Monday, November 30, 2020

A Big Refusal? Our Climate Plan is Dodging Fossil Fuels and does not seem very Serious

A century ago, a parent company of PGE engaged in a promotional campaign for coke.

A series promoting coke, Nov 20th, 1920

Others still touted coal.

Coal still popular, and carts still used, Nov 21st, 1920

Salemites then were not bashful at all about burning wood, coal, or coke.

We are today bashful in talking about fossil fuels, and that needs to stop. We burn them, but we don't talk enough about burning them and about burning less of them.

The City's finally published the slide deck for the November 18th Climate Task Force Workshop.

The November Task Force Workshop

There is nothing on it about decarbonizing or carbon pollution. Nothing about the fossil fuel sources of our pollution and reducing our use of them.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

It was Hoover and War, not Flu, that Shaped our Thanksgiving in 1918

Today's paper has a feature about the 1918 flu and ways it shaped our celebration of Thanksgiving.

Today's paper on "Thanksgivig" in 1918

But here in Salem, the proverbial anthropologist from Mars might not have guessed we were in a pandemic. It was the recent war, and wartime economy and scarcity, popularized as "Hooverizing," that framed the coverage. From the Hoover archives on his work:

In 1917, after the United States entered the war, Hoover was named to head the U.S. Food Administration. Hoover was the right man for the job, which guided the effort to conserve resources and supplies and to feed America’s European allies. Hoover became a household name—“to Hooverize” meant to economize on food. Americans began observing “Meatless Mondays” and “Wheatless Wednesdays” and planting War Gardens. Within a year, the United States had doubled its food shipments to Europe. After the Armistice was signed in November 1918, President Wilson appointed Hoover to head the European Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. Hoover was able to channel 34 million tons of American food, clothing and supplies to war-torn Europe.

Thanksgiving ad package
November 27th, 1918

In 1918 Salem had closed down on October 12th, opened again on November 11th, and closed back down December 30th. Thanksgiving had seemed safe. With recent scarcity and rationing, and with the flu seemingly abating, it was the war that dominated.

Friday, November 20, 2020

City Council, November 23rd - Affordable Homes and German Baptist Church Project

Council convenes on Monday the 23rd, and on appeal from Grant Neighborhood Association they'll be reviewing the Planning Commission's approval to redevelop the First German Baptist Church of 1928 into 19 affordable homes.

First German Baptist Church of 1928
Recently, Evergreen Presbyterian Church (2014)

That will need to be argued on the merits, but former Councilor Kaser's resignation and agreement with the State Ethics Commission does in fact cast a shadow on the review: Council's decision to accede to the Grant Neighborhood Association's request to deny funds in an earlier proceeding appears to have been conducted in some degree of bad faith.

A finding of one violation
of ORS 244.120(2)(a)

Even though in a preliminary consultation the City Attorney may have suggested she was in the clear, it was obviously a questionable situation, which is why she requested guidance from the City Attorney in the first place. She could have invoked the proverbial "abundance of caution" and declared a potential conflict even if she did not believe there was one in fact. She could have covered her bases. But instead of choosing the spirit of disclosure, she chose the spirit of non-disclosure and secrecy.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Reed Remodel to Omit Opera in Name; Climate Task Force and Natural Disaster Frame - Bits

The front page news today about a remodel at the Reed Opera House was interesting.

The warren of dens and shops certainly needs an update, and it may be that the vaguely "gay 90s" retro theme from the initial big remodel in the 1970s is way long past its prime and needs a thorough update.

Old buildings must be refreshed and renewed so they answer to current needs and continue to be useful.

So really there's not much to object to.

But the building's name is the Reed Opera House, and the proposal to update it to simply "the Reed" seems like it might be a mistake. Maybe the word "opera" sounds fussy and dusty, but that seems like the one element of history an update should retain, even as they gut and replace the interior.

Maybe you will have a different opinion, and this is not a very strong opinion, but I think they should retain the full Reed Opera House name even as they totally change the interior.

Previously on the Reed Opera House see:

Anthropogenic Climate Change
is not exactly a "natural disaster"

The Task Force for the Climate Action Plan convenes tomorrow morning and each time the City and project team publish new materials, it seems they shy away from the central matter. They are timid rather than bold. When they could be impressive, they are not.

This Workshop appears to use a "natural disaster" frame and sees the tasks primarily as preparation and resilience, and not reducing emissions in any kind of "prevention" frame. Moreover, even if climate disruption will cause or aggravate natural disasters, like our wildfires this September, or cyanotoxins the past few summers in our water supply, they are substantially caused by human action in increasing greenhouse gas emissions, and are not merely the vicissitudes of nature, of weather, chance, and fortune. It's like they are talking around the targets Council recently adopted.

The project team is also not very good about publishing new materials on the third-party website. There are no presentations or other materials yet posted for this meeting for people who cannot attend or zoom in.

