Saturday, February 7, 2015

City Council, February 9th - Streetlight Fee

Probably the headline item at City Council on Monday is the proposed "streetlight fee." It continues current trends of cost-shifting from users of the road to owners of homes.

"Pure public good": Raptors like Streetlights too
(Do owls? Note also the new LED light.)
The working theory is probably here in the SCI Report linked to at the city's streetlight page. It says:
Salem’s streetlights represent a pure public good, from which all residents and businesses derive indistinguishable utility....

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.
This theory, interestingly, does not draw a strong connection between road users and street lighting, which seems more than a little questionable.

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.

Other Stuff

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
The event will be Saturday, August 15th and right now Sunday Streets is scheduled for Sunday, August 30th.

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.

Pringle Square

Two updates!

One on the Park parcel remediation.

Contaminated soil to be removed
Turns out there's a 6x40 foot strip along the railroad and creek whose soil exceeds contamination thresholds and which needs to be removed. New clean fill will replace it.

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
You may recall the boardwalk concept from a couple years back. At least in public this remains the latest information for the walkway.

Proposed easement area
The City now proposes to purchase an easement across the property for the public access for about $60,000.

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:


Anonymous said...

Not surprised at all that the City would want to limit their liability to claims resulting from deficient road design.

Staff comment:
"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."

Jason Cox said...

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!).

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Thanks for pointing out SB 409. Updated the post with that information.

Walker said...


Anonymous said...

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."

Anonymous said...

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.