Thursday, May 4, 2017

City Council, May 6th - Strategic Planning Work Session

On Saturday City Council has a morning Work Session on the Strategic Planning Process.

Council Work Group Report on Sustainable Services
In March Council chose to divvy up important topics for subcommittees:
  • Vision for Growth and Development Council Work Group includes Councilors McCoid, Cook, Lewis, and Nanke. Lisa Anderson-Ogilvie, Interim Community Development Director, serves as the lead staff person.
  • Affordable Housing, Social Services, Homelessness Council Work Group includes Councilors McCoid, Andersen and Cook. Andy Wilch, Housing Administrator, serves as the lead staff person.
  • Economic Development and Downtown Council Work Group includes Mayor Bennett and Councilors Nanke, Hoy and Kaser. Kristin Retherford, Urban Development Department Director, serves as the lead staff person.
  • Critical Infrastructure Council Work Group includes Councilors Ausec, Lewis, Nanke and Kaser. Peter Fernandez, Public Works Director serves as the lead staff person.
  • Sustainable Service Delivery Council Work Group includes Councilors McCoid, Andersen, Ausec and Cook. Kacey Duncan, Deputy City Manager, serves as the lead staff person.
  • Public Transportation Council Work Group includes Mayor Bennett and Councilors Kaser, Lewis, Hoy. Julie Warncke, Transportation Planning Manager, serves as the lead staff person.
Now it's time for a progress report on the subcommittees, and to "seek Council consensus on the recommended goals for each of the six topics."

Over on Facebook there was some debate about the first version of the Work Session agenda, which contained no "Public Comment" period. It seemed to be persuasive, and a second, revised agenda has been posted which does contain an official period for Public Comment.

Initially defending the lack of a Public Comment period in the Work Session, in that thread Councilor Nanke said
A worksession is just what it impies, a chance for Councilors to discuss what has been brought forth from the public forums and subsequent meetings to discuss the issues from them. Mayor Bennett has changed the pattern recently, allowing public comment at some worksessions, which I think is very valuable. In my opinion, this is not the meeting for that. It is a chance for Councilors to discuss the issues, taking more of their valuable "weekend time" to look at what has transpired though work groups to digest the public input that we have received. There will be opportunity for public comment at a subsequent meeting. To bring public comment to this worksession would make it a full day ordeal, rather than have it be for council discussion.
Given the scope of the recommendations from each subcommittee, as well as the overall scope in totality, this does seem reasonable, and hopefully small details that attract criticism or comment will not dominate and erode consideration of the big picture and high-level values. It would be easy to rat-hole on relative trivia. There's a balance between a need to focus on the planning project and being open to public comment, and hopefully they can find it.

One of the important topics is "sustainability," here not so much environmental as budgetary (chart at top).
The City must identify the services and levels of services it desires to sustain and methods to generate the funding necessary, or reduce the costs required, to provide those services. Solutions to achieving fiscal sustainability may require tradeoffs, reduced programs, or new or increasing revenue sources.
This could be a great opportunity for the City to talk officially about ways that providing for walking, biking, and busing mobility is much cheaper than road expansion for auto mobility.

The Report on Growth and Development also touched on a pattern of disconnect or contradiction:
[P]opulation and employment growth cannot be accommodated in the Salem area without new development. There is disagreement in the community, however, as to how development should occur. This is reflected in community reactions to City projects as well as private development proposals.

This lack of general consensus was also captured in the telephone survey conducted as part of the City’s strategic planning process. For example, many people think multifamily housing should be added near already-developed areas, while others want Salem to prioritize single-family development at the City’s edges. Similarly, many residents prefer the mixing of uses such as housing and s hops, while some want development that separates commercial and residential uses.
Via Brent Toderian and Sustainable Prosperity
There is also an opportunity to develop a better analysis of the differentials in cost to service various geographies in the city, and the ways that new development on the peripheries piles up maintenance liabilities over its full lifecycle.

