Monday, September 29, 2008

Cool! Community Cycling Center model in Salem!? LOVE it!

Very cool --- a very refreshing change from the usual topics that pass for transportation discussions in Salem: A city councilor is exploring the idea of bringing the Community Cycling Center model here to Salem! Awesome!
Subject: Fwd: Please get the word out
Date: September 29, 2008 8:51:26 AM PDT

FYI - there will be a meeting on Wednesday October 15 to talk about the Community Cycling Center in Portland and see what can be learned about possibly starting a similar facility in Salem area. See email below from Kate Tarter, City Councilor. - Julie

Kate Tarter 9/24/2008 3:35 PM >>>


Kimberly Allain, the Executive Director of St. Vincent de Paul has a meeting room set up for Wednesday, October 15th from 6:30 pm to7:30 pm to talk about the Community Cycling Center in Portland. She would like to get familiar with how their program works, how it is funded, and other fun questions. I will do some research to prepare for the meeting. Please invite any interested parties.


Meeting Location
St Vincent DE Paul
3745 Portland Rd Ne
Salem, OR

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Tell Marion Co. Commissioners "No to Selling Park Land"

There is going to be a public hearing this coming week (10/1, 9:30 a.m.) about a proposal to sell off a piece of public park land that would set a dangerous precedent for Marion County.

Spong's Landing is one of Marion County's premier public parks, and is located on the Willamette River just north of Keizer. Some years ago, a property owner adjoining the park built a fence around his property which extended significantly onto park land. He subsequently sold the property to new owners. It is not clear what the new owners knew when they purchased the property, but if they had done their homework they should have discovered that the property they were buying was not as big as advertised.

In any case, now that the problem has been revealed, they are proposing to buy the land in question from the county.

The law is very clear about what should happen in a case such as this: The landowner must pay to move the fence. Selling park property is only allowed if doing so is clearly in the public interest.

It is hard to make a case that selling part of Spong's Landing Park is in the public interest, as Marion County already has a shortage of parkland relative to its population. To allow the landowner in this case to pay some modest sum to keep the land would set a dangerous precedent for other landowners who might covet a little piece of public park adjoining their property.

Please come and let the County Commissioners know our park lands are not for sale. The hearing will be at 9:30 am on Wednesday, October 1st in the Senator Hearing Room, 555 Court Street NE in Salem.
Of course, this also says that county personnel were negligent in failing to note the boundary when the original owner put a fence on county parkland. Still, assuming Oregon follows the general rule, then you can't obtain ownership of public land through adverse possession -- no matter how long the fence is there, if it is on public land, it is a trespass. And, in this case, damage to land because it prevents the public from accessing land that it owns.

The only issue for this hearing should be how long it will take for the current owners to remove their fence.

If you can't come to the hearing this coming Wednesday morning (9:30 a.m., in the county building next to the Transit Center on Court St., across from the County Courthouse), at least contact the commissioners and tell them NOT to sell any public lands to private owners, especially not to reward misbehavior and/or negligence by owners of private lots next to public parks. Here's the contact information for the commissioners if you can't make the meeting:

Sam Brentano
| Committees
Phone: 503-588-5212

Janet Carlson
| Committees
Phone: 503-588-5212

Patti Milne
| Committees
Phone: 503-588-5212

Friday, September 26, 2008

Let Salem be the Switzerland of the Willamette Valley

Ok, we'll never have the topography --- all the more reason that we should easily be able to follow in their footsteps. And oars. And bikes. . . .

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sustainability education in Salem

A continuing education series that might be worthwhile, offered here in Salem. While I'm skeptical of the "public private partnership" rhetoric (and the mental frame that most people who use such language bring with them), anything that gets people to recognize our dire situation and going on the changes needed is worthwhile, so these might be worth checking out:

Why Salem Must Act to Avoid Climate Chaos

Great video short (11 min) that does an excellent job showing how precarious our situation is with respect to climate chaos that we're unleashing through our greenhouse gas emissions.

