Saturday, October 31, 2020

Vancouver BC Climate Plan Deserves Consideration

The Climate Action Plan Task Force convenes for the first time next week on the 5th, and it will be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

Vancouver, BC focuses on transportation

Our chapter has previously highlighted plans from Milwaukie and Beaverton. But these have still seemed less than adequate to the scope of the actual problem and magnitude of the emissions reductions we actually need to make.

So here's another plan that looks to be more assertive and closer to adequate to the real problem, Vancouver, BC's, Climate Emergency Plan. For starters, the accent is on "emergency." They also embed transportation emissions in a larger context of "individual health, community prosperity, and the wellbeing of our environment."

Right-priced parking

Road and decongestion pricing

In the subsection "How we Move," Vancouver looks to implement permit parking through the entire city and to employ differential pricing so that permits for fossil-fuel combustion engines are more expensive than permits for electric cars.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Jason Lee Portrait unveiled 100 Years Ago, Lost to Fire in 1935

100 years ago today, on October 26th the City and State held a grand unveiling for a new portrait of Jason Lee at the old Capitol. I could not easily find information on it or its painter, and I assume it was lost in the 1935 fire at the Capitol. The Methodists had commissioned it, and the dedication coincided with a conference here in Salem. 

Jason Lee portrait in back. (detail)
Swearing in Gov. Julius Meier, 1931
Oregon Historical Society

"Patriot and Colonizer"
October 27th, 1920

From the morning preview on the 26th in 1920:

Church dignitaries, pastors and laymen numbering several hundred will arrive in Salem this morning from all over the state to take part in, and witness the formal unveiling and presentation of the Jason Lee Portrait, which will take place at 1:30 o'clock this afternoon in the honse of representatives in the state capitol.

Bishop V. O. Shepherd of Portland will make the main address, and there will be contributions to the program by other prominent representatives of the church and state. Patriotic musical numbers will precede and close the exercises, and another feature will be the reminiscences of Jason Lee by Mrs. Maria Campbell Smith, the first female white child born in Oregon. Governor Olcott will present the portrait to the state.

The portrait, which is life-size, was painted by Hester L. George, a Boston artist, the commission being given by the historical society of the Oregon Conference or Methodists.

Through this society also the gift of the portrait is made to the state of Oregon.

The old Capitol, from SW looking NE
Oregon State Library

The interval from 1920 to Lee's time in Salem around 1840 corresponds roughly to the the gap between now and World War II. Additionally, veterans in their 20s during the Civil War and at Statehood would be in their 80s in 1920 and passing on. We are at the very end of a human life span and of direct human memory for these events, and so there is a retrospective renewal and refashioning of collective memory, sifting for details to remember and details to forget. In telling stories about Lee they told stories about themselves, just as today we are choosing what stories to tell about ourselves.

As we have considered changing views on Lee, it is interesting to note a gulf in the news coverage in 1920. The morning Statesman had wall-to-wall coverage of the portrait and speeches; the afternoon Capital Journal largely ignored it. Usually there is greater overlap with both papers covering significant events in Salem. Perhaps this is evidence there was a real ideological purpose to the portrait and ceremonies. Certainly from a century later, the speeches are saturated with ideas, and it is reasonable to suppose not everyone gave them all the same significance.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

City Council, October 26th - German Baptist Church Decision

Council convenes on Monday and no big action items are of interest here, so just some notes in passing, marginalia even.

The most interesting thing here is the Planning Commission's decision, an information item unless it is called up for Council Review or is appealed, on the First German Baptist Church. (And all previous notes here. Update: It is been appealed.)

Exclusionary themes in Grant's appeal

As part of the decision a letter from a lawyer representing DevNW is included, and it even talks explicitly about "housing people over cars" and about neighbors using "land use planning as a tool to exclude." The general rhetoric of YIMBY and acknowledgement of historical exclusionary planning and neighborhood practices is at least a little noteworthy. Maybe we will see more of this.

On proprietary claims to parking

On street trees

The Planning Commission specifically agreed to the request on planting new street trees and this might be something to register - maybe something that needs clarification in code.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

SCAN Floats Advisory Bike Lanes for High Street

Here's a pleasant note on social media. The neighborhood association around South Salem High School and Bush Park is talking more about bikeways. They're floating an idea for "advisory bike lanes" on High Street.

