The Feds have announced that Salem's airport is on par with those in Troutdale, Bend, and Pendleton, and the FAA will close our control tower on April 7th.

Predicted in February,
comes true in April
(Once we recover from the bruised ego, maybe we can see this as a sign our airport isn't really that important regionally after all?*)

In other news Salem City Council meets Monday night. There's no big transportation issue on the docket, however.

Probably most relevant is the preliminary Capital Improvement Plan for 2013/14-2017/18.  There are no big surprises in it, but you do see transportation investment tailing off dramatically as the 2008 road bond winds down.  The bond in 2013/14 will fund $21 million for transportation, but that tails of to $2 million in 2014/15, and zero thereafter. 

It will be interesting to see how the conversation goes on a subsequent round of transportation investment.  The projects are almost all major car capacity increases, and if we are making any progress, the complexion of the next round should be different.  On the other hand, financing looks to be increasingly problematic, and if not quite "austerity," the next round may well be characterized by "modesty."  Investments in biking and walking are, of course, excellently modest and offer excellent returns.  If we are serious about "least-cost planning," things may be looking up.

There are also proposed increases in parking fees and fines to bring them more in line with those in other Willamette Valley cities.

One interesting item is a proposed short-term loan from the City of Salem proper to the Urban Renewal Agency for a loan of $3.7 million.  The loan is to cover work in the Riverfront and South Waterfront urban renewal areas.  Presumably this is for the Minto Bridge and Path.  Apparently the work is not big enough to warrant long-term bond issuance, and so urban renewal entities can use "du jour" financing.  Can you get that just like you can get a soup of the day?  So if the City has a $5 million budget hole, how does this work exactly?  It looks like magic!  Supposedly "On or before March 26, 2013, the proceeds from the City loan will be deposited in the construction fund for each applicable district, and the loan repaid from the tax increment fund....The urban renewal areas have generated sufficient tax increment revenue to repay the short term loan from the City on or before March 29, 2013."  So this is a loan to bridge a 3-day gap in funds?  Kinda weird.  (Maybe someone who knows city finance can explain?)

Conference Center to become Convention Center?
The Conference Center wants to change its name to Convention Center.  Apparently "Industry standards have changed with respect to the use of the term "Convention Center".... The term "Conference Center" has been downgraded in use and perception and generally refers to lesser type, quality and capacity facilities."  Moving up! (You may recall that in the last budget cycle the center posted a $334,794 operating loss.)

Finally, the contested matter of coal shipments returns to Council.  People who bike should care about carbon, coal dust, and other pollution.  Dirty!  The Mayor has revised the letter and proposes to send it to the Governor.  The Mayor also proposes to include the neighborhood association resolutions with the letter.  As a matter of advocacy methods, it is interesting to see the number of resolutions.  It looks like a template was taken out to each neighborhood association and the relevant blanks filled in after a vote in favor of the resolution secured.  That might be a model for active transportation advocates. The number of neighborhood associations that submitted comment and support for Bike and Walk Salem was small relative to the number of associations concerned about coal shipments.

* We're just not good enough!  We need a control tower and big airport, we need a Convention Center, we need a Third Bridge - you see where this is going...why don't we invest more in our strengths and with low-cost solutions rather than in high-cost attempts to compensate in areas where we are weak or have a perceived inadequacy?

It's possible that the best part of the Sustainable Cities Initiative was the segment on reusing Industrial by-product waste.  This has apparently already generated significant dollars for Salem’s Willow Lake Waste Treatment Facility.  We need more of that kind of thinking and less of control tower envy.


Walker said...

Yes, we need lots less edifice complex and tower envy. Ever notice how much stupid building is rooted in testosterone?

Jim Scheppke said...

The backstory on the Mayor's proposed letter asking for an Environmental Impact Statement on coal exports is that a group called Salem Beyond Coal has been working to get this since last August. It was organized by Lucy Sedgwick, an itinerant organizer funded by the Sierra Club. Leaders included Erik Spivak (before he recently moved to Medford), Evan White and Hans West. Monday's Council item is the culmination of eight months of hard work including going to all of the Salem neighborhood associations and asking for their support. I hope everyone who cares about this issue will come to the Council meeting on Monday night and support Salem Beyond Coal.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Thanks for the background, Jim!

Salem Weekly also has some info on the intial letter, resistance to it among Councilors, and Mayor Peterson's revisions.