Please watch, consider, and send it to everyone whose future is important to you.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Salem Lays an Egg on Keeping Hens

So we were talking about keeping chickens as part of a scheme for implementing the "Food Not Lawns" ideal (Victory Gardening for The New Reality). Someone thought you could keep hens but not roosters, someone else thought you couldn't keep either. It all led to an inquiry to the powers that be, who replied:
From: "Brady Rogers"

My name is Brady Rogers. I am the Compliance Services Administrator for the City of Salem. The brief answer to your question is no chickens are allowed to be kept within Salem City Limits, unless your residence is in an "RA" zone (Residential Agriculture).

From your e-mail it appears you have been reading the Salem Revised Code online. If you consult SRC Chapter 145 and look for the heading "Permitted Uses," you will find a list of land use activities that are legal, and need no special permissions or permits. SRC 145.020(3) allows for the raising of chickens in the RA zone. There are no other zones in Salem that allow for raising chickens at all. If you check the other Residential Zone chapters, you will find that no where else is the raising of foul permitted. [Oh, fowl bawl I say, fowl bawl! We might want to raise a metaphorical stink about this short-sighted policy, but not to raise anything foul.]

It is most probable that your home is not in the RA zone, as not much of this land is left. I could only tell you for certain what zone you are in if I had your exact address. If you would like, you can e-mail me your address and I can give you a 100% answer.


Brady Rogers
Compliance Services Division
(503) 588-6421 x7408
To which our intrepid correspondent replied:
Hi Brady. My immediate response, or course, is to go looking for the loopholes. I don't want to "raise" chickens. I just want to have a couple of hens as part of my organic, integrated pest management system. They would be bug-eating pets rather than livestock.

I, too, suspect I am not in an RA zone . . . .

Thanks for the SRC citation. I will not be surprised to see future discussions between citizens and City Council on this and other codes that restrict raising food (in my case, a few eggs produced by my pest manager pets) on our little piece of the city. As our gas supply disappears and our nation can no longer afford to import cheap food from around the world, we are all going to be looking for ways to feed our families. [emphasis added]

Thanks again for the quick response.
To which our power-that-be responded:
Based on the address you provided, officially your property is zoned RS and subject to the permitted uses listed in SRC Chapter 146. I'm afraid that does not include raising or keeping chickens for any purpose. This issue of chickens as pets has come up several times in recent years, and each time courts have ruled in the city's favor.

As it turns out, the Salem Zone Code is presently entering a re-write process that will take the next couple of years. It is possible that chickens may be addressed for such a limited use. You have plenty of time to submit your comments and recommendations to city staff. The Planning Division will be working on the re- write.

Thank you for your understanding, and feel free to contact me if you have any further questions.

Brady Rogers
Compliance Services Division
(503) 588-6421 x7408

Of course, calling chickens kept as part of a permaculture scheme "pets" is inaccurate and misleading. Chickens consume pests, condition soil, and produce rich fertilizer. In addition, their diets, which include lots of table scraps, helps reduce waste streams headed for landfills. In other words, they promote soil fertility, reduce exposure to pests, and--not least of all--produce nutritious eggs in abundance, which will be an important factor for many of us.

It's interesting that Salem won't allow laying hens but already permits a for-profit corporation to operate a helicopter school within the city, a city that is also serenaded nightly by the lonesome wail (or pierced by the sleep-shattering shriek, depending on your proximity to them) of nightly freight trains. Could the city's refusal to permit laying hens even pass the rational basis test? (Or is it true what they say about Salem --- one rule for corporations, another one for mere mortals?)

The person from planning who is gathering citizen inquiries into the re-write process is Bryce Bishop (503) 588-6173. The process hasn't started yet, but I believe he is gathering the contact information from people who wish to be notified of public meetings and hearings. There will be opportunities to raise issues and speak.

