Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A must-read from Thomas Friedman

A guilty conscience must be a powerful spur to righteousness after all. Thomas Friedman, who was an avid cheerleader and then apologist for Bush's invasion of Iraq (and so regularly urged extending the stay, in about six month chunks, that Friedman will forever be linked to the term Friedman Unit, as in "A year is two Friedman Units"), has seen the light on the climate crisis and has become the foremost advocate in the archaic media for recognizing that, fundamentally, we have managed the economy and the environment using the same "Screw the future, let's party!" thinking.

His latest column is tremendous. A taste:

Just as A.I.G. sold insurance derivatives at prices that did not reflect the real costs and the real risks of massive defaults (for which we the taxpayers ended up paying the difference), oil companies, coal companies and electric utilities today are selling energy products at prices that do not reflect the real costs to the environment and real risks of disruptive climate change (so future taxpayers will end up paying the difference).

Whenever products are mispriced and do not reflect the real costs and risks associated with their usage, people go to excess. And that is exactly what happened in the financial marketplace and in the energy/environmental marketplace during the credit bubble.

Our biggest financial-services companies, some of which came to be seen as too big to fail, engaged in complex financial trading schemes that did not adequately price in the costs and risks of a market reversal. A.I.G., for instance, was selling insurance for all kinds of financial instruments and did not have anywhere near adequate reserves to cover claims if things went badly wrong, as they did. And our biggest energy companies, utilities and auto companies became dependent on cheap hydrocarbons that spin off climate-changing greenhouse gases, and we clearly have not forced them, through a carbon tax, to price in the true risks and costs to society from these climate-changing fuels.

“When the balance sheet of a company does not capture the true costs and risks of its business activities,” and when that company is too big to fail, “you end up with them privatizing their gains and socializing their losses,” Nandan Nilekani, the co-chairman of the Indian technology company Infosys, remarked to me. That is, everyone gets to rack up their private profits today and pay them out in current bonuses and dividends. But any catastrophic losses — if the company is too big to fail — “get socialized and paid off by taxpayers.”

Monday, March 30, 2009

Coming to the Willamette Valley: NAFTA turns 15

An opportunity to hear from other people in agricultural regions about the impact of the so-called "free trade" policy from someone other than a paid US lobbyist or paid US politician, and an opportunity to "Take a deeper look at the effects of NAFTA, including resistance to genetically modified GMO corn, the impact of migration on sending communities, and the struggle for food security in Oaxaca’s indigenous communities." Presented by Witness for Peace

2009 Spring Speaker Tour

NAFTA Turns 15: A Look at Free Trade, Food Security and Migration in Oaxaca, Mexico

Baldemar Mendoza Jimenez is the coordinator of the agro-ecology program for UNOSJO (the Union of Organizations of the Sierra Juarez, Oaxaca). Sr. Mendoza is an expert on food sovereignty issues and the impacts of free trade agreements on indigenous farmers from Oaxaca. UNOSJO is an indigenous organization that works with indigenous communities and organizations in the Zapotec region of the Sierra Ju├írez, located in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. UNOSJO has denounced the contamination of native corn in Oaxaca by genetically-modified (GMO) corn and is a leader within Oaxaca on food security issues. Their efforts also focus on women’s issues, indigenous rights, and organic coffee production.

Sr. Mendoza will speak about the impacts of NAFTA on indigenous communities in Oaxaca, including:

  • The affects of GMO corn contamination on native corn production

  • How increased rates of migration from the region have affected communities in the Sierra Juarez

  • UNOSJO’s process of regaining food sovereignty within indigenous communities

Tour Press Release

Tour Schedule

* please check back for schedule updates

Sunday, April 5: Hillsboro, OR
12pm, Hillsboro United Methodist Church
168 NE 8th Ave, Hillsboro, Event Flyer

Saturday, April 11: Woodburn, OR

Monday, April 13: Eugene, OR

7pm, UO Law School, Room 175
15th and Agate St., Eugene

Tuesday, April 14: Salem, OR
2:30pm, 209 Eaton Hall
Willamette University, Event Flyer

5:30pm, First Congregational UCC
700 Marion St NE, Salem, Event Flyer

Wednesday, April 15: Albany and Corvallis, OR
10 am, OSU, Rogers 230
Corvallis, OR, Event Flyer

12pm, Linn Benton Community College
CC 103, Albany, OR, Event Flyer

7pm, First United Methodist Church
1165 NW Monroe, Martha Room, Corvallis, Event Flyer

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Coming this Saturday, April 4th!

The Saturday Market returns, a month earlier than usual!

You have a positive impact on our local economy when you buy from SSM vendors who are independent, locally owned businesses. You also reduce your impact on the earth!


1. Locally grown food tastes better and, because it's fresher, it lasts longer. Locally grown produce is usually sold within 24 hours of being harvested.

2. Local produce is better for you and better for our environment. Buying local shrinks the number of miles food has to travel before being eaten. That translates into less use of fossil fuels and significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

3. Local food preserves genetic diversity and is free of genetically modified biotechnology.

4. Buying local supports and strengthens local farm families and producers, providing jobs within our community.

5. Buying local connects our community and allows consumers to know the farmers, understand the seasons and respect the growing process.

6. Locally grown food preserves open spaces, supports a clean environment and benefits wildlife.

7. Buying local keeps more dollars in our community. One study shows that each dollar spent with a local grower is worth $2.50 for the community.

