Friday, August 29, 2008

Your chance to comment on the Boise Site rezone

South Waterfront Mixed-Use Zone Project Public Open House

When: September 11, 2008, at 6:30 p.m.

Where: City Council Chambers (555 Liberty Street SE - Salem Civic Center Room 240)

A public open house will be held by the City of Salem Planning Division on Thursday, September 11, 2008, at 6:30 p.m. for the purpose of seeking comments on proposed amendments to the City’s zoning code creating a new zone district, the South Waterfront Mixed-Use Zone, for the former downtown Boise Cascade property.

The proposed amendments:
Proposed South Waterfront Mixed-Use Zone

1) Create a new mixed-use zone that is consistent with the core concepts and vision of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) study published in 2006; and

2) Establish development standards and design review standards and guidelines for redevelopment of the property.

A public hearing on the proposed amendments is scheduled before the Planning Commission on September 23, 2008.

Contact Bryce Bishop, Interim Senior Planner, at (503) 588-6173 x7599 or

Visit the City of Salem Planning Division website

We Look Forward to Seeing You There!

(Is there anyone in the city who calls City Hall the "Salem Civic Center" who isn't a city employee or contractor? Odd what happens when you move City Hall out of the heart of the city -- you have to assert that it's the "center." I suppose it could stick eventually ...)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

More on the Cherriots Bond

Frequently Asked Questions About the Cherriots Proposed Tax Levy
Ballot Measure Number 24-247
November 2008

Why is Cherriots proposing this tax levy?

Rising fuel costs, increases in CherryLift use (a service required by federal law), and overall inflation have brought Cherriots to a point where next year Cherriots expenses will exceed revenues by over $3 million, if Cherriots provides the same level of service.

What new services would be funded?

In addition to maintaining the current number of service hours, current routes may be changed to increase efficiency. More buses will be added to overcrowded routes so that they can run more often. This change will give people more travel options while helping with overcrowding. Passage of the levy will allow Cherriots to provide citizens with approximately the same level of service that they had before the 2006 service cuts.

What will happen if the measure does not pass?

If the levy does not pass, Saturday service will be eliminated. In addition, 3 – 4 weekday routes may also be eliminated. The result of the elimination of service and program reductions will be the loss of 15 – 20 jobs.

What about Sunday Service?

Sunday service is not planned as a part of this levy. The cost to add Sunday service is very high. In addition to operating the buses, adding a day of service requires additional maintenance staff, supervisors, CherryLift expenses, and utility costs when the buildings are occupied. This makes Sunday service less productive than adding more buses to routes that are overcrowded during the week.

What’s a tax levy?

A tax levy is a temporary property tax providing revenue needed to operate services provided by local governments. A levy is different than a bond. Bonds are used to fund capital projects such as streets, or the construction of a new building. The maximum time allowed for a tax levy to be in place is five years. Cherriots is seeking a five year levy which will be used for operating costs.

Why didn’t it pass last time?

In May of 2006 the voters approved the levy. However, less than half of the registered voters in Marion and Polk counties voted causing the levy to fail under Oregon’s double majority law. In November of 2006 the levy was narrowly defeated by 1,197 votes out of 70,343 ballots turned in.

Why can’t Cherriots just raise fares to pay for extra costs?

In order to replace the revenue shortage of $3.2 million Cherriots would need to raise the fares by 143%. This would increase the price of the regular adult monthly pass from $35 to $85. When prices rise by this much people stop riding the bus and less revenue is received. This defeats the purpose of gaining more revenue by raising fares. Cherriots cannot maintain the current level of service without $3.2 million in new revenue.

Why are you building a station in Keizer if you need more money for basic routes?

Construction projects and bus purchases are made with funds that are not allowed to be used for operations. These are funded through federal and state grants specifically set aside for these types of projects. The transit center will also help improve service to residents and businesses while not needing to increase the number of buses and drivers. The center will allow Cherriots to provide more services to Keizer residents.

Will you raise the fares again if the tax doesn’t pass?

Fares will probably increase again sometime in the future. Current Board policy requires Cherriots to evaluate fares every two years. Under this policy a fare increase was approved in July of 2008 to address inflation.

Is Cherriots asking for the same amount as in 2006?

No, in both May and November of 2006 the amount requested was 60 cents per one thousand dollars of assessed property value. In this election Cherriots is proposing a rate of 49 cents per one thousand dollars of assessed property value.

What is meant by assessed value?

