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.