Thursday, December 31, 2009

Planning to Fail While Not Failing to Plan

Billboard of an Ostrich with it's Head in the ...The guiding image of Salem's transportation planning. Image by sameold2008 via Flickr

There's a saying popular in the self-help press that "Failure to plan is planning to fail." Of course, sometimes planning is used to chart a course towards failure anyway --- as with Salem's fetishistic attachment to the bizarre notion of a third auto bridge across the Willamette, a fantastically expensive and wasteful idea that completely ignores the reality of our energy future and the need to radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Someone in Seattle puts it best, speaking of their latest carhead boondoggle, a huge tunnel right next to the soupy soils abutting Puget Sound. The point is that the technocratic planning bureaucracy is fundamentally unable to respond to an existential challenge like the climate crisis because the technocrats working in the trenches use the analysis tools designed for business as usual to estimate the effects of all the proposals. And none of those tools are programmed to offer a "survival of civilization despite ourselves" pathway.
Seattle's viaduct replacement debate has generated an untold volume of analysis, opinion, and argument. It's also generated at least one PhD dissertation.

Kevin Ramsey, a geography student at the University of Washington, takes a look at the way that concerns about climate change have been deployed in the debate over the replacement. (Abstract; summary; full text.) I'll confess that I haven't made my way through the entire 250 pages, but it strikes me as providing some fascinating analysis of the politics:

. . . agency planners incorporated concerns about climate change through an extension of their own established logics of transportation planning rather than through a fundamental reconsideration of Seattle’s automobile-centric transportation system.

More surprisingly, I found that stakeholders themselves helped make this happen. They did so by supporting (and even advocating) the use of travel demand models to predict the quantity of future greenhouse gas emissions from alternative viaduct replacement scenarios. Isolating the consideration of climate change to this single evaluation measure essentially enabled the issue to be treated as an afterthought in the planning process, rather than a motivator for reformulating the planning process altogether. It also ensured that the calculation of future greenhouse gas emissions was subject to the same kinds of assumptions regarding demand for automobile travel that activists had already contested for years. These assumptions were reflected in the agencies’ findings: all proposed viaduct replacement scenarios (including three that do not include a highway) were predicted to increase greenhouse gas emissions in the Seattle region to 14-15% above current levels by the year 2015.

The upshot, according to Ramsey, is that highway planners were able to essentially co-opt concerns about climate emissions into a business-as-usual approach to road building. The antidote, he says, is for advocates to level more fundamental challenges to the large systems that provide for automobile-dominated infrastructure.
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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Save the dates: Salem Progressive Film Series - Winter/Spring 2010


Thursday, January 14, 2010 --
Scarred Lands and Wounded Lives-The Environmental Footprint of War
In all its stages, from the production of weapons through combat to cleanup and restoration, war is comprised of elements that pollute land, air, and water, destroy biodiversity and entire ecosystems, and drain our limited natural resources. This outstanding, timely, new film explores the crucial need for public scrutiny of the ecological impact of war and reminds us of the importance of accountability and sustainability.
Thursday, February 11, 2010 -- A Sea of Change
This documentary broadens the discussion about the dramatic changes we are seeing in the chemistry of the oceans, and conveys the urgent threat those changes pose to our survival, while surveying the steps we can take to reduce the severity of climate change. It offers positive examples of new technologies and effective changes in human behavior that we all must choose before the oceans are lost.
Thursday, March 11, 2010 -- Manufactured Landscapes
From its stunning eight-minute opening shot to the remarkable documentation of China's Three Gorges Dam, Manufactured Landscapes is an impressive experience. That's partly due to the size and space of the landscapes, but mostly because of the beauty of the images--their composition and color. The goal of the photographer is to portray humanity's relationship to nature as we pursue progress. His images are striking and picturesque, leaving viewers on their own to comprehend the negative global ramifications. [Truly a stunning film; can't wait to see it on a full-size screen.]
Thursday, April 8, 2010 - Secrecy
With homeland security and the war on terror becoming increasingly important issues, the U.S. government has grown more and more secretive, allegedly to protect the country and save lives. But is this culture of secrets at odds with democracy? This documentary examines both the pros and cons of government concealment by focusing on classified secrets and the arguments the government makes in the name of national security.
Thursday, May 13, 2010 - Good Food
For decades small family farmers have been disappearing, but there is new life in the fields, orchards and pastures of the Pacific Northwest and in the business community to help sustain them. In Good Food we see the beautiful landscapes of the Pacific Northwest and meet some of the leaders in bringing good food to tables across the region. The film makes the important personal connection between the source and your table.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Yes, please! Utility-provided solar hot water --- mmmm, mmmm, good!

Roof CollectorEvacuated tube solar hot water panel much like those providing much of the hot water used every year at LOVESalem HQ. Image by guate84105 via Flickr

Just got a survey from NW Natural (the gas company) -- it was all about whether NW Natural would find a receptive market for an offer to put a utility-installed, -owned, and -maintained solar hot water heater on the roof here at LOVESalem HQ in return for a monthly hot water service fee (presumably it would have a natural gas backup).

That's a GREAT idea. As the survey pointed out, Salem gets about the national average in solar energy flux, so we're not nearly as deficient as you might think during a few months in the winter. I'd leap on this in a minute -- if LOVESalem HQ didn't already have a nifty solar hot water heat system provided by Salem's own Ron Summers of Summers Solar. But had NW Natural's offering been available, there's no doubt we'd have gone that way.

This is something we need to see a lot more of from every institution -- utilities especially, but also city and county governments: figuring out ways to get homeowners and renters over the financing barrier that makes renewable energy and efficiency improvements such a high hurdle. The hot water system we installed cost $8100, but the final cost after the federal tax credit, Oregon tax credit, and the Energy Trust of Oregon rebate was only $3700. We were lucky in that we had the cash from a prior home sale available so we could swing the $8100. But not a lot of people have that kind of cash sitting around just after buying a house -- and even those who could swing the $3700 final cost would have cash-flow problems with the up-front $8100.

By setting up a revolving loan fund for renewables and efficiency improvements, Salem could tie payment for the systems to the property tax bill and collection system and wind up helping the whole community, combat economic insecurity, raise property values, provide good local jobs, and reduce the amount of money that leaves the city every month for utilities. What are we waiting for?
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Sunday, December 27, 2009

The discussions we need to be having before we need them

GoodbyeImage by Flatbush Gardener via Flickr

Have you prepared your end of life care instructions?

Because, if not, you risk winding up getting what someone else thinks is the right thing for you. Unless you make your wishes known, you could be turned into a hockey puck for monstrous, morally bankrupt and vicious people to try to use to score political points.
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Ending on a good note!

