What to say about 2018? I want to think it is a pivot, a transitional year. I'm not sure that there was a whole lot big and new, and maybe even nothing truly decisive, but there were concluding actions, things ending, and also things gathering and starting. Maybe this will be a mistake, and the year will turn out to be very insignificant. The wish is always to be able to place the year's events in some kind of narrative, to find shape and pattern - and progress. But as we have seen, a Whiggish attachment to Progress is very often just fiction, and history has no such teleology. Maybe 2018 is just a random splatter of events.
In any case, I see 2018 like the Police Station: Last year there was the vote. That was big. In a couple of years there will be the grand opening and dedication, and that will be big. This year was transitional: There was demolition, ground-clearing and preparation, the archeology, the ceremony of ground-breaking, and finally the beginning of construction.
|The City's banner on the Police Station site in late March 2018|
2018 feels like that, very in-between. It was the intermediacy of breaking ground on a project, the state after the plans have been settled on, but before the project is done, that seemed to characterize the year.
Three Processes and Committees
If that kind of transitionalness is right, a trio of three processes, which themselves did not yield direct action, but which laid the groundwork for future action, seem like the most important thing in 2018. Discrete projects, like the Minto Bridge, are great, but maybe we are in a position to change the entire conversation finally and focus on systems more than on individual projects.
The Congestion Relief Task Force
|15 out of the 17 short-term recommendations|
and the Public Transit Committee
both published final reports and made recommendations. The mere facts of the recommendations themselves don't necessarily count for much. But if Council in the next couple of years firmly grasps them and passionately commits to executing on them, then they will have made a significant difference in the way we conceive transportation here.
Our Salem, combining a greenhouse gas inventory and starting the update to the Comprehensive Plan will be bigger, but that's just starting,
and we don't know yet how effective it will be.
But taken together, the three of them point the way - if we choose! - to a course-correction on transportation, land-use, and our response to climate disruption. In 50 years, we might be able to look back and see in this moment a real fork in the road, and for those young enough to see, it will be interesting which choice we made.