Some LOVEable events in Salem

Breakfast on Bikes - Friday, September 26
Peach of a Century - Sunday, September 28
Grant Neighborhood Association Meeting - Thursday, October 2
The Willamette Valley Green & Solar Home Tour - Saturday, October 4
Walk + Bike to School Day, Wednesday, October 8
Highland Neighborhood Association Meeting - Thursday, October 9
Breakfast on Bikes - Friday, October 31


Breakfast on Bikes - Friday, September 26
We'll be at 12th & Chemeketa on the bike/ped promenade just east of the train tracks between 7 and 9am. For the latest visit the Breakfast Blog! -


Peach of a Century - Sunday, September 28

The final Salem Bicycle Club ride of the season! And the weather report looks terrific! The full and metric century routes offer flat to rolling terrain with some moderate hills. The routes follow low- volume roads past the farm fields of the Willamette Valley, through forested foothills and the communities east of Salem, like Jefferson, Stayton, Sublimity, and Silverton. For more information on the ride and on day-of-ride registration.


Grant Neighborhood Association Meeting - Thursday, October 2
The Grant Neighborhood Association will meet at 6:15pm, Grant Community School, 625 Market St NE. The City will be presenting information on the proposed Winter/Myrtle/Cherry Bike Boulevard, which will help make a safer route for kids to the Kroc Center. If you live & bicycle in the Grant Neighborhood, please attend to show your support! For more information


The Willamette Valley Green & Solar Home Tour - Saturday, October 4
This is a self-guided tour of several green and solar homes in the Salem & Silverton areas, and a chance to meet homeowners, builders, contractors and architects who were involved in these projects. It's $10 per car - but the secret sauce is that bicyclists are FREE!
Registration is required. If you go by bike, hit me with a note, and we'll organize a bike caravan! For more information


Walk + Bike to School Day, Wednesday, October 8
Parents and kids statewide are encouraged to join millions around the world who are improving their health, their community and having a ton of fun by walking or biking to School. For more information


Highland Neighborhood Association Meeting - Thursday, October 9

At 7:00pm at North Neighbors Resource Center, 945 Columbia Street N.E., the Highland Neighborhood Association will meet.

The City will be presenting information on the proposed Winter/Myrtle/Cherry Bike Boulevard, which will help make a safer route for kids to the Kroc Center. If you live & bicycle in the Highland Neighborhood, please attend to show your support! For more information.

Breakfast on Bikes - Friday, October 31

Costume yourself, your bike, or both! We'll be at the North Mall Office Building on Winter Street. We'll post some of the best looks on the breakfast blog - with luck maybe even have a prize! For the latest visit the Breakfast Blog

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Gem Near Enough Salem to Love too

The Oregon Garden --- a terrific use of land and a nice symbiosis, with the Garden using the excess wastewater from Silverton and Silverton avoiding big fines for dumping excessively warm water to the river. The Garden cools the water and further purifies it, and demonstrates just some of the amazing fertility of the Willamette Valley.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Green Building events in Salem

The second is probably the more important of the two --- the urgency for Salem is less about building new things green; rather, it's about dealing with our huge stock of decidely un-green housing ... built with inadequate insulation, poor solar orientation, inefficient heating and cooling systems, etc. But both are probably worth attending.
The Jerry Yudelson Lecture
"Green Building: The New Revolution is Here"

Thursday, October 2nd from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm
The Paulus Lecture Hall of the Truman Wesley Collins Legal Center
Willamette University, Salem
For more information call Andrea Foust at (503) 370-6654

Nationally recognized green-building expert Jerry Yudelson will speak about the rapidly emerging green building revolution in a free lecture Thursday, Oct. 2, at 7 p.m. in the Paulus Lecture Hall at the Truman Wesley Collins Legal Center at Willamette University.

Jerry Yudelson will present a compelling business case for green buildings, both residential and commercial, and share dozens of building projects that demonstrate environmental excellence, many within conventional budgets. A dynamic speaker with an urgent sense of purpose, Yudleson will explain why thousands of individuals and corporations across the U.S. are choosing green over conventional design for their homes and businesses, and how the market for green buildings is likely to emerge over the next several years. Attendees will learn how to take advantage of opportunities in green building.

Green building has emerged as a proven strategy to improve the health of a building’s occupants, combat global warming, enhance public relations, and save money for businesses and home-owners, Yudelson says.