ECP banner 9-9-09May it echo from a thousand overpasses, and then in coffeehouses, and then in legislatures all across the land. Image by Public Citizen via Flickr

Whoa, a local political body has actually noticed one of the key ingredients needed for a renewal of political and social well-being: stop honoring the legal fiction that property can acquire constitutional rights. More like this, please!

This Resolution was passed by the State Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Oregon on Dec. 6th, 2009.

This is not an official copy but should be pretty close
2009-043: Opposing Corporate Personhood
RESOLUTION 2009-043
A RESOLUTION OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF OREGON

WHEREAS, (as stated in the preamble to our Oregon State Democratic Platform) “...as Oregon Democrats, we assert that the citizens of our state and our country ARE the government, we hold up the Bill of Rights and derived civil liberties as the enduring standard of liberty, and we firmly oppose abrogation of those rights and liberties in the name of governmental convenience or security....” [emphasis added.] and

WHEREAS, The basis for establishing rights as “persons” for corporations under the U.S. Constitution has been and currently is based upon a questionable interpretation of the Supreme Court decision in Santa Clara County vs Southern Pacific Railroad in 1886, and

WHEREAS, Our country and the world have suffered catastrophic economic devastation as a result of the ensuing imbalance of political and economic power, and

WHEREAS, Corporations, relying on the Supreme Court's Buckley vs Valeo decision, now wield undue political influence since they are allowed to use money to exercise their putative first amendment rights.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED AS FOLLOWS:

1. We strongly urge our state legislators to submit and vote for a State constitutional amendment that declares that in the State of Oregon corporations shall not be recognized as persons nor accrue the rights of persons under State laws.

2. We strongly urge our Representatives to the U.S. Congress as well as our Senators to the U.S. Congress to submit an amendment to the U.S. Constitution which declares that “the rights and privileges granted by this document shall accrue to natural persons only.”

3. We strongly urge our State Legislators to begin the U.S. Constitutional amendment process in our state and urge other states to do likewise to achieve a two thirds majority of states.

Submitted by Richard Harisay, Delegate to the State Central Committee and Delegate to the State PRC.
Date approved : Sunday, December 6th, 2009
Resolution sponsor(s)
Richard Harisay, SCC Delegate
Marion County Democratic Central Committee


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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Good writeup on Measures 66 and 67



From Onward Oregon:
5 Top Myths About Measures 66 and 67

With about a month to go before the special election on Measures 66 and 67, the misconceptions are flying! Are you confused?

Well, here at Onward Oregon we wanted to shed a little light on the reality of these revenue measures. So to clear up some common misconceptions about Measures 66 and 67, here are our 5 top myths about Measures 66 and 67.

Myth #1: Additional corporate taxes will cost Oregon jobs

Reality: Under the current corporate tax system, two thirds of Oregon businesses pay only $10 per year in taxes, a level that hasn’t changed since well before World War II. Under the new system, 88 percent of Oregon businesses still will pay only $150 per year in taxes. Even those businesses that will have to pay tax on gross sales will not be hard hit – a business generating $1 million in sales will write the Oregon Department of Revenue a check for only $500. No business will cut jobs because its tax bill goes up by $140 or even $500. In fact, we need Measures 66 and 67 to save jobs in Oregon – teachers, state troopers, and home health care workers all risk losing their jobs if these measures fail.

Myth #2: Oregon won’t be able to attract new businesses because of the new taxes.

Reality: Even with the new tax provisions, Oregon corporate taxes will remain among the lowest in the country. Oregon will still be a very attractive place to do business – even with the new tax measures, Oregon will rank 48th in the nation in corporate taxation, and will still have the lowest taxes on the West Coast. Washington’s Business and Occupation tax, for example, is almost 5 times higher than Oregon’s new corporate minimum tax. And, Oregon’s new corporate taxes are structured specifically to protect small business, so we’ll keep the dynamic businesses we have and maintain an environment that will encourage new businesses to grow here.

Myth #3: The new measures will increase taxes on most Oregonians, and we just can’t afford it.

Reality: Hardly any Oregonians will be affected by personal income tax increases. The changes in personal income taxes only affect individuals making more than $125,000 and households making more than $250,000 per year. That means that almost 98 percent of Oregonians will see no change in their personal income taxes. Even those folks who do see an increase won’t be bearing much of a burden – the increase applies only to income above $125,000 for individuals or $250,000 for families. If your family has taxable income of $260,000, your taxes will only go up by $180 for 2011. And more good news, that amount will be cut in half in 2012.

Myth #4: If Measures 66 and 67 fail, it’s really no big deal.

Reality: If Measures 66 and 67 don’t pass, a lot of Oregonians will pay the price in lost state services. 94 percent of Oregon’s budget goes to vital services – education, healthcare, public safety, and human services. Most Oregonians will be hit hard if the changes the Legislature made are reversed — through cuts to schools, decreased police and fire protection, and reduced health care for the poor and elderly. 300,000 Oregonians will also be affected in another way. The measures include a tax break for people receiving unemployment benefits. If Measures 66 and 67 fail, these unemployed, struggling Oregonians will lose a critical tax break they need. Voters have a chance to decide who they think deserves a break — and who can pay a little bit more.

Myth #5: The Legislature just passed these tax measures because it couldn’t do the heavy lifting necessary to cut the State budget.

Reality: The Legislature made every reasonable cut to State program budgets BEFORE deciding to enact revenue measures. The 2009 Legislature faced a huge problem – the State budget had a deficit of $4 billion. The first thing the Legislature did was make cuts; in fact, they addressed half the deficit with cuts of nearly $2 billion! They also took advantage of another $1 billion in Federal stimulus money and tapped $255 million in reserve funds. Which left a gap of around $800 million to be filled with tax increases. So when someone says we need to reduce spending before we raise taxes, you can tell them: We did. The Legislature cut spending by more than twice the amount added in these tax measures.

Between now and January 26, we’ll be bringing you more information on these important measures. Vote Yes for Measures 66 and 67! And tell your friends and family to vote yes, too.

Onward,

The Team at Onward Oregon

Monday, December 21, 2009

Good news on Climate for a Change

We can stop bothering people about everything and about their carbon footprints. It's too late for that now. And besides, the more we convince people that this is a problem from hell, the more they shut down. Therefore, we have to quit bothering people to change their lives -- we have to make the necessary changes upstream of everyday people, and stop bothering them.
This is why people concerned about the impending climate catastrophe need to realize that it's too late for the gradual, lifestyle-change approach that could have worked if started much sooner (and that I, among others, was wrong to support for too long).

We are in extremis, like a ship heading towards a collision -- this isn't the time to be telling the passengers to all run over to the starboard side and hope that we'll lean a little further to make the impact a little less severe -- this is a time for a radical course change.

