Saturday, September 30, 2023

Proto-drag Performer Julian Eltinge Appeared in Salem 100 Years Ago

100 years ago, Salemites had a chance to see proto-drag performer Julian Eltinge live on stage at The Grand.

Julian Eltinge, publicity still
(New York Public Library)

September 30th, 1923

Previously there had been some discussion in the papers of him and his performances, but not a great deal of it. The first may have been this piece from New York in 1914.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Cherriots Board sees Preliminary South Salem Transit Center Plans

Earlier this month at a Cherriots Board meeting, they saw some drawings for the future South Salem Transit Center. Early workshopping had settled on a concept they called the "diamond" plan.

Overall site plan concept (click to enlarge)

The driveway entries are off of Wiltsey road, and the small office building is in the northwest corner of diamond.

It's supposed to be a "mobility hub." What about bikes?

The bike parking appears to be clustered at the office building, 8 racks under an awning and 12 racks exposed. There might be some bike lockers there also.

Detail on deployment of bike racks
(red and yellow notes added)

And how do you get to them?

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Did Critical Mass ride in Salem During the 1990s?

Back in 2014 when the movie "Aftermass" was playing one night here, a reader suggested Critical Mass had been active in Salem for a while in 1993-94.

With fliers circulating for what might be a revival of Critical Mass starting this Friday, it was interesting to see about finding evidence for that earlier activity.

A preliminary search through newspapers did not find any local coverage, so if it was happening, it must not have been very big or very disruptive.

This editorial from 1995 on Critical Mass in Corvallis would have been certain to mention any Salem instance from two or three years before, but it is silent on that.

June 26th, 1995

In hindsight the editorial is also not very promising on "working quietly with government and motorists"! The "faster and easier" solutions have not materialized and Salem has not been successful on getting "more people out of their cars."

There was very occasional later coverage of Critical Mass in other cities, picked up from wire pieces and not localized to mention anything in Salem.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Cordon Road Update: at the MPO

The Policy Committee for our Metropolitan Planning Organization, SKATS, meets today, Tuesday the 26th.

Project site hasn't been updated lately

The main item of interest on the agenda is an update on the Cordon/Kuebler Corridor Study. Unfortunately, there's still no public review draft on the Cordon plan published, nor any materials in the meeting packet. So there's much to say yet.

The reason the City was advertising for a planner

Much less important, but interesting to note, was detail that the former City transportation planner with a focus on biking and walking projects had joined what might be the City's favorite consulting firm for transportation projects, one that would reliably deliver "mild" rather than "spicy."

Monday, September 25, 2023

Senior Mobility Fair, Flood Plains, Missing Crosswalk Stop Sign, Critical Mass - Bits

Just some short bits for the week.

Tuesday: How to Ride a Bus: Mobility Fair for Seniors

Mobility Fair for Seniors

Thursday: Flood Plain Open House

In conversation about the overlay zones, a person suggested 12th street was better for mixed-use projects than Commercial Street. A trend in thinking about flooding is reducing development in flood plains, and there is one on and around 12th Street at Pringle Creek and Clark Creek. This is another reason we should encourage infill on higher elevation sites. Shunting infill to flood plains in order to insulate from change wealthier residents on the hills is not prudent.

Housing and density in flood plains? (excerpt)

The Open House on Thursday the 28th isn't necessarily going to touch on this directly, but as we think about trees and creeks, we have to start accepting more height and density where we do build in order to preserve trees and creeks. Building up means more trees and riparian zones.

Friday, September 22, 2023

City Council, September 25th - Overlay Zones and Climate-Friendly Walkable Areas

Council meets on Monday, and they will hear an information item, a big update, on the process to designate Climate Friendly Areas, which the City prefers to brand "Walkable Mixed-Use Areas."

A little bird says...are we listening?
Lower ballfield, Bush Park earlier this summer

The City has unfortunately chosen a pathway that DLCD apparently approves (this is very weird!), but which is a bit phony, by design or by accident, and yields an actual Potemkin village, a paper success that will have insufficient correspondence to reality.

Map with Staff Report
Text from Tech Memo #1 (see below)

A knowledgeable former State land use expert says of the process:

the results are deeply disturbing: Salem is likely to fall way short....A big reason is that the city is vastly over-estimating the amount of housing that might be built downtown and in the other three areas that it is considering as CFAs....But the best example is downtown: the city study asserts that there is "zoned capacity" for about 20,000 housing units downtown - implying that is an achievable amount of housing in the next 20-25 years, even though there are only about 1000 housing units in downtown now, and that current adopted plans forecast only about 2,000-3000 units would be built over this time. In short, it's highly misleading and left as is, will leave the city way short of meeting the state's 30% target....