The event is sponsored by the Friends of Straub Environmental Learning Center, the Center for Sustainable Communities at Willamette University, the Marion County Soil and Water Conservation District, the Pringle Creek Community, and the American Institute of Architects - Salem Chapter.

Salem Tour of Green + Solar Homes

Saturday, October 4th from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm
Guest Speaker at 9:00 am: Portland Builder, Dave Heslam, on Green Remodeling
Registration begins at 8:30 am at the Pringle Creek Community
(2110 Strong Road SE in Salem)

$15 per car, Bicyclists are free
For more information call James Santana at (503) 763-1770

Salem's second annual Tour of Green + Solar Homes will be held on Saturday October 4th from 8:30 am until 4:00 pm, with a reception following the tour from 4:00 until 6:00 pm. The event will include tours of ten homes that demonstrate energy efficient and environmentally-responsible techniques. Following registration at the Pringle Creek Community, individuals will visit the homes of their choice as a self-guided tour, that includes the Frank Lloyd Wright - designed Gordon House at the Oregon Garden.

Each site will be hosted by a knowledgeable individual (owner, architect and/or builder) to inform visitors of green features and their associated benefits, costs, and lessons learned. Attendees have the opportunity to learn about energy efficiency, passive and active solar systems, daylighting, on-site energy generation, rainwater harvesting, innovative construction systems and building materials. The event begins with an hour-long presentation on green remodeling conducted by the Earth Advantage program.

Event sponsors include the American Institute of Architects - Salem Chapter, Neil Kelly Company, DeSantis Landscapes, Taylor Metal, NW Natural, Marion County Public Works Environmental Services, Bilyeu Homes, Pringle Creek, Nathan Good Architect, Wild Pear, Willamette Valley Vineyards, Earth Advantage, and the BAM Agency.

Here's a link to the Statesman Journal's recent story on the Tour of Homes.

Getting Rid of Parking Minimums

Cities are slowly starting to wake up from the idea that everyone wants, needs, and must have a car --- and, even worse, must make provisions for the care, feeding, and storage of cars even if they don't want one.

Given the economic meltdown unfolding around our ears, we're going to need as much land as we can get to be used for growing food, not serving as a mandatory source of water pollution (hard pavement disrupts natural water recharge and causes water runoff to be filled with oil and other pollutants from autos).

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Speaking of outstanding ideas, if Berkeley can do it, why can't we?

Onward Oregon asks the same question here. Berkeley, California is way ahead in this.

Height limits, yes or no?

Definitely an important question as we think about a carbon-constrained future with much more expensive energy:

Height limits needed for downtown buildings

September 18, 2008

I believe it is important to maintain a strong visual connection between downtown Salem and the riverfront.

Several structures currently under construction along Front and Commercial streets form a wall of separation, especially the eight-story condo across from Riverfront Park.

I would like the council to enact height restrictions on new construction along Front and Commercial streets, including the area recently vacated by Boise Cascade, so that new buildings conform to the height of older, existing structures.

— Pat Simila, Salem

James Howard Kunstler (author of The Long Emergency and The Geography of Nowhere) argues that buildings over six stories don't have much of a future, extrapolating from the days before elevators and high-energy heating and cooling systems.

"Build up, not out" sounds good when you are thinking only about reducing sprawl, and there's definitely an important benefit there, particularly in terms of reducing the paved surface area (important if we plan on continuing to eat, something that figures prominently in many peoples' plans for the future).

But unless you design the "up" so that it reduces the building energy demand (just occupying our buildings consume about 40% of our primary energy use), you've merely traded one unsustainable form of living for another. It's clear that we can't emulate Portland or Seattle or other places where skyscrapers make it impossible for people to live without consuming prodigious amounts of energy just to maintain their habitation.

The emblem of "planning" in our time seems to be a complete lack of recognition of fundamental physical limits --- such as water adamantly refusing to flow uphill, to take just one example. The height of a building cannot exceed the height you are willing to pump water, and pumping water is one helluva an energy-consumptive practice. Put a typical bunch of profligate water-using folks up high and figure out how much energy is required to supply them with potable water -- there's not enough solar panels in the whole wide world to do it. Water's not optional -- unless you have the energy to pump that water to them, your skyscrapers are going to be pretty empty.