That change is simple: Stop burning coal and fooling with "new oil" (oil from coal, oil from tar sands, oil from shale), and limit all deforestation rates to stay under reforestation rates. That's it -- if we can do that, fast, then we have done essentially the best we can do.

Best of all, this gives us the basis for a great deal:
"Hello world, it's us, the people who have been nagging you senseless with increasingly shrill and worried tones about an ever-increasing list of things you're supposed to make minute and calculated judgments about. Well, we're here to say that we've seen the error of our ways and we now realize that we were wrong to propose upending absolutely everything. We'd like to make a deal -- if we can all work together to get the world converted off coal and unconventional oils, we'll stop bothering you about everything else. Fly to your heart's content. Drive anywhere you can afford the gas for. Heat your house to 80F in winter if you like, and cool it to 60F in summer. We won't say a word, so long as you're not using coal or alt-oil to do it. Because we realize that, in the relevant time frame, all the world's oil and natural gas will be used up, by us or someone else. The only hope we have of preventing climate catastrophe is to get off the coal and alt-oils, and prepare society for the transition that has to happen when natural gas and oil run out. But that's a fine problem to have -- as Bill Clinton would say, "In Arkansas, we'd call that a high-class problem," because it's a much nicer problem than the one we're facing now, where we enviros are having to shout and scream about everything that is emitting carbon because we've failed to focus on the real issues: the coal, the alt-oils, and the CO2 trapped in soil. But we're over that now: help us put coal away, stop the oil sands and tar-sands madness, and keep deforestation rates down to less than reforestation rates, and we'll stop bothering you about everything else."

Best bike


Bamboosero Bikes:

Substitute bicycles for fish and you've got the idea behind Bamboosero.

Craig Calfee, a frame designer who has built bikes for Greg Lemond and other professional racers, started Bamboosero with the idea that teaching a man (or woman) to build bikes is a long-term solution that can have a lasting impact.

Using bamboo makes this possible. It grows in most of the developing world and makes it far easier to supply a bike builder with raw materials. And it makes a common resource more valuable. Much better than mining or cutting down the forest. Oh. . . and it rides like a dream!

The Bamboosero idea is simple: connect bike builders in developing countries with bike buyers like you. Buying a Bamboosero Bike doesn't just get you a great bike, it:
  • helps working families support themselves
  • injects badly needed foreign currency into struggling economies
  • creates the production capacity for an incredibly efficient local transport - bicycles!

You can choose from road, city or mountain bike models. You get a great bike. And Bamboosero gets to help entrepreneurs build businesses that will have an enormous economic impact for years to come.


Why Bikes?

Bikes are reliable and efficient. They can bring a better life within reach: access to safer drinking water, improved medical care, and more nutritious food.

Bikes can make jobs, markets, and schools more accessible.

And since bikes are easier to maintain than cars or buses, particularly in areas where parts and mechanical skills are scarce, the improvements they create can be counted on day after day, season after season.

While donations of food or medicine can help in extreme situations, bicycles enable villages to build their own economies and connect with resources beyond their own area. Donations to help get Bamboosero programs started will go further than most charity efforts because the model is truly sustainable.

Is it still LEED certified if it falls apart?

Portland's Daily Journal of Commerce:

10-year-old Marion County building needs extensive repairs

The Salem Courthouse Square building, built in 2000, needs several structural repairs. (Photo courtesy Marion County)

The Salem Courthouse Square building, built in 2000, needs several structural repairs. (Photo courtesy Marion County)

The Courthouse Square building in Salem, home to Marion County government offices and Salem-Keizer Transit, was only two years old when occupants started to notice the building settling, in 2002. Grouting cracked and tiles came loose, said Dave Henderson, the county’s business services director.

Things got worse from there, said Henderson, who works in the building. “There are areas you can see the partition walls pulling away from the exterior walls,” he said. “The drop-in ceiling grid is visibly misaligned in some places.

“You have some places where floor tiles in the restrooms have popped and have had to be replaced.”

Marion County is now looking for an architectural and engineering team to repair the building. Structural problems with the building have resulted in cracks, ceiling deformation, uneven floors, and door and window misalignments, according to the county’s request for proposals.

Courthouse Square was built by Pence Kelly Construction Inc., which has since joined with LCG Co. to form LCG Pence Construction. Arbuckle Costic Architects was the designer and Century West Engineering was the structural engineer.

In 2008, David Evans and Associates prepared a structural evaluation of Courthouse Square for the county. The building’s floor slabs experienced excessive deflection, or displacement under a load, according to the DEA report issued in February 2008 and updated in April 2009.

The design of post-tensioned slabs on the top three floors of the five-story building appeared to not meet industry standards, according to the report: “Per DEA’s independent structural calculations, it appears that portions of the original structural floor slab design were inadequate with regard to code requirements for deflection criteria and the minimum required mild reinforcement for serviceability and/or ultimate strength.

“In addition, the design did not meet industry standards …”

The report recommends that portions of the building be strengthened as soon as possible; however, the building is safe to occupy while a strengthening plan is developed and implemented, according to the report.

More than 350 people work there, for Marion County and Salem-Keizer Transit combined, and the building gets hundreds of visitors each day, according to the county’s request for proposals. The building also holds the county’s core computing data center.

Henderson said he hopes work can be done in phases so county and transit employees can keep working during construction. Marion County uses roughly 80 percent of the building; Salem-Keizer Transit uses portions of the first and fifth floors.

County officials are monitoring the building, which is still settling, Henderson said. “The building has not yet stabilized.

“The most important thing we’ve done is confirm with three different engineering firms that the office is safe,” he said. “We’ve shared that information with people (who work there).”

The request for proposals calls for a design team to begin work in February. County officials don’t know how they’ll pay for the project yet, Henderson said, and won’t know the cost of the project until the design team takes a closer look at the building.

A contractor could start work on the repairs within a year, he said. . . .


Solnit: Corporations as the Terminator machines bent on human eradication

From TomDispatch.com:

A Magnitude Shy of What Physics Demands

Think of Schwarzenegger as the hinge between the fantasy of Terminator 2 and the reality of our predicament. Think of Obama…

Well, in T2, there’s Miles Dyson, a slender, well-spoken African-American family man who will engineer the computer technology that will create the intelligent machines that will annihilate practically everything. Sarah -- Connor, not Palin -- sets out to kill him, but her son shows up with his Terminator-Schwarzenegger sidekick, and they instead convince the not-so-mad scientist he’s about to do something terribly, terribly wrong. He then leads them to his workplace to destroy everything he’s ever done. When their violent erasure program sets off alarms that bring in squadrons of cops, Dyson ends up gravely wounded and holding the trigger to set off the explosion that will wipe out the technologies endangering future humanity -- and himself.

