Thursday, October 30, 2008

Eugene shows Salem and other Oregon cities how it's done

Eugene City Council last week adopted two recommendations from its sustainability commission to move the city of Eugene toward carbon neutrality.

The adopted goal says that all city-owned facilities and city operations will reduce net carbon emissions to zero by 2020.

If that proves to be impossible, the city will need to cancel its remaining emissions through local carbon offsets.

An annual work plan will also be developed by city staff to reach the zero emissions goal.

The commission also directed the city to work with community partners to develop a community climate action plan within 18 months.

Go to One Town Square

One of our favorite Oregon blogs, One Town Square, a project of the Goal One Coalition, has this disturbing -- if not frightening -- article today.

Alas, Salem and Marion County officials insist on keeping their heads firmly in the sand on this. Pursuing roadway expansions, multi-hundred-million-dollar bridges, throwing millions (literally) away on an airport AFTER the sole resident airline has departed, continuing to allow the school districts to grow ever more dependent on diesel oil-powered buses, etc. etc. etc.

Marion Co. waste incineration plant -- a bad idea for climate too?

Marion Co. (which includes most of Salem) has a waste incineration plant in Brooks, Oregon. A number of organizations oppose waste incineration on a variety of grounds, particularly the toxics emitted. (See the excellent short video, The Story of Stuff, for an example.)

A discussion of waste incineration (vs. recycling) on the "Fostering Sustainable Behavior" listserv included this post concerning greenhouse gas emissions:

Look at the WARM model from the U.S. EPA. (pdf warning)

There is also a Canadian version produced with funding from Natural Resources Canada, and Environment Canada.

Both studies clearly shows that greenhouse gases from incineration are much higher than those produced from reuse, recycling, composting, etc.

GHG's are also a proxy for 'energy use' in most cases. In other words, the energy extracted from incinerating waste, is much, much less than the 'embedded energy' inherent in the item.

The studies are not simple to understand; if you need help in finding the relevant tables, contact me and I'll be glad to help you navigate the study(ies).

Norm Ruttan

iWasteNot Systems

More great news! Our famous refusal to learn from experience continues unabated!!

Gas prices fall, driving climbs!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Great news for Salem -- preserving access to undeveloped land

Wonderful idea. Huzzah for Mr. Gehlar and the Audubon Society:

. . . a recent $1.35 million bequest to Salem Audubon Society has launched the small nonprofit into just the organization to help reverse the trend. . . .

But when longtime audubon member Mark Gehlar left the society a donation in his will, the 1,600-member nonprofit had the opportunity to expand its education role in Salem.

The way? By building an easy-to-access nature center.

The society has its sights set on a sliver of land on the former Boise Cascade site. The area is next to the Eco-earth globe in Salem's Riverfront Park.

It's the perfect location because a proposed footbridge across the Willamette Slough would connect the nature center with 22 acres of Salem Audubon Society property, said Sue Johnston, executive director of Salem Audubon Society.

"To have a really successful nature center, you need a diversity of habitats," said David Harrison, a Salem Audubon Society board member. "This area is centrally located, it would have the footbridge to Minto Island and it would have access to acres and acres of public land along the waterfront."

A decision about whether the center could be located on the Boise Cascade site is at least six months away, said Tim Gerling, who is a project manager with the group developing the property.

Another possibility is locating the center in Riverfront Park. Either way, the land needs to be donated or at bargain prices.

"Our chief obstacle is getting a piece of property," said board member Harrison. "So we are trying to build public support ... because we see it as a nature center for the entire community."

UPDATE: Salem Monthly story on the Audubon Society plan.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

If your "low flow" toilet needs multiple flushes

Jack Bog has a post mentioning how bad "low-flow" toilets are, and someone posted a reply noting that there are actually really good low-flow toilets out there because they finally figured out a way to have a good, standardized engineering test that will separate the contenders from pretenders in terms of performance.

This is a huge issue in Salem (and everywhere else) -- we've got hundreds of thousands of toilets being flushed multiple times because inferior design means that the first wave of 6 liter flushers don't do the job. Not only is it an immoral waste of pure potable water, it's a tremendous waste of energy (pumping all that water to the tanks, and then all that energy to treat the waste on the way out).

Salem should set develop a "pay as you save" program for the Water/Sewer Bureau, where anyone in Salem who installs one of the top-rated low-flow models -- the ones that actually DO reduce water consumption -- can charge the cost of the toilet and the installation to their water and sewer account with the city and pay it off @ $5 a month. For many people, the savings from the better performance would pay the bill, and the city would see a huge drop in wasted water and energy.

Read the article about the testing, it's funny and important at the same time.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Statesman-Journal disgraces itself

The Statesman-Journal completes its disintegration into a parody of a newspaper with its editorial declining to endorse the vital Cherriots bond (24-247). The concluding paragraph suggests that destroying the viability of the transit system will be useful because it will prompt a "community discussion of what an effective, efficient transit system would look like if it were being designed from scratch — and how to pay for it."

Oddly, THAT's the discussion we should be having over our streets and bridges, rather than rushing to pump $100M into nothing but more of the same auto-dominated building. We need to be talking about how to stop spending our way into an ever-greater maintenance backlog of expanded roadways that will supposedly "reduce congestion" -- ignoring the cumulative millennia of experience that shows that all roadway expansions intended to fight congestion end up increasing that congestion at a new, more-congested level.

