Saturday, March 21, 2020

Our Salem Survey Looks like Temporizing and even a little Retrograde

Because of the public health emergency and need for physical distancing, the City canceled the Open Houses for Our Salem this past week and redirected to an online survey.

With the short notice and revision in form, it's hard to be too critical of the survey. It may not be completely thought-through as purely an online survey and may suffer from being more of an awkward translation of materials designed for an in-person forum.

Still, the thing is a little strange.

The only time "resiliency" appears, it's in an autoist context
The one time the word "resiliency" appears, it's asking about reviving the Third Bridge. Our Salem is supposed to be conducted in light of emissions and climate, and there are several other contexts in which resiliency might be mentioned more trenchantly. This looks like a subtle attempt to greenwash more auto capacity.

Later, on some questions about roads, it starts from the position that more auto capacity is necessary and an obvious good. In the first question "make downtown streets two-way" is a very different gesture than "adding a bridge," "develop a beltline," or "expand capacity."

The weights on these are weird
Equally, it seems like drilling too finely into detail to ask people to discriminate between "more sidewalks," "more separated bike lanes," "traffic calming," and "more enhanced crosswalks." All the above!

Why is reduce emissions buried?
Finally, "reduce greenhouse gas emissions" is buried under "natural resources and environment" like some special interest rather than a leading value. And again, All the above! on this one. (Though what about "positive impacts" from well-planned growth? That may be another instance of bias.)

I don't see how the survey fits together and what it adds substantively to the online mapping that already occurred. Levels of generality are mixed within a single question and from question to question. It does not flow and seems muddled. It does not seem like a meaningful step forward or refinement. I'm not seeing its logic, and it looks largely superfluous to me.

Maybe you will discern more. In any case, take the survey.

1 comment:

Jim Scheppke said...

Good critique! I also found the response scale very strange -- from "mostly agree" to "mostly disagree." I want to strongly agree that we need to cut greenhouse gas emissions and strongly disagree that we don't want or need another bridge! Oh well. People need to make the best of it and take the survey. We know Salem Bridge Solutions will be urging all their supporters to take it.