Oregon’s property tax limitation laws create a value that is lower than what a house would sell for that is used to determine how much property tax is collected from property owners. This is known as the assessed value. In the Salem-Keizer area the average assessed value is approximately 47% of the current amount a home would sell for in today’s market. What this means is a home selling for $275,000 would pay taxes based on approximately $130,000 assessed value. Under the proposed levy a home of this value would pay $5.31 per month.

How can I get involved in the election to get it passed, i.e. a yard sign, going door to door, contribute financially, etc.?

To be involved in the campaign please contact the campaign at or (503) 581-8384.

How can I get a ballot?

If you are a registered voter and have not moved since the last time you voted, a ballot will be mailed to your home.

Information on voter registration is available at:

Marion County Elections Office or call (503) 588-5041; and

Polk County Elections Office or call (503) 623-9217.

Urgent: Get behind YES on Cherriots

This is from Lloyd Chapman, recent mayoral candidate, who continues to selflessly work for the betterment of Salem:

Though I think I am only now recovering from the May election, the party conventions are underway and the focus is now on November.

In addition to the presidential, senate, congressional and other elections on the ballot, Salem-Keizer Transit has a $30 million dollar five-year levy on the ballot. I have served on the Cherriots board for nearly nine years and I urge you to support the measure and especially to contribute to the campaign.

Unlike Portland and Eugene, which rely on a payroll tax, Cherriots is supported locally by property taxes. Our tax base was established in 1996 at an interim level, only to have subsequent ballot measures "lock it in".

I believe the district spends our money wisely and effectively. For five years now we have exceeded 5 mllion rides a year and have provided more than 127,000 Cherrylift rides to the disabled community in the last fiscal year. But in these difficult times we need to provide better and more frequent service.

This measure would be an important step in that direction. At a cost of 49 cents per thousand or $98 a year on a $200,000 house, the district will be able to maintain existing services, add frequency on well used routes and begin to build a small contingency fund (to deal with issues like rising fuel prices and increasing costs of our Cherrylift service for the disabled community).

We need funding for our campaign to be successful. We also need endorsements. A volunteer response is attached. As you know, there will be several other money measures on the ballot in November, so your help now is critical.

Send checks to Yes for Cherriots, PO Box 2774, Salem, OR 97308-2774. (Remember to include your occupation and employer on the check - we are required by state law to provide that information.)

The campaign email is

Thanks for your help.

Lloyd Chapman
The info requested on the campaign volunteer form is below (note, also the contribution form!):
Yes For Cherriots Volunteer and Contribution Information

Please indicate how you can help keep Cherriots a vital part of our community.

___ Phone bank
___ Canvass
___ Contribution (check enclosed)
___ Letter to the editor
___ House Party
___ Lawn sign
___ Locate Lawn sign placements
___ Help or plan event
___ Raise money
___ Use my name in an endorsement
___ Pledge $_____ and send by October 1, 2008

Name:_____________________________________________(please print)


City: _______________ State___________ Zip: ____________

Phone: Day:______________ Evening: ____________________

Check which e-mails you want:
___ updates ___events ___ campaign work alert

Information required by law [for contributors]:

Occupation ___________________________________________________
Employer’s Name and Address: ____________________________________________________________

Thank you for this vital community help.
Yes for Cherriots

You can email us at

Print form and send with your contribution to

Yes for Cherriots, PO Box 2774, Salem OR 97308-2774

Monday, August 25, 2008

Best step you can take to cut your energy costs

Go to Solar Now! and see how simple and inexpensive it can be to add a solar hot water heater. If you are worried about rising prices, getting hot water for free is a nice way to relax about it.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Dire Predictions

Mike Mann and Lee Kump weigh in with "Dire Predictions"
11 Aug 08

. . .

With its eye-grabbing graphics and reader-friendly prose, Dire Predictions walks us through the findings of the world's leading climate scientists - and places the ultimately responsibility for the human future directly at our feet. -- Ross Gelbspan

Here's a powerful, straight-forward guide to how scientists, economists, and engineers really understand the problem of global warming. It makes 20 years of research and consensus-building completely accessible to anyone who cares to know the truth--and to do something about it. -- Bill McKibben

Dire Predictions is a must read for anyone who wants the straight facts on global warming. It cuts to the heart of the massive 2007 IPCC report, presenting major scientific findings in easy to understand language and graphics. Written by two of the scientific community's most thoughtful researchers, Dire Predictions' unbiased message about global warming arrives at a time when people need it most! -- Dr. Heidi Cullen, Climate Expert at The Weather Channel

For our friends in Corvallis area

Many folks in Oregon would profit from a solar hot-water system, preferably one installed before the end of 2008 to take advantage of generous federal tax credits slated to expire this year. (Far more so than the solar electric systems that get a lot more attention but are MUCH more expensive to install and are much more picky about shading from nearby trees and such.)