But, experience be damned, the SJ calls for the defeat of a $6M annual bond to preserve a functional transit system while calling for passage of a $100M streets bond that will do nothing to prepare Oregon's capital to meet the ravages of an unwinding economy that will make transit evermore vital to people on the lower end of the economic ladder, even as the climate changes make transit more and more necessary to our survival.

When the streets bond fails, nothing changes -- we can get the planners to revise their plans and come up with a new, smarter proposal without a hitch, a proposal for taking care of what we have in a way that we can afford.

But if the Cherriots bond fails, real people will be hurt real bad real fast. Transit dependent workers will have no options at all on weekends; seniors and the disabled will lose all ability to get around independently on weekends, and commuters and other "choice riders" will give up on the system.

In short, as we starve the transit system, we'll complain that it's a scrawny, useless thing and short-sighted folks like the SJ editorial board will then argue that we should cut the funding even further because the system is so scrawny that it doesn't do anyone any good.

Transit levy creates quandary for voters
Request ill-timed with school and fire measures on ballot

October 27, 2008

In today's challenging economy, voters can't afford to do everything. That is why the Statesman Journal Editorial Board cannot recommend passage of the Salem Area Mass Transit District's $30.4 million, five-year operating levy.

The district is going back to the voters after its levy failed twice in 2006, forcing route reductions. The current proposal creates a quandary for voters.

On the positive side, the district is doing a lot of things right under General Manager Allan Pollock. Cherriots has increased fares. Ridership is up. Pollock has a tighter rein on operations and has instituted money-saving measures. He appreciates the need for more crosstown routes instead of making so many riders transfer at the downtown Courthouse Square transit center.

Yet there still seems to be a disconnect between the Cherriots' elected board of directors and many taxpayers.

The property-tax levy has support among downtown business leaders but not communitywide. Taxpayers see nearly empty buses going by and wonder why; the district's own trip statistics don't give a satisfactory accounting.

The district raised hackles by how it handled the potential siting of a transit center in Keizer. Stories abound of bus drivers' perceived discourtesy to other drivers and pedestrians, with each incident creating bad feelings toward the district.

The 2008 levy is smaller than the 2006 request, which was defeated once by voters and once by the double-majority requirement. However, we think the board made a tactical error by placing this year's levy on the same ballot as Salem-Keizer School District and city of Salem bond measures, as well as operating levies for Keizer Fire District and Marion County Fire District 1.

Those conditions created long odds for the Cherriots levy, despite the regional importance of transit. Many taxpayers worry about the uncertain economy, which has worsened in the months since the district proposed the levy.

The proposed levy is small — 49 cents per $1,000 of assessed home value. That's $98 per year for the owner of a $200,000 house. But taxpayers must prioritize their expenditures, including their property taxes.

Some people have suggested that the transit board is politically tone-deaf — unaware or unable to build support among civic leaders.

We prefer to think that board members are so passionate about transit — for good reason — that they count on others to share their enthusiasm. They have led a grass-roots campaign, holding scores of meetings.

If the levy fails, the district has warned bus and CherryLift riders to expect an end to Saturday service, as well as weekday reductions on many routes. Those could be devastating to service-industry workers, students, people traveling to medical appointments and others who depend on public transit.

But this also could force a community discussion of what an effective, efficient transit system would look like if it were being designed from scratch — and how to pay for it.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Oregon Federal Candidates Health Care Forum

Oregonians for Health Security is hosting a Federal Candidates Health Care Forum at Willamette University next Thursday, October 23rd from 7-9pm. Jeff Merkley and Kurt Schrader have confirmed and we are awaiting responses from Gordon Smith and Mike Erickson. Ron Mauer will be in attendance and the event will be moderated by Jack Ohman.  ( See attached flier) We will be discussing a number of topics in health care, including Medicare, Insurance & Accountability, Workforce & Delivery and Financing.
There will be time to ask your own questions of the candidates regarding health care as well.
For questions about the event or to rsvp, contact Greg at Oregonians for Health Security. 888-654-2273
Thank you!
Ariel Brantley-Dalglish

Communications Coordinator

Oregonians for Health Security

(503) 239-8800 office

(646) 620-3870 cell

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Peak Oil Lecture in Salem

Free lecture Wednesday to focus on oil production

Salem residents are invited to a free lecture about peak oil production at 7 p.m. Wednesday at
Salem Public Library, 585 Liberty St SE.

John Kaufmann, a senior policy analyst for Oregon Department of Energy, will present evidence for and against peak oil production. He will discuss why it matters, including the role of oil in our society.

The program will explore the effects of peak oil, and compare supply-side and demand-side alternatives.

Kaufmann has led energy-efficiency and renewable-energy efforts with Oregon Department of Energy for 25 years.
He led Oregon's efforts to adopt the nation's most energy-efficient residential and nonresidential building codes.

He also was lead staffer to the Portland Peak Oil Task Force. Portland was the first city to plan for peak oil.