Though the Report offers a range of possible actions, its recommendation is for the most expensive and extensive, a full-blown update to the Salem Area Comprehensive Plan.

The Affordable Housing and Homelessness Report also contained an important subpoint on holism or integration here:
Enhance neighborhood livability and resident engagement through thoughtful affordable housing site selection, development and design, which prioritizes access to transit, proximity to services and the creation of a sense of community. [italics added]
The Economic Development and Downtown Report is a bulleted list only, and it does not seem as thoughtful as the others. It seems to rehearse existing programming and hopes more than dig into the tensions and contradictions and problems.

No reports for Critical Infrastructure or Public Transportation have been posted, and it's easy to wonder if too many resources and too much staff time in Public Works are being spent on the Salem River Crossing instead of projects like this.

It is also interesting to note that as high-level considerations, neither Climate Change nor the Cascadian Earthquake are very present. These seem like serious omissions for a "strategic plan."


Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

(Edit: Added chart on suburban/urban service costs.)

Anonymous said...

Re: Lack of consensus on growth and development.

This shouldn't be framed as an either/or problem. Public opinion may be split but the status quo in what we have on the group in Salem is not. Right now Salem only provides suburban lifestyle choices and urban living is not on the menu. If the public is split 50/50 urban/suburban the outcomes are split maybe 2/98. Is it too much to ask to have a choice in Salem? Does providing that choice really hurt Salem suburbanites? If we could just get planning outcomes to reflect public opinion then Salem would be a dramatically better place to live.

Walker said...

There's many ways to judge opinion -- ask people if they want ice cream on a hot day, they shout "Yes, please!" ... but mention that it's $7 per scoop, and your sense of the public opinion changes promptly!

Salem has made it clear that, like much of America, it wants a much more expensive mode of inhabiting the terrain than it is willing to pay for in terms of taxes to serve that expensive mode.

That's why the "Strong Towns" ethic of "Do the math" is so important. What Anon refers to above as the "suburban lifestyle" is not really on the menu -- it's only on the fantasy menu, where money drops from some mythical "other."

If you revisit the talk Chuck Marohn gave at Loucks in October, perhaps the most powerful piece of the presentation was his report that, wherever they have done a block-by-block productivity analysis, they have always found that the older, poorer neighborhoods are the most productive, paying high taxes and imposing low costs - the money is funneled to the development edge as part of the Growth Ponzi Scheme. That is almost certainly the case in Salem. The Sprawl Lobby profits from it, but the rest of us pay for it, even as our ability to afford other things diminishes.

Laurie Dougherty said...

I was also concerned about the absence of climate change particularly since several people brought it up at the Open House. 350 Salem OR has been researching Climate Action Plans in other cities and on Saturday will urge the City Council to include development of a Climate Action Plan in the Strategic Planning Process.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

In late adds to the meeting materials, there is now a "Public Transportation Council Work Group Recommendations" doc.

It identifies four areas where action might be possible:

1. City as Owner, Operator, and Planner of Infrastructure
2. City as Regulator
3. City as Employer
4. City Council as Influencer

Under "City as Owner, Operator, and Planner of Infrastructure" it mentions "parking" but does not then discuss ways our commitment to free and underpriced parking and our commitment to free-flowing traffic also tend to make transit less attractive, a choice of last resort rather than choice of first resort.

There are still ways the City can think more deeply about the ways our autoism and official City subsidy and support then restrains or retards interest in transit. Our policies do not wholly align with valuing transit. Even if some measures like priced parking remain politically difficult, they should be mentioned. (There might be more to say in a separate post. We'll see.)

Also in the comment packet, there is a very thoughtful and thorough group of letters. Many of them advocate for a Climate Action Plan as Laurie mentioned. Also very interesting was the extensive comment offered by the "Salem Strategic Plan Study Group," 12 citizens who gave comprehensive thoughts on the planning process. All are worth reading and look to be valuable contributions to debate.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

And over on Facebook, Salem has a post with video on the Council discussion of a Climate Action Plan. See that also for meeting details and discussion of next steps.