When people in Cuba and Baghdad and places like that have had their power problems, they've had to learn to hoist water up high on ropes and pulleys -- and they had buildings with windows that open! It's truly backbreaking, brutal labor, and it consumes enough calories that you can quickly find yourself losing more energy than you can supply without draft animals.

And that's just water. Now add heating and cooling, just to make the space livable, and you quickly see why there's a practical limit to height. I'm not sure it's six stories, maybe it's five, maybe it's seven, but I'm willing to bet it's less than eight for sure.

It's nice that someone opened the discussion about height limits in the Statesman-Journal; what we need now is some awareness that the same forces that are driving us to reduce energy consumption in cars are also going to exert pressure to reduce energy consumption in our shelter. A country with a broken economy (resulting in large part from unwise energy choices) doesn't get to simply decree tall buildings vs. sprawl. Tall buildings are a sign of wealth precisely because they require so much wealth to build and maintain. As our descent into a low-energy future continues, we won't have to worry too much about new buildings exceeding height limits -- we'll only have to worry about how to make the best use of uninhabitable space in existing ones.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Another great example for Salem

Nice story on the BTA blog about Paris's "Velib" system of low-cost, widely available bikes for loan to anyone who wants to use one. A nice fit for Salem.

More bicyclists = fewer car/bike accidents

Ecomodder - It may seem counterintuitive, but according to a recent report more cyclists on the road mean fewer accidents involving cyclists and motor vehicles. . . "It's a virtuous cycle," says Dr Julie Hatfield, an injury expert from University of New South Wales. "The likelihood that an individual cyclist will be struck by a motorist falls with increasing rate of bicycling in a community. And the safer cycling is perceived to be, the more people are prepared to cycle." Also, even more encouragingly, it doesn't seem that cycling infrastructure is responsible for the change:

Experts say the effect is independent of improvements in cycling-friendly laws such as lower speed limits and better infrastructure, such as bike paths. Research has revealed the safety-in-numbers impact for cyclists in Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, 14 European countries and 68 Californian cities.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Occult in Salem

One of the (sometimes dubious) perks of living in our fair city is that our biggest industry is government. This is one reason that Salem struggles economically: an inordinate fraction of prime city land sits under government (i.e., non-property-tax-paying) ownership.

Funny, Oregon's state government, which loves timber payments to compensate for all that federally owned (non-property-tax-paying) land, hasn't quite seen how that same idea applies to cities such as Salem.

Of course there is an real upside to living in a town where government is the main thing: a constant source of amusement.

Did you know that a little-known office within state government (called "The Real Estate Agency") claims that it can copyright information that appears to have once been compiled, published, and distributed at public expense?

If anyone has a copy of this magical "yellow book" that has gone occult (hidden from view, concealed), please speak up in the comments section. Everyone in Salem deserves to know what vital information was once -- but is no more -- contained within it.

The Real Estate Agency is no longer selling the publication "Questions and Answers in Real Estate" (also known as the "yellow book").

The Agency also wishes to remind interested parties that the questions in the "Questions and Answers in Real Estate" are copyrighted. Making copies of the book without permission of the Agency is not allowed.

Please contact the Agency if you have any questions.

Moments of the past -- and the future?

This appeared in the Statesman-Journal on November 9, 2007, reprinting a piece from the Capital Journal that ran on May 27, 1890:
The electric street cars made their first trip this morning. Mr. Knight invited the Board of Trade, the City Council and the representatives of the press to make the trial trip with them. A Journal reporter was on hand. Everything moved off smoothly and all were pleased with the workings of the machinery. The cars move off rapidly and with a steady motion and there is no danger of having your next on jointed by the sudden jerks in starting or stopping.

The cars are single motor of 15 hp, and are capable of a speed of 25 miles an hour, though a usual run, including stops, they will make about 10 miles an hour. The manipulation is so perfected that only a moment is required to stop and reverse the power, and before it is thought, the car will be moving in the opposite direction.
Those speeds compare quite favorably to the average speed attained by automobiles on city streets here in Salem. But are we wise enough to recognize how much our abandonment of what would today be called light rail has cost us?