Corvallis area folks have a chance to attend a workshop put on by Solar Oregon that explains the ins and outs of this smart way to reduce your carbon footprint while also reducing your utility bills:

The use of solar energy is back in the spotlight again and our free workshops are quickly filling to capacity. That's why I wanted to take a moment to invite you to register early for the FREE Hot Water Solar Systems workshop being held at the Corvallis Public Library on September 6th from 9:00AM to 11:30AM.

Seating capacity is limited - so register ASAP.

Here is a link for more information and registration to this free workshop.

Solar Oregon is a local nonprofit organization of Oregon.

Please feel free to pass this on to your friends and neighbors too.

Looking forward to seeing you there!


Hadley Price

The largest ground transport system in the country

. . . sits idle most of the day and much of the year, while absorbing huge chunks of capital that could have been invested in providing cleaner, smarter transport for all. Isn't it odd that money supposedly targeted for schools is actually being spent to deal with the blunders in our land-use planning and in our hostile-to-everyone-but-motorists transportation system?

How about we make ODOT and city and county planning departments pay the costs of getting kids to schools? Wouldn't that lead to more sensible decisions?

The problem isn't just the cost of school bus fuel--it's the model of mega-schools that are so large that they have to draw students from such a large area that motorized transport is required.

Outside rural areas where relatively few students live, most kids should never see a school bus, period.

Climate Change: The Opportunity of a Lifetime

From the folks at Onward Oregon:

Are the twin challenges of climate change and disappearing fossil fuel reserves a huge threat to America or do they provide the greatest opportunity of our time?

How we answer this question will help determine how we respond. Cylvia Hayes, executive director of 3E Strategies, believes now is our big chance to face up to these challenges. Here is a summary of her thinking:

Chances are pretty good that if we were to sit down and create an ideal energy system from scratch it wouldn’t look like the one we have now! Our current fossil fuel-based energy system is threatening our environmental life support systems. At the same time, our nation is now importing over 60 percent of our oil, much of it from politically unstable regions in the Middle East and Africa.

However, a fossil-based system did make sense when it was created. In 1859, the discovery of oil in the U.S. solved many problems. It allowed us to grow more food and move into the industrial age. Petroleum-based plastics brought great advancements in medicine, transportation and communications technologies.

These innovations enabled our numbers to grow from approximately 25 million people in 1859 to 300 million today. Average life expectancy has nearly doubled to 80 years. These are phenomenal successes. Unfortunately, along the way we developed an economic system that results in the emission of staggering amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Global climate change is the unforeseen and unintended consequence of America’s economic success.

As Americans, we shouldn’t beat ourselves up for this success. The people who tapped the first wells couldn’t have imagined a globally connected economy. They couldn’t have imagined our world population would go from one billion to 6.5 billion in just 15 decades. They also couldn’t have imagined the unintended new problems that would come along with our fossil fuel consumption. Problems like climate change.

Fossil fuels made sense at the time. They no longer do. It is time to rekindle those best of American traits--innovation, idealism and hard work--in order to make the rapid transition to a post fossil fuel, low-carbon economy.

We have the necessary resources to do it:

Solar: Every hour the Earth receives enough energy from the sun to supply more than ten times the electricity needs of all of humanity.
Geothermal: The heat in the upper six miles of Earth’s crust has 50,000 times more energy than all the world’s oil and gas reserves combined.
Wind: The winds in Oregon, North Dakota and Texas alone are enough to satisfy our national electricity needs.
Transportation: Plug-in hybrid cars are capable of going about 50 miles using no gasoline at all and overall get around 100 miles per gallon. Big breakthroughs are happening in passenger and freight rail efficiency.
Already, some of the early stepping stones are being laid on the road to a post fossil fuel economy. The wind, solar, hydrogen and biofuels sectors reached $55.4 billion in 2006. Investment in these four energy sources are projected to be $226 billion by 2016. Economists expect that energy efficiency products will likely generate even larger revenues. Current estimates in the U.S. are that renewable energy and energy efficiency generate $970 billion and could be as high as $4.5 trillion by 2030.

Yet, despite the specter of climate change and the obvious economic opportunities in the clean energy industry, as a nation we are not moving nearly fast enough. Each American produces many times more carbon than people anywhere else on the planet. Our demand for oil continues to grow. Renewable energy accounts for only about six percent of America’s energy consumption.