The program is sponsored by League of Women Voters of Marion & Polk Counties.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Great Question: Our environment vs. Development, are they exclusive ideas?

Salem:  Our Environment vs. Development are they exclusive ideas?

"Since the creation of the world his invisible attributes are clearly seen--his everlasting power and divinity--being understood through the things that he made."  Romans 1: 20-23 

How do we rate as stewards of the land and natural resources?

What's happening in our community--are conditions setting us up for flooding that might be worse than 1996?

Is the City of Salem in compliance with State Land Use regulations?

  What impact does this have on Salem's future? 

You're invited to attend a forum:

Sunday, October 19, 2008 at 2:00 p.m. at

First Congregational Church,

United Church of Christ

700 Marion Street NE, Salem, Oregon

 Huntington Room on the lower level 

Sponsored by The Comprehensive Plan Supporters

Questions: 503-588-6924

Speaks Volumes: Demand management and transit as afterthoughts

A very revealing message is contained in this latest schedule update from the big firm running the environmental impact statement (EIS) for the "Salem River Crossing" project:  the section headed Transit/TSM/TDM [italics added] reveals that, just as it appeared to those who attend project meetings, there has been no meaningful consideration of ideas for managing bridge use during the peak use periods rather than trying to find financing to build a $600+ million bridge.

In other words, the whole exercise has been about trying to ram through an already-preferred idea (an expensive new bridge) rather than a fresh look at the issues and search for alternatives.

Now that the economy is melting down, the chances of Salem being able to get federal funds or make up a local share for a third bridge are dwindling even further.  Meanwhile, we will continue to pay millions to CH2M-Hill to produce a report to present the foregone conclusion desired by the road gang.

Dear Task Force and Oversight Team:

Since our meetings this summer, the Project Team has continued to make progress on the Salem River Crossing project. Here are several updates with respect to progress and the schedule for publishing the Draft EIS.

Alternative 2B
As you know, the Project Team identified this new alternative this summer and then reviewed it with the Task Force and Oversight Team at meetings in July and September. Alternative 2B consists of a new bridge between the Marion Street bridge and the Union Street future pedestrian/bicycle bridge. A description and drawings are posted on the website at <> .

Adding this alternative to the EIS strengthens the study by providing an alternative unlike the others and providing context that will help us better understand the costs and benefits of the other alternatives. 

At the May Task Force meeting, we identified a subcommittee of Task Force members to work with the project team to further develop the transit/TSM/TDM options to be incorporated into each of the alternatives in the EIS. At the first meeting of that group in July, there was disagreement about several key issues, including which options should be studied in the EIS and why. As a result, the Project Team called a "time out" while the approach was clarified. This has now been completed and has been communicated to the transit/TSM/TDM subcommittee. We will send you more information on this approach once the subcommittee has finished their review.

Schedule for Draft EIS
The time needed to resolve these two issues was not anticipated in the project schedule. The net result is a delay of about 4 months. While most recently we forecast that the Draft EIS would be published in the spring of 2009, we now expect it to be the end of the summer. While there is clearly time pressure on this project - for example, efforts to secure funding as part of the upcoming reauthorization of the Federal transportation bill - going fast at the expense of quality is risky. EIS's rarely get challenged on technical grounds but are often challenged on procedural grounds.

We will work to make up any time we can in the schedule and to avoid further delays. Part of the time to prepare a Draft EIS is for technical analysis and writing. But a large part consists of reviews by the many agency stakeholders in the project (including the Task Force and Oversight Team). Assuming no unforeseen technical issues, the largest "unknown" in the EIS schedule is the review and approval by FHWA. The project team coordinates regularly with the local FHWA staff to understand and address issues the agency may have. Unfortunately, however, the FHWA review is done partly outside the local office and our ability to coordinate further is limited. 

Please be assured that the consultant staff and agency staff are working to prepare a Draft EIS as quickly and cost-effectively as possible while assuring it is procedurally air-tight. Thank you for your patience and understanding. Please let us know if you have questions or would like to discuss further.

Tim Burkhardt, AICP
(503) 872-4495

2020 SW 4th Avenue, Suite 300
Portland, OR 97201
Front Desk (503) 235-5000
Fax (503) 736-2000 <> 

Saturday, October 11, 2008

NOW on PBS - Driven to Despair

Week of 10.10.08

Reinventing American Transportation

By Maria Zimmerman

Maria Zimmerman is a policy director for Transportation For America, a coalition which aims to create a world-class transportation system in the U.S.

It is a challenging time for most Americans. The stock market is down, way down. Energy costs are up, housing values are down. General anxiety levels are high.

Hanging over it all is a sense that we have come to the end of the road with our over-dependence on oil, which is threatening our national security and the family pocketbook. Somehow we must turn the page to a new era as we revive our economy and improve the quality of life for American households.

This realization is particularly acute in our suburbs. For decades part of their allure for homeowners and businesses was the combined attraction of lower land costs and lower energy costs. That equation is being tested, and increasingly America's suburbs are looking for ways to provide more transit options, develop urban mixed-use centers, and build sidewalks and trails. The reinvention of America's suburbs may be one of the most stunning evolutions of the 21st Century.

"The reinvention of America's suburbs may be one of the most stunning evolutions of the 21st Century."