And are we wise enough to reverse course as smoothly as those cars did in 1890, and rebuild an electric-based transit system option before it is too late and the financial shenanigans of Wall Street and the relentless upward pressure on energy and food prices uses up all the available money and reduced driving depletes the Highway Trust Fund?

Not obviously.

Consider this editorial from the business descendant of the Capital Journal, just a month after the flashback story (December 6, 2007)--it displays the usual preoccupation with pouring more and more resources into trying to maintain automobility, which is, at bottom, the underlying root cause of our economic collapse.
Don't let Salem be site of traffic bottleneck
Third bridge vital to Salem regional transportation

This week's storms brought home the fragility of the transportation network on which Northwest Oregon depends.

A few hour's of lashing by Sundays and Mondays rains were all it took to close the highways from the Willamette Valley to the coast. Deliveries of groceries, newspapers and fuel came to a halt. Tourists bound for casinos and hotels turned back. Coastal residents canceled plans for medical appointments inland. . . .

If today's harsh storms can have such an effect on East-West transportation, just think of the consequences of failing to build a third bridge across the Willamette River at Salem.

This project has been talked about since the 1960s. Without some agreement on where to build the bridge and how to raise the ever-increasing local share of funds, the bridge to get put on the back burner yet again.

That would doom Salem to be a bottleneck for regional transportation, just as surely as Portland's I-5 bridge or Oregon's mud-covered highways have been this week.

Christian Science Monitor covers Transition Towns

A very good paper covers a very important subject: transitioning to be ready for a low-energy future.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Great News -- Community Radio coming to Salem!

Kudos to Karen Holman for all her work!

Salem area receives clearance for FM radio station

Salem is on the way to having a nonprofit, community FM radio station, with the issuance of a construction license to Radio Free Salem.

Karen Holman, a board member of nonprofit Salem Folklore Community and chairwoman of its radio project committee, received the Federal Communication Commission permit last week, the preliminary to the issuance of a license. . . . Radio Free Salem will lease a tower on Wipper Hill in Turner for its antenna, with a signal expected to reach most of Salem, Stayton, Sublimity, Aumsville and Turner. . . . The programming will be 50 percent music, with the rest community-driven programming, such as news and talk, similar to Portland's KBOO. . . . The official city of license will be Turner; being based in a small community helped Radio Free Salem get a license.

Letter of the Month

Return airport funds, protect quality of life

Why on Earth would we want to expand and intensify the use of the
Salem airport? It will benefit a few and will adversely impact the
quality of life for many people who live in the core area of Salem,
some who have lived here for decades.

We already tolerate increasing train noise and traffic congestion.
Increasing air traffic noise and pollution will detract from efforts
to promote the livability of the core area of Salem and discourage
new residents.

I would vote to return the $8 million in federal funds to forgo
improving the existing airport and to protect livability in Salem.

I place a high value on quality of life. I don't like the community
being forced to accept a noisy helicopter school that we don't want
in order to keep money for airport expansion. The expansion is sure
to result in more unwanted air traffic, noise and pollution.

If Salem needs a bigger airport, and I am not sure it does, maybe it
should be relocated — before we invest $10 million of our hard-earned
tax dollars on "improvements."

— Tracy White, Salem

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Perhaps the most important transportation idea yet to penetrate our thick skulls

Slow down.

Read all about it.

Reimagining Energy

Susan Hockfield
Reimagining Energy
By Susan Hockfield

. . .

Today, the United States is tangled in a triple knot: a shaky economy, battered by volatile energy prices; world politics weighed down by issues of energy consumption and security; and mounting evidence of global climate change. . . . I believe we can address all three problems at once with dramatic new federal investment in energy research and development.

If one advance could transform America's prospects, it would be ready access, at scale, to a range of affordable, renewable, low-carbon energy technologies -- from large-scale solar and wind energy to safe nuclear power. [Good luck with the affordable part on that one.] Only one path will lead to such transformative technologies: research. Yet federal funding for energy research has dwindled to irrelevance. In 1980, 10 percent of federal research dollars went to energy. Today, the share is 2 percent.

