Sunday, May 31, 2020

Federal Grant to Fund Electric Buses for Cherriots

Here's some good news, a little old now, and you may already have seen it, but it's especially welcome this weekend.

Cherriots Board Chair - via Twitter
Keizer Times has a longer story. The Federal Transit Administration doesn't appear to have the announcement yet.

The Low or No Emission Vehicle Program has been around for a while, with the first round of grants announced in 2016. Cherriots may have submitted applications before.

Route 11 mainly on Lancaster Drive

Friday, May 29, 2020

New Station needs New Chief: Take City Survey on Next Leader

New Building, New Chief
The City's starting the public portion of a search for a new Chief of Police.
Ralph Andersen & Associates is beginning the recruitment process for the new Chief of Police for the City of Salem. The City of Salem invites you to take this survey regarding the future of the City of Salem Police Department. The survey will begin an open conversation about what is needed in the next Chief of Police.
Chief Moore has seemed like a nice and responsible fellow. Yesterday he published an open letter about Minneapolis saying "we do not teach any of our officers to control a suspect’s actions by kneeling on their neck." That is a good statement, but the initial frame of "tragic events across the nation" is not wholly adequate to the structural elements in play here. It's not some random tragic event, but is one instance of a deep and enduring pattern across the country. The frame of tragedy operates as something of a euphemism in this case.

Front page of Minneapolis Star-Tribune today

New Parkscore Misses Mark in Salem

Circulating on social media this past week there was a new "parkscore" from the Trust for Public Lands, modeled after the successful walkscore concept.

Salem rates a 70, and a map purports to show areas of need. But it does not pass the sniff test and I am not sure what the algorithm is actually assessing.

Here are areas in South Salem very near Woodmansee and Wendy Kroger Park that the algorithm says are in "very high need" of a park. But they are touching the park. The park is right there!

Two red "very high" need areas are immediately adjacent to parks
in South Salem, Wendy Kroger and Woodmansee Parks
(the color scheme also is awful)
There are other instances of red "very high" need areas actually being closer to a park than orange "high" need areas.

From a high level, the assessment of east Salem between I-5 and Cordon Road seems closer to the mark.

But the mapping project needs feedback and to go through another round of iteration and refinement before it can be really very useful. Its score of 70 does not seem reliable yet and Salemites should not be quick to cite it for or against anything.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

SCAN Working on Bikeway Between Bush Park and Clark Creek Park

For a few months, even years, now SCAN has been talking about improved bikeways in the area around Bush Park and South Salem High School. They have intensified analysis of a southward extension of the Winter-Maple Greenway from Bush Park where it exits at Yew Street and Leffelle.

South of Rural Ave to Clark Creek Park
Existing signage stops at Rural Street, and they are looking to continue things to Clark Creek Park.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Friends of Marine Drive Contest City Survey and Plan for Marine Drive

I didn't catch up on Council over the weekend or last night, and mostly there wasn't much to say it seemed. But some comment in a late add to Council agenda on the Marine Drive purchases* deserves more attention.

Marine Drive hardly exists, and it already has a "Friends of Marine Drive" group advocating for it, like it's some wildlife, park, or historic property! I suppose it is imperiled in a way.

from "Friends of Marine Drive" last night at Council
They write to Council:
[In] November 2019 an alignment for Marine Drive was surveyed that is not consistent with the Council's June 10, 2019 motion....[the] surveyed alignment for Marine Drive swings outside of the Urban Growth Boundary to the east (red shading) and was the previous alignment in the Transportation Systems Plan that takes Marine Drive along Wallace Marine Park.
The context for this is a proposal and request from 2017 for a different alignment, which seemed to have been formally accepted at Council in 2019. The detail map above shows segments #4 and #5 on the proposed alignment.

Connection at #4 is being disputed now (diagram from 2017)
If the City intends to push through a segment outside the UGB, it will be interesting that they might employ an argument on "rural roads" used by SRC opponenents.

On the other hand, there are good reasons to prefer the connection to Cameo Street at Fifth Avenue, and if it is simpler because it is inside the UGB, all the better.

This also may be evidence that the LUBA decision did cause the City to revert the boundaries of the UGB to the pre-SRC state. This has not been addressed explicitly by the City so far as I know.

There will be more to say, especially as the City's Marine Drive concept has entailed some kind of connection across Wallace Road at Second Street. There are multiple moving parts here.