Why? Why are we stuck here, moving so slowly toward a lucrative solution?
It comes down to three reasons: First, we only recently reached the point where we can see that the damage caused by fossil fuels outweighs their very real benefits. Second, only in the past couple of decades have renewable energy technologies become advanced enough to replace fossil fuels. And third, there are now a lot of stakeholders invested in the status quo.

These stakeholders include the automobile industry, oil and gas production companies, utilities, not to mention consumers who have a big appetite for fossil fuel and are deeply ingrained in a driving culture--like you and me.

When any proposal to change the system is put forward, these stakeholders become advocates for or against it based on how they think it will impact them economically in the short term. So far, these competing economic interests have effectively blocked any serious consideration of a solution to a problem that poses a clear and present danger to our nation and our planet.

How then can we accelerate the transition to a sustainable future? First we need to acknowledge that today there are millions of people whose jobs depend on the current fossil fuel-based economy and nobody wants to lose their job.

Similarly, millions of people drive inefficient cars and heat and cool their homes with fossil fuels. People will not give them up without affordable alternatives.

The challenge is to acknowledge the very real economic interests involved and find ways to make this transition while keeping everyone’s livelihoods intact. And this is doable!

The skills required to drill for geothermal resources are similar to those used by oil well drillers. The expertise needed to run a clean bio-energy turbine is the same as that of a coal turbine operator. The skills needed to manufacture solar panels are very similar to those required to manufacture inefficient SUVs.

Our grandparents and great grandparents built the infrastructure we currently enjoy--the highway system, the transmission grid, the oil wells and coal plants. Now, we need to lay down the infrastructure of the future.

This is our watch. It is our time to create a post fossil fuel, low-carbon economy. If we decide to suck it up and get it done, we could make the transition to a post-fossil fuel economy in twenty years.

What we need is a unified commitment similar to what we had during World War II. When the US entered the war, we literally re-wired our economy to meet the challenge. Automakers became airplane and tank makers. Housewives became machinists. A carousel manufacturer converted to making spark plugs. Everybody had jobs. And in three years time we ended the war.

We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity before us. To seize it, we must once again think of ourselves as citizens rather than just consumers. It is easy to feel powerless as individuals in America right now. Mega corporations are turning record profits while they pollute our skies, rivers and oceans and as it gets harder and harder for regular people to pay their bills and dig out of debt. But we must recognize corporations and governments are made up of individuals, and individuals can reshape them to reflect the values that once made America great-- responsibility, innovation and willingness to take risks for bold dreams.

We have a responsibility to solve this problem and seize this opportunity--to act boldly and use our imaginations and drive. We can restore our environment and create prosperous 21st century economies in the United States and Europe, even in the Middle East and Africa.

I believe it is genuinely amazing to be alive during such an important and transformative time.

We have a chance to lend our creativity and will to the groundswell that is rising up to simultaneously solve the climate crisis and create enormous economic opportunity. This is our time to protect and restore this beautiful blue planet that sustains us and to give our kids and grandkids a shot at a healthy, peaceful life, full of opportunity. This is our chance to achieve something truly great.

And we CAN do it.

Thank you,
The Team at Onward Oregon

Salem River Crossing - September 3 - next joint Task Force and Oversight Team meeting

Hello Everyone,
Please mark your calendars. The next joint Task Force and Oversight Team meeting will be on Wednesday, September 3 from 5:30 to 8:30 pm in the Anderson Auditorium at the Salem Public Library (585 Liberty St SE).
More information will be emailed to you as we get closer to the meeting.
Thank you,
Brandy Steffen

Oddly enough, if you follow the links to the calendar page for the project ( you are told that "Meeting materials will be available at the link above."  Nothing there in the way of materials.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Be careful about citing the voice of the people ...

Can we please have a rest from people chanting that we have to drill for oil offshore the US because some percentage of people (usually an inflated number, the result of a biased poll question along the lines of "Would you rather freeze in the dark on the way to the bank to withdraw your last dime because of energy costs or would you rather drill offshore using a magical new process that never spills a single drop and leaves teeth whiter and breath fresher") demand drilling?

There is probably nothing that a greater percentage of Americans would like to see more than the heads of oil executives on poles outside gas stations, but ideas like that show that vox populi isn't always to be trusted, is it?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Can we learn from the experience of others

The comment below was posted to The Oil Drum (see link in the column to
the right).

