|"Pure public good": Raptors like Streetlights too|
(Do owls? Note also the new LED light.)
Salem’s streetlights represent a pure public good, from which all residents and businesses derive indistinguishable utility....This theory, interestingly, does not draw a strong connection between road users and street lighting, which seems more than a little questionable.
According to economic theory, streetlighting is a pure public good. The use of a streetlight by one individual does not preclude another’s use (it is non-rival), nor is it possible to limit the benefits to only those individuals who have paid for them (it is non-excludable) When individuals cannot be prevented from enjoying the benefits of a good, there is little incentive for private provision. Consequently, the provision of streetlighting falls within the scope of city government.
The utility fee would be a fair topic for debate if our road funding corresponded to proportional utility. But of course it is easy to distinguish ways car users derive vastly greater utility from the roads than any other group of users. Effectively other groups are excluded or limited from the roads. (Just look at how difficult we make it for people on foot!) Autoists have successfully off-loaded the fair costs for road use onto other user groups, like home-owners (the 2008 property tax bond for roads). Tolls, paid parking, licensing fees, gas tax - all of these are made free or kept artificially low, and someone else pays to fill the funding gap. Right now a lot of the fill-in is created by taxes or fees on home-owners.
Right now our policy actions should be to try to recapture proportional funding for the roads, and this means bringing funding for things like streetlights back onto a car user fee. (It's curious that trading lower property taxes for higher road fees isn't a more attractive trade: For one thing, it permits greater individual choice, as pretty much everyone has a home, but you could ditch a car for transit or bikes with much less trouble. Why isn't this more exciting?)
The solution to this problem remains: Just raise the gax tax. It's not indexed to inflation and its value has continually eroded since the 1990s.
High Street Hustle
One way perhaps that Sunday Streets has been useful is to prepare the way for this summer's run, the "High Street Hustle." Organizers claim that
the first large-scale race running event to be held on City streets in nearly 15 years, with an estimated attendance of 1,500 to 2,000 participants...They plan on closing part of Trade and Ferry Streets - which means working with not just the City but with ODOT to close a section of urban highway, OR-22.
|The route from Court Street, up High,|
to near McKinley Schoole
It will be interesting to see if this event spurs the City to aim for a wider street closure for Sunday Streets.
Organizers are trying to raise $85,000.
Salem Health and Gallagher Fitness are the main sponsors and organizers right now, and it will also be interesting to see if Salem Health takes on a larger role with Sunday Streets. This event, though, is semi-competitive, and another elective, "special event" kind of fitness activity, complete with merchandising opportunities, rather than an event that focuses on everyday activity and ways to fold activity into everyday routines.
One on the Park parcel remediation.
|Contaminated soil to be removed|
The Staff Report, however, includes only information on the purchase and sale agreement with Pringle Square/Minto View LLC, and does not include any of the information from the DEQ on the nature of the contamination and why soil removal is the best remedy.
This seems like a significant omission.
The other update is on the pedestrian easement on the north side of the creek.
|Boardwalk concept detail|
|Proposed easement area|
The area of the easement looks like it more or less covers the area of the proposed boardwalk, but it also is on the north side of the creek only. So it would be interesting to know if the path on the south side has been deleted or if it now is envisioned as being for private use only.
The Staff Report does say that "the exact size and location" is to be determined.
Clearly the soil remediation is in the area directly where the path will pass under the railroad, leave the concrete pad, and contact the ground in the Park Parcel to connect with Riverfront Park.
Bullets for the rest:
- Near the new Oregon State Police facility there is a dispute over a traffic analysis and required mitigation. An adjacent property owner has appealed the Hearings Officer and Council will adjudicate. Given the way the LUBA decision on the Blind School shook out, Council appears to have ample grounds to affirm the Hearings Officer.
- A round of Legislative priorities and positions: The City opposes HB 2272, which would both raise the gas tax and permit self-service pumping; they want to "monitor" a bill, HB 2564, that would permit inclusionary zoning; they oppose a bill, HB 2087, for better reporting on projects that receive public subsidies; and the City is going to grant a special exemption to Public Works employees to lobby the Legislature for Seismic retrofitting (City employees generally cannot lobby). A reader points to SB 409, which the City opposes. It would repeal a cap on "noneconomic damages" in wrongful death. The City's rationale for opposing it includes language that makes it worth a closer look: "there would be...an increase in wrongful death cases brought in State Court specifically related to road design, sidewalks/crosswalks and fatal motor vehicle accidents." On the one hand the City has a legitimate interest in protecting itself against frivolous lawsuits; on the other hand, perhaps this also is in some sense a partial admission that there is something wrong with our prevailing road standards.
- The North Gateway Redevelopment Advisory Board had recommended against funding a $1M stormwater project with funds that had been designated for the Portland Road project. The Urban Renewal Agency looks to do an end-run.
- The matter of Real Estate/Developer types on the Planning Commission. See Salem Weekly for more discussion.
- What are the costs to expand Salem's smoke-free ordinance?
- The annual report for Travel Salem. Still nothing about bicycle tourism - though motorbikes makes a brief appearance.
- And the audit of the Urban Renewal Agency remains nearly as opaque as possible. Council agenda links to a brief cover letter, and then you type in a new URL to navigate to the audit itself. Maybe in a separate note we'll go back to that, but probably not. In light of the City's lack of interest in HB 2087, you just have to wonder how effective are our public subsidies - and if certain parties or sectors receive disproportionate benefit from them. There's really no assessment loop, and I continue to believe that the total value of the Pringle Creek Urban Renewal Area failed utterly to outpace inflation with "no build" or "doing nothing."
Not surprised at all that the City would want to limit their liability to claims resulting from deficient road design.
"SB409 removes the non-economic cap on wrongful death claims. There is
currently no cap on direct economic damages. If SB409 passes, there would
be an increase to the City's excess insurance rates and an increase in wrongful death cases brought in State Court specifically related to road design,sidewalks/crosswalks and fatal motor vehicle accidents."
I sit on the North Gateway Redevelopment Advisory Board and was hoping the city could find another way to pay for this stormwater project in the industrial park.
If the council moves forward, it's my hope the city will find a way to make North Salem whole and ensure that we aren't diminishing possibilities of revitalizing the Portland Road corridor.
As long as it looks the way it does today, Salem will be fighting an uphill battle for the hearts and minds of visitors to the Capitol and Fairgrounds (that's a LOT of people!).
Thanks for pointing out SB 409. Updated the post with that information.
Here's an interesting approach and fee-split via Bike Portland -
"Hillsboro’s city council unanimously voted to hike its street fee, paid on residents’ and businesses’ utility bills, by 137 percent over three years, to $7.56 per month. Most of the residential fee goes to biking and walking improvements; the business fee goes entirely to pavement maintenance."
I don't think opposition to sb 409 is motivated by what our current road standards are. It's easy to find roads that do not meet current standards for sidewalks and bike lanes and roads where new development has been permitted on under improved roads and the decision to omit or defer those improvements have put walkers and cyclists at risk. I think the city wants to protect itself in cases where they have not followed the standards.
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