The clear objective of the state rules is to get 30% of *all* housing in CFAs by 2050. Salem's study - whether it follows the rules or not - leaves us hugely short of that goal. My guess is that it gets us to maybe 5-10% of all housing in CFAs. To get anywhere near close to 30%, we'd need to build *all* new housing in CFAs; something that clearly isn't going to happen under existing plans that target 80% or more of new housing to outlying car-dependent neighborhoods.

Very similar points are made here in three posts over the spring and summer:

1000 Friends anticipated all this back in January.

1000 Friends letter Jan. 11th, 2023

In a letter to city planners here and in several other cities (curiously not included in the agenda packet here for Monday) they cautioned against dramatic overestimation and "unrealistic assumptions." 

Overestimation is exactly what the City's current approach employs.

Monday, September 18, 2023

The Appeal of a Strong Man: Mussolini and the Fascists Praised in 1923

In late October of 1922 the Italian Fascists marched on Rome and took over shortly thereafter.

Nearly a year later, a Salemite had visited Italy and on his return published his report on the Fascist movement.

September 18th, 1923

100 years ago on September 18th, he was rather complimentary.

To be sure the victory of the fascisti is new and strange and is criticised by many. So far it seems to be a one man government, which is always dangerous. But personally, we believe it is the entering wedge for a betterment of government, not only in Italy but in the world generally. A nation has suddenly arisen from its sleep and has proclaimed a faith in principles which are the foundation of all real civilization. Christianity, patriotism, loyalty to state. Liberty in its true sense recognizing the rights and duties of all classes of society, unity of all for the good of the country, obedience to established authority, social morality — these are the things that bolshevism would consign to the oblivion of the junk pile, and in the case of Italy, bolshevism. which is apparently honey-combing every civilized country of the world, has received its first set-back.

The writer was the pastor at St. Joseph's.

Feb. 17th, 1922

August 28th, 1923

September 3rd, 1946

He may not have been terribly out of step with popular opinion.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Planning Commission to Consider new Parking Lot Rules

On Tuesday the 19th the Planning Commission will discuss proposed code for complying with new DLCD climate rules.

At the Planning Commission Tuesday

These chiefly involve more trees and supporting solar installations at large new parking lots. Existing parking lots, and small new lots are not affected.

In the package also are new rules to broaden allowed single-room occupancy as different State law now requires.

McGilchrist and Bligh buildings, early 1940s
(Salem Library Historic Photos)

Bligh Hotel served as SRO when it burned down
June 9th, 1975

Downtown the Bligh Hotel, now a surface parking lot, was an SRO, and the loss of these are important ingredients in our current housing crisis. Some campers would be able to come off the street or park with a greater supply of SRO housing.

As this package of code is a matter of compliance, it seems more like a pro-forma process and not anything likely to generate much revision, let alone rejection. Maybe there will be more to say later.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Rosh Hashanah Observed by Salem Merchants in 1923

In 1923 Jewish merchants made themselves much more visible in observing Rosh Hashanah.

In previous years there had been scattered closure announcements, but in 1923 there was an striking density of them.

September 11th, 1923

Page six had a cluster, and there were a few more on other pages also.

The paper also had a front page story.

September 11th, 1923

Significantly, the piece says that services will be held in the Derby building on Court and High. (Since demolished for the Transit Center and Courthouse Square.) It also lists officers of a "Salem association."

Derby Building on Court and High
(Salem Library Historic Photos, also here)

The brief history for Temple Beth Sholom suggests "Salem’s Jewish community began organizing in the 1930’s, holding its first meetings in private homes."

This looks like evidence for even earlier organizing.

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Our Auto Industry was Already Large in 1923

With increasing talk about prospects for an auto worker strike, it has been a little surprising to visit the morning paper's assessment in the "Selling Salem District" promo section of the size of car-related industry in Salem exactly 100 years ago.

August 30th, 1923

They feature a picture of the Vick Bros. Building on High and Trade, and listed all the affiliated businesses, along with the number of employees.

We would not use quite the same categories today. They included a number of transportation businesses, like trucking, delivery, and motor stages. They estimated

There are at least 1000 people who labor at tasks that are directly connected with the industry, and 5000 people dependent upon the industry. The first automobile came to Salem a little over twenty years ago, and now something like a fifth of the population in Salem and suburbs depend on the industry.

Even with rounding, estimating, and category caveats that's a large proportion!

It is sobering, then, to consider how quickly, in just two decades, autoism became a central part of the local economy, not just nationally and at the factories elsewhere.

And it is another reason that biking and other non-auto travel has struggled to gain a real purchase and grow. There are so many, spread widely, with a deeply vested interest in maintaining our autoism. If the auto industry is so crucial to the economy, how can we move past it?

A second detail of interest is the entry of the national oil companies into the local economy with multiple service stations.