Research investment by U.S. energy companies has mirrored this drop. In 2004, it stood at $1.2 billion in today's dollars. This might suit a cost-efficient, technologically mature, fossil-fuel-based energy sector, but it is insufficient for any industry that depends on innovation. Pharmaceutical companies invest 18 percent of revenue in R&D. Semiconductor firms invest 16 percent. Energy companies invest less than one-quarter of 1 percent. With this pattern of investment, we cannot expect an energy technology revolution. . . .

How much should we invest? In 2006 the government spent between $2.4 billion and $3.4 billion (less than half of the annual R&D budget of our largest pharmaceutical company). Many experts, including the Council on Competitiveness, recommend that federal energy research spending climb to twice or even 10 times current levels. In my view, the nation should move promptly to triple current rates, then increase funding further as the Energy Department builds its capacity to convert basic research into marketable technologies.

Seen around: Good advice

Let's live on the planet as

if we intend to stay.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Friday, September 5, 2008

Nice Freebie for Oregonians

Oregon Humanities magazine is an interesting, free, tri-annual journal. You can have it sent to your home free by following that link and requesting a subscription.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Lend your name to the petition: Improve America's Walkability

We need your help to create more walkable neighborhoods.

Please forward this link to your friends who support walking, biking, and transit:

The 2009 Transportation Bill is a once-in-a-decade opportunity.

Walk Score will hand-deliver the list of supporters to Congress on foot, on bike, on bus, and on subway.

Thanks for your support!
The Walk Score Team

(And don't forget to sign the petition yourself!)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Salem: We're dead broke, so, hey, let's pour money into the airport and get a huge new bridge to go with the roads we can't afford to maintain!

You can't make this stuff up. The City of Salem, fresh from ponying up $25k to cause $5M to be dumped into an airport that is likely to never again have scheduled air service, and deep into the fantasy of pouring $600+ millions more into a third bridge over the Willamette because, heaven knows, we can't expect people to actually think about the consequences of their residency decisions beforehand, is dead broke.

Salem's got plenty of money to shovel at consultants to pay for a phony environmental impact statement (one that isn't even going to bother looking at the climate change impact of another bridge), but no money to provide the kinds of amenities that people need -- a library so that kids become readers rather than reprobates, for example.

We are getting a regular bludgeoning with reminders of America's collapsing infrastructure (Katrina, Gustav, the Minneapolis Bridge, the 520 Bridges in Washington, the "emergency repair" to the Capital Street Bridge here in Salem, and so on).

At some point, people will stop agreeing to pretend that money taken from taxpayers elsewhere simply materializes from outer space. When the money really runs out and really important stuff can't be done, and hunger increases with heating bills this winter, people are going to be outraged that places like Salem would allow $5M to be dumped into a black hole at the airport rather than redirected to some place where it would do some good.

So, hey, don't forget to go to the Anderson Room at the Salem Public Library at 5:30 p.m. so that you can watch the "Oversight Team" do some more of that "Oversight" thing --- making oversights left and right, nodding when the engineering firm consultants say to nod, and happily continuing to fund the $666M fraud that is the "Salem River Crossing."

Salem warns of looming service cuts

. . .

City of Salem officials have cut expenses to balance the budget this year, but a looming $5 million shortfall next year could lead to serious cuts to city services, city manager Linda Norris said. . . .

Parks and recreation, the library, urban development, police and fire are among the city services backed by general-fund dollars. It's too early to determine what specific programs are at risk, Norris said.

Early estimates show the city is likely to have a $5 million shortfall in its 2009-10 general fund.

City leaders previously had projected a $3 million shortfall.

. . .

For example, soaring fuel costs make it expensive to keep police cars and fire trucks rolling. Unleaded gasoline is costing the city 52 percent more than a year ago. The cost of diesel has increased 62 percent.

