Sunday, June 26, 2022

City Council, June 27th - Thinking about the Future

As we "enjoy" a reversion to ordinary levels of blazing hot this weekend on nearly the one year anniversary of 117 degrees, it continues to be concerning that as the project list for the proposed bond has been formulated, and the City signals they will not ask for anything further in the next decade, we just simply aren't at all asking, "what in five or ten years will we wish we had included?" What will we regret omitting?

Oregonian front page today

Sure, carrying forward old wish-list repair and updates makes a certain amount of sense, but isn't there a large set of climate related projects that we are simply giving up on? What is the opportunity cost with the current bond proposal?

Interior page SJ supplement today

The list still looks backwards towards existing wish lists of unfunded projects and is not critical or strategic enough about what we think we will need over the next decade as our long, slow climate emergency continues to intensify.

(All previous notes on the bond here.) 

A few other areas on Council agenda also suggest too much thought to maintaining the old ways, or to very incremental change, and not enough to change demanded by the full magnitude of multiple crises and exigencies.

There is a "Service Level and Program Update" from the Police, and there are some ironies.

The update identifies two new programs:

Safe Streets Task Force

The Safe Streets Task Force is a newly established partnership with the US Attorney General’s Office, District of Oregon (AUSAO) and federal law enforcement partners to focus on violent crimes in our community. The task force connects through the Salem Police Criminal Investigations Section’s Strategic Investigations Unit, currently a team of five detectives who handle significant investigations into major narcotics trafficking and violent crime, such as shootings, homicides, and illegal firearm manufacturing and trafficking.

Oregon Car Care Program

The program works to improve traffic safety and avoid issuance of citations by helping drivers correct minor equipment violations with a discount auto repair voucher provided by the Oregon Association Chiefs Of Police. These infractions include equipment that by law is required to function properly on a vehicle, such as lighting, rearview mirrors, windshield wipers, and fenders or mudguards. The vouchers are redeemable at various stores in the area. The program is set to begin in the coming weeks.

That's not exactly what "safe streets" ought to signify! The program is more a "drugs and guns" task force than a safe streets program. The main safety hazard on our roads is the violence from car speed, not the violence from guns and drugs. 

The "car care" looks more promising, but it also seems to be a way to try to continue with the traffic stop. It does say "Direct any needed enforcement efforts toward the serious moving violations which cause collisions and away from mere equipment violations." But if a cop is in a position to hand over a voucher for repairs, they've already stopped a person. Does this program really alter the approach to initiating a traffic stop, or just adjust the menu of penalties?

Earlier this month

Crucially, in the update, there is no discussion of a CAHOOTS type program.

But at the last meeting on the budget, Council added "$483,630 for six additional police officers to begin in January of 2023." Council on Monday looks to ratify this.

And again, this seems to exemplify the pattern of looking backwards for more of the same rather than forwards to what we would like the city to be.

How detailed was this "exploration"?

Not part of police, but still part of emergency response, in the budget transfers, there is $350,000 added because

Falck Ambulance has not been able to provide the required and necessary service requirements to the community due to a decrease of available Paramedics along with the impacts of COVID. These impacts impacted the Unit Hour Availability and Falk was not able to meet the response standards that are set forth in the contract. Due to these issues, the Fire department has provided additional ambulance transport services.

As with inertia on developing a CAHOOTS type program, there is inertia on analyzing the way we deliver services on medical emergencies and non-emergencies.

Could not sending out fire trucks with ambulances help with better funding for ambulances?

The proposed bond is also very vague about fire equipment, and we should have more discussion of smaller trucks and even "fire cars." (See previously on the 2018 Fire Plan here and here.)

Draft 2023-2027 CIP

The Capital Improvement Plan is also part of the suite of budget actions, and it is very nice to see lots of crosswalks in it.

But there is also an "acceleration lane" on Rees Hill Road at Lone Oak. This may be evidence that speeds and design speeds are too high, rather than evidence for accommodating more speed with a new lane. If there are line of sight issues, we should consider slowing rather than accelerating.

Acceleration lane?