Seeing this movie with its acts of self-sacrifice, now offers an occasion to ask: when’s the last time you’ve even seen a major politician who’ll put his finger to that trigger with humanity in mind, no less simply do anything that’s bad for reelection?

What if Obama would say what he has to know, what they all have to know, that saving the planet from our slo-mo, unevenly distributed version of Judgment Day requires destroying the status quo and maybe changing everything? What if he’d just learn from Schwarzenegger that you can do quite a lot and still survive politically?

As a disgusted Bill McKibben recently put it, “Obama will propose 4% reductions in [U.S. greenhouse gas] emissions by 2020, compared with 20% for the Europeans (a number the EU said they’d raise to 30% if the U.S. would go along). Scientists, meanwhile, have made it clear that a serious offer would mean about 40% cuts by 2020. So -- we’re exactly an order of magnitude shy of what the physics demands.”

Bill, a normally mild-mannered guy who was overjoyed at Obama’s election, called the president’s position “a lie inside a fib coated with spin.”

Thanks to a sudden decision earlier this month by the Environmental Protection Agency allowing the executive branch to address the issue of climate-change gases under the Clean Air Act, Obama has apparently been given superpowers to act without being completely hamstrung by a reluctant Congress. Or as the Center for Biological Diversity put it, “President Obama can lead, rather than follow, by using his power under the Clean Air Act and other laws to achieve deep and rapid greenhouse emissions reductions from major polluters."

Will he? Probably not. After all, he’s the man who stood up in Prague last April and said: “I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” For a moment, it almost sounded as if he was going to be the action hero of our antinuclear dreams, wiping out one apocalypse that has hung over us for sixty years. And then he added that he didn’t actually expect to see the abolition of such weaponry in his lifetime, though he didn’t say why.

Now, we’re in an action movie in which the fate of the Earth is truly at stake, and the most powerful man on the planet has allowed himself to be hedged in by timidities, compromises, refusals, denials, and the murderous pressure of corporations. Those too-big-to-die corporations are the reason why the Senate is unlikely to ratify any climate-change treaty that threatens to do much of anything. Really, corporations -- half-fictitious, semi-immortal behemoths endowed with human rights in the U.S. and possessed of corrosive global power -- already are the ruthless cyborgs of our time. They are, after all, actively seeking a world in which they imagine that, somehow, they will survive, even if many of us and much that we love does not. Sorry poor people, young people, Africa, sorry Arctic summer ice, you’re not too big to fail.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

What a hoot: The Weather via A Galaxy Far, Far Away


Click photo to get your Star Wars weather

Friday, December 18, 2009

Tell EPA to stop coalin' Oregon

From Environment Oregon a most welcome development: recognition that it's time to stop PGE from killing Oregon's chances for a livable climate by stopping coal use in Oregon:
We've made our list, we've checked it twice: PGE's Boardman Coal Plant is naughty, not nice. And as a result, this holiday season, Oregon is getting 40 percent of its electricity from coal.

Thanks to your help, we're releasing a new report on December 22nd showing that coal-fired power plants are the nation's single largest source of global warming pollution. Now it's time to shut down the biggest polluter in Oregon -- PGE's Boardman Coal Plant.

Send your comment to the EPA now and tell them to shutdown PGE's Boardman Coal Plant and crack down on the nation's biggest polluters.

The Big Polluters Rule would require new and expanding coal plants and other dirty smokestack industries to clean up their act and meet modern standards for global warming pollution -- a necessary step in stopping global warming and building a clean energy economy.

Coal industry lobbyists are working overtime to stop the agency from taking this or any step to require coal plants and other big smokestack industries to meet performance standards for global warming pollution.

In fact, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a coal industry lobby group, spent nearly $40 million in 2008 alone -- more than $100,000 a day -- on lobbyists and advertising to stop the transition to clean energy, according to reports from the Internal Revenue Service this month.

Earlier this year, they even hired lobbyists who forged phony constituent letters to Congress opposing action on clean energy.

Let's set the record straight. Americans want cleaner air and water and to be protected from the dangerous effects of global warming fueled by coal plants.

The EPA has heard from us -- our testimony on the Big Polluters Rule in early November put the issue on their radar. [1]

Now they want to hear from you.

Submit your comment to the EPA's public register now and tell the biggest polluters it's time to clean up their act:

Thanks for making it all possible,

Nicole Forbes
Environment Oregon Field Organizer

[UPDATE: Crooks & Liars has a pretty good rundown on why this has to happen soon.]

Monday, December 14, 2009

An honest click for charity deal: $1 to Oregon Food Bank Wednesday

A Portland blogger has got an anonymous donor to pledge $1 for each unique visitor to his blog this coming Wednesday (Dec. 16) for up to $5000. So please remember to hit that blog on Wednesday from as many different IP addresses as you can.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The challenge

zoriah_kenya_famine_kakuma_refugee_camp_irc_in...Don't fret, little guy. If the biofuels boys don't starve you to death, they might make you into a slave on a biofuels plantation in Africa. Image by Zoriah via Flickr

This particular piece is from the UK but every word applies even more so to the US:

The problem is summed up by Professor Janet Allen, director of research at the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). "We will have to grow more food on less land using less water and less fertiliser while producing fewer greenhouse gas emissions," she said.

No one said science was easy, of course. Nevertheless, the scale of the problem is striking. It is also unprecedented, says Professor Mike Bevan, acting director of the John Innes Centre in Norfolk. "We are going to have to produce as much food in the next 50 years as was produced over the past 5,000 years. Nothing less will do."

It is a staggering goal that highlights the depth of the food security crisis that Britain and the world face. Over the next 40 years Britain's population will rise from 60 to 75 million while the world's will leap from 6.8 to 9 billion. Feeding all these people will stretch human ingenuity to its limit. Crop yields will have to jump, a goal that will have to be achieved in the middle of global climatic disruption. At the same time, farmers will find many aids – in particular, chemical fertilisers – that they have come to rely on will no longer be available .

"People do not quite realise the scale of the issue," added Bevan. "This is one of the most serious problems that science has ever faced." In Britain the lives of hundreds of thousands of people will be threatened by food shortages. Across the globe, tens of millions – if not hundreds of millions – will be affected. . . .

Meanwhile, in the US, the discussion is about increasing the mandatory cut of ethanol in gasoline from 10 to 15%. Because there's no better use of land than to apply tons of fertilizers derived from fossil fuels in order to make liquid fuels for essentially no energy gain, right?
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Saturday, December 12, 2009

The index that needs to supplant the Dow Jones in the media


One of the most effective tools of mass stupification is the constant reiteration of irrelevant information, which has the effect of convincing people that the diversion is not irrelevant at all but, rather, is something important (or why would they be telling us this all the time)?