As a critical first step, we need to make a commitment to building an infrastructure for the future on a scale similar to the one we made to the Interstate Highway system 50 years ago. But this time, we need to focus on completing our transportation system with inter-city trains, world-class public transportation and streets that are safe for walking and biking, as we restore our existing roads and bridges to good repair.

These investments will help stabilize our economy in the short-term as they lay the groundwork for the future, while helping millions of Americans in our daily lives, reducing our national dependence on oil and making for a cleaner, greener and less energy-intensive future.

Today, transportation is the second highest household expense after housing. America has invested in a stunning national highway system, but lags far behind other nations in building transit and high speed rail corridors that could complete our national transportation system.

For some families, long commutes and a lack of affordable or convenient transit mean that they are actually spending more on transportation than housing, particularly in exurban areas where people have relied upon the "drive until you qualify" approach to homeownership. And yet for those who do have transit available, they are saving almost $9,500 per year. Public transportation already saves the U.S. 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline each year.

Providing the transit, walking and biking infrastructure so that more people in our growing nation can live in closer proximity to daily needs and use their cars less could save billions more gallons of oil. It can also restore value to many of our urban neighborhoods: In most regions, homes near jobs and/or transit stations are holding their value, while those with the longest commutes are seeing steep declines and little buyer interest.

"In most regions, homes near jobs and/or transit stations are holding their value, while those with the longest commutes are seeing steep declines and little buyer interest."

America has a long history of visionary transportation investment that has left a sizable imprint on our landscape and world standing. Our canals, railroads, bridges, and highways have shaped settlement patterns and served as the backbone of our economy. While these investments shaped the past, it is time now to ask what kind of investments America needs today when gasoline prices are high, oil dependence is a national threat, climate change is threatening the globe, and families are looking for more affordable and reliable options.

The next president and Congress should endorse a bold program to build modern, world-class train and bus systems in our cities and towns, high-speed rail that connects urban and rural areas, complete streets safe for biking and walking, and to get our highways, bridges and existing transit in tip-top shape.

We can do this by following this five-point plan:

1. BUILD TO COMPETE. We must catch and pass competitors in China and Europe, by modernizing and expanding our rail and transit networks to connect the metro regions that are the engines of the modern economy and improve freight connections.

2. INVEST FOR A CLEAN, GREEN RECOVERY. Our nation's clean energy future will require cleaner vehicles and new fuels, but it also must include support for the cleanest forms of transportation - modern public transit, walking and biking - and for energy-efficient, sustainable development.

3. FIX IT FIRST. Before building new roads that will themselves have to be maintained, we should restore our crumbling highways, bridges and transit systems and protect the investments we have made in existing communities.

4. DO NO HARM. Although there are many transportation projects in the "pipeline," we must reevaluate them to eliminate wasteful spending on projects with little economic return, especially any that could deepen, rather than relieve, Americans' dependence on oil and gasoline.

5. SAVE AMERICANS MONEY. We must provide more travel options that will help people to avoid high gas costs and traffic congestion, so that Americans can spend their money and time in economically productive ways. We also can save taxpayer dollars by asking the private developers who reap real estate rewards from new rail stations and transit lines to contribute toward that service.

"Public ridership on transit is at a fifty-year high."

Already, Americans are voting with their feet. Public ridership on transit is at a fifty-year high, and local ballot measures to invest in new transit service are passing overwhelmingly in communities large and small across the country. A growing list of states is trying to fund faster train service between cities as an alternative to air travel. Yet federal support for these kinds of initiatives is lacking, and stuck in 20th century funding silos and bureaucracy.

Only half of Americans have access to any public transportation and most live in places where driving is a must. Even if options do exist, six in 10 public transportation systems are overburdened as people flock to them to avoid high gas prices. Meanwhile, our metro areas are absorbing millions of new residents as our population grows toward 400 million, and they must be prepared to accommodate them while remaining livable.

This time, we can't afford to invest precious transportation dollars as though we are expecting a return to cheap gasoline. We need to invest in a way that reduces our vulnerability to oil shocks and price increases while making our economy stronger, our households wealthier and our climate safer.

Transportation for America <>

Week of 10.10.08

Driven to Despair


With gas prices spiking and home values crumbling, the American dream of commuting to work from the fringes of suburbia has become an American nightmare. Many are facing a hard choice: Paying for gas or paying the mortgage. How did it come to this? It's not just about America's financial crisis; it's also about big problems with our national infrastructure. Overstressed highways and too few public transportation options are wreaking havoc on people's lives and hitting the brakes on our already-stretched economy.

This week, NOW on PBS takes a close-up look at our inadequate transportation network and visits some people paying a high price—in both dollars and quality of life—just to get to work. Do we have the means to modernize both our infrastructure and our lifestyles?

Friday, October 10, 2008

A great idea for Salem

An important idea for Salem

The Henry George Foundation publishes an "Incentive Taxation (IT)" newsletter that talks about an important historical idea for a better tax system:  one that shifts taxes off productive activity and onto land ownership.  This is both fair and efficient -- fair because most of the value of land is created by people other than the owner, efficient because land ownership is the one source of wealth that is not diminished by a tax.