8. Buying local is a form of rebellion against industrial food and corporate farming.

9. Buying local is about the future, sustaining local farms, helping preserve the unique character of our community and helping you become a more engaged citizen.

10. Except for a couple grumps, we're not a bad lot to throw your support behind.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle group

Have you read or been wanting to read "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver? If you haven't, well now you have a reason to!

Members of the community (aka many of us) are gathering for a potluck social to leisurely discuss this book and enjoy a meal together. This potluck is open to the public, no RSVP is required. Please bring a potluck dish to share – there are no 'local' or 'vegan' dish requirements to meet. Bringing your own dinnerware is optional, as Garten is stocked with some dishes, glasses and silverware. Which means we'll need to recruit volunteers for dish wash duty that evening too! In addition, if possible bring your own name tag ;) and don't forget your "Animal,Vegetable, Miracle" book and any notes or questions you want to discuss too!

When? Wednesday, April 15th, 5:30 to 7:30PM. This notice might give you time to completely finish reading; or at least get a start on it; or as we realize, you don't have to read it to be able to contribute to meaningful discussion ;)

You can purchase it for 10% off at Tea Partly Bookshop!

Where? Garten Services: 3334 Industrial Way NE Salem, OR 97301, #503-581-4472.

Why? Because we want to network with each other, get plugged into our local food web, understand our local food systems, and gain more skills and knowledge!

Contact community.dreamer@yahoo.com for more information.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Shop real bike shops

A lot of people try to buy bikes at Costco, or Sprawl-Mart, or places like that.

Don't. It's not worth it.

Not only does it wind up costing you in the long run--a cheap piece of junk is not a bike that gives you value for the long term -- but it's also potentially deadly.

And an inferior bike doesn't just threaten your health and well-being -- it also undermines real bike shops, which are essential to Salem's community health and sustainability. We could get along great without auto dealerships (if only!), but we really need locally owned and operated bike shops, and we're going to need them even more in the years to come.

So, this spring, when you're noticing gas prices or that little bit of overhang around the belt that you'd like to lose, or noticing that your kid thinks X-box and PS-2 are aerobic activity and you start remembering how awesome it was to be able to ride around on your bike and learning some independence, go here. Or here. Or here. Or here.

Buying a bike isn't like saving a few bucks on the exact same toothpaste or 5# Bag O' Empty Calorie Snackage. When you leave the chain stores and go to a real bike store, you leave the world of "as cheap as we can make it and sell it" behind. Sure, price counts. But it's just one factor, and definitely not the most important one.

Buying a bike that you'll love is about finding a shop where they will treat you like an individual, find a bike that suits your needs and the kind of riding you want to do, and fits you right (and is safe for you to ride), where they will adjust and maintain it for you so that it stays fun and safe. Where the people selling bikes love and ride them, and have used the stuff they sell and know what's good value and what's not.

Here's a pretty typical story, posted at Consumerist.
Just thought I would share an experience I had at Wal-Mart purchasing a bike. I bought a bicycle with Wal-Mart in order to save on gas money and try to increase my overall health. Living within 2 miles of my University, and considering I happen to work there as well, riding a bike only made good sense.

I bought a Next brand bike from Wal-Mart for the cost of 110 dollars, and about 100 dollars in accessories (helmet, lights, lock, etc). The first problem I had - none of the accessories fit. Literally, none of them. The lights, the bike pump, everything I purchased did not fit correctly on the unit I purchased. "Well, I'll just deal with it", I said to myself. Within a week, the chain kept coming off, the brakes were so tight the wheels could barely turn (because the tires, when completely aired up, were too big for the brakes), and on top of all that the right plastic pedal snapped while I was riding the bike and nearly threw me into traffic. All in all, it was a shodily constructed and dangerous piece of garbage.

Needless to say, I thought it would be best for me to return it to Wal-Mart. I loaded it in my car, took it to my local Supercenter with receipt in hand, and headed to the customer service counter. There I encountered Cheryl, the Customer Service Manager at the Norman - East branch. Upon trying to return it, I was told that they had a strict policy regarding bike retuns. What follows is a rough approximation of my conversation with her:

Me: "I'd like to return this bike."

Her: "We don't return bikes."

Me: "Why not?"

Her: "Because we can repair them for you, so we don't give refunds on them."

Me: "What? It isn't listed as an exception on the wall behind you."

Her: "We can't have all of our exceptions listed, that would take up room we use for advertising."

Me: "No one told me about this policy before I bought the bike though."

Her: "We don't have to."

I stood there in shock for a few minutes, shooting her the most angry stare I could manage. I packed up the bike, and left. Later, I called them, asked for her full name (which she wouldn't give me) and told her that I would be filing a lawsuit in small claims court against them. To my wife's first year law school brain the Return Policy on that wall is a contract that allows me to return the bike within 90 days of purchase with valid receipt, and a lawsuit in SCC would almost be a guaranteed win.

Luckily, before filing the suit, I called the district manager. She told me that the "policy" touted by Cheryl did not exist, and urged me to contact the store manager before filing a claim. If the store manager refused to take care of it, she would handle it from the district level. He told me the same thing Cheryl did until I mentioned my chat with his boss, and he amended his stance to say "that the policy was more of a guideline than anything else" to avoid returns for flat tires. This is just as absurd as what Cheryl told me, but regardless, I got my refund - and I purchased a bike from a real bike store.

I just wanted to share my experience with the readers of The Consumerist, so they could be wary of buying an important purchase like a primary mode of transportation from such an unscrupulous company - and to be wary of what lower management tells you. Worst case scenario, contact district staff. Wal-Mart is seems to be often more afraid of pad PR than anything else.