When thinking about the proposal to dump nearly $5 million into
expanding Salem's airport (including making the runway longer), you have
to wonder whether Salem's leadership able to learn from the experience
of others — or are we condemned to repeat others' mistakes, even after
explicit warning?

A brief note on demand destruction and infrastructure....

Our family flew from Tokyo/Narita Airport for summer vacation on July
27. The airport has always been PACKED at this time, peak travel season
(schools get out around July 21 here).

This summer there were no long lines, no crowds, no waiting to get into
restaurants. Lots of room to move, actually pleasant in a way.

Then I started thinking about the huge amounts of cement poured, now
investments with no or low returns, what happens when the thing gets
really empty, then abandoned? It is huge and it is not the only one.

I read that airline ticket sales to Europe and N. America from Japan
were down 40% this summer because of the fuel prices making tickets too
expensive. At the airport, that 40% quote felt like it was on target.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Two Birds with One Stone

Man, it just doesn't get any better than this---if Salem sticks to its guns and refuses to allow a for-profit helicopter school to make life miserable for the airport neighbors, we also stand to win out over the insane desire to throw away millions of dollars in a futile attempt to turn a small, close in, airport into a destination for scheduled airliners.

This is like being told that, if you refuse to allow a motorcycle gang to rev their Harleys outside your window all day and night, you can also save a bundle on your taxes.

Was there ever a way to kill two uglier birds with one well-aimed stone?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Quick, let's finance some big unnecessary projects before the banks disappear!

As the road and sprawl lobby salivates over the big pie up in Portland ($4.2B, yes, that's a B, as in "beeeelions and beeeeelions"), there's a tidy little piece of sprawl pie being floated here down here in Salem too -- The Willamette River Crossing, estimated at a juicy $660M ... not bad. The construction and consulting firms hoping this gem will pay for a few BMWs are probably getting a little nervous about how closely this thing is being sliced, what with banks about to drop like flies, having only started to unravel from the real estate fiasco (which this bridge is partly about propping up--helping sprawl developers who keep pushing houses further and further out). If they can't get this thing funded soon, it will probably never, ever happen.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Oregon fighting climate change (someone tell ODOT!)

The more Oregon takes positions like this, the harder it is going to be to justify letting ODOT pretend that it's still 1960 and that the solution to all problems is more of the same (more pavement, more lanes, and more bridges).

"Mobility Standards" -- the genetic code of the traffic planner determined to destroy livable places

One of the smartest things said yet in the discussion of the idea for a third Willamette River Bridge comes from Doug Parrow, a local bicycle activist and member of the "Willamette River Crossing Task Force."
The Oregon Transportation (read Highway) Plan was showing its age on the day it was adopted. While the plan lays out a number of sound-good, multi-modal concepts, implementation of the plan has fundamentally been limited to widening roads. The state Highway Department (I deliberately decline to refer to them as Transportation oriented) has employed the one tool that they consider legitimate--the construction of more lanes and new roads--in pursuit of the mobility standard described in the plan. When these "improvements" are plopped down in an urban environment, all other modes of transportation inevitably suffer. In particular, pedestrians must deal with wider streets and the impossibility of safely crossing at unsignalized intersections. Bicyclists must cross multiple turn lanes if they intend to continue straight through an intersection.

The Willamette River Crossing study serves as a sterling example. I serve on the task force that is providing advice to the effort. During the two years since the inception of the study, the task force has been fed a variety of big bridge configurations that are designed to achieve the mobility standard based on 20-year projections of motor vehicle traffic. According to the planning team, the only way to accomplish this is through the construction of a huge bridge at an enormous cost that would connect to city streets using a maze of freeway style ramps. Only recently, with preparation of a draft-EIS already underway, has the project team begun to develop a low-build, multi-modal alternative. It is hard to imagine that, at this point in the process, the alternative will be anything more than a straw man. Further, even the "no-build" alternative that is in play contemplates that significant "improvements" will be made under the Salem TSP. These "improvements" involve widening roads and the construction of dedicated turn lanes that will inevitably damage walking and bicycling.

The public subsidy that is provided to motor vehicles is enormous. The gas tax would have to be increased to more than $3.50 per gallon to cover the full costs to the highway system of the use of motor vehicles. Local governments have tried to make up the difference using property taxes and system develop charges, neither of which recognize the transportation mode choices that the people paying these taxes make, or send the appropriate price signal to those people. Given the subsidy, some form of rationing is necessary to compensate for the imbalance of supply and demand. A bsent the political willingness to adopt appropriate transportation pricing strategies, we have effectively defaulted to using congestion as the rationing mechanism.