Concept: Advisory Lanes on High St
via FB

High Street really is a superior link to downtown, but because it is formally designated a "collector" street, one level up from a local, neighborhood street, and because it has a de facto function as a bypass for the Liberty/Commercial couplet, there is too much auto through-travel on it. But since the bypass is ostensibly discouraged, the City should be bolder about installing a diverter at Cross, Lincoln, or Howard and making it for local traffic only. A set of advisory bike lanes could help very much with this and also make for a much pleasanter bike route connecting to downtown.

It would be very nice to have more conversation about how we really want High Street to function, and how we might make design changes to support that function. There is a real disjunction right now between the actual bypass function and the stated discouragement of it. We should have better alignment on design and intent.

The concept for Superior Street is also interesting, but since that is such a hill, it would likely serve fewer people, and in a world of limited resources other streets likely have stronger claims to design changes.

Previously on High Street and other routes in SCAN:

More on Advisory Bike Lanes:

Sunday, October 18, 2020

City Council, October 19th - City-Owned Trees

On Monday Council convenes for a formal Work Session on City-owned trees and the associated tree ordinances.

Two cent Arbor Day

There is a lot of justified anger towards the City for their cavalier attitude towards trees and half-hearted stewardship. If we are a "Tree City," something we have bragged about for 43 years, why do we keep bending over backwards to accommodate those who want to cut them down simply because they are inconvenient? We have sacrificed a lot of trees for parking lot expansion, especially.

At the same time, in order to have things we truly want more of, things like housing generally, social housing more specifically, better sidewalks and bike lanes, and other things too, it is sometimes necessary to cut down and remove trees. Even though we rightly venerate very old trees, and value young and old trees alike in the urban context more generally for aesthetics, carbon sinks, and heat calming, as a class of things trees are renewable, sustainable, and fungible. It is not wrong to see trees as a very long-lived agricultural crop, albeit one with great utility to us and great utility in wider ecosystems.

With a lifetime often exceeding a whole human life, they straddle a line between ephemeral and permanent. Each of us can see a beloved tree as permanent in our lives, but a future generation will necessarily see it age, wither, and perish.

On the whole, if we might see some especially grand or rare trees as an end in and of themselves, most of the time we should not be afraid of subordinating trees to other ends.

So it has seemed proper to treat trees with great care, but not to attach ourselves to them in any kind of absolutism or arborial fundamentalism.

Cutting down an old, sick tree (Jan 2019)

Saturday, October 17, 2020

City Misses Cut on Grant to write Urban Trails Plan, Downtown Dining, Chief Announcement - Bits

Earlier this summer you might recall that the City was applying for a Transportation and Growth Management grant to fund an Urban Trails Plan.

City of Salem missed the cut

A couple weeks ago the State announced the winners, and Salem's application didn't make the cut. There were 41 total applications and 14 winners.


More Street Dining

A few have mentioned this already, and in one of the City Manager's updates last month was news that the City is working on a year-round program for street dining.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Rewrite! With Monday's Council Action, Our Salem Should Formulate a new Preferred Alternative

On Monday afternoon, just hours before Council convened, the City announced a FAQ on Our Salem.

Considering the lead item, the absence of numerical greenhouse gas reduction goals, its timing was very strange. Knowing what was on the Council agenda for that evening, they might have waited until Tuesday or later this week.

Already out of date!

And, what do you know, Council adopted a goal of 50% reduction by 2035, exactly the horizon for the preferred alternative in Our Salem.

Our Salem models only an 18% reduction
for 2035, and we need something closer to 50%
Global Warming Commission and Our Salem
(Notes in green added)

The only problem is, the preferred alternative makes no change over current trends, and the current trend is for only an 18% reduction.

Our chapter has already called for Our Salem to hit "pause," to reassess, and to improve the plan for emissions reductions. We may not need a complete do-over, but we need a substantial revision in a v2.0. The draft preferred alternative is already obsolete.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Sunday History Column features the Sroat & Wilson Salem Cyclery

It was nice to wake up to see some bike history in the paper today.

Salem Cyclery in the Sunday Paper

We've written about Otto J. Wilson many times (Paul Sroat has been more elusive) and in more detail - with more pictures! - than is possible for a brief history column. If you'd like more see here:

And here's Wilson in a two-page booster spread when he was mayor from a century ago.