The take-home lesson is that when you try to buy a bike at a store better known for selling pickles by the barrel, you don't even get what you paid for it, no matter how little that was. No matter how little you paid, they paid even less; not such a big deal when you drop $300 on a bike; the wholesale price on that still gets you a decent bike. But when you buy a "$100" bike, you get whatever slag can be slapped together and shipped over here in a container for under $50. Not a bike you should trust your life to.

Abstinence ed: Utter failure, but popular!

The estimable Sightline Institute analyzes a news report on how well "abstinence education" works. The graphic explains itself.

Essentially, it's just an update on the old joke that goes "What do you call people who use _________ (Then: rhythm method, Now: abstinence-only education) as birth control? Answer: Parents. "

Does the economy make you more interested in keeping hens?

Keizer Times wants to know -- look for the survey on the home page.

Also, a decent writeup on community gardens and the push to allow urban hens in Keizer.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Great stuff! Ditch school buses

Since this is where we're going anyway, let's start now. Heck, we've already got free Cherriots passes started for some students; just extend that to all Salem-Keizer students!

Help avoid a Katrina in Salem

Remember, after Katrina, when everyone was asking "What sort of genius builds in an area obviously in danger of flooding?"

Well, with luck, not Salem. But we can't count on it.

You've been hearing a lot about flooding in Fargo, ND -- but it could be Salem in a few years if Battle Creek gets developed. That's why you (and please bring your friends) need to come to the Mayor and Council meeting on April 6 -- public hearing starts at 7:30 p.m.

For more detailed information see "Battle Creek News" below.

Battle Creek News

Updates for the Battle Creek community

This newsletter is produced by The Comprehensive Plan Supporters (COPS), a nonprofit neighborhood association that has worked for the past two years on upholding the Comprehensive Plan and Battle Creek as open space. COPS and other supporters testified to the Planning Commission in November. As you probably know they unfortunately ruled in favor of the developer. However, we aren't going to give up the fight, we appealed the outcome to the Mayor and City Council.

PLEASE NOTE: the Mayor and City Council will hear the appeal to the requested change in the Comprehensive Plan on April 6--mark your calendars and plan to be there.

Didn't the City buy a section, the southern 38-acres of the property?

Not exactly, the City has an OPTION to buy the property. If you want to read the entire document go to: www.savebattlecreek.com then click on
Library and the first document listed is "Amended Purchase and Sale Agreement..." This document clearly states that

1) the agreement only covers a 2-year period;
2) the city is only making a down payment of $200,000;
3) the city can walk away from this agreement any time during the 2-year time frame, in other words the city can decline to purchase the property and return it to the developer; and

4) the city agrees to mitigate the storm water from the northern section of the property on to the southern parcel.

Residents can go on the south parcel of the Battle Creek property as the fence has been taken down and technically it's city property for at
least the next two years.

What has COPS been doing lately?

John Shepard & Lora Meisner had conversations with several large organizations/institutions who could be affected by potential flooding. They have spoken to several legislators to see what help the state may be able to give us on this issue. Additionally, they have made presentations to many neighborhood associations to get support as well as signatures on our petition. The meetings were to both inform and to try to elicit some support to get the city council to not vote on a Comp Plan change UNTIL they do a hydrology study so the city knows what it's dealing with. Several neighborhood associations (not SGNA) have been supported of our efforts.

Additionally, John (with Lora starting to help) is working with the Watershed Council to establish the Battle Creek Watershed Council. In forming this council it will assist us in keeping involved in the city's oversight of the south property as well as clean water and flood mitigation issues.

We also did outreach to the media and there is article published in the March issue of Salem Monthly on the Battle Creek issue. It is a good one and copies of the Salem Monthly can be obtained at the Library and other locations around Salem.

What Can We Do? How Can We Help?

We still need help with signatures on petitions as well as letters to the editor of the Statesman Journal. March will be a good month to bombard them with letters as the hearing on the Comp Plan Change before the Mayor and Council will be on April 6 -- MARK YOUR CALENDAR FOR APRIL 6 !

We need each of you to bring a friend or two and fill up the auditorium--we need a great showing. If you want to say a few words, there's plenty of information on the back of this page. We need donations to support our efforts. Send a donation to COPS, 4742 Liberty Road S. #357, Salem, OR 97302-5000. For questions or more information email: savebattlecreek@yahoo.com.

This proposed change goes against the City's Comprehensive Plan and is a bad precedent for the city to engage in.

* The City of Salem Area Comprehensive Plan states under Urban Growth Policies: To preserve farmland and open space and to preserve
and enhance the livability of the area.

* In the Neighborhood Plans adopted by the City Council: Liberty-Boone Neighborhood Plan, adopted 1983. Liberty-Boone Neighborhood Plan specifies Open Space Policies: "The preservation of the area around Battle Creek shall be encouraged until clearly needed for development. With development, Battle Creek shall be preserved as a natural drainage way.

* This is also the first time that the city is considering putting a development in the middle of a floodplain and through an undefined floodway. Prior city developments have been along the edge of floodplains but not in the middle of one.

* There should be NO Comp Plan change without a hydrology study to determine the impact on flooding and on the watershed.

What the City of Salem cannot say (until an engineering study is completed), how much storm-water or floodwater can be mitigated on to the south portion of the property. They have not yet performed the necessary engineering on the property. They do not know what is even possible to do with the property.