It will be interesting to see how congestion pricing and tolls play at the legislature. To what extent will the public, in particular the trucking industry, be able and willing to substantially increase the amount they pay to use the road system? The percentage of household income spent on transportation has been historically been increasing. It can't continue to do so indefinitely. We are already seeing significant changes in the transportation choices that people are making as a result of the increases in fuel costs to date. We haven't really experienced the effects of peak oil and global warming on prices yet. Given recent legislative history, I suspect that the current path of shifting transportation funding away from a mileage/use based approach toward general taxation will prevail, to the detriment of the planning and delivery of an efficient transportation system.

Certainly the Governor's announced plans are encouraging. However, the way in which the plans are implemented by the agencies is what really matters and the state Highway Department is continuing to redraw 4-lane lines using 6-lane pens in a fruitless and doomed effort to achieve the elusive mobility standard.

Doug Parrow

The waiting calamity

(h/t to Jerry Schneider for pointing this out)

Clip from EV World, written by editor Bill Moore, who attended.

Meeting of the Minds

The 2008 Meeting of the Minds conference wrapped up today here in Portland, Oregon with a sobering assessment of the road head by Toyota's self-proclaimed "grumpy old man," Bill Reinert.

Bill and his colleagues at Toyota -- and their contracted consultants -- have been crunching the numbers on oil depletion, unconventional liquid fuels and water availability and reached a consensus that the planet is going to hit "liquid peak" by around 2018.

What is "liquid peak," you ask?

That's when every conceivable form of liquid fuel -- from petroleum to coal-to-liquid to biofuels -- when produced flat-out without any concern or regard for their environmental impact simply can't keep up with growing global demand. In effect, the planet will have run into an energy wall where current technology and policy simply won't cut it any longer. We either turn to other energy sources or we stop growing.

Reinert's graph-laden, lunch-time talk -- "warming" might be a more appropriate term -- put in starker terms what other expert panelists and presenters were saying during the two-day conclave at the Portland Art Museum: that time is of the essence, dramatic changes are needed, requiring enormous political courage, and the world ahead is going to be radically different from the one in which we presently find ourselves.

For example, <>Tim Barnett from the Scripts Institute forecast during the opening day's luncheon keynote speech a 50% chance that Lake Mead will be dry by as early as 2021. As a consequence, much of the American Southwest is going to see a migration towards water, meaning north -- or vast projects to move water from the north. Life in cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix could well be untenable, certainly growth will be brought to a standstill. Without the water behind Lake Mead, there will be no electric power generation, effecting millions of homes and businesses in the Southwest.

Attendees heard numerous references to "peak oil", as well as climate change and the impact these and population growth are having our communities. Increasingly, policy makers, architects, planners and developers are starting to awaken to reality of what has been for many of them just so much theory.

This year, the question of logistics began to be raised. While most of us tend to think in terms of the challenge of switching over to better, cleaner, more efficient cars, they will, in fact, be moot points if there is no sustainable system in place to move the goods that feed the people, much less build the cars. If we can't quickly evolve a more energy efficient logistics system, cities themselves will become unsustainable.

The upside of this is that the people who can make a difference at the grassroots level are starting to recognize the challenges ahead -- hopefully in time. While the federal government seems hopelessly mired in a past that no longer can be maintained, local, county and state/provincial governments are starting to openly discuss these critical issues. Granted, not all of them are and at times, it seems most still haven't a clue there's a tsunami headed our way.

Planning and tax policy are calcified and risk averse at a time when what we need is unparalleled agility and nimbleness that can take risks, quickly learn from mistakes, and adapt.

If there is a model city for that approach, it is Portland. It's far from perfect and nowhere near sustainable, but it's the best model we have, and I am glad my wife and I got to spend a few days exploring it before, during and after the conference.

Watch for future MP3 and video from the Meeting of the Minds conference, especially Bill Reinert's remarkably candid talk.

Volt Death Watch

Anyone who knows Bill, realizes he's not shy about expressing his opinion, be it good or ill. Apparently, his mother never taught him the axion, "If you can't say something nice about someone, don't say anything at all."

But I like that quality in Bill. We need guys like him to keep us all honest.

So, here are four of his juicer, off-the-cuff remarks to me during the conference.

* Forget trying to get people to charge their cars only during night-time off-peak hours. It isn't going to work; not being able to charge during the day limits the usefulness of the vehicle. In Reinert's pragmatic -- law of thermodynamics world -- utilities are going to have to realize this and adapt, which in my mind means solar and lots of it.