It will be interesting to see any follow-up after the meeting and to see what, in particular, our chapter has to say about it.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Proposed Vietnam Memorial at the Historic Landmarks Commission

A Western Red Cedar, called the "Embracing Tree" in the plan, will be featured in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial proposed for the southwest corner of Willson Park at Cottage and State. The plan and design is at the Historic Landmarks Commission this week.

The plan proposes to retain this Western Red Cedar
November, 2019

November 2019

The corner really is a dud, and just about anything would be an improvement. It's dull 1970s pathways and concrete aggregate. It lacks focus and is seemingly cluttered because no details are important. It's not really very legible.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

City Council, November 16th - Strategic Planning Worksession

Council convenes on Monday for a Work Session on updating the Strategic Plan. Because of the Pandemic and the crises it causes or exacerbates, it remains difficult to have ambitions much beyond simply responding to the exigencies of the moment.

Council has a hard way to chart.

January 15th, 1919

The Climate Action Plan is in progress as is Our Salem, the update to the Comprehensive Plan, and once they are completed, if the process works right, they will drive much of the strategic planning, not ad hoc sessions like this. In a year or two we should have an even stronger set of high-level values and goals to set Council's agenda and that's something to look forward to.

In the meantime, here are three notes on the materials presented to Council in October. This Work Session is a prelude to another one in January.

In the Safe Community section, the City highlights safety for people walking and biking, and also the new Police Station. Visually and rhetorically, you might think they are roughly the same magnitude of accomplishment. But of course they are not.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Elks Purchase Werner Breyman House in 1920

In 1920 the Elks Club purchased the southwest corner of State and Cottage, the site of Werner Breyman's house. Though the Breyman brothers are hardly a secret, and even "little-known" is probably too strong, they may not be known quite enough and appear to be somewhat underweighted in our standard histories of Salem. A fountain and two buildings have been changed significantly, and the modifications have likely muddled our collective memory.

Elks Club, circa 1950
(Salem Library Historic Photos)

November 12th, 1920

The club building itself still functions today and the SJ wrote about a 2016 remodel. First Methodist purchased it in 1992 and operates it.

Driver kills Ricardo Avila in Hit and Run outside McMinnville

In a hit-and-run on Tuesday, a person driving outside of McMinnville struck, killed, and fled from Ricardo Morales Avlia, who was from Salem.

In the paper, Thursday the 12th

Though the report is written vaguely, Avila may have been working at the time, as he was a groundskeeper at a nearby business.

This post may be updated.

Friday, November 13, 2020

End the Failed Skybridge Experiment Downtown; Refocus on Housing

On the front page today is a large piece on the old JC Penney building for sale. 

At what point will we conclude the mallification of downtown has failed?

Front page today

One part of this is the Pedestrian Displacement System. The City should give strong consideration before, during, and after the sale to demolishing the skybridges.  The concept of downtown as a drive-to, mall destination has failed, and the ancillary details for autoist support, like the skybridges to get people out of the way of cars, have utterly failed to guarantee its success. Instead they drain the sidewalks of life and passers-by, and contribute to the blank walls at sidewalk level. (No amount of free parking has kept these businesses afloat, either.)

Windowless, barren, and hostile:
The autoist mall configuration has failed

Until we have more people actually living in downtown housing, we will continue to see the erosion. Because we have prioritized cars over people, the cars and their drivers are able to go elsewhere. We should instead intensify and continue trends to refocus support for housing rather than for car storage and free parking. With more housing and more people on foot, there will be customers to support businesses. Economic development hasn't taken off to precede or cause new housing, and it is reasonable to conclude that it instead will follow new housing. We have had it backwards.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Reporting on Armistice Day in 1920 Shaped by Presidential Election

The notices for Armistice Day in 1920 were surprisingly politicized, heavily shaped by the Presidential election.

Large front page headlines, afternoon
November 11, 1920

The afternoon paper, who had supported the Cox/Roosevelt Democratic ticket, devoted significant front page space to international and local observances, and featured a lead editorial about America "refusing to share the the cooperative effort to preserve peace" and as "a slacker among nations." It tied Harding's "normalcy" to armaments and imperialism.

Lead editorial lamenting League of Nations
November 11, 1920

By contrast, the morning paper, who supported the Harding/Coolidge Republican ticket, had a much smaller notice about local observances, keyed to the American Legion and their conservatism. The paper opposed the League of Nations as part of their support for Harding.

An early instance of "America first"*
morning paper, August 24th, 1920

Consequently, they gave no space to international observations, and instead focused the paper on their entry in the on-going "Salem Slogan" series, this time boosting walnut orchards. The lead editorial was on walnuts and no meaningful editorial space given to Armistice Day.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Recency Bias in Pandemic Skiing Piece misses Climate

There's just a lovely winter wonderland beauty shot on the front page today.

