The Most Important Graph in the World

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. . . .

YesForCherriots!

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 (www.walkscore.com) 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.

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