* Even more controversially, he told me there's a "death watch" taking place within Toyota on the Telsa Whitestar, Fisker Karma and... here it comes... Chevy Volt. He -- and apparently his colleagues -- don't think any of them will be built in any significant numbers. The batteries are just too costly. The Whitestar is particularly vulnerable, he explained to me, because Tesla is seeking to double the duty demands on the battery while halving the price of the car. That's a "company killer" in his view.

* He informed me that "you're on the right track" on the lithium supply question, adding that Toyota is working air battery chemistries, including zinc-air -- which William Tahil has been touting for sometime now.

* Finally, he smiled when I talked about the alleged spy photos of the new Prius that are emerging. He said they look a lot like the current Prius because they are the current Prius. They are test mules for the new Prius, nothing more.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

A telling omission

There's a link on the City website that says "Fly Salem" -- not too far below another link that takes you to a pdf for the press release announcing the demise of scheduled air service in Salem.

The odd thing is that the "Fly Salem" link takes you to the Chamber of Commerce website ( with no disclaimer about "you are now leaving the city website."

In other words, the common conception that Salem officials don't do a good job staying staying at arm's length from the Chamber might just have a little basis in fact.

Update: The funny part is at the bottom of the "Fly Salem" promo page:

Before you book your next flight, check Salem first. Just go to and search 'SLE'. You might be surprised.

Free parking and a freshly remodeled terminal await you with easy access from I-5 to Mission Street and 25th in Salem.

Yes, many people are surprised when the airlines go under these days, stranding thousands of people.

Also -- if we just remodeled the terminal, then for pete's sakes why would the airport authority propose yet MORE remodeling for the terminal now that Delta is leaving? Just asking.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Welcome Salem Monthly readers

We're lucky to have an (apparently) thriving alt-monthly in Salem, in these days of one newspaper towns and total media consolidation.

If you're here because you saw this story, welcome (and welcome if you didn't see it too).

A few other items in this month's Salem Monthly also merit notice:

1) The Carbon Offsets story: actually, despite the best of intentions, carbon offsets do not work and, in fact, only persuade those with means that they can continue to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere while outsourcing (and, often, offshoring) the difficult task of trying to get our climate problems under control.

The best thing you can do with your sense of urgency -- or guilt -- about your effect on the climate is to reduce that effect. Reduce your consumption. Start walking, biking, and using transit. Move so that your most frequent trips are on foot. Eat less meat. Insulate your house or apartment. Stuff like that. See "The Consumer Guide to Effective Environmental Choices" at that link or at a local bookstore (e.g., The Book Bin) for the details.

And, if you still have money left over after the solar hot water heater goes in, then don't offset carbon, RETIRE IT.

2. The "Sprint Boat" story -- obscene.

Truly a pitiful last gasp of the cheap energy party, a Roman "bread and circuses" thing. Those engines pump an incredible volume of greenhouse gas, ozone, and other pollutants into the air and for what -- to demonstrate the manhood of the drivers. Wouldn't kayaking or logrolling or some other testosterone-fueled but non-motorized activity be just as good at letting guys get their competitive jones on? Do we really have to have jet boats to appreciate the skills of the drivers and let them compete for status, in the same way the Roman chariot drivers did?

As long as those things are running, oil (and, hence, gasoline) prices aren't high enough.

3. The "Oil Prices to Cause Winter Heating Woes" story.

This is what our future looks like, with the end of cheap energy causing a permanent change in our relationship to the physical world and the end to the "cheap energy party." Too bad we have to rely on an alt-monthly to be warning folks about this--preparing for Peak Oil and for the changes needed to STOP the increase in greenhouse gas levels and then to reverse those levels, bringing them down to 350 ppm is urgent. If you need some help understanding this, contact the folks at Oregon Peaceworks and ask for a presentation of their "The 5% Solution to the Climate Crisis" talk. The planet you save may be your own.

4. Finally, in case the story in the Salem Monthly left you wanting more, here's the complete text of the interview that served as the basis for the piece:
What is the purpose of the LOVESalem blog? Can you explain the name a bit?

It's an acronym -- Living Our Values Environmentally in Salem (LOVESalem) -- because Salem can be a fantastic place to live if we stop trying to become Anywhere USA and instead start recognizing the great assets that we have here, assets that position us beautifully to live through "The Long Emergency" period that we're entering in about as good shape as anyplace. It also points out to people that we really do need to love Salem and stop letting developers and city officials turn it into another Sprawlville, yet another place dominated by "Carhead" thinking. In other words, as it says, we need to Oregon-ize in Salem so that we put people first, not cars.