As the new reality brings the return of hard times to America, cities that are willing to innovate and to rethink the basics are the ones that are going to thrive.  Any town that's willing to move taxation off of improvements (buildings) and onto land ownership will see a revival of its urban core.  Look at the many gaps in the urban fabric in Salem -- this is caused by the number of unused and underused lots, which are owned by speculators.  Land value taxation (LVT), the system discussed in the piece below, is the solution.  While the article below is about Philadelphia, the points apply to every city in the US.

[Incentive Taxation or IT] is based in Philadelphia, PA, and the hammer is starting to come down; Philly is not alone, however. A search of news stories from across the country tells the tale: from annually distressed Pittsburgh, PA (since they lost LVT) to usually robust Columbus, OH. The implosion on Wall Street is forcing New York City to consider higher property taxes; summer flooding in Cedar Rapids, IA, wrecked much of the tax base causing tax hikes, and Las Vegas/Clark County is seeing foreclosures and tumbling revenues, as are California and Georgia. 

The Philadelphia Story 

Mayor Michael Nutter hinted at trouble recently, when he indicated that a deficit of $450 million over five years is looming. Some believe $90 Million a year (around 2.25% of the total budget) is not a big deal, but it is[1] . Cities have to face the fact that in the near to mid-term businesses will contract, and the returns on invested pension funds will be much lower than forecast. 

For decades, Philadelphians have lived with taxes that led to job loss and a declining population. The "new" Center City is great, but it is simply filling a vacuum of empty offices that small to medium firms abandoned for the 'burbs because they didn't have the connections and the clout to get great deals and abatements. 

Perhaps the expense side of Philadelphia should be trimmed, as the local editorials are saying. Small savings add up quickly in a city budget that pays not just for essential services but camps, concerts, and flowers in the park. 

If we as a community think we ought to have these things, we must find a source of revenue that is stable – one depending less on a tax vulnerable to the shocks of global financial markets and totters on a volatile small base, which defines the most taxes on business. 

Isn't it time to increase tax revenue by switching from taxes on mobile businesses and jobs? If so, then what do we tax? Wages? No way! Sales? A regressive tax! 

Property tax? Better, but the property tax is two taxes, both with very different characteristics and behaviors. The first, a tax on buildings, hurts the best that our community has to offer: those that want to build and maintain their properties. The second, a tax on land value, would put downward pressure on sites making them more affordable. 

Any economist will tell you that land values are not created by someone's hard work, but rather one's community neighbors. A high land value tax means that community-created land values come back to us as revenue. A low tax on land produces lots that sit vacant for years, inviting land speculation, and parking lots where buildings should be. A tax on land value has provided a stable revenue source in Arden, DE[2]

So, let the tax reductions continue, as the reformers of the recent past (led by Michael Nutter) envisioned. $90 million annually can be raised elsewhere, not least by initiating a higher tax on land values. This would guarantee that: small business would not be socked; high value locations would fill in with shops, and homeowners see a lower tax since their land is further out. Tax reduction "signals" creating jobs, and commerce would strengthen without hurting revenue flows so essential to Philadelphia. 

Thursday, October 9, 2008

More on Urban Chickens

WorldWatch notes that chickenmania is spreading.  Now that our economy is headed back into a Great Depression, time to learn from the wisdom of people who lived through it.

A few chickens on a city lot keeps down pests -- they eat slugs! -- provides good fertilizer, and provides nutritious, inexpensive food.  What's not to like?

Monday, October 6, 2008

LOVESalem Endorsements

Please make sure you are registered -- verify!  See prior post for information on how to verify your registration.  And please make sure to vote the WHOLE ballot -- do NOT, repeat, do NOT, just vote a race or two at the top and stop.

In fact, why not start at the bottom, where your vote is FAR more powerful than in the marquee races at the top, and then work up?  Your votes on every line WILL determine Salem's future, but nowhere more so than in the local issues and candidates.

Basically, there are so few YES votes that we can list them up front before going through everything:

YES:  24-247 (Cherriots)
YES:  Measure 56 (no "double majority" rule in May & November elections)
YES:  Measure 57 (the alternative property crimes initiative)  

Vote NO on everything else with a clear conscience.  

Here's the details:

YES for 24-247 (Cherriots).  This is the probably the single most important YES vote on your ballot this time, in terms of destructive potential if it fails.   Salem's bus service is starved already and, predictably, criticized for it.  If this small operating bond ($49/yr per $100,000 of property value) fails, then, not only will we kiss Saturday service goodbye but we'll make Oregon's capital city a prison for the elderly and handicapped, who will no longer be able to get around on CherryLift service either.  This is a matter of life and death:  people who are isolated are at much greater risk for depression and the ensuing health problems.  

NO on 24-248 ("Keep Salem Moving in Cars").  This is one where you can let your tightwad come through and feel fine.  This is a bond measure that presumes that we can keep on widening, paving, and adding lanes ad infinitum, with no thought for the day of reckoning that is actually upon us.  Worse, the campaign has been deceptive enough to fool many -- Salem Monthly editorializes in favor of it by emphasizing that "no new bridges will be made with the passing of this measure."  True -- but that just proves that they also missed the "strategic right of way acquisitions" larded in with this turkey.

