Sunday, April 7, 2013

Salem Weekly Gets One Right, Misses Another

Salem Weekly has a couple of interesting pieces this week. Strangely, they seem to embody contradictory stances on mobility, access, and the hegemony of the car and drive-alone trip.

People in the Way: Photographing the Human cost of a Third Bridge looks at families and businesses threatened by "displacement" should a giant bridge and highway be built.

It's great to see real people behind the abstract notions and euphemisms in the rhetoric of "displacement."

But on the other hand...

There's also a piece on moving the County Elections office from a strip-mall out South Commercial adjacent to some difficult intersections to a central location downtown, and it's something of a head-scratcher.
The move of the Marion County Elections Office next year – from its location on South Commercial to the Courthouse Square Complex in central Salem – has some voters’ rights advocates concerned that residents could find it more difficult to receive election services. But county officials maintain that the benefits of the move are crucial to the county.

The Elections Office has been located at 4263 Commercial Street SE since 1994, at a lease of $200,000/year. John Lattimer, CEO of Marion County, calls it “very expensive and out of the way.” He describes the upcoming move “a cost, efficiency and taxpayer savings decision.”...

However, budget concerns might be solved other ways, say voting rights advocates like retired attorney Tina Calos of Salem, while the Courthouse Square location potentially poses “enormous access challenges” for voters.

The present location has 100 parking spaces and a one-story ground floor, compared to street stalls in the already-congested streets downtown. The new office will be on the second floor, requiring stairs or elevator.
How a site, Courthouse Square and transit mall, served by the maximum transit service in Salem (even if we might wish for better transit service generally in Salem), and located in the geographic center of the city, is less accessible than a car-dependent site out south in a strip mall is a baffling claim. There's plenty of on-street parking in downtown Salem, and the Chemeketa and Liberty parking garages are just two blocks away. Moreover, downtown streets aren't slow very often, and delays by the standards of Seattle or Portland round to zero.

(Whether truck access for loading/unloading ballots and other materials is sufficient is a separate matter, and perhaps there are logistics questions at the Courthouse Square site separate from questions about voter access.)

To equate access in general with car parking stalls in specific is to capitulate to the logic that drives the effort to pave a giant bridge and highway.

The Weekly missed the mark on this one, don't you think?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sometimes Salem is an engine of self parody.