Thus, we get the Dow Jones average repeated fifty times a day and, even on Nominally Public Radio, have whole shows devoted to discussing it.

Here's a picture of an index that is much more important to know. Click to learn more.

The post-carbon farm

always look on the bright side of lifeImage by Venerable Kalense via Flickr

The really revealing comments in the story are about scaling up the model. The "conventional ag" guys are the ones still caught up in the mindset of "more efficient = less people involved," as if the country had a shortage of people who need and want useful work or could afford more of what has come to be called "conventional agriculture" (which is actually fatally unconventional in that it is little more than "the use of land to turn fossil fuels into food" and is already drawing to a rapid close).

There is really very little in life that is more expensive than cheap food.


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Thursday, December 10, 2009

How to decide on a mayoral candidate, Part I

Which one will promises that they will not rest until Salem stops wasting money on paper, printing, and postage sending out sewer bills to people who have set up automatic payments via credit card? For a city with severe money problems, they sure like to waste it.

Cherriots slammed for not sharing system data

logoWorking better with people trying to promote transit might be just the "cherry on top" that we need. Image via Wikipedia

Interesting post here on a new app being developed by the same people who do the great "walkscore" neighborhood walkability index.

Apparently Cherriots isn't sharing the data needed to provide such open-source utilities to make transit easier to access. Bad agency.
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As you ponder Measures 66 & 67

Consider: Effective tax rates for millionaires continue decades-long slide. Hippie pro-tax group? Nope: IRS data.

Presented for your consideration

This figure shows the relative fraction of man...Image via Wikipedia

How does this affect this?










Or will the Salem/ODOT Road Gang continue to pretend that you can do an environmental assessment of a proposed project (one that will greatly increase greenhouse gas emissions) without looking at greenhouse gas emissions, even though the Environmental Protection Agency has finally acknowledged that they are a hazard to public health?


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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

End of Year Tax Planning: Make a free contribution to Defend Oregon

City of SalemImage via Wikipedia

If you haven't already made a $50 political contribution this year ($100 for joint filers), here's an opportunity that merits your support -- and costs you nothing, thanks to the Oregon tax credit.

If you live in or near Salem, you will pay far more than this in lost jobs and services in our community if the measures fail. This election shouldn't even be close, but the "No" campaign -- "Oregonians Willing to Tell Any Kind of Lie About Jobs to Defeat Taxes" -- will be very well-funded by precisely those few Oregonians who will see any kind of tax increase and who are happy to see services for the poor and middle class slashed rather than pay a small tax increase because it just means more power for them.
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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The holiday feel-good story of the year

Oregon State PenitentiarySomeone is trying to create hope for change at what is normally just a factory for destroying human potential. Image by Katherine H via Flickr

Awesome. Well done, sir, whomever you are.
In the past two years, The Investor has donated $294,000 so that kidnappers, bank robbers and other felons at three state prisons can go to college behind bars.

College for prisoners
An anonymous donor has been financing community college classes for inmates at three Oregon prisons.

Current enrollment:
Oregon State Correctional Institution: 31 students

Oregon State Penitentiary: 44 students

Mill Creek Correctional Facility: 20 students

Grade point average for all students 2007-09: 3.4

Requirements for participation:
18 months' good conduct

High school GED

Be within five years of release

Donor's latest gift: $15,000 Christmas donation for books for women at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville

Donations from others: $26,483, 2007-09, for textbooks
Contact: Nancy Green, director for Corrections Education at Chemeketa Community College: 503-399-5050
His latest gift, just in time for Christmas this year, is $15,000 for women inmates at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville to buy books for themselves.

Oregon's educational offerings for prisoners have been limited largely to GED classes and vocational training since 1994. That's the year Congress stopped Pell grants for college tuition for prisoners, effectively shutting down every prison college program in the country.

More than four in 10 Oregon inmates go to prison without even a high school education. Nationally, the average is more than six in 10. Giving prisoners education while they're incarcerated is a key factor in preventing them from coming back once they're out. . . .

"He believes government can't do everything and private citizens need to step up," Green said. "He also believes people deserve a second chance because all of us have made mistakes in our lives." . . .

"At a time when public agencies and Oregonians are reeling from the effects of the current economic environment," he said, "it is even more impressive to know that one individual is investing in the safety of Oregonians and is supportive of creating opportunities for so many offenders."
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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Speaking of futile gestures, did someone say Copenhagen?

TomDispatch:

Don’t think for a minute that global warming will destroy planet Earth. It’s already made it through worse moments than ours, and worse climate conditions than industrial civilization has to offer. Planet Earth has no sense of time. Give it 10 million, 20 million, 100 million years, and it will reconstitute itself in some fashion and spin on, life included, until our sun gives out. But the way things are going, we may not do so well.

The Soviet Union, that “evil empire,” fell after only 70 years, to everyone’s amazement. Barely the span of human life. If we -- or at least our various civilizations -- were to disappear in the coming century or so, after only a few thousand years on this planet, it would be no less short, no less amazing, no less unexpected. But it’s possible. That anyone doubts the existence of global warming as a threat to our existence seems no less amazing to me. That, at this crucial moment, on the eve of a gathering of the world’s nations in Copenhagen to try to pound out some kind of agreement for the abatement of greenhouse gases, opinion polls show Americans actually losing interest in global warming, or even in the belief that it’s happening at all, is depressing indeed. (Only 35% of Americans, according to a recent Pew poll, for example, think global warming is a “very serious problem,” a drop of nine points in six months.) To find “conservatives” obsessed over the fact that climate-change scientists turn out to be frustrated, careerist, even mean-spirited, and willing to simplify or fiddle with their complex figures to deal with opponents they consider dangerous idiots (“Climate-gate”) is simply to meet human nature, not a conspiracy of monumental proportions.

The most recent information is clear enough. The world is changing, and not for the better. According to Elizabeth Kolbert, possibly the best journalist now reporting on climate change (writing at Yale University’s splendid Environment 360 website), a new report by leading climate scientists, released on the eve of the Copenhagen meeting, reflects surprise at how much more quickly the planet is proceeding toward various “tipping points” than previously expected. The report, she writes, “points to dramatic declines in Arctic sea ice, recent measurements that show a large net loss of ice from both Greenland and Antarctica, and the relatively rapid rise in global sea levels -- 3.4 millimeters per year -- as particular reasons for concern. Sea-level rise this century, it states, ‘is likely to be at least twice as large’ as predicted by the most recent IPCC report, issued in 2007, with an upper limit of roughly two meters.” This, believe me, is not good news.

Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org and TomDispatch regular, explains just why conservatives and everyone else around should board the global-warming express, and pull hard on the brake cord before it’s too late. You can, by the way, catch a TomDispatch audio interview with McKibben on President Obama and climate-change politics in the U.S. by clicking here. Tom

The Physics of Copenhagen
Why Politics-As-Usual May Mean the End of Civilization
By Bill McKibben

Most political arguments don’t really have a right and a wrong, no matter how passionately they’re argued. They’re about human preferences -- for more health care or lower taxes, for a war to secure some particular end or a peace that leaves some danger intact. On occasion, there are clear-cut moral issues: the rights of minorities or women to a full share in public life, say; but usually even those of us most passionate about human affairs recognize that we’re on one side of a debate, that there are legitimate arguments to the contrary (endless deficits, coat-hanger abortions, a resurgent al-Qaeda). We need people taking strong positions to move issues forward, which is why I’m always ready to carry a placard or sign a petition, but most of us also realize that, sooner or later, we have to come to some sort of compromise.

That’s why standard political operating procedure is to move slowly, taking matters in small bites instead of big gulps. That’s why, from the very beginning, we seemed unlikely to take what I thought was the correct course for our health-care system: a single-payer model like the rest of the world. It was too much change for the country to digest. That’s undoubtedly part of the reason why almost nobody who ran for president supported it, and those who did went nowhere.

Instead, we’re fighting hard over a much less exalted set of reforms that represent a substantial shift, but not a tectonic one. You could -- and I do -- despise the insurance industry and Big Pharma for blocking progress, but they’re part of the game. Doubtless we should change the rules, so they represent a far less dominant part of it. But if that happens, it, too, will undoubtedly occur piece by piece, not all at once.

Moving by increments: it frustrates the hell out of many of us, and sometimes it’s truly disastrous. (I just watched Bill Moyers’ amazing recent broadcast of the LBJ tapes in the run-up to the full-scale escalation of the Vietnam War, where the president and his advisors just kept moving the numbers up a twitch at a time until we were neck deep in the Big Muddy.) Usually, however, incrementalism, whatever you think of it, lends a kind of stability to the conduct of our affairs -- often it has a way of setting the stage for the next move.

We may have to wait years for the next round of health-care reform and, in the meantime, doubtless many people will suffer, but here’s the one thing we know: what we don’t do now doesn’t foreclose future progress. In fact, it may make it more likely -- if, after all, people grow comfortable with the idea of a “public option,” then the next time around the insurance industry won’t be able to make actual, honest-to-God public medicine seem so scary.

Climate Change as Just Another Political Problem

When it comes to global warming, however, this is precisely why we’re headed off a cliff, why the Copenhagen talks that open this week, almost no matter what happens, will be a disaster. Because climate change is not like any other issue we’ve ever dealt with. Because the adversary here is not Republicans, or socialists, or deficits, or taxes, or misogyny, or racism, or any of the problems we normally face -- adversaries that can change over time, or be worn down, or disproved, or cast off. The adversary here is physics.

Physics has set an immutable bottom line on life as we know it on this planet. For two years now, we’ve been aware of just what that bottom line is: the NASA team headed by James Hansen gave it to us first. Any value for carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere greater than 350 parts per million is not compatible "with the planet on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted.” That bottom line won’t change: above 350 and, sooner or later, the ice caps melt, sea levels rise, hydrological cycles are thrown off kilter, and so on.

And here’s the thing: physics doesn’t just impose a bottom line, it imposes a time limit. This is like no other challenge we face because every year we don’t deal with it, it gets much, much worse, and then, at a certain point, it becomes insoluble -- because, for instance, thawing permafrost in the Arctic releases so much methane into the atmosphere that we’re never able to get back into the safe zone. Even if, at that point, the U.S. Congress and the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee were to ban all cars and power plants, it would be too late.

Oh, and the current level of CO2 in the atmosphere is already at 390 parts per million, even as the amount of methane in the atmosphere has been spiking in the last two years. In other words, we’re over the edge already. We’re no longer capable of “preventing” global warming, only (maybe) preventing it on such a large scale that it takes down all our civilizations.

So here’s the thing: When Barack Obama goes to Copenhagen, he will treat global warming as another political problem, offering a promise of something like a 17% cut in our greenhouse gas emissions from their 2005 levels by 2020. This works out to a 4% cut from 1990 levels, the standard baseline for measurement, and yet scientists have calculated that the major industrialized nations need to cut their emissions by 40% to have any hope of getting us on a path back towards safety.

And even that 17% cut may turn out to be far too high a figure for the Senate. Here’s what Senator Jim Webb (a coal-country Democrat) wrote to the president last week: "I would like to express my concern regarding reports that the Administration may believe it has the unilateral power to commit the government of the United States to certain standards that may be agreed in Copenhagen… The phrase 'politically binding' has been used. As you well know from your time in the Senate, only specific legislation agreed upon in the Congress, or a treaty ratified by the Senate, could actually create such a commitment on behalf of our country."

In any case, the Senate has decided that it will not debate any climate-change bill until “the spring,” after health care is settled, and maybe entitlement reform, and perhaps even financial regulation. And awfully close to the next election.

Meanwhile, the Chinese are apparently prepared to offer a 40% reduction in the “energy intensity” of their economy by 2020. In other words, they claim they’ll then be using 40% less energy to make each yuan worth of stuff they ship off to WalMart. Which is better than not doing it, but more or less what the experts think would happen anyway as China’s economy naturally becomes more high-tech and efficient. It’s at best a minor stretch from “business as usual.”

Meanwhile, the Indians almost sacked their environment minister after the newspapers decided he was compromising the national interest by engaging in real negotiations about global warming.

Meanwhile, the Australian opposition last week did sack their leader for being willing to compromise on an already-compromised Emissions Trading Scheme that would have capped carbon -- meaning nothing will pass.

Meanwhile…

A Challenge Unique in History

A new analysis released Thursday by a consortium of European think-tanks shows that the various offers on the table add up to a world in which the atmosphere contains 650 parts per million and the temperature rises an ungodly five degrees Fahrenheit.

What I’m saying is: even the best politicians are treating the problem of climate change as a normal political one, where you halve the distance between various competing interests and do your best to reach some kind of consensus that doesn’t demand too much of anyone, yet reduces the political pressure for a few years -- at which time, of course, you (or possibly someone entirely different) will have to deal with it again.

Obama is doing the same thing with climate change that he did with health care. He’s acting with complete political realism, refusing to make the perfect the enemy of the good (or, really, the better-than-Bush). He’s doing what might make sense in almost any other situation.