* Each lot and owner is its own Agenda item:
  1. one
  2. two
  3. three

Monday, May 25, 2020

Decoration Day to Memorial Day: Change in 1920 under World War's Shadow

In 1920 Memorial Day was very much still "Decoration Day" and oriented to the Civil War. But the shadow of the Great War, World War I, continued a change in focus. We see both ways that Memorial Day was being reconfigured in the present of 1920 as well as shifts in ways the Civil War was retrospectively understood.

Civil War Memorial in City View (November 2019):
"Erected in memory of deceased brave defenders
of our country in the civil war of 1861-1865"*
The ad packages for Memorial Day with prepared grids for local businesses featured the Gettysburg Address.

Local ad grids, with "Gettysburg speech"
 Morning paper May 30th
Afternoon paper, May 29th, both 1920
The morning paper's featured a Union soldier on a plinth, very much like ours here, and called the holiday "Decoration Day."

The afternoon paper's graphic is more interesting and layered, and uses "Memorial Day." As I read it, it shows pair of Civil War Veterans, one Union, the other Confederate, saluting each other, and preparing to salute the Doughboys marching up in formation between them.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

SKATS Ignored Public on Goal 7 and GHG Reduction. Tell Federal Regulators about That

The Policy Committee for our local MPO, SKATS, convenes on Tuesday the 26th by phone, and their main item is a Public Hearing and formal adoption of the 2021-2026 project list, the TIP.

This is mainly a formality, but it's nice to see that non-auto transport has the most support. (See note at very bottom.)

More interesting is formal review next month, in June, by Federal agencies "to assess compliance with Federal regulations pertaining to the transportation planning process" at the MPO.

Notice from the Feds
They are soliciting comments, which can be sent by June 18th to
Jasmine Marie Harris, Transportation Planner
Federal Highway Administration, Oregon Division
530 Center St. NE, Suite 420
Salem, OR 97301


Jeremy Borrego, Transportation Program Specialist
Federal Transit Administration, Region 10
915 Second Ave., Suite 3142
Seattle, WA 98174
Specifically, one of the deficiencies that the Feds identified regarded public participation.

The formal Notice from the Feds
about deficiencies in public participation
Back in April, Kathy Lincoln, a former board member of Cherriots, who had sat on the SKATS Policy Committee during her tenure with Cherriots, and who is herself a lawyer, and someone familiar with regulatory requirements, suggested that SKATS was not in fact fully responsive to public comment. Here's how SKATS summarized it:

Summary from April
You might recall back in April of 2018, greenhouse gas reduction and a stronger Goal 7 was far more popular any "build it now" sentiment for the SRC. Yet the MPO largely ignored calls for a stronger Goal 7 and did as little with it as possible. Later, in pressing Salem City Council for a new Hearing on the SRC after the LUBA remand, they showed they were far more responsive to interest in the SRC than to interest in greenhouse gas reduction.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

City Council, May 26th - Movement on Pringle Creek Path to Riverfront Park!

Council convenes remotely on Tuesday because of Memorial Day, and the main item of interest here is movement on the Pringle Creek path between Mirror Pond at the Civic Center and Riverfront Park.

Work on Pringle Creek's stream bed and bank at Boise
October 2019

Higher water and grass filling in - January 2020
Last year the City removed the slab and fish ladder, dropped boulders into the streambed, and planted shrubbery and grass in a restored bank. You can also see a leveled terrace, presumably for a path, on the right (north) side. (Notes here and here from 2019.)

But there's a new wrinkle at Council on Tuesday. Previously (see notes, more photos, and language from earlier contracts, here and here from 2014) the plan as I understood it was for the City to secure an easement and for the developer to build the path connection.

Every Mile Counts on Climate, not Counting Lane-Miles. Ensure ODOT Understands!

When I first learned about the "Every Mile Counts" initiative it was in the context of the ODOT Climate Office, and I understood it as primarily an ODOT project.
That was not right. As a commenter pointed out, and as had become clear when I read the cover letter to Governor Brown, the project is a multi-agency collaboration. ODOT is one of the four principals, but is not necessarily the lead formally - though it is possible that they will be something of a de facto lead because of the massiveness of their bureaucracy.

So right off, that points to an avenue for comment in the survey on the work plan.