* This is important: The city has an OPTION to buy the south parcel of property. In two years, the city can just walk away and give the property back to the developer, it can try to secure financing on it's own or secure financing through the developer. This option to buy the property is just that a big "maybe."

* What has been said is that “we may be able to mitigate up to 75 acre-feet of water on the south property”. What is an acre feet of water? One acre of land with water, which is covered one foot deep. During the 1996 flood, more than 75 acres of the Battle Creek property was flooded, many places more than 4 feet deep.

* Do you know that the north part of the Battle Creek property is approximately 2 feet lower than the south portion? The city promised to mitigate the storm-water/flood water from the north portion of the property on the south portion...how will they accomplish this? There will be at least 80 to 120 acre-feet from the north portion alone. The south portion is only 38 acres, 17 of which are already under the Battle Creek Floodway.

* More than 12 years of development upstream (since the 1996 flood) of the Battle Creek property has occurred creating substantial increases in non-permeable surfaces. This means more water to the creeks. Much of the undeveloped property in the Creekside area has stripped hillsides creating a flood/erosion risk.

* The north portion has floodway along Waln Creek that has not been defined. What is the danger building in a floodway?

* Where will those Salem boys put all that water? Will it go outward into the surrounding properties or move faster downstream or both. If it moves outward, neighboring homes will be flood. If water is driven faster down Battle Creek, erosion and new higher flood stages will occur. Battle Creek is a significant contributor to Mill Creek water flow. Mill Creek floods downtown Salem. The 1996 flood was a result of a 'la nina' weather pattern. These weather patterns occur about every 8 to 10 years. The most recent one caused the recent I-5/Chehalis flooding. Battle Creek water will contribute to higher flood peaks and earlier flood surges.

The Comprehensive Plan change would:

* Reduce the open space, which is contrary to the Comprehensive Plan and Neighborhood Plan. Open space is important to balance the high-density development that has been permitted in South Salem over the past 25 years (approved because the Battle Creek open space property is here).

* Lower property values of the citizens who have invested in homes in the area. More development in our community is not necessary. Recent testimony given to the city council stated that the Board of Realtors estimates that the buildable lots comprise 4.7-year inventory.

* Increase traffic problems for the neighborhood potentially 3500 more cars daily trips.

* Decreases quality of life in the area. Developing the last significant park open space south of Keubler Road.
Lora Meisner
1347 Spyglass Court SE
Salem, OR 97306

Friends of Marion County
P.O. Box 3274
Salem, OR 97302

Yo, yoots of Salem: getcher free Cherriots pass

Attention (Selected Salem) Students
Students at the following schools are eligible for a FREE Cherriots bus pass that will let you ride Cherriots anytime until June 30, 2009.

To sign up for a free pass, fill out the online form (.pdf warning) and turn it in at your school's office.

Participating Schools
  • Parrish Middle School
  • Downtown Learning Center
  • McKay High School
  • North Salem High School
  • Roberts High School
  • Early College High School

Next Tuesday: Opportunity to help protect critical farmland

Please attend an important hearing next Tuesday March 31st in Salem on House Bill 3099. The hearing has been called to receive public testimony on this bill which would increase protection for farmland.

Date: March 31, 2009
Time: 3:00 PM
Location: State Capitol, Hearing Room E
Contact: Cheyenne Ross, Committee Administrator: 503-986-1734
Details: Please arrive early and sign up to testify.

The original purpose of the Exclusive Farm Use Zone is to protect Oregon's agricultural industry from conflicting uses and poorly planned development. Currently there are over 51 different non-farm uses allowed in the farm zone, ranging from private schools and private playgrounds, to gravel mines and golf courses. It is time stand up to protect our farmland!

Please join us next Tuesday to express your concerns directly to the legislators that will be making key decisions on farmland protection. Legislators need to hear your personal stories about why we need to pass HB 3099.

Please let the Land Use Committee know that you support HB 3099 because:
Farmland is not undeveloped land waiting for one of these conflicting uses. It is already developed land that supports one Oregon's leading industries. The agricultural industry is a primary driver of the Oregon economy and it keeps growing every year.

Most of these conflicting uses have nothing to do with farming. It's time to simplify our land use laws so that exclusive farm use zones are exclusively for farming.

Among other needed changes, HB 3099 would:

  • Better protect our best soils from gravel mining, by requiring an analysis of alternatives
  • Bar golf courses from high-value farmland
  • Allow new schools on farmland only if they primarily serve the rural community, instead of kids bused in from nearby cities
  • Help ensure that temporary medical hardship dwellings don't turn into permanent dwellings
The whole bill can be read at: http://www.leg.state.or.us/09reg/measures/hb3000.dir/hb3099.intro.html

Please let us know if you'll be able to join us to testify by contacting Tara Sulzen at 503-497-1000 or emailing her at tara@friends.org.

Thank you for all you do!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tonight: Friends of Marion County sponsor Solid Waste plan forum

Since Marion County runs a garbage incinerator --- possibly the worst possible solution for managing waste --- Salem has an interest in how its trash is handled. There's a forum tonight on this subject at 7 p.m. in the Willamette University Law School's Paulus Auditorium.

Free and open to the public.

Welcome - 7:00 Kathrine Reed, League of Women Voters of Marion/Polk Counties
7:10 - League Study outline and purpose - Deanie Anderson
7:20 - Jeff Bickford and Doug Drennen, Marion County Solid Waste Master Plan
7:50 - League of Women Voters findings
8:15 Q&A
8:50 Next steps
9:00 program ends

Friends of Marion County

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Must read: Why Recovery Isn't In the Cards

If you only read one thing LOVESalem links to, read this.