The worst part of this measure is that it continues and even makes the rampage of the sprawl monster worse because it shifts even more of the costs for road upkeep off of drivers and onto all property owners.  This is environmentally destructive and economically suicidal, because it means that, as we keep expanding our road network with property tax funds, the costs of maintenance will climb just as high.  Before long, we'll be told that we have to send even more of our property tax money to the road gang.

The first rule of holes is "Stop digging."  Salem and Marion County have gotten us into a deep hole by funding more sprawl than drivers pay for, and so they want to keep reaching into the pockets of the residents rather than figuring out how to put the burden on the drivers.  It's time to stop.  Until these bonds keep failing, there will be no fix at the legislature, and the city will continue to sprawl and then turn around and cry poor.  This $100 million bond should simply fail, so that the local transportation folks redirect the millions now being spent on planning for a third bridge into local repair priorities.

24-249:  No recommendation for S-K School bond.   There's just not a good enough rationale for supporting this bond, given what we can see around the corner into the future.  S-K schools are the epitome of suburban sprawl schools, totally dependent on building patterns and bus systems that presume an endless supply of cheap energy is ours for the asking.  Sorry, wrong answer.  The most important thing our schools could be doing right now is helping kids become aware of the dire situation we'll be leaving for them to manage and giving them some of the skills that will be so essential to them, starting with learning to respond creatively to natural limits rather than with more of the same.

Classes overcrowded?  Have we gone to double-shifts and year-round schooling, with options for kids to take classes in the community and online?  The worst thing we can do for kids is create a bubble called "school" where they are insulated from the new realities that we must all deal with:  peak oil and the urgent need to radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  This bond does nothing for these imperatives, and so does not really deserve to pass.

Measure 56: End the "Double Majority" rule for May & November elections.  YES indeed!
Regardless of your position on any particular measure, the rule ought to be the ancient rule of democracy:  Majority rules.  But now, with the insidious "double majority" requirement, even victorious property tax votes lose because a non-voter is counted as a no-voter.  This is absurd -- obviously the more correct and reasonable assumption is that non-voters would have voted along the same lines as those who bothered to vote.  After all, it's essentially like a super opinion poll drawn from people in the same jurisdiction.  Counting non-voters as no voters (which is what the double majority rule does) gives unearned and undeserved power to the apathetic, the uninvolved and the uninformed.  

While many property tax measures merit defeat, they should be defeated on those merits, not on the basis of a bizarre rule that gives nonvoters more power than voters.

Measure 57:  The slightly less destructive alternative to Measure 61:  Here's a measure that ought to be an easy no vote.  Except that it's on the ballot so that, if both it and Measure 61 pass, this one should have more votes and will control (rather than the insane and MORE destructive Measure 61).  There doesn't seem to be a way around it:  you gotta hold your nose and vote Yes on 57, no matter how tempting it is to vote No on both.  If people concerned for the well-being of places like Salem simply vote no on both, then Measure 61 is likely to pass with the more votes than 57, which will be a disaster.  

Measures 58-65: NO to all.  
There is very little that could be more harmful than letting a crooked ignoramus run your state, but that's pretty much what Bill Sizemore is attempting with his handful of pet measures, some of which are simply personal whims of his own.  Convicted of racketeering yet somehow able to keep pumping money from Loren Parks into the Oregon initiative system like it was his own personal slot machine, Sizemore offers a panoply of really reprehensible, damaging measures. If any of these pass, Salem will suffer greatly.

  Measure 58:  Maximum of two years instruction in languages other than English.  Why two years?  Why any fixed limit?  What problem exactly is this measure intended to solve, other than Sizemore's perennial "I bleed the system by running initiatives so I have to keep coming up with new ones" problem.  This could be titled the "push struggling students to drop out and marginal students to act out" initiative.  Vote No on Measure 58.  And volunteer at your local school if you are concerned with helping English-language learners succeed.

  Measure 59:  Make federal income taxes fully deductible on Oregon income tax returns.  Aiiiy-yaiii-yaiii, this is the king snake in the grass.  Even with the limited progressivity of the federal tax system, the benefits of this one are ALL titled towards the deepest pockets in the state, the people who pay serious coin to the feds at tax time.  In other words, this demolishes the ability of the State of Oregon to budget or provide vital services because of decisions made in Washington DC about taxation.  Brilliant.  Sure, you and I will save a few bucks on our Oregon income tax --- which we'll have to match with many many more because our state budget crunch will make the 2003 round of cuts look like puppy love.  This one is the "Bill Sizemore wants Oregon to be more like Mississippi" initiative.  Vote NO on Measure 59 - we'll never be rich enough to afford this tax break.

  Measure 60: Teacher pay set by "classroom performance."  You know, if this is such a hot idea, how about we decide who gets to deduct their children on their taxes by parental performance?After all, parents have a lot more to do with student achievement than teachers ever will or possibly can have -- if Johnny's a thug and a vandal and Jane is cutting on herself and fooling around with dope and drinking, why should parents get a tax break for "raising" them?  Fair's fair -- if we link teacher pay to the classroom performance of 180 of other peoples' kids, then we sure as hell ought to link the parents' ability to claim those kids as tax deductions to that same performance.  This is another "Soundbite" initiative that is far more pernicious than it sounds at first bite.  Vote No on Measure 60.