[Ask two of the "Oversight Team" members (Salem Council member Dan Clem and Marion County Commissioner Sam Brentano) about a warning SKATS, the local government "transportation planning organization" heard about a year and a half ago, when a citizen warned SKATS that oil at $100/barrel would soon be a fond memory and that the first priority for municipalities and counties should be figuring out how to protect vital services from the sure-to-skyrocket costs for diesel, asphalt, and all materials either made from or moved by oil ... which is everything that local governments buy, actually. Except for Lloyd Chapman, not a single member of the SKATS board appears to have understood the warning, much less even stirred enough to ask a staffer to look into the issue.]

. . .

On the revenue side, softening real estate prices and less construction has had a ripple effect.

[Which is exactly what you would predict if you understand that being at Peak Oil means that energy is and forever will be much more expensive than we have experienced in the past, and that its price will continue to rise FASTER than inflation -- so all that sprawl that the third bridge is supposed to service will not be built, and the pricey downtown condos may not get finished at all or will be converted to apartments.]

. . .

Salem also faced a $5 million shortfall in the fiscal 2008-09 budgets. This year's budget troubles resulted in the city ending the library bookmobile service.

What will become of the city-supported aquatics program — another item targeted for cuts but given a reprieve — remains in limbo. The city has an agreement with Salem-Keizer School District, which owns the Walker and Olinger pools, to operate the facilities and share maintenance costs. . . .


The campaign has a website here.

It's kind of fitting that the Cherriots bond is number 24-247 ... that's about how many buses we need rolling at any one time to serve the Salem area (24) and what the operating schedule should be: 24/7 (twenty four hours a day, seven days a week).

This bond doesn't get us there, but it's a tiny step in the right direction --- and if it fails we'll take a huge step back in the wrong one, so we need to get this one passed and then devise the system that we need.

Last Chance to Tour The J Building

Questioning Auto Domination

For close to a century, the automobile has so boldly seized Americans' imagination — sparking the economy, paving the continent, designing...

By Neal Peirce

. . .

High gasoline prices are prompting millions of us to think again about how often, and how far, we drive our cars. Recent months have seen total vehicle miles driven nationally fall off sharply — a radical reversal of decades of increase.

Across the country, there's pressure to reclaim city streets for the city's own people. Fueling this pressure is the alarm raised over high accident and death tolls from pedestrians struck by autos and trucks.

The "complete streets" movement — urging that city and neighborhood streets be made as welcoming and safe for pedestrians and cyclists as they are for autos — is gaining attention, now backed up by legislation pending in Congress.

Public-transit use is enjoying a banner year across the country.

A vanguard of cities is banning cars from public parks.

There's increased effort — lead cities range from Seattle to Buffalo to New Haven — to tear down ugly motorways that divide neighborhoods and occupy valuable space near city centers. (Demolition of a Milwaukee freeway in 2003 helped unify the city's downtown and sparked hundreds of millions of dollars of new development.)

Bike stations — quick ways to rent a bike, cruise around a downtown — are being proposed across the country.

A new "Walk Score" Web site ( lets users type in their home address and discover its "walkability" score — from 0 ("must have car") to 100 ("walkers' paradise").

A few cities are starting to charge true market costs for parking on public streets. Example: fees of up to $40 for four hours near the new baseball stadium in Washington, D.C.

. . .

So are today's auto-curbing efforts simply wisps in the wind? Possible — but not likely. Our once world-dominating automakers are teetering economically. "Peak oil," mounting energy scarcity and climate change are realities.

Of course, autos and trucks won't disappear; they're a key to modern nations' economies. But one senses a new genie out of the bottle — a demand for streets, urban and town roadways that enhance peoples' lives, restraining motor vehicles, not eliminating them. Every agenda from health (better air, less obesity) to aesthetics, energy-saving transit to quality of life, demands it.

And just think that our population will grow by 100 million by 2040 or so. Do we have the stunning amounts of steel, asphalt and public space to accommodate them as we've been living? We're dangerously behind maintaining the vast but overtaxed roadways we have. Realism says this century simply can't be a repeat of the heavily motorized 20th.

And a radio story on rising train usage in the Northwest is here