Here, unfortunately, the foe is implacable. Implacable foes emerge rarely. The best human analog to the role physics is playing here may be fascism in the middle of the last century. There was no appeasing it, no making a normal political issue out of it. You had to decide to go all in, to transform the industrial base of the country to fight it, to put other things on hold, to demand sacrifice.

Yet it’s all too obvious that we’re not dealing with it that way. The president hasn’t, for instance, been on a nonstop campaign to make everyone realize the danger. When he went to China, he certainly reached some interesting agreements about cooperation on automobile technology, but that’s not the same as seeking a wartime partnership.

Nor is the senate meeting late into the night figuring out how to mobilize our country’s resources and people in the struggle to save our planet. Here’s how Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill summed up the mood: “I don’t think anyone’s excited about doing another really, really big thing that’s really, really hard that makes everybody mad.”

Some of us have been trying hard to open some political space for world leaders to step up to this challenge. We built a worldwide movement at 350.org that managed to pull off the “most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history” (at least according to CNN). In some places, it even sparked the desired result. Ninety-two nations, all poor and vulnerable to the early effects of climate change, have endorsed that radical 350 target.

Some of their leaders, like Mohamed Nasheed, the president of the Maldives, a nation made up of more than a thousand islands in the Indian Ocean, have emerged as tigers, ready to fight. No one would be surprised to see him lead some kind of walkout from the Copenhagen negotiations, since he’s declared over and over that he won’t be party to a “suicide pact” for his low-lying nation; he is, in other words, unwilling to treat global warming as a normal political issue.

We, however, couldn’t get even the most minor player in the Obama administration to come to one of the 2,000 rallies we staged across this country. None of them were interested in jumping into the space we were trying to open. If the U.S. is this willing to treat climate change as politics-as-usual, most of the other major players will simply follow suit.

They'll sign some kind of paper in Denmark -- that became all but certain on Friday night when Obama announced he'd jet in for the meeting's close. European leaders and some environmental groups may then call it a “qualified success,” and on we will go through more years of negotiation. In the meantime, physics will continue to operate, permafrost will continue to thaw, sea ice to melt, drought to spread.

It’s like nothing we’ve ever faced before -- and we’re facing it as if it’s just like everything else. That’s the problem.

Bill McKibben is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College. His The End of Nature, published in 1989, is regarded as the first book for a general audience on global warming. He is a founder of 350.org, a campaign to spread the goal of reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide to 350 parts per million worldwide. He is, most recently, the editor of American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau (Library of America). His next book will be Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, which will be published in April. To listen to a TomDispatch audio interview with McKibben on President Obama and climate change politics in the U.S., click here.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Probably a futile gesture

Abandoned Shopping CartImage by yourpicturesarejon via Flickr

Somebody left a stolen grocery cart in front of LOVESalem HQ a couple minutes ago -- I walked through the living room and looked out the window and it wasn't there, then a few minutes later, presto, there it was -- a grey, Sprawl-Mart shopping cart. I thought perhaps the "owner" of the cart might be around scrounging in the alley for bottles and cans, but it seems to have been simply left.

So I called the "shopping cart 'hotline'" -- where I was told that it would be collected in 48 - 72 hours. Hardly seems like much of a "hotline," but we'll see.
FIND A STRAY CART?
Seven Portland and Salem area grocery chains are participating in the shopping cart hotline:
Albertson's
Danielson's Thriftway
Fred Meyer
Haggen Food & Pharmacy
QFC
Safeway Food & Drug
Winco

The toll-free number to report abandoned carts from these stores is 888-552-2787.

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Northwest Cities leaving Salem behind

Bellingham, WashingtonLook familiar? It should -- Bellingham is a city much like Salem, only it has done a far better job engaging with the threat of peak oil. Image via Wikipedia

Salem and Marion County are falling further and further behind those cities and counties that have taken seriously the government's obligation to do more than act as a servant to business as usual and to instead help people anticipate and prepare for challenges ahead.

For example, Transition Bellingham will be presenting its report to the City of Bellingham and then to Whatcom County (large pdf file). Salem and Marion County, in contrast, misunderstand the current economic challenges, thinking them to be temporary aberrations in an overall ever-growing economy rather than the first concrete evidence that a social and economic model of continuous growth necessarily collapses, not when resources run out, but as soon as the expanding energy resources needed to power continuous expansion become constrained.
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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Great book for fireside reading


Trains and Train StationsImage by WSDOT via Flickr

"Waiting on a Train: The embattled future of passenger rail service" by James McCommons. A well-written book about a year spent riding on trains across the US and thoughts about why we've let them decay so badly and what we need to do to restore a functioning rail system.

Includes a chapter on the Cascades line that runs up through the valley, which brought McCommons to Salem to discuss the differences between Oregon and Washington's support for trains and plans for expanding service up to Seattle and B.C. and down to Eugene.

The publisher's blurb:
During the tumultuous year of 2008, when gas prices reached $4 a gallon, Amtrak set ridership records, and a commuter train collided with a freight train in California, journalist James McCommons spent a year on Americaas trains, talking to the people who ride and work the rails throughout much of the Amtrak system. Organized around these rail journeys, Waiting on a Train is equal parts travel narrative, personal memoir, and investigative journalism. Readers meet the historians, railroad executives, transportation officials, politicians, government regulators, railroad lobbyists, and passenger-rail advocates who are rallying around a simple question: Why has the greatest railroad nation in the world turned its back on the very form of transportation that made modern life and mobility possible? Distrust of railroads in the nineteenth century, overregulation in the twentieth, and heavy government subsidies for airports and roads have left the country with a skeletal intercity passenger-rail system. Amtrak has endured for decades, and yet failed to prosper owing to a lack of political and financial support and an uneasy relationship with the big, remaining railroads. While riding the rails, McCommons explores how the country may move passenger rail forward in America and what role government should play in creating and funding mass-transportation systems. Against the backdrop of the nation's stimulus program, he explores what it will take to build high-speed trains and transportation networks, and when the promise of rail will be realized in America.
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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Good News from Open Up Oregon

FileImage by amy allcock via Flickr

Professor Bill Harbaugh down at U of O sends the following about an initiative that might have a substantial positive effect in Salem if pursued seriously. The state tends to set the standard for open government measures -- municipalities, particularly the City of Salem, find it hard not to follow good practices the state uses.
Dear Friends:

I just had a conversation with the Oregon Attorney spokesperson, Tony Green. Tony told me that tomorrow AG Kroger will announce some immediate reforms in how his office administers Oregon's public record law.