The conundrum of transit funding

Nice story on Spokane using federal stimulus money to bus buses, including some diesel-electric hybrids.

The problem with this in, say, Salem, is that we're not short of buses, we're short of operations dollars --- which you have to have to put a driver in the seat of the bus. In countless areas, the strings that the feds tie to federal funding make it worse than useless: you can buy a bus with federal dollars, but you can't use any federal dollars to make the investment pay off. Likewise, you can't use buses bought with federal dollars to start charter bus runs to staunch the flow of red ink in your transit system.

Right now the Legislature is debating letting districts like Cherriots impose a payroll tax to raise more operating funds. It's hard to know if this is the right idea -- transit is melting down, making all the money spent on the buses wasted. And, when gas prices shoot up again, people are going to be very angry when there's only a skeleton bus system waiting for them. On the other hand, there is a fundamental problem with paying for a basic service that should be on a par with sewers, police and fire protection, street lights, and garbage pickup through a payroll tax. Oregon, and Salem in particular, is already way too dependent on income taxes --- adding another dependency on income taxes just worsens the whipsaw we experience when jobs are declining.

Your Salem Early-Spring Bicycling Calendar

The tireless . . . um, no, wait, he's definitely not tireless . . . the energetic and early rising Eric Lundgren of Breakfast on Bikes sends along this calendar of tasty Salem bike-related activities:
Spring is here and bicycling activities are picking up!

Friday, March 27
Got friends and colleagues shut out of the "two-hour shuffle"? Introduce them to bike commuting with a tasty treat at Breakfast on Bikes! B on B will be at 12th & Chemeketa between 7am and 9am. Thanks to Cascade Baking Co., Coffee House Cafe, and LifeSource Natural Foods. For more see -

Tuesday, March 31
Downtown Vision 2020 will hold an Open House. The bike/ped work group
is one of the most active, and they will have much to report on. The MWVBTA will present a draft version of their Top 12 List of projects for better bicycling. Another big draw will be the 3-D model of proposed restriping plans for Commercial street downtown. These plans will use bike lanes and sharrows to make Commercial street safer for bicyclists. Come check it out! For more information see -

Saturday, April 18
The Union Street Railroad Bridge opens to bicycles and pedestrians!
The gala ribbon-cutting starts at 10am. Bike on down and check out the beautiful views off this historic bridge. The bridge also received over $3.5 million in stimulus funds to plan a path from the bridge to Glen Creek road and to encapsulate the paint in a lead abatement project. Additionally, on the 23rd, City Council voted to move forward on the proposed bridge to Minto Island. See Friends of Two Bridges for more - http://friends2bridges.blogspot.com/

Tuesday - Wednesday, April 21-22
For its fourth year the Oregon Bike Summit comes to Salem. The special focus will be on the legislative agenda. For more information and for registration see - http://oregonbikesummit.com/

Sunday, April 26
The Salem Bicycle Club presents the first major ride of the season, the Monster Cookie! Enjoy the gentle rolling hills of French Prairie from Salem to Champoeg and back on this metric century. And in this Sesquicentennial year, remember: Oregon starts at Champoeg! For more see - http://salembicycleclub.org/content.plx?page=majrides

Both the Salvation Army and St. Vincent de Paul are starting bicycle repair and recycling programs. We'll have more on them as they grow. See the breakfast blog for a story about the Salvation Army -

The City of Salem is applying for three Transportation and Growth
Management grants
. These applications are to create a district-wide Safe Routes to School program, to create a Downtown Vision 2020 Bike/Ped circulation plan, and to update thoroughly the Bicycle and Pedestrian Elements of the Transportation System Plan. For more see -

The legislature is in its 11th week now, and there's lots of activity that involves bicycles. To learn more see the weekly legislative update - http://breakfastonbikes.blogspot.com/search/label/Legislation

Mayor Taylor and the City of Salem won an Alice Award from the BTA for Salem's bicycling progress, especially for the Union Street Railroad Bridge project. There were five winners from a pool of 34 nominations. Well done, Salem! For more see - http://breakfastonbikes.blogspot.com/search?q=alice

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Just contemplating the shame should be enough

If proper Yankees in Hartford, Connecticut can have hens but Oregonians in Salem can't.
UPDATE: Meanwhile, in Beaverton, a boy was just mauled by a pit bull. The Salem zoning ordinance happily permits pit bulls. No hens though.

Salem needs to LEARN -- and fast


A one-page acronym to define five actions necessary to avoid societal collapse because of the imminent decline of finite fossil fuels:
LOCALIZE agriculture, energy production, social services, essential manufacturing, etc. All will have to regress to a limited “twenty-mile radius” community. This will not be a choice. The inevitable curtailment of transportation fuel will reduce future travel. Intercity light rail will be impossible without energy. www.postcarbon.org.

EDUCATE yourself and others. We passed peak oil in late 2008. Natural gas, coal, and fissionable uranium are not far behind. Without ever-increasing energy, real growth, including a debt-based financial system based on future principal plus interest, cannot continue. Recognize the fallacies of bogus solutions like: “There’s plenty left”; “The scientists will save us”; “We can efficiency our way out of our dilemma (not if we don’t reduce consumption)”; “Biofuels, including waste, cellulosic ethanol, and grease will suffice” (at the expense of food). The honest facts must reach the public, the media, and decision-makers even in the midst of denial. Start with www.peakoil.net, www.theoildrum.com, www.321energy.com, etc.