  Measure 61:  the Kevin Mannix "I thought I would be running for Congress with this tuff-on-crime while bankrupting the state" initiative.  This is the hands-down winner for "don't bother me with facts, I just want to lash out" initiative.  As Measure 11 costs continue to climb, turning judges into powerless traffic cops and making schools and public services compete for scraps at the general fund table, Mannix plans to extend the idea of inflexible, one-size-fits-all sentencing to property crimes, including for first-time offenders, the ones most likely to benefit from a diversion that keeps them from becoming part of the prison culture.  Apparently Mannix is of a mind that the way to fight property crime is to send more small timers to graduate school for criminals, a/k/a "the big house."  Talk about the flaming bag of dogpoop on the porch -- we will be very sorry indeed if we do anything other than send this back with a resounding NO.  Vote No on Measure 61.

  Measure 62:  Mandatory 15% of lottery to police.  Dumb.  The one thing we really elect legislators for is to make choices about priorities and spending to match them.  Enshrining arbitrary percentages of any revenue stream for anything is dumb.  At the heart of all measures like this is a deeply undemocratic impulse, the urge to take away discretion from the Legislature, just like mandatory minimums take discretion away from judges.  Vote No on Measure 62.

  Measure 63:  No building permits needed for improvements less than $35k.  Ooooookay then, so much for the rhetorical fervor for "local control."  This not only tosses local control out the window but basically will create ghettoes in Oregon, places where property owners need never bother with new-fangled fancy ideas like foundations or vapor barriers, because who's gonna stop them?  What problem is this designed to solve?  Oh, yeah, that one -- the "I get paid to rake cash off the initiative system" one.  I hope the family of the first firefighter killed by a $34,000 "homeowner special" that collapses during a fire remembers who brought this little gem up.  Vote NO on Measure 63, especially if you ever plan to buy or rent a place to live in Oregon in the future.

  Measure 64:  no payroll checkoffs for union political action funds.  Again and again, all over America, clowns like Sizemore keep beating the drum against the "Big Bad Union Bosses" --- meanwhile, the declining strength of unions has had everything to do with what's wrong with America's economic system.   Anyone who doesn't want their money going to a union fund already has a way to prevent it, so what problem is this about?  Oh, yeah, that one again ...  Vote NO on Measure 64.

  Measure 65:  "Top Two" primary ("Cajun Primary").   This absurd measure proposes to end Oregon's fairly-standard primary/general election system and replace it with one taken from --- wait for it --- Louisiana of all places, best known for almost making David Duke an elected official in high office.   Basically, in a bizarre fixation on getting "independent voters" --- that is, the ones who have chosen NOT to affiliate with a party --- into the act of nominating the candidates who carry the party banner (I know, it makes no sense, but stay with me), Phil Kiesling has decided that what really needs to happen is to put the people with the LEAST political knowledge and interest in charge.  That is, according to Kiesling, what Oregon needs is LESS passionate activism to influence public policy.  Apparently, what we need is even MORE rule by last-minute swings by the apathetic and barely involved in response to the latest attack ads.  The worst part of this is that Salem Monthly endorsed it, while saying that the real answer is to "get rid of the two-party system."  Way to shoot yourself in the foot then, because if this thing passes, there will be no more minor parties in Oregon after a short while.

This measure is so wrong-headed that it's hard to know where to begin.  Opposed by every single party in Oregon, right down the line:  See for more reasons.  Vote NO on Measure 65.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Verify your voter registration, or register by 10/14!

One of the worst things that nearly all states do is require voter registration, usually weeks in advance of the election ... in other words, just as the campaigns hit their crescendo, the registration window is already closed.

Advance registration is not necessary -- Wisconsin, among other states, allows same-day registration, proving that every state could provide the same service if registration wasn't some political football.

The bottom line is this:

  You don't have to register to pay taxes.

  Why do you have to register to vote?

Meanwhile, Oregon, like most states, has an absurd registration barrier, with registration closing this year on October 14, 2008. 

You can verify your current registration  here:

There are a number of important issues on the ballot this year from the perspective of people who want to live their values for the environment and for society here in Salem.  So make sure you're registered, and if not, contact the elections office and get that way!

Marion County:
Polk County:

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Another for the Calendar: Completely Cuckoo

Completely Cuckoo: The Making of a Blockbuster and the Challenges of Mental Illness

6:30 pm. Wednesday, October 8 �� Loucks Auditorium

This two-part evening begins with a viewing of Completely Cuckoo, a documentary about the making of the Hollywood blockbuster One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. The fi lm will be introduced by Dr. Dean Books, the superintendent of the Oregon State Hospital from 1955 to 1981 who played the role of Dr. Spivey in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

The documentary Completely Cuckoo by fi lmmaker Charles Kiselyak includes interviews with author Ken Kesey, producers Michael Douglas and Saul Zaentz, director Milos Forman, actors Danny DeVitto, Louise Fletcher (the ill-spirited nurse Ratched), among many others, including Dr. Dean Brooks.