In particular, he will post the Public Records manual online for free access (it's already available at http://openuporegon.com) and he will appoint a DOJ attorney, Michael Kron, as the "Government Transparency" point person. Additionally, AG Kroger will hold public hearings across the state this winter on reforms to Oregon's public records law.

My own view is that Oregon's law is fine, and that the AG's office simply needs to make it clear to state agencies that they will not allow them to deny, delay, or charge unreasonable fees for access to public records. I am cautiously optimistic that the reforms Attorney Kroger is pursuing will do this and improve the current situation - perhaps substantially. I certainly intend to find out!

Thanks for your support for my efforts to encourage the AG to make these reforms.

Bill Harbaugh
Professor of Economics
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Monday, November 30, 2009

When will we ever learn?

US troop levels the Afghan war - 2003 through the planned increase - laid alongside US troop levels in Vietnam during 1960-1965

Don't forget: Community Energy Strategy Skull-Session Tomorrow, 12/1

Salem Conference Center in downtown w:Salem, O...Image via Wikipedia

Ahhhh, it becomes clear at last. Salem finally sets about doing what it should have done long ago -- because that came as a string tied to a grant.
Tues., Nov. 24, 2009
CONTACT: Nicole Wahlberg, Public Information Manager
City of Salem – Urban Development Department
Tel: 503-588-6178, ext. 7552
Email: nwahlberg@cityofsalem.net Website: www.cityofsalem.net

Help Shape a Community Energy Strategy for Salem
Community Energy Forum Dec. 1 at Salem Conference Center

Tues., Dec. 1, 2009 – Salem, Ore. – Join City of Salem staff, business leaders, and industry experts at Salem’s Community Energy Forum and learn about energy trends, technologies, and tools that Salem businesses and residents can employ to reduce energy use, cost, and spur economic growth. The Forum is being held at the Salem Conference Center on Tues., Dec. 1 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The public is invited to attend. The classes and lunch are free, but a lunch RSVP is required.

Climate Solutions, a Washington-based company [sic -- actually a non-profit] that specializes in energy, will lead morning informational sessions with support from Portland-based ECONorthwest.

Session topics will target ways to prepare our community for future energy needs including efficient buildings, renewable energy, transportation options, next generation energy infrastructure, finance, and community engagement. Information will also include an overview of Salem’s current energy use, relevant energy policies and programs, and practical tools for preparing Salem to meet future energy demands and capitalize on opportunities for economic growth.

Afternoon sessions will provide an opportunity for stakeholders and interested citizens to provide input on draft goals and actions to be included in Salem’s Community Energy Strategy (a road map for implementing energy savings measures next year and beyond). Short term action items may be included in the City’s December submission to Department of Energy and eligible for funding in 2010-11.

In May 2009, the City of Salem became the recipient of a $1,521,000 formula grant from the U.S. Department of Energy through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program. Development of an Energy Strategy is the first grant requirement. Having a Strategy in place will also position the City to compete for future funding.

A final Community Energy Strategy will be completed by March 2010, at which time staff will seek Council’s adoption of the document. The strategy will include actions the City can take to improve energy efficiency and save cost in its own facilities and as well as goals, projects, and programs designed to improve energy efficiency, conservation, and cost savings in the industrial, commercial, transportation, and residential sectors, promote sustainable industry and jobs, and related activities as appropriate.

RSVP is required for those attending lunch on the day of the Community Energy Forum. For questions or to RSVP, please contact Annie Gorski at 503-588-6178 or agorski@cityofsalem.net
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Tuesday 12/1 -- A chance to untangle the tangled web some

Punto interrogativo ? Question mark?If you're a cat with questions, this meeting might be for you. Image by silgeo via Flickr

Every week we hear something new about the debate on reforming our broken health care system. As we gear up for the home stretch, its important that we are all on the same page. So, we are holding a series of meetings to clear up any confusion, frustration, or misinformation that comes with following the process in Congress. Come join us and your fellow health care activists for an evening of lively discussion.

Salem - Tuesday, December 1st
5:00 - 6:30 pm
Salem Central Library
585 Liberty St, SE, Salem, OR

If you can't make it to a meeting, but still have questions please feel free to email me and I will do my best to get back to you by the end of the week. Hope to see you soon.

To your health,

Betsy Dillner
Oregon Health Care for America Now
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Friday, November 27, 2009

For your pre-New-Year's-Eve tax-planning

You probably already support one or several of the 1,200 arts and culture groups in Oregon that, collectively, look to the Oregon Cultural Trust for support. Thanks to a unique law, you can turn your support for those groups into a zero-cost-to-you donation to the Oregon Cultural Trust.

It works like this. Say you gave ten $100 gifts to arts and cultural organizations in Salem, such as
That means you gave a total of $1000 to supported groups -- now, give another $1,000 to the Oregon Cultural Trust and it costs you nothing because you get a $1,000 Cultural Trust Tax Credit. Thus, you can give a total of $2000 to support arts and culture in Salem and your net cash outlay, after tax deductions and credits will be range from only $210 to $410, depending on your federal tax bracket -- so you get to support arts and culture in Salem with real dollars that only cost you dimes. It's the best deal in town. Check it out.

Celebrate the IKE BOX's 5th Anniversary

One of the unsung gems in Salem is the Isaac's Room program and its coffee house, music room, and video production studio known as the IKE BOX. If you get downtown much you will have noticed the amazing transformation of this beautifully restored and spiffed up icon at Chemeketa and Cottage where they help directionless or struggling youth "Get a Life."

Isaac was our first son. Born in October 1998 with a heart problem, he only lived for two months before we lost him on December 29 of that year.

Isaac's Room is our effort to extend the family love and support that we would eagerly have given Isaac throughout his life to the young people in our community who have suffered from a shortage of it throughout theirs. Just as the room that Isaac was supposed to live in is physically empty and therefore available, the space we make in our lives for our own kids is now available through Isaac's Room.

So IKE is a nickname for Isaac, and the IKE Box is the street name and "storefront" of Isaac's Room in the community. The IKE Box is a place where we look after each other and encourage each other to pursue our best life possible, just like we would have done for Isaac. It is, appropriately, like a family.

Our family tree has a lot of branches - we do concerts and coffee and event hospitality, we offer a life-development program called IKE Quest, and we are home to many other interesting groups and cool projects - but bringing it all together is this place in town called the IKE Box, named after this space in our lives, a creatively devoted space for fellowship and belonging one to another, a space we call Isaac's Room.

We hope that when you walk into the IKE Box, you can feel that you’re walking into a story. And we hope you walk in sometime soon.

Mark and Tiffany Bulgin
They are having a 5th Anniversary party on Wednesday, December 16, with desserts and coffee at 6:30 and a video and some speakers at 7:30. Join them and help this unsung gem find a few more fans.