One need to highlight then is: Make sure ODOT commits to implementation and commits to VMT reduction. Make sure ODOT doesn't sabotage, slow walk, or otherwise water down the project. They are nearly certain to need to be pushed. (And a little more on that below.)

Already in the work plan is worrisome language about "balance."

The balance loophole
It says "All of these sub-objectives will need to be balanced with other goals such as economic development..." This falsely accepts the frame that climate action depletes or retards economic development, falsely sets them in opposition. A lot of climate action is economic development, creating new clean energy jobs. We might remember that hiring people to pour sidewalks creates a lot more jobs than building new highways. And, ultimately, the project is to pursue economic development in the context of climate action, not to pursue climate action when it is economically convenient. We've been pursuing climate action in the context of our fossil fuel economy, and we have failed badly. We need to create a new economic order for better climate outcomes.

And besides, doesn't our Pandemic and its Recession/Depression point to profound failures in our current economic arrangements?

So another point for comment is not to let the false idol of "balance" with economic development undermine climate action.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Salemites Decisively Reject Reviving SRC in Council Elections

In the Council races this year attempts to revive a Zombie Salem River Crossing were important, but still probably secondary to other issues, particularly the Pandemic, the economy, and homelessness.

But even with the issue in a strong fourth position, voters trounced the slate of candidates supporting a zombie bridge.

Voters trounced the pro-bridge slate of candidates
(SJ piece on Elections spending,
Voters Pamphlet statements on SRC)
You might have a different reading on the details, and maybe the emphasis here isn't quite right.

But on the whole, voters in Salem were not persuaded to support a revival of the SRC process or to devote great resources to auto capacity expansion.

The results instead suggest the City should move more assertively on Climate Action, and on better walking, biking, and busing.

Early results appear to give candidates in three of the four races commanding leads, Virginia Stapleton in Ward 1, Trevor Phillips in Ward 3, and incumbent Vanessa Nordyke in Ward 7. Ward 5 remains close. I suspect Jose Gonzales will prevail, but this is far from certain. Most notably, in Ward 3 Phillips defeated long-time incumbent Brad Nanke, who had voted for many years on Council with a distinctly libertarian-conservative philosophy.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

A Fifth Bike Boom? Bikes in the News and Bike More Challenge

Two stories today, one a local interview, the other a national story in the NY Times, talk about a nascent surge in bicycling. You might also recall the front-page story the end of April.

On the radio today - via Twitter
This is a periodic occurrence - almost like the cycles of cicadas! We've had the first bike boom of the 1890s, another in the Depression, a third in the 1970s, and a smaller one in the 2000s. Is this going to be our fifth bike boom or just a small boomlet?

Cycles of optimism, in the lull after the First Boom
April 2nd, 1902

Monday, May 18, 2020

Climate Office, Every Mile Counts, Blueprint for Urban Design: New ODOT Initiatives

ODOT's got a new "Climate Office," and apparently associated with last weeks OTC meeting, they announced some new bells and whistles.

One of the items buried in the links on the Climate Office page is a new program, "Every Mile Counts."

From the Every Mile Counts brochure (highlighting added)
Its first objective is "reduce vehicle miles traveled per capita." It would be better to say just reduce total miles traveled, but this is a start. ODOT has been very shy about saying "reduce VMT" in any form. Their preference has been to electrify the fleet - those "cleaner vehicles" - and not to mess with driving trips, trip frequency, or trip length. That's handled under "options," and not anything fundamental. The paradigm so far has really been to keep autoism intact.

So for once this looks like responsible strategy. If this is evidence for an actual pivot then, seriously, this could be something to build on. It is superficially promising and could lead to more.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Read Elisabeth Walton's 1965 Thesis on the Jason Lee House, Mill Place

The City and Historic Landmarks Commission has published the third and what is, it seems, final installment of videos on the archeology project at the site of the Jason Lee House.

It's a little anti-climactic, however. Rather than building towards any new insight or discovery, it is mostly a wrap-up with lots of thanks, and rehearses bits already in videos one and two.

In all three of the videos a notable absence was Elisabeth Walton Potter, who must be our foremost expert on the house. Perhaps she was not interested in participating, but it is a remarkable silence.