ADAPT to a very limited solar-electric future as our only hope of perpetuating any semblance of the brief fossil-fuel age. This vision could be sustainable, clean, and far superior to our ancestor’s harsh existence. A solar-electric sequel could integrate with waning fossil fuels and all other energy sources such as limited hydro or geothermal into a modern electrically-based system and allow individuals to take control of their own production with PV. Also included are wind and concentrated solar.

RATION all fossil fuels starting immediately with gasoline. This is the only way we can reduce consumption on a controlled basis without increasing price-competition and conflict over the remains. Rationing is probably our best chance to buy time for mitigation and give our kids a chance for the remnants of the party.

NEGATIVE population growth. This is the toughest and most critical issue. With peak oil we have passed peak growth. Our short cornucopia of excess resources (including fossil fuels and all natural resources) has ended. We have far too many people in the US and the world for a sustainable civilization. If we don’t get the correct facts out and convince people to begin negative population growth, mother nature will reduce population in her own cruel ways. See www.npg.org, www.optimumpopulation.org, www.worldpopulationbalance.org and others.

We all need to understand and project this acronym.
Source: www.solarcarandtractor.com

I bought and distributed several hundred copies of John Howe's excellent short book, The End of Fossil Energy and the Last Chance for Survival, so I'm already predisposed to like him. He has a gift for cutting through the extraneous and getting to the few crucial items at the root of things. His LEARN acronym is a great advance, offering us the chance to say, in a page, exactly what we must do as a society.

Why Repower Oregon

Global warming? Climate change? Whatever you prefer to call it, it is an urgent issue that we can no longer afford to ignore.

That's why I am inviting you to attend a very special event co-hosted by the Marion County Oregon League of Conservation Voters and the Healthy Climate Partnership.

Please join us for a special presentation on the benefits of taking responsible, immediate action in the fight against global warming vs. the high cost of doing nothing. Details are below.

Why Repower Oregon?

  • WHAT: Experts will discuss what steps we can take, right here in Oregon, to minimize the negative impacts of global warming on our economy, our health and our community.
  • WHEN: Thursday, April 16, 2009, 6 PM - 8 PM
  • WHERE: United First Methodist Chuch, in the Carrier Room, 600 State Street (down the street from the Capitol in Salem).

Representative Jules Bailey, Senior Policy Analyst at ECONorthwest -- Jules works at the intersection of economics, public policy, the environment, and urban development. As a Senior Policy Analyst at ECONorthwest, one of Oregon's oldest and most respected economics consulting firms, Jules has worked on several economic analysis and development projects, including managing the economic analysis for the Alaskan Way Viaduct and Seawall Replacement project, conducting an economic impact projection for the Portland High Performance Green Building Policy, analyzing a state system of carbon taxes for Oregon, and writing a literature review of smart growth policies.

Bob Stacey, Exective Director at 1000 Friends of Oregon -- Bob has a long history with 1000 Friends and with land use and growth management. He was one of 1000 Friends’ first staff attorneys (1975 - 1986), and served on the board of directors (1996 – 2000). His professional career includes work as Director of the City of Portland Planning Bureau; Senior Policy Advisor on Urban Growth Management to Governor Barbara Roberts; attorney in private practice; Executive Director of Policy and Planning at TriMet; and Chief of Staff to Congressman Earl Blumenauer. He is a graduate of Reed College and the University of Oregon, and was a Loeb Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Design for the 2000-2001 academic year. In 2008, he became a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He is a native Oregonian.

Catherine Thommason, MD, President of Physicians for Social Responsibility

Capacity is limited to 100 people. Please register now to reserve your seat.

Please register to attend.

I hope you can join us at this very special event.

Tresa Horney
Marion County Organizer, OLCV [Oregon League of Conservation Voters]

And you're invited

Good Afternoon - Please join us for the Vision 2020 Spring Forum, next Tuesday, March 31st, from 5 - 7 pm at the Salem Conference Center. The Vision 2020 Spring Forum will be fun and interactive for all age groups.

A sampling of what you'll see and do at the forum:

- chance to see what the new downtown historic building markers will look like
- help choose the movies for this summer's Movies in the Park series
- test drive a virtual bike in a sharrow on Commercial Street
- be one of the first to experience Salem's new one-stop website for events and activities
- learn about new downtown restaurants and retail shops
- provide input on locations for public art downtown
- and much, much more!

For more information please contact Annie Gorski at 503-588-6178.

(No word on replacing the two kiosks for handbills were removed with a promise that they would be replaced.)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Time to Start Clucking About Your Support for CITY

The Salem City Council needs to hear from you if you (a) want to keep hens or (b) don't mind if others do.

Copy this address list and let 'er rip. Keep it short, keep it polite, keep on the issue. Probably best to send to all nine and note your ward in the text of your note.

jtaylor@cityofsalem.net; crbennett@cityofsalem.net; ltesler@cityofsalem.net; bnanke@cityofsalem.net; tjsullivan@cityofsalem.net; ddickey@cityofsalem.net; brogers@cityofsalem.net; bcannon@cityofsalem.net; dclem@cityofsalem.net

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Think of this whenever you start your car or book a flight

Why we fight, updated for the new century.

Winter might be an era, not just a season

Nice slide show here.