What's the main reason behind wanting to stay anonymous? (I'll need to explain to our readers why we aren't using your name.)

I work in a job where challenging "Carhead" is not very welcome, although I only deal with the blog from home, on my own time. The kinds of radical changes that we are going to be experiencing here soon (and already are experiencing) are going to make some people very, very unhappy. There are a lot of people who get quite angry when their paradigms are abruptly changed on them, and the end of the cheap energy party and the need to take really super-aggressive action to deal with the climate crisis is going to hit these people like a 2x4 to the skull, and that generates a lot of anger --- anger that often gets expressed at the first person that they can find whom they identify as causing the problem, even if it's only to write something in a blog. By identifying the problems with business-as-usual and the fantasies of substitutes (business-as-usual with some other kind of fuel), you paint a big target on your self.

By blogging behind a functional name -- Walker -- I remove the personality aspect of things. People are free to show up and dispute the ideas on the site. I moderate the comments only to weed out the trash---people are free to say I'm wrong if they provide an argument or a link to something that sheds more light on it. I just don't want it to devolve into the kind of junk that so many websites do, flaming and attacks on people rather than looking at the problems we're all going to face together, like it or not.

What can a regular citizen do to prevent the "Sprawl Machine"?

The first thing is to become aware -- consciousness of it.

Notice how much of this beautiful area -- in the No. 1 agriculture county in Oregon, a bountiful state, is devoted to the care, feeding, and storage of autos.

Notice the city council, already cutting the bookmobile and the library computer lab hours and other services and amenities, in a city where the buses don't run on Sunday, [and] is dreaming of a $670 million dollar godzilla-size third bridge over the Willamette so that people who live far from their jobs can drive even more.

Notice that the same city is proposing to drop $4.75 million on upgrading the runway and the baggage services at the airport even after we've just got word that the only scheduled air service is stopping soon.

Notice that the city totally dropped the ball on sidewalks, dumping them back in the laps of the homeowners as if they weren't an important piece of our transportation network. Ask yourself why the fronting property owner is expected to maintain the sidewalk but not the roadway.

The next thing is to join your neighborhood association and also groups like 1,000 Friends of Oregon and Friends of Marion County so that you have a voice. That's the start.

Why do you think that Salem is behind Lincoln City and Corvallis and other OR cities in developing earth-friendly practices?

I can't say I know for sure. I've got some theories:

I think a lot of it is that Salem has set itself up to be the city that lots of people don't care about because they don't live here. An astonishing number of people drive here from Portland, Corvallis, and Eugene (and Stayton, and Independence, and Silverton) and work for the state. They see Salem as a parking lot -- a place to blow through as fast as possible in their car to get to work and to get home. The only thing they want from Salem is free parking.

Every city in America has problems getting its planning and permitting departments out from under the thumb of the sprawl lobby --- the builders and the developers and folks who want to pour concrete over everything. So Salem is not unique in suffering from pro-sprawl and carhead thinking. But we've definitely got a terrible case of it.

And Salem's connection to Willamette is about zero, from what I can tell. Universities normally function as places that provide the host city with a base of people who are willing to think independently and consider the future, and who are scientifically minded --- the kind of people you need if you're going to anticipate future problems and avoid them. Somehow we don't seem to get that benefit from Willamette. And I would guess that very few Willamette Students plan to stay, so we lose that fountain of youthful enthusiasm and energy; these aren't kids who want to make Salem a cool place, they're more worried about their internships elsewhere and getting jobs after they leave.

Q: There's a lot of information on the blog about the Salem airport. What are your thoughts on the airport expansion continuing, despite Delta pulling out in October?

A: The airport expansion at this point in time -- when airlines are dropping like flies -- is the perfect symbol of how Salem officials see the city and how they fail to give even a moment's thought to the fundamental physical realities that will become increasingly insistent and present in our lives. In City Hall, there's a "consensus trance" that $4 gas is temporary thing. In a way that's true, but it's because we'll soon look back fondly at $4 gas.

The airlines are just about dead. The odds of Salem getting scheduled service again are so low as to be laughable. But the city plans to plow ahead with an expansion, trying to palm it off as OK because most of the dollars won't be from the city --- as if wasting state and federal money is OK. It's utter nonsense, and very revealing of how city officials and especially transportation officials are in denial about our energy and climate problems.

The people of Salem would get more benefit from that $4.75 million if they converted it to $1 bills and took them up to Brooks in and burned them in the waste-to-energy plant. That's how stupid the expansion is.