An implicit assumption in the piece seems to be that unimpeded housing sales in West Salem is an unambiguous good for Salem and its citizens.
|A little snouty: Houses lead with the garage!|
You probably can't walk anywhere meaningful.
Still, it's important we remember that we're only talking about the Salem River Crossing because the official modeling makes a chain of assumptions about population growth and vehicle miles traveled that depend in no small part on housing sales in West Salem.
Other costs to unimpeded housing sales are harder to monetize and to see as part of a market.
But public health costs are also incurred because of arsenic and auto particulates and the disincentives to walking or other regular exercise that the auto-dependent development patterns typical of West Salem entail.
While the premature deaths of children and young adults by cancer are especially shocking and tragic, we should not forget also to zoom out a bit and look at our systems and ask how our systems support or harm our health.
|No wonder parents drive kids. (From two years ago)|
|Why would anyone walk here? (last month)|
But it seems at least possible that the public health costs of auto-dependent development are more pervasive, debilitating, and life expectancy-reducing than what we will see if the EPA finds a statistically significant uptick in cancer rates and a correlation or cause in local contamination.
At the very least, since in the bridge we have a partial price tag on housing in West Salem, let's talk more about the costs of housing in West Salem and the way we offload and externalize a lot of those costs, costs in infrastructure and costs in public health. Let's talk more about health and housing and the ways that our development patterns (and public investments or subsidies that enact and support them) do or do not support public health.
We already have some of an institutional framework for this analysis and conversation:
|Community Health Improvement Partnership graphic|
The Community Health Improvement Partnership is led by a City Councilor and is working on obesity.
"I Love Me" hasn't much been in the news, and may be dormant, but that's another relevant project.
Same for the 5210 project.
Finally, the Y has the Pioneering Healthier Communities project.
Most of these are focused on individual, discretionary moments of decision - eat more fruit, quit smoking, go to the gym. It's a consumerist model of public health.
But it would not be difficult to look at the way we have created and subsidized systems that make these individual decisions difficult, that actually steer a person towards the unhealthy choice because it's the easy choice. If the zoning doesn't permit a nearby neighborhood grocery store, of course you have to drive the the big box supermarket. If the only way to get to the bus stop is a long walk without sidewalks on busy roads, of course you'd rather drive to work. And so on...
So yeah, let's talk more about public health, housing, and development patterns.