Jason Lee House as occupied by John Boon
Kuchel & Dresel's "map" of Salem, 1858
Willamette University Archives
She may feel she has already had her say. The Mill has now published a scan of her 1965 masters thesis on the Jason Lee house, "Mill Place" on the Willamette: A New Mission House for the Methodists in Oregon, 1841-44. (366pp)

Still doing history, Elisabeth Walton Potter in Salem Reporter
via Twitter
It is fascinating both as a discussion of the Methodist Mission and early Oregon history as well as study of local historiography and the founding of Mission Mill and what we now know as the Willamette Heritage Center. The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 followed her thesis by one year, and she went one to be one of the original, founding staff of the State Historic Preservation Office of Oregon. The thesis itself, the forces to which it was responding, and the nascent preservation efforts to which it contributed, are themselves legitimate objects now of historical research. It is itself an artifact! There are many levels on which to approach and appreciate the document - including the way it testifies to a long and distinguished career.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Shift to Enclosed Car Cabs really Started here in 1920

Aftermarket business:
Managing weather conditions, February 17th, 1920
If you follow the styles and technologies of cars in history, this will not be news at all to you, but if, as we do here, you regard cars as an overused technology neutral at best or something worse, you might not have thought through fully the transition from soft-top or open-top cars to closed cars. Convertibles are this exotic rarity today. But back then they were the norm, and there were businesses offering battery storage during the winter when owners often basically mothballed their cars. The closed car and culture of year-round driving for business and for pleasure was not yet the dominant norm.

Not just sales and service of batteries:
Special storage for batteries
while car is mothballed during the winter
January 25th, 1920
A world view from Encyclopedia Britannica on Ford in the 1920s:
By the mid-1920s the American automobile had won the revolution Ford had begun. The country was on wheels, and the manufacture and sale of automobiles had become an important component in the American economy. The closed car was no longer exclusively a rich man’s possession. In 1920 most cars had been open models, the occupants protected from the weather by canvas-and-isinglass side curtains. The Essex coach, a no-frills two-door sedan introduced in 1922 by the Hudson Motor Car Company, reduced the cost of sheltered motoring to that of a touring car. Ten years later, Detroit manufacturers were producing closed models almost exclusively.
Here in Salem, 1920 really does seems to mark a transitional moment, and car dealers and advertising started to emphasize the closed car. Previously ads for them had been sporadic, but in the 1920 they appear regularly. Ford appeared to lead.

Friday, May 15, 2020

City Previews Summer Construction on Safety Improvements for Walking and Biking

The City's published a release on road construction projects for this summer - in the shadow of the Pandemic it is almost hard to believe they are still moving forward, and that's something pleasant to observe.

Most of them we've been talking about for a while here, some for several years. It will be nice to see them move finally from planning studies and funding applications to real concrete, asphalt, and paint.

One of them I have not seen before. It's not the most important, but since it is novel in that sense we'll start with it. On the others, since they are not new here notes are not systematic at all.

(City of Salem)

The west crosswalk on Ferry at Liberty is terrible!
The City is going to bump out the southwest corner of Ferry and Liberty in order to shorten the crosswalk and to make drivers square up the turn rather than swoop it tight at a higher speed. In the streetview photo you can see what is a I think a Bike Cop waiting to cross there, and with vertical elements like trees and crosswalk signal post, as well as the shade, the Cop's not super visible, and getting anyone who wants to cross out farther will hopefully improve visibility.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

City Council, May 11th - Affordable Housing, Corner of Hood and Fairgrounds Road

Council meets on Monday and the agenda is light. Affordable housing is the largest topic, with a work session and second reading of the ordinance creating the single-lot TIF District for the Jory Apartments.

There is only one slide
The materials for Work Session are a little dissatisfying. They are slight, a single slide only.

Beyond these questions, what Council and the Citizenry need are a series of detailed case studies - a kind of audit, perhaps - that show how projects worked, how they failed, or how they were merely adequate.

On the Jory Apartments agenda item, the current instance in the database includes no public comment, but we know that there has been some.

NEN would like more analysis
 Last month the Northeast Neighbors association wrote
[City staff] are aware of only one other instance in Oregon, in Wilsonville, where tax increment financing was used for direct payments to the owner.

The plan projects payments over 41 can the city commit to so many years of payments when it's impossible to predict the housing market over that time?...

We are also concerned that the number of affordable units...has decreased...

We hope Council will review carefully the TIF ensure [it is] in the public's best interests over the life of the TIF District.
And it does not seem yet that the City or Council has made this review - or at least shared it publicly. The slide for the work session doesn't much address the level of detail asked about in the letter from NEN.