Many, but not all, of the projects in the CIP have already been vetted through other planning processes, and I am not sure there is very much new to say about most of them. (The "neighborhood solutions" is new and interesting, and it will be good to learn more about that. That is briefly noted here.)

One thing that would make the CIP more useful is to include what plan or approval is the origin of each project. Like this acceleration lane at Lone Oak and Rees Hill. Is that a condition of approval for some new development? How did that project specifically, and each one more generally, get into the CIP? Some of the funding sources indirectly allude to origin or to other funding processes, but do not identify the mechanism for inclusion in a clear way to non-specialists. Why was each project selected for funding? When there is an application, like with the Safe Routes set, there is a trail for the inclusion, but on others the trail is hidden.

Nothing on climate

It is also time to include a climate score on each project, especially on transportation projects, for greenhouse gas emissions. The current approach to scoring is totally silent on emissions. Or if we are going to ignore our Climate Plan, we should be more explicit about that.

Boone Road just east of I-5 at Keubler

There is an information report on approvals for a new industrial park on 79 acres south of Boone Road and just east of I-5.

The plans currently show removal of a stand of trees. The decision may show a gap in our tree ordinances:

The City’s tree preservation ordinance protects Heritage Trees, Significant Trees (including Oregon White Oaks with diameter-at-breast-height of 24 inches or greater), trees and native vegetation in riparian corridors, and trees on lots and parcels greater than 20,000 square feet.

In addition, SRC 808.035(a) requires a Tree Conservation Plan for a development proposal involving the creation of lots or parcels to be used for single-family or two-family uses where trees are proposed for removal. The proposed subdivision does not involve the creation of lots or parcels to be used for single-family or two family uses; therefore, a Tree Conservation Plan is not required in conjunction with this development.

Tree removal activities will be evaluated for conformance with applicable standards of SRC Chapter 808 at the time of site plan review and public construction permitting.

The plans show 474 trees total, 391 designated for cutting, 51 to remain. These include 32 total oaks of 24" or bigger, with 18 slated for removal and 14 to remain.

Court Street two-way conversion downtown

In the administrative purchases (here and here), we have the breakdown on the new art for the Public Works building and a winning bid on the Court Street two-way conversion project:

  • $90,000 for the sculpture by Brad Rude
  • $34,908 for drawings (etc.) by Clair Burbridge
  • $389,996 on Court Street

But what is the exact scope of the Court Street project? What are its east and west terminations? It's a little weird there's not more information out on this project. And if the CIP budget is for $550,000, and costs generally have been escalating, how far does this $390k go? (Probably there will be more to say later on this.)

Finally, the canvass of votes:

  • DYNEE MEDLOCK and DEANNA GWYN will have a runoff on November 8, 2022 for COUNCILOR, WARD 4
  • CHRIS HOY was duly nominated MAYOR
  • LINDA NISHIOKA was duly nominated COUNCILOR, WARD 2
  • JULIE HOY was duly nominated COUNCILOR, WARD 6
  • MICKI VARNEY was duly nominated COUNCILOR, WARD 8


Susann Kaltwasser said...

I am always so glad you read through all of these City Council items, because I know a lot of people do not....and some of us that do, don't dig into them very far.

As for the bond, I think it has not been well discussed with the community. I'm not supportive of what little I have heard either. I think that the City Council relies way too much on the fact it won't increase taxes. Ha! with this inflation everyone is going to look to a tax reduction.

They would be far wiser to look at a small $100 million dollar bond on very pressing issues and then tell the public that it will actually reduce their taxes! Then in a couple of years they can come back with one or two more bonds that are much better thought out.

But as you point out, this proposal is trying to patch up old projects. I'm going to be a hard sell on most of this stuff!

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Agree broadly on the concept of the smaller bond!

Separately, Salem Reporter has a story focusing on the "car care" program: "The idea came out of conversations between Chief Trevor Womack and Dr. Reginald Richardson, president of the Salem-Keizer NAACP, about improving traffic safety by focusing less on minor equipment violations and more on understanding and trust."