In 1920 Otto J. Wilson was mayor, Feb. 28th, 1920

Friday, October 9, 2020

Joleen Braasch Berry Struck while Biking on Cherry Ave, Driver Later Charged with DUI and Assault

Geez. Here is news today of a second person killed by a driver.

Because it was initially an injury only, it did not occasion a release from the Police, but Joleen Braasch Berry died from her injuries today.

The paper writes:

Joleen Braasch Berry, of Salem, was riding with a helmet in the bicycle lane [on Tuesday] when William Justin Chambers, 25, who was driving a Toyota sedan, drifted out of the southbound traffic lane and into the bike lane [in the 2700 block of Cherry Ave NE].

Chambers struck Berry, then came to a stop after crashing into a tree....

Chambers was charged with second-degree manslaughter, driving while under the influence of intoxicants and vehicular assault.

Unlike the crash reporting on the Windsor Island Road death, here in this story there are people biking and driving, and the driver, not the car, is the responsible agent in the crash. Though it should not also be necessary to say Berry was or was not wearing a helmet, as if not wearing a helmet might invite a crash and cause the person biking to have to share some of the blame for their death or that our level of sympathy might vary with helmet use. The lethal error and power is the driver's, not whether a person biking has a helmet. Helmet use doesn't protect against a crash. See the earlier post for more on language and ascription of responsibility.

Update, Saturday the 10th

In print, the story uses the tired and inaccurate "hit by car" trope in the headline. It also corrects the charges from "manslaughter" to "felony second-degree assault" and adds "failure to perform the duties of a driver."

Print uses "hit by car" formula, erasing the driver

As a person with her own story and life, Berry is largely absent, and hopefully follow-up stories on the court dates will give her more dignity and presence. The dead and seriously injured are not able to tell their own story, and structurally the reports always depend too much on the driver. He gets the photo, even if it is a mug shot.

Monday the 12th

Here's a tribute from the Book Bin, with details on an in-store memorial.

via FB

This post may be updated.

Driver Kills Andrew Otho Polston in Hit-and-Run on Windsor Island Road - Updated

A person driving has struck, killed, and then fled from a person biking on Windsor Island Road.

First Report

From the Keizer Police:

On October 9, 2020, at just before 12:30 p.m., Keizer police officers were dispatched to the 6100 block of Windsor Island Road North to a reported vehicle crash involving a pedestrian. Officers found a 70-year-old man deceased at the scene, an apparent victim of a collision with a vehicle. The vehicle that struck the man did not remain at the scene, and officers with the traffic team are currently investigating, assisted by detectives and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office. Because this is an ongoing investigation, no further information will be released at this time, and the name of the deceased male will not be released until his next of kin has been notified.

Not only did the vehicle not remain, neither did the driver.

Once again our language betrays us into erasing the driver, who is responsible for the safe operation of a car and for remaining on the scene and rendering aid.

Today's death coincides with an ODOT press release in which they continue to blame people on foot:

With shorter days and rainy weather, fall and winter can be challenging for pedestrians.

But we can all take steps to keep roads safer for everyone, from being mindful of our surroundings and wearing bright clothes as pedestrians to watching our speed and minding crosswalks as drivers.

Maybe, you know, we should really focus on drivers, who are the ones who employ lethal speed and power and weight. A person on foot who makes a minor error of inattention or judgement does not deserve to be killed by a driver who makes a minor error of inattention or judgement - let alone a major error. (See below for more notes on this.)

Update, Monday the 12th

It was a person biking, not a pedestrian.

From the Keizer PD:

On Friday, October 9, 2020, 70-year-old Andrew Otho Polston, of Keizer, was lawfully riding his bicycle north on Windsor Island Road when he was struck and killed by a northbound 1973 Dodge van driven by 93-year-old Robert E. Lindsey, of Salem. The Keizer Police Department and Marion County Sheriff's Office investigated the fatal crash, which is ongoing. No arrest has been made.

Once completed, the investigation will be forwarded to the Marion County District Attorney’s office for review and determination of any potential criminal charges. The district attorney’s office will release any further information.

(And there's a "huh" here: The Robert Lindsey Tower on Church Street, named after a mayor. There could additional reasons no arrest has been made. Clearly there will be more to say on this.)

This post will be updated.