Maybe more substantive material will be published later.


Here's another chart that purports to show change, but
 lacks a control variable. (Comments reversed in white added)
Totally forgot that the City had a similar Work Session scheduled March 16th, which was cancelled as the severity of the Pandemic dawned on governments and companies and wave on wave of cancellations and restrictions came down.

That presentation is not part of Monday's, but it would be useful to included it - or better, to include a revised version.

A Rambling Digression Slightly Related to an Agenda Item

Behind the piano and memorial wall,
an old storefront bolted onto the house (2012)
(The VFW history shows the house before the storefront addition)
Also on the agenda is an information report on "a proposed partition to divide property located at 1340 to 1380 Church Street NE into three parcels."

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

New Our Salem FAQ Clarifies Some Things, Muddles Other Things

The disavowal of precision in the FAQ rings a little false
with the tables and numbers they actually published
(quote in red from the FAQ with the April version of Indicators)
The City's just published a FAQ ostensibly responding to questions about the scenarios they shared last month.
We've heard from a lot of you as part of the Our Salem project, and we thank you for your input on the different options - or scenarios - for how Salem could grow in the future.

We know there is a lot of information packed into the scenarios and indicators, so we've created a webpage to help answer some of the most frequently asked questions.
If you are unfamiliar with the basic structure, some of the questions might be helpfully explanatory.
Scenarios help us "test drive" different future land use patterns. For example, one scenario shows more new housing on the edges of Salem, while another shows more areas with mixed-use development. By having multiple scenarios, we can test different ideas in the community to better understand what people like and dislike.

Scenarios also help us know how different land use patterns could impact things like the environment, housing affordability, and how people travel around the community. This is done through a planning model that our consultants use called Envision Tomorrow.

Ultimately, the scenarios will help us develop the vision for future growth in the Salem area. This vision will include a map of how we want to grow as well as priorities that guide our growth.
But on some of the more technical details they talk around the matter.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Ads for National Bike Week in 1920 Criticize Streetcars, not Automobiles

With groups rides gone and in-person contact greatly reduced, Bike Month this year is mostly virtual.

Marketing to adults - May 6th, 1920
In 1920, National Bicycle Week rolled out the advertising at the beginning of May, and in many ways streetcar transit was the foil.

Changes to Bike Month in 2020

In the shadow of the Pandemic, National Bike Month this year has to accommodate physical distancing measures. Several things in May are changed or postponed. Its national sponsors say
Most years, National Bike Month centers on biking to work and riding with a friend to a local coffee shop to get them back on a bike. In 2020, we’re doing National Bike Month a little differently. This May, the League encourages everyone to get on a bike, go for a ride, and share the joy online together. For the 31 days in May, #BikesUnite us.
Closer to home, the Street Trust postponed the Bike More Challenge to June.
Though May is traditionally National Bike Month, due the unprecedented events caused by the Covid-19 virus, Bike More Challenge is being moved to June.
After cancelling in 2019, Cherriots was going to hold Open Streets Salem this May, but through the Winter and into Spring, they made no announcement and clearly the project was delayed. Now, with C19, it is obviously on hiatus and it seems unlikely it will come together this year at all. Demand has seemed slack, there haven't been many calls for it, and the event does not seem to have found its footing yet here.

Even in Portland, where it has not been on hiatus, "stay home" and distancing requirements have prompted them to "reimagine" Sunday Parkways for May and June, and they will determine whether July's can proceed as usual. Things are in flux.

Bicycle Week in 1920 - Remembering the Flu

The campaign in 1920 had its own tensions, not quite pandemic-level yet still remembering influenza, and post-war society was complicated and in transition also.

Local advertising promoted bikes for kids much of the time.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Grant Neighborhood to Discuss Conversion of 1928 German Baptist Church

Most of the neighborhood associations have been on hiatus with the distancing and "stay home" requirements of the Pandemic. The Grant Neighborhood meeting is shifting to video conferencing this month.

Thursday the 7th, they'll be on Zoom - so get your bookshelf and background all arranged!

Evergreen Church building could be headed for change (2014)
On the agenda is an interesting proposal to convert the old Baptist Church, now operating as Evergreen Presbyterian, and itself at least the second church at that site, into apartments. (The even older wood German Baptist Church that preceded it is still near the neighborhood on a different lot I think.)

In the absence of more information it's hard to have an opinion about any transformation from church to apartments.