Sanyo Eneloop Bikes + Cherriots + This Idea = Great Stuff

Soon coming to Salem: Sanyo, makers of the cool Eneloop Bikes.

Already in Salem:
  • Some reasonably hellish hills, especially if it's at all warm or if you are wearing any kind of businesslike clothing.

  • A transit system in great need of an expanded sense of purpose and improved morale.

  • An opportunity to learn from experiments like this and to improve on them.
Put those elements together and what could we get? A great opportunity for LOVE in Salem -- a bikesharing system with Sanyo bikes, organized, managed and maintained by local bikeshops with coordination and backup service from Cherriots, and reduced driving for all!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

T-30 and counting!

You are invited to the Grand Opening ceremony for the new Union Street Railroad Bridge across the Willamette River in Salem. This rehabilitated bridge - built in 1913 and now converted to non-motorized use by the city - will tie Wallace Marine Park to Riverfront Park.

Salem Mayor Janet Taylor, who helped move this project forward and is now working on a second bike and pedestrian bridge, was recently honored by the BTA with an Alice B. Toeclips Award for that work.

Saturday, April 18th, 10:00 am, Riverfront Park (North End)
Ceremony, parade, entertainment and refreshments for the whole family (but they'll probably give you some even if you come without your whole family too.)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Mindless expansionism

It's rare that a single paragraph perfectly captures the non-thought that so often passes for thought in the minds of people afflicted with Carhead, the mental disorder that turns adults into five-year-olds who are incapable of thinking beyond their immediate wants and who throw terrible tantrums at the slightest hint of frustration. But Washington Post editor Fred Hiatt nails it:
Highway funding, after all, has become as encrusted in unyielding orthodoxies as any political issue. Almost no one disputes that Washington and the states, including Virginia and Maryland, have failed to deliver on the basic governmental responsibilities of ensuring mobility and enabling commerce. The number of miles Americans drive has essentially doubled since 1980 (cars up 97 percent; trucks, 106 percent), but the number of highway lane miles has grown only 4.4 percent. Result: twice as much traffic per road.
That's right -- we're driving TWICE as much as we did just a generation ago and, per the Carhead mentality, it's not nearly enough. There you have it folks, Carhead in all its glory. No matter how many communities we destroy, no matter how obese we are, no matter how many people die in our pursuit of automobility, no matter how much pollution we create, how hot the globe gets, or anything else, the only thing that matters is spending everything we have -- and more -- on pouring more roads for Carheads.

Why, anything else is just ... social engineering!

Portland "Tour De Coops," Saturday, July 25

More info here.

Links from there include one to a really nice design for an enclosure you build yourself from plans.

A systemic preference for treating symptoms only

The most frustrating thing about this article that warns parents that their kids are likely getting gassed with dangerous diesel exhaust every schoolday is that the only solution contemplated is a technological retrofit to the buses, rather than the elimination of the need to ferry kids about in buses every day.

Not only is school busing a direct health hazard, but it's also an indirect health hazard as the obesity epidemic balloons among school-age kids. And that's leaving aside the diminished future that kids are going to suffer because we spend so much money on motor transport rather than on education. Even as the public transit system starves and is withering away, contracting and becoming less useful, we maintain a huge fleet of buses that only serve to provide trips that the kids should be making on foot and on bikes.

Worse, when you get into the situation further, you find that district administrators organize the entire district around this bus fleet. Try suggesting a sensible idea like opening high schools much later in the morning (consistent with all research on teens and sleep) and you'll quickly find that "you can't get there from here" because all ideas are evaluated not for their educational effect but for their effect on the scheduling of the buses.

Even bankrupting ourselves on roads doesn't solve congestion

Hugely important insight from the Sightline Institute: congestion is much more related to the population of the urban area than it is to how much you spend pouring roads. In other words, spending money to attract businesses and people to your city is what causes congestion -- and no amount of roadbuilding is going to change that.

Perhaps, instead of bankrupting ourselves trying to chase the treadmill of roadbuilding and demands for more and wider roads, we should start focusing more --- lots more --- on giving people alternatives to driving in the congested conditions that are going to be there no matter what we do. The whole article at the Sightline site is well worth reading.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Interesting letter from Olympia

This is a letter from someone involved in Code Compliance for Olympia, our capital neighbor to the north. Note especially the last paragraph:
Subject: chickens in an urban setting

Our city council decided to allow hens in the City of Olympia six or seven years ago. As I said over the phone, it would be difficult to go back and find out exactly how many chicken complaints per year prior to allowing them. I am sure that since hens are allowed we have fewer complaints, I’d say five or less per year. The complaints are mostly about roosters crowing. We’ve had several complaints about someone having too many hens.

I believe that we now receive fewer complaints because the “chicken advocates” were good about educating new owners care of their hens. It seems that we never get complaints about hens out wondering loose anymore. Good fences (pens) do make good neighbors.

I also should mention that we in code enforcement were not keen on the chickens being allowed. However, that attitude has completely changed.

Georgia Sabol
Code Enforcement Officer
Community Planning & Development

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Community Gardens Update/Calendar of Events

Dear Friends,

On April 4th, the first Saturday of the month, the Food Share will be hosting a spring garden fair that will unite the community around a common cause, and that is to develop a system of access for the plentiful garden skill building and growing opportunities made available through the Sustainable Community Gardens Network.

This network, orchestrated by Marion Polk Food Share, consists of community garden coordinators, teachers, farmers, master gardeners, volunteers, businesses, the faith community, government officials, and more, and we will all be gathering this day to meet and greet the community that is interested in learning more about the gardens program.