Front page today

The piece talks about ski resorts and the adjustments they will have to make during our Pandemic Winter. Demand may be up in some ways, but capacity at each resort will surely be constrained.

Just two years ago, there was a piece about parking lot expansion and prospects for growth.

Optimism, January 2019

Mid-decade there were pieces about climate, drought, and pessimism.

Pessimism, April 2014

Herding the Urban Deer: Autoism and Right of Way in Differential Policing at Protests

Last Friday University of Iowa Law Professor Gregory Shill, whom you might remember for an article, "Should the Law Subsidize Driving," was behind a symposium, "The Future of Law and Transportation."* One of the panels, "Rights of Way & Public Space," talked about the ways we conceive, interpret, and enforce particular understandings of the public space we call a road.

Law, Public Space, and Rhetoric - U Iowa Law

The next day, on Saturday we got to see some of these understandings in the way public space and protest were policed.

"Obey all traffic laws" and "get out of the road" seemed to be refrains for the second protest, with reporters highlighting police actions at Trade and Church. It is hard to interpret them as neutral, an instead they show an autoist bias. Requiring people on foot to be in the sidewalk is part of the way we normalize "accidents" when drivers crash into people they didn't see or didn't expect in the road. The default expectation is that people on foot will not be in the road, that drivers and their cars should enjoy unimpeded access, and when people on foot are in the road they are interlopers and do not have a legitimate claim to the space. ("All lives splatter" relies on this configuration of power.)

"Obey all laws" - via twitter

People on foot must use sidewalk - via twitter

Friday, November 6, 2020

City Council, November 9th - Public Art Maintenance

A problem with our Public Art funding may seem like a small and minor detail, but it's really emblematic of the way we slight the whole lives of things and people, privileging the gaudy and ceremonial moment of acquisition or creation, and rarely giving enough thought to care and maintenance, especially at end-of-life.

January 2020

On Monday Council will likely make Public Art funds available for maintenance on things like the Acid Ball at Riverfront Park.

Salem’s Public Art Fund supports the Public Art Collection and is funded by donations, grants, and through the dedication of one-half of one percent of eligible publicly funded capital improvement project costs. As part of the City of Salem’s 2020-21 Budget, the Public Art Fund was allocated $10,000 from the Transient Occupancy Tax fund to help support future acquisition, management, and maintenance of art in the City’s Public Art Collection. The October 2020 balance of the Public Art Fund is $60,024.

Per Salem Revised Code 15.030, 70 percent of these funds are to be used for acquiring public art, 20 percent are to be used for the purposes of managing the Public Art Collection to include program management and community education, and 10 percent are to be used to support maintenance, conservation, and deaccessioning of artworks in the Public Art Collection.

The present percent allocations within the Public Art Fund mean that minimal funding is available to care for and repair existing artwork in the Public Collection. At present, this means funds are available for new acquisition, but not for maintenance. With an aging collection and growing maintenance needs, this makes caring for the City’s valued collection a challenge. The proposed revisions to SRC Chapter 15 remove the existing percent allocations to allow the existing funds to be used for maintenance and care of the existing collection.

Across so many areas we need to align capital funding for acquisition and creation better with ongoing operations funding for maintenance and replacement.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Salem Area Looks to Win Six Grants for Safe Routes to Schools Projects

Without real transportation news, we've been hitting the history more, but here's some real news. 

Six Salem-area projects
recommended for funding (ODOT map)

ODOT and its Safe Routes to Schools program announced today it was recommending funding six Salem-area projects to the OTC in December for final approval.

We are excited to share that the Safe Routes to School Advisory Committee recommends funding 43 projects totaling $28.3 million for ODOT’s Safe Routes to School Competitive Construction Grant Program. These funds will focus on under-resourced communities and safety.

In August 2020, ODOT received 99 applications from across the state for the SRTS Competitive Construction Grant Program totaling $73 million in needed safety improvements

Thc successful City project applications were:

  • Broadway Street NE @ Locust Avenue NE: Install median island in the north leg of the intersection to accommodate an improved pedestrian crosswalk and ADA ramps. Estimated project cost is $141,000; City would be requesting $112,800 and providing $28,200 in matching funds. Serves Highland Elementary School.
  • Macleay Road SE @ Caplinger Road SE: Install sidewalk on south side of Caplinger Road SE and west side of Macleay Road SE. Install median island with crosswalk on Macleay Road SE at Caplinger Road SE. Estimated project cost is $2.3 million; City would be requesting $1,840,000 and providing $460,000 in matching funds. Serves Mary Eyre Elementary School.
  • Sunnyview Road NE @ Hollywood Drive NE: Install median island in the east leg of the intersection to accommodate an improved pedestrian crosswalk, ADA ramps, and street lighting. Estimated project cost is $155,000; City would be requesting $124,000 and providing $31,000 in matching funds. Serves Swegle Elementary School.

