Saturday, November 30, 2019

City Council, December 2nd - Airport Subsidy and Carbon Pollution

Council meets on Monday and only one item seemed worth longer comment. The City (as Urban Renewal Agency) will decide whether to modify the Fairview Urban Renewal Zone in order to subsidize a new business associated with air travel.

From November's Work Session
From the Staff Report:
The amendment adds 70 acres of developable vacant land and the terminal at the Salem Airport. During the last year, the City has been negotiating with an aviation business interested in locating on approximately ten acres of the 70 acres. Incorporating this parcel into the URA boundary and constructing needed taxiway connections would facilitate development of this parcel....

With the construction of needed infrastructure and development on the vacant land, the Airport has the potential to generate more than $1,000,000 in new lease revenue. This is double what the Airport currently receives in lease revenue. The Airport is funded by revenues generated at the Airport. The Airport receives no operating assistance from the City’s General Fund.

Airport infrastructure projects totaling $2,000,000 include a taxiway connection, new hangars, and reconstructing the older section of the terminal building. The estimated cost for a taxiway connection to the vacant 10-acre site at the north of the Airport is $450,000 and could result in $148,100 in annual lease revenue. The Airport’s capital improvement plan includes four flex-space hangars at the south end of the Airport for a variety of industrial tenants. The estimated cost is $1,000,000. Assuming the Airport maintained ownership of the hangars and full occupancy, $275,000 in revenue per year could be generated for the Airport. The remaining $550,000 would help fund reconstruction of the older section of the terminal building.

Implementation of infrastructure improvements at the Airport is consistent with the primary goal in the Fairview URA Plan to create new job opportunities by eliminating conditions inhibiting private development. Objective 5 of the Plan states that the Agency may provide loans, grants, or other assistance to developers for rehabilitation or development of properties that meet the conditions of the Plan.
Yes, but is it consistent with any climate goals we might have?

Even if air travel currently at the airport emits but a small proportion of Salem's carbon pollution, air travel generally is carbon-intensive and very bad. Even when we say "But Jobs!" should the City subsidize it? I know we don't have any formal policies yet on greenhouse gas. But seriously, it should be self-evident by now that this kind of subsidy is problematic. We may not be ready to ban airport activity - though a time will likely come when we will need to consider that - but should the City subsidize carbon pollution and new carbon polluters?

Mobile Emissions
Also on the agenda is a second reading for enactment of a sidewalk camping law, and a recent study points to a major disconnect.

From the paper earlier this year:
City Manager Steve Powers in April recommended city councilors halve Salem's allocation to the [housing assistance] program from $1.4 million to $700,000 for the upcoming budget year, which should allow Salem to house 50 people.

The proposed allocation pays for the homeless rental assistance program "at a level that right sizes the program with available housing," Powers told the Statesman Journal on Wednesday.
This week:
Salem spends more than $5.2 million a year on issues related to homelessness, according to estimates in a draft city report.

Most of the costs are incurred by the Salem Police Department, which is estimated to spend nearly $4.7 million on an annual basis dealing with issues related to homelessness, according to the draft report. The Salem Fire Department is the second-highest spender, at an estimated $259,000 annually.
This looks like evidence we have misallocated.

Council should strongly consider reallocating in order to fund housing and a CAHOOTS type program with at least some of that $5 million the Police have been spending. This would be a much more efficient and just investment.

Postscript, Monday

The note in today's paper about the latest from the UN on climate points to things like what is on Council's agenda. Here's a choice. Do we make a choice for less carbon pollution? Or do we make a choice that promotes carbon pollution?

We have the means, but lack the will


Mike said...

I made public comments to the Keizer City Council when they voted to support the commercial airline service. They had already discussed it at the previous meeting so I was too late to convince them.

I pointed out that Salem and Keizer are too close to PDX for all but a few wealthy people to choose the Salem airport over PDX so it will ultimately be a failure, at the taxpayers expense. A more beneficial plan would be to build a regular, fast and efficient commuter rail system between Salem and Portland (with expansion to Eugene and Battle Creek). This will provide a daily transit option to commuters between our two cities and link to the airport, providing a good option for those who need to get to PDX.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

(Added clip on the UN report)