City Council, October 12th - Managing to a Goal on Climate

At Council on Monday Counselor Andersen offers an excellent resolution with an important adjustment on the current approach to our Climate Action Plan

He says

I move that the City Council adopt the following goals as part of the City’s Climate Action Plan (CAP):
• By 2035, Salem’s greenhouse gas emissions shall be reduced to 50% of the citywide greenhouse gas emissions for the baseline year of 2016, and
• By 2050, Salem should be carbon neutral.

Our Salem models only an 18% reduction
for 2035, and we need something closer to 50%
Global Warming Commission and Our Salem
(Notes in green added, graphic swapped out)

Though the chart from Our Salem (bottom half of image) lacks time labels, they model conditions in 2035. (Why the project team didn't label every chart is a mystery; this is not good information design.)

The "preferred scenario" out in draft form right now appears to offer about an 18% reduction from current conditions. The difference between "current trends" for 2035 and that preferred scenario is negligible, well within any rounding error or margin of error.

Any scenario worth preferring would have greater reductions, and adopting a set of carbon reduction targets helps greatly with planning for that and achieving it.

In every way we need better metrics, and Councilor Andersen's resolution is a meaningful start on that.

At the same time, the climate goals our neighboring cities do not very often have teeth in them. One way that Salem could make our plan superior to have a clear plan, a flow chart even, for what happens when we miss intermediate targets. Do we have escalating actions that will kick in when we miss on early rounds of measurement?

This is a great step and Councilor Andersen deserves enthusiastic support. (And if at the end of the process we want to refine those numbers, we can always do that, but without a goal to structure our beginnings, we're just flapping and posturing. We do not at this point have to determine that Councilor Andersen's proposed numbers are the right and final ones for us. We just need a target for our start.)

The Pandemic really dominates everything

There's a report on the Strategic Plan, the "2020 Annual Community Report," but it does not seem right this year to dwell on it. Under "Safe Community" they rightly devoted a large section to the Pandemic. Maybe when we see how next year shapes up, it will be appropriate to take a closer retrospective look at this.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Calm and Optimistic? Doomy and Urgent? City Chooses Former Framing on Climate

The City's rolling out a new "public engagement platform" for our Climate Action Plan. Part of the deal with the consultant writing the plan and running the process is apparently a contract for a third-party website and social media platform they will use to elicit (even extract) and process a great deal of public comment on climate and the plan.

Given what we know about the ways social media operates to polarize and distort personal opinion and aggregate public opinion, it's hard to be confident that this is a great idea. It's not obvious yet another social media platform will promote more thoughtful engagement rather than more intensely partisan sloganeering. Maybe at the end we'll conclude it's wonderful, but it might just be a boondoggular shiny tech gadget that further erodes privacy and fragments opportunities for public comment into smaller and smaller niche slices.

More interesting is the framing. The City has published a launch promo with decidedly non-urban scenery. We've already noted that Parks personnel are leading the project on the City side. So as far as first impressions go, it looks like the accent is going to be calm and optimistic, and on actions like planting more trees. It's about recreation and open space, and not so much about city blocks, the built landscape, and how we conduct our lives in it all.

Soothing, even bucolic framing on climate - via FB

But is this essentially anodyne framing adequate to the moment? 

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Affordable Housing Project in 1928 German Baptist Church to Try Again at Postponed Hearing

The proposal for subsidized housing in the 1928 First German Baptist Church on D and Cottage is at the Planning Commission again Tuesday the 6th. Consideration at month's meeting was postponed, and there may yet be elements still in play. So we'll see if it happens. (Previous notes on the Hearing here, and all notes here.)

The older parsonage would get a side wheelchair ramp

Findings from State Historic Preservation Office

There's a short supplemental Staff Report, and it mainly concerns the letter from the State Historic Preservation Office asserting that the project would have an "adverse effect" on the properties, which are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Consequently City Staff have added as a recommended condition of approval a provision for "mitigation."

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Bike Commuting Still Flat, the Annual Refrain

BikePortland reported on the bike commute to work rate in Portland from the 2019 Census information. That's a great discussion and you should read it.

1.3% estimated bike commute rate in 2019 for Salem

Here in Salem, our numbers are also stagnant. The top chart is for "Salem City," and this one is for the metro area.

Lower, this is for the metro area in 2019 - census

Within any reasonable sampling error, nothing has budged in decades. We just have the random, year-to-year fluctuation around a stable center of about one percent.

From the 2007 RTSP

See this post from last year and previous ones in 2018 and 2017.