Detail on chain gas stations

We'll return to this, as mapping the sites of early gas stations seems like an interesting project.

Epilogue Kitchen corner, State and High
Union Oil gas station, c.1925
(detail WHC 2016.090.0001.041)

They were everywhere!

There are also multiple dealership buildings and sites that have been repurposed, multiple dealers have gone on to be Mayor and even Governor, they've sponsored important philanthropy also, and revisiting all this in an overview will be interesting some time. (And also note their current politics. See at Slate, "Want to Stare Into the Republican Soul in 2023?")

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

The Corner of Cottage and State: Hallie Ford Museum of Art at 25

As Hallie Ford Museum of Art at Willamette celebrates their 25th anniversary next month, it is a little interesting to consider the history of development on that corner. It cycled through homes and then two phases of important 20th century technology.

May 18th, 1964

For the current building, in the spring of 1964 the phone company announced plans for a new customer service center and the job went out to bid. James Payne, whose firm did the Civic Center and many other mid-century modern projects in Salem, perhaps even defined the era here, was the designer.

Construction started on June 29th, 1964, and the building opened to the public a year later on July 28th, 1965.

July 28th, 1965

The site of course has a history. In the first phase of development it had wood-framed houses.

State Street between Winter and Cottage, c.1920
(detail, Willamette University)

During construction for the phone company building excavators found an "ancient cistern," apparently for the the John Ferguson Miller house, visible on the corner in this photo from the old Capitol, after the Library c.1920.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Wildfire Stories Enact Erasure of Human Caused Climate Change

Today's front page story has dramatic graphics and narrative about the impacts of wildfires on this generation of children.

Front page today

But the story is silent on the human causes of the intensification of our wildfire season. It treats it as a variation on the "natural cycle."

 “This condition of climate change, of creating a drier landscape earlier in the summer, we expect to actually increase,” [State Climatologist Larry] O’Neill said. “We expect that the wildfire season will be happening earlier, lasting longer, and be more intense in the middle.”


Without including a discussion of the human causes of climate change, it's just some mysterious natural "condition" and variation. This is basically the same frame attentive Salemites might have read in 1931! "A warm age is normal for the earth," they said. (But also, that story is way more explicit about the role of fossil fuel, the "discharge of carbon dioxide...from burning coal.")

June 28th, 1931

Today's story ends on a harmonizing, reassuring, and unearned note. "Not all is lost."

But we are certain to lose more.

A few days earlier in an AP story the paper picked up, there was a clear statement of the role of "burning coal, oil and natural gas" in the "ever warming human-caused climate change."


The story included a request for "global leaders to start telling the truth." This should include journalists! The scientist says "It's all hands on deck now."

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Climate Action Plan Committee and City Should Consider Get There Challenge

Council meets on Monday, but I don't think there's anything here to say. Salem Reporter's already published a preview, so check that out.

Get There Challenge

The Climate Action Plan Committee also meets on Monday, and there are a couple of items to note.

The 2023 work plan on transportation and land use

On the agenda is a review of the 2023 work plan and a status update on each item.

For transportation and land use, there is progress, and one full completion, but also questions.

The Committee will also hear updates on:

  • Cherriots Sustainability, presumably their new Carbon Management Plan, which did not seem to place enough emphasis on increasing ridership.
  • The Goal 5 Riparian Inventory, which has not published any materials and is very under the radar.
  • And Commissioner Slater will talk about heat pumps. This follows on his idea for a large solar installation at the airport, which seems like a terrific idea. Last month the paper's supplement had a small feature on a solar installation going in at Dulles.
Last month in the SJ supplement

Update, September 24th

And here's some social media, outward facing to the public. It's nice to see a genuine Salem bike lane and someone who is not all kitted up and helmeted. Hopefully there's also a push internally to City of Salem staff.

via FB

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Bike Club Publishes Letter to Mayor and Notes on New Advocacy for Safe Streets

With the September newsletter, the Salem Bicycle Club strikes a new tone of urgency in calls for safer urban streets.

September Spokes

This represents a new level of interest for the club and should be noted! Historically this kind of local, urban advocacy has not been a strong emphasis for the club.

The tone and focus may be the result of club politics, however, and it will be interesting to see if the tone evolves. 

Reasonably they center the death of Marganne Allen, but they also pivot away from the Police coverup that followed an instance of a law enforcement officer apparently speeding and blowing a stop sign. They focus instead on a call for investing in safer road design.

Included in the newsletter is a letter to Mayor Hoy, who in the 2010s had served on the board of the club and even been Vice President of the club.

It has been a little disappointing to see, by what the Mayor has chosen to say and not say, more apparent sympathy for the Police coverup than for Marganne Allen. The same was true for the City Manager, who has conspicuously joined Salem Bike Vision on at least one ride. They were taking sides, and the side did not look very much like protecting people on bike.