Projects near Morningside and Pringle Elementary Schools were not recommended for funding. It's likely they didn't meet the equity tests as strongly.

All three of the County project applications were recommended:

The City and County had a very good batting average here on this round. (See previously here and here.)

Cyrus Reed of Reed Opera House was also a Spiritualist

July 26th, 1920

Back in July of 1920, the downtown Armory, where the Grand Hotel is today on Ferry and Liberty, hosted

The most gigantic Show of Mystery ever staged...a full Spiritual Seance, demonstrating the Ouija Board, Materialization, Spirit Slate Writing, Astral Dead, Trance Seance and the great Spirit Cabinet Mystery.

It was a spectacle and entertainment, much more like a magic show than a religious ceremony. You could take it seriously if you wanted, but you could also just wink and nod and go along for the ride.

In the Sunday paper, the Mill published a note about a different spiritualist and his presentation in 1886.

The column was part of a tease and promotion for a Halloween fund-raiser for the Mill, a mobile tour and podcast on downtown spooky history. The main information was presumably in the audio materials and tour booklet, and the piece published in the paper had to talk around that a little, not give away too much.

In the Sunday paper

As the piece is promoting the tour and podcast, like the ad from 1920 they focus on entertainment and spectacle.

Salem was on the circuit for many famous mediums and Spiritualist lecturers. Can you imagine queueing up in front of the Reed Opera House (at that time the performance mecca in the city) on a warm June night in 1886 to see the famous mind reader and spiritual medium J. Randall Brown, fresh from performances in San Francisco.

But Spiritualism was not merely fringey. It was important for women, like Lucy Rose Mallory, who started a Spiritualist newspaper here that grew to be distributed world wide, and offered a space for accomplishment, leadership, and politics. There was meaningful overlap between Spiritualists, Temperance advocates, and Suffrage advocates, and there were home-grown Spiritualists who were not dependent on a traveling circuit, even if they might welcome it also.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Harding Wins in a Landslide

November 3rd, 1920

The morning Statesman had been intensely pro-Harding, and the afternoon Capital Journal critical of Harding and preferred Cox. (See here for a little more on CJ criticism of Harding.)

November 3rd, 1920

The Map, via Wikipedia

Cox's running mate for VP, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, came back and won in 1932, and we know the rest.

July 19th, 1920

Monday, November 2, 2020

A Footnote on Maria Campbell Smith as a kind of First Salemite

The strangest thing about the ceremony for the Jason Lee portrait in 1920 was the bit with Maria Campbell Smith.

"oldest native"
Oregonian, November 20th, 1921

As "the first female white child born in Salem" she was featured during the dedication. Being "the first white child" for an area, large or small, was a common claim and honorific. It appears in multiple obituaries and death notices at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century as those born here in the 1840s and 50s died. Whenever Maria Campbell Smith is in the paper, it is mentioned about her.

That claim to fame is her birth and infancy, but the claim is displaced and complicated quite a bit for the portrait ceremony. She showed up wearing "the bridal robe of her sister who came around the horn with Jason Lee on his second trip...." In the tableau, her role is not infant, even grown up. It is bride.

October 27th, 1920

The costume made a big impression, and a few days later, on the 31st in the "Society" column, they noted

Probably no visitor in the Capital City this week was more interesting nor interested than Mrs. Maria Campbell Smith of Portland, whose part in the Jason Lee exercises in the house of representatives Tuesday afternoon, was really the feature of the afternoon....Much interest was manifested by the feminine representatives in the audience, in the quaint gown which Mrs. Smith wore. It had served as a bridal robe for her sister, who had made the journey to Oregon with Jason Lee on his second trip. The gown a deep majente was of pure Lion silk, in a remarkable state of preservation.

What is going on here? Why is the sister as bride the active symbol rather than the baby?

Sunday, November 1, 2020

On Forecasting and Uncertainty

As we all wonder how things will look Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, and then for the next four years, it is interesting to consider how we handle uncertainty in forecasting and modeling.

Highlighting uncertainty:
A range of outcomes on Sunday morning - via 538

"Mapping uncertainty" - via twitter

One person, formerly involved with fivethirtyeight, writes that the modeling should be understood as "mapping uncertainty rather than making predictions."

In a response on Our Salem on population forecasting, EconNW said:

Whenever I develop a forecast for a city, I tell them that, while we are required to have a point forecast for 20 years, I know the forecast is almost certainly wrong.

Strong Towns devoted a post to a closely related matter, "A Reminder for Planners: 'Every Projection is Wrong'

False precision in the Costco case
(Final written argument on Remand)

So a perennial question here is, why does our traffic forecasting erase uncertainty and give the false precision of one number for 2035 or 2040 traffic or other future date?