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.

These two accomplishments are not equal

Safe? This is intimidation, not protest
September 2020

As we have seen in a year of protest downtown and at the Capitol, the revanchist right has a notion of ethnonationalism that is welcoming only to some people, and Council should want to think more deeply about this. In no small part because of 2A fundamentalism and idolatry, they may have limited powers, but it's not a matter to be shrugged off.

Are we welcoming ethnonationalism?

As the big retailers continue to exit downtown, and as we underwrite large warehouses on the edges of the city, Council may want to think more about whether our current approach to downtown is in fact working. There is evidence it is not.

Are we doing enough for downtown?

So, again, maybe just responding to the Pandemic will take up most of the City's capacity to respond and plan, but there are other things to think about and potential actions to take.

See previous notes on the Strategic Planning process here.


MikeSlater said...

Here are two questions following up on your post:

(1) How is Salem subsidizing warehouses on the periphery?
(2) What is your criteria for determining whether downtown is a success or not?


Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

On the periphery:
- The incentives for Sanyo Solar a decade ago, $42 million in total
- Widening, new signals, and new roads for Gaffin, Gaia, Kuebler, Aumsville highway and other streets
- The Kuebler/Cordon Corridor Study and Management Plan and associated projcts (especially lobbying for a Highway 22/Cordon interchange)
- Enterprise Zone tax exemptions for Amazon and others
- The cost to Cherriots to service these distant job centers with routes that may not otherwise be necessary (and they fact they will remain very car-dependent without other nearby commercial destinations)
- The Mill Creek Reservoir for 2.2 million gallons and associated water lines and infrastructure
- The costs for Wetlands mitigation
- In general all the resources and investments applied to the Salem Renewable Energy and Technology Center (known now as the Mill Creek Corporate Center), and nearby development

As for downtown health, important markers are: all the vacant boxes like vacant JC Penney building, vacant former SJ offices and plant (apparently gone into receivership after being sold a couple of years ago and it is on the market again), Belluschi crater and pond, and of course all the surface parking lots.

When the vacant buildings are full, the empty surface lots are finally redeveloped, and there is a mixed traffic ecosystem that is not so one-sided and dominated by cars, that will be the real sign of health. Since our autoist policies and focus on commercial business development have not generated this fullness and vitality, it has seemed like we ought to flip the order for priority and emphasize instead housing and residents as the keystone for downtown health. Commercial development and jobs will follow rather than precede.