The club's communications suggest that they see a real opportunity to improve that intersection. They apply the general and true observation, "Salem roads were not designed for bicycles," and apply it specifically to this intersection, saying "We are requesting the City of Salem make it a priority to identify and implement changes to improve the safety of this intersection...." They frame the cause of crash as primarily a problem of infrastructure.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

New Family Ride this Saturday

With "back to school" feeling, Salem Bike Vision rescheduled their second ride.

Kidical Mass at the Grant playground, April 2010

On Saturday the 9th, this weekend, they'll hold a Family Ride and Festival.

Intended for community members of all ages, abilities, and comfort levels. We will start at Grant Elementary School and complete a roughly 4-mile group ride followed by snacks, games, and music.

On FB they add:

  • Ride through a protected bike lane pop-up experience
  • Get free bike safety checks and minor repairs provided by Northwest Hub
  • Ride on the Winter-Maple Neighborhood Greenway with one of the advocates who helped make it a reality
  • Meet with the region's Safe Routes to Schools Coordinator
  • Play lawn games
  • Paint a bike craft for kids
  • Enjoy snacks and drinks while getting to know others interested in safe biking

It's scheduled for 1pm to 2pm, at Grant Elementary School, on Saturday, September 9th.

Sunday, September 3, 2023

Story on South Salem Wildfires omits Discussion of Emissions

It was good to see the words "climate change" in the third paragraph of today's front page story on our emergent annual series of wildfires in South Salem since 2021.

Front page today

But under multiple subheads and sections in the long piece, spread over three pages, there was never anything about reducing emissions as part of the response. The human cause of climate change was erased more than a little.

  • Educating the community, creating more awareness
  • Property owners should try to create defensible space
  • Making South Salem Firewise?
  • Suggestions for reducing fire risk to homes

You might say the supposed "objectivity" of journalism requires no advocacy or politics, but the sections in the bulleted subheadings are full of advocacy and suggestion.

In this crucial way, the story is one-sided and omits the discussion of fossil fuel use and emissions. Even the New York Times last month was clear on this.

NY Times last month

Governor PIerce's Speech on Labor Day, Cars, and the Hospital

As a footnote to yesterday's post about the car racing for Labor Day at the Fairgrounds, here is the full prepared text of Governor Pierce's speech. Without going into any close reading, it is interesting to note the Whiggish, progressive scheme of civilizational history; the erasure of slavery and Jim Crow in American history; the erasure of car crash fatalities and also football injuries; and some thoughts on the financial burdens of car ownership and social change it caused. Maybe you will discern other themes. He was very much Klan-adjacent, we should remember.

September 4th, 1923

The first Monday in September of each year is Labor day, declared by law a holiday. 'It is a day of rest for those vast throngs who labor throughout the year and produce all those things that the people of this and other countries require. That day is fittingly observed in the capital city of Oregon this year by this vast assemblage. We are here to observe and to appreciate the spirit of young America, exemplified by the daring and thrilling races which are soon to be under way.

Advancing Stages Noted

The progress of civilization may be recorded in advancing stages of sport. When man came out of the wilderness, his sports were cruel. Death and bloodshed were required to amuse. Roll back history's scroll for 18 centuries and behold the sports of ancient Rome! Men — big, stalwart men — were driven into the arena to fight to death. There was no reason for the fight and no reason for the blood to flow, except to amuse, to appease and to satisfy the cruel, blood-thirsty appetite.

Behold Rome! Rome, that proud nation that first taught the world to govern with effect - filling the arena with innocent men, women and children and then turning wild beasts of the field loose to destroy them. In that day, that was sport, and holiday after holiday was declared for people to witness the bloody amusement.

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Car Racing, Capital, and Tragedy on Labor Day in 1923

The public hoopla for Labor Day in 1923 didn't have much to do with Labor. It was instead all about Capital. Tragedy abroad in a catastrophic earthquake in Japan, as well as tragedy at the race course, also distracted from attention to Labor.

September 2nd, 1923

The hoopla was about raising Capital to finish the new hospital, what became known as Salem General Hospital, just north of the State Hospital.

September 2nd, 1923

The Mayor proclaimed

One of the committees of the Salem hospital drive is promoting some automobile races to be held at the State Fair Grounds on Monday, September the 3rd, Labor Day. I respectfully urge as many citizens as possible to attend these races as the profits realized therefrom will complete the amount required to finish the hospital and no further drive for funds will be necessary.
Salem General Hospital, c.1930 (State Archives)

Starting in late 1921 construction had been a very start-stop, stuttering affair. You may recall debate over prevailing wages in 1921. Once they settled that they laid the cornerstone. And then had to stop.