Following the film, Dr. Brooks will be on hand for a question and answer session, joined by retired psychiatrist Dr. Prasanna Pati and the staff from Northwest Human Services HOAP Program who will address issues related to mental health. This event, part of National Mental Illness Awareness Week, is intended to be both entertaining and informative. It's free on a first-come, first-seated basis.

Mark your calendar: An important workshop

As times get harder, we're going to need to learn to be a lot smarter about what we do with kids who are heading down the wrong road. We can't afford more of the throw 'em away and forget 'em method of responding to juvenile offenders. Kids can do real harm, to themselves and others, but they are also (in most cases) salvageable if their behavior is dealt with intelligently and firmly. Giving kids a chance to make amends as part of their punishment is a very smart strategy.

You can visit the "Big House" here in Salem anytime to see how well the "crack the whip" model works with juvenile offenders. What we need is a model that sets firm limits but recognizes that juveniles are still making the choice about whether to give up on themselves or not -- and that society can influence the choice.

N2N is sponsoring a continuing education workshop for Victim Offender
mediators and mediators interested in Juvenile Victim Offender Mediation.
Please pass on the attached flyer to any you think may be interested.

Charles Franklin Ikard
Executive Director
Neighbor to Neighbor, Inc.
945 Columbia St. NE
Salem, OR 97301

Is sponsoring
Presented by Eric Gilman, Restorative Justice Coordinator, Clark County Juvenile Court

Description: What is Restorative Justice? This workshop presents the key tenets of what it means to bring a restorative perspective to the work of juvenile justice. Restorative Justice is more than a program. We will look at the key principles and values, the language, and the basic implications of Restorative Justice and how its impact on juvenile justice is understood and practiced.

Who: Juvenile Victim Offender Mediators, Community Members, Law Enforcement, Service Agencies, etc.
When: December 5, 2008 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Where: North Neighborhood Resource Center, 945 Columbia St. NE, Salem, Oregon
(The location may be changed dependent upon registration)

Cost: $25.00 (Group discounts and scholarships available) Make checks payable to” Neighbor-to-Neighbor, Inc.”

Registration: Call or email Neighbor-to-Neighbor for information. Early registration appreciated.

Beverages will be provided.

Presenter Bio: Eric B. Gilman is the Restorative Justice Coordinator and Community Programs Supervisor for the Clark County Juvenile Court (Washington). In his role as RJ Coordinator Eric provides coordination for the juvenile court management team’s ongoing development and implementation of a holistic Balanced & Restorative Justice foundation for the work of the court. This endeavor has resulted in a number of highly successful programs and innovative practices. Additionally, as Community Programs Supervisor, Eric is responsible for the department’s Victim Impact Program, Restorative Community
Service Program, and its Diversion Program, which includes Community Accountability Boards.

Events at a Salem Treasure (Straub Environmental Learning Center)

TONIGHT! Thursday, October 2, 2008, 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

"Green Building: The New Revolution is Here" Lecture by Jerry Yudelson

Free of charge; 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 at the Paulus Lecture Hall of 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, Yudelson 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.

Saturday, October 4th, 8:30 am - 4:00 pm

Salem Green + Solar Home Tour

Guest Speaker at 9:00 am: "The Do's and Don'ts of Green Remodeling" by


Registration begins at 8:30 am at Pringle Creek Community, 2110 Strong Rd. SE. Cost: $15 per car, carpooling encouraged, Bicyclists free.

Salem's second annual Tour of Green + Solar Homes will include tours of eleven homes that demonstrate energy efficient and environmentally- responsible techniques. Individuals will visit the homes of their choice as a self-guided tour, including 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.

Saturday, October 18th, 9:00 am - 12:00 pm

Restoration Work Day!

Friends of Straub Environmental Learning Center, 1320 A Street NE, Salem

Join us for a great volunteer activity at our monthly Restoration Work Day. On the third Saturday of every month, volunteers work to help protect our oak savannah and riparian restoration sites adjacent to our building. Bring gloves and dress appropriately for the weather!

Tuesday, October 21st, 7:00 pm

Native Plant Society monthly meeting

Friends of Straub Environmental Learning Center, 1320 A Street NE, Salem

Thursday, October 23rd, 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Annual FSELC Lecture Series: Dr. Ellen Morris Bishop

"Past Voices, Future Choices: Lessons from the Rocks"

Loucks Auditorium, Salem Public Library, 585 Liberty Street SE, Salem

Join us for our first Lecture Series presentation of the 2008-09 season! Oregon's fascinating geological history offers deep insights into the environmental and resource challenges we face today. Dr. Ellen Morris Bishop will talk about how to read Oregon¡¯s geological record and apply

its lessons to help Oregon craft a brighter future. Dr. Bishop is Executive Director of the Oregon Paleo Lands Institute. Her books include In Search of Ancient Oregon: A Geological and Natural History, Hiking Oregon's Geology, and Best Hikes with Dogs: Oregon.

Monday, October 27th, 7:00 pm

== Plastics and Human Health ==

presentation by the Physicians for Social Responsibility, Oregon Chapter

Friends of Straub Environmental Learning Center, 1320 A Street NE, Salem

View a presentation by the Physicians for Social Responsibility regarding recent research on how plastics potentially affect human health.