Our goal is to reach out and engage folks and families that are interested in learning more about how gardening can improve the health, self-reliance and sustainability of our region. With this in mind, our outreach plan includes connecting with the Salem-Keizer School District and WIC participants, among other community partnerships. Our intention is to target the community of Salem-Keizer, and in this first year we hope to have the participation of at least 200 families. We feel positive that we can meet this level of participation, thanks in large part to the necessity and innovation of growing our own food as a community.

This is a request for you to all help spread the word about the first annual spring community garden fair through your personal networks. We invite your participation in this years’ fair, and have high hopes that it will come together successfully as we build a foundation for garden fairs in years to come.

Thank you for your support as we lead the fight to end hunger in our community.


Jordan Blake – Marion Polk Food Share Garden Project Manager

P.P.S. When you have the time, please check out www.livingcultureonline.com for a peak at a recently televised program on CCTV about the gardens program.
MPFS Community Gardens Program Calendar:

On Monday, March 16th from 6-8pm we will be meeting at Marion Polk Food Share to discuss garden projects. This is a potluck, and all are welcome.

Rain Water Harvesting Workshop with OSU Extension Sustainable Communities

On Saturday, March 21st from 9:00am to noon, we will be working at the 19th St Neighborhood Garden in SE Salem (between Bellevue and Oak – just off of Mission) to implement a rainwater catchment system off of the garden shed. We will also be working to tidy up and process the lumber for a gazebo project and last but not least, we will plant some seeds.

First Annual Spring Community Garden Fair

Saturday, April 4th 2009, 1 - 5pm at Marion/Polk Food Share, 1660 Salem Industrial Drive NE, Salem 97301

Note: This year, the Fair offers a special morning program open to our program volunteers and partners:


10am—Volunteer Leadership and Community Garden Coordinator Training

12noon—Community Luncheon

Friday, March 13, 2009

Nice SJ article on Corvallis Coop Tour

Pretty good article: Note that the Salem Chickens in the Yard (CITY) proposal forbids free-ranging, requiring the hens to be kept in a complete enclosure. The article starts out talking about chicken tractors, which allow you to move hens about in a protective enclosure so that they debug/degrub and fertilize different sections of lawn as you move the "tractor" about.
. . . Backyard chickens seem to be in the news a lot these days. With our free-falling economy, food-safety issues and a growing local food movement, people are finding comfort in becoming more self-sufficient.

The urban chicken movement is burgeoning — a 2008 Newsweek article claimed that 65 percent of major U.S. cities allow chicken keeping. Some Oregon communities, including Corvallis and Portland, and other cities around the country, including New York City, Los Angeles and Seattle, all permit urban chickens. Ordinances generally limit urban and suburban residents to five or fewer hens, with no roosters

Locally, a cadre of citizens in Salem called Chickens in the Yard is asking the City Council to allow residents to keep as many as five backyard hens — but no roosters. City code currently prohibits keeping livestock and fowl within city limits except for areas zoned residential-agricultural. The Salem City Council postponed action this week on a proposed amendment to city code that would allow chickens in the city.

If you are interested in seeing well-kept backyard chicken coops in action, come to Corvallis from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday to the "Cooped Up in Corvallis" self-guided chicken and duck coop tour.

On the tour, you'll get a chance to visit eight chicken and duck coop sites in the Corvallis community and talk with backyard fowl keepers who can give you first-hand tips for integrating poultry into your backyard.

The tour is a fundraiser for the Corvallis Environmental Center Edible Corvallis Initiative, a local community gardening project. Tickets cost $8 or $14 per family. Tickets and maps are available at the First Alternative Co-op (North & South Stores) or at the Corvallis Environmental Center, 214 SW Monroe Street, from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. For more information, contact Leslie Van Allen at youthgardenproject@live.com.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Next meeting of Salem Transition Initiative for Relocalization (STIR)

STIR will hold its second meeting on Tuesday, March 17, at 7 p.m. at Tea Party Books (corner of Liberty and Ferry) in the second-floor meeting space.

There are stairs inside Tea Party Books, and there is an elevator on the Liberty Street entrance to the building for those who cannot negotiate stairs.

If you were not at the first meeting and would like to know more about STIR, visit the STIR group webpage on google.

So Not Change We Can Believe In: The End of Farmers Markets !


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Should this idea fly? Or at least go to the airport?

Sunlit Holland IImage by Bill Liao via Flickr

Thinking about countries like Holland (and Japan) today, and how they make maximal use of every square inch of land, which they have fought to reclaim from the North Sea for so many centuries. One image that always stays in my mind is the picture of Dutch airports and highways, which seem to be commonly used for agriculture.

Then I thought about the huge footprint of the Salem (McNary) Airport, much of which is essentially idle land right now.

Is there anyone interested in making a run at the airport folks about establishing community gardens and maybe even some small animal husbandry at the airport? It seems like (pending soil testing to ensure pollutants are not an issue) that it would be a great location -- close enough central location so that plenty of people could bike/walk/bus or drive to it, plenty of room for garden sheds/tool storage, lots of sun, etc. No problems with noise, obviously; few close-by neighbors; and a nice way to make productive use of currently not-too-well-used land.

With land being the critical issue for would-be farmers and small growers, what about making better use of land we already have?
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

The future of local transport in Salem

Great stuff. And MORE great stuff. Like this serious work bike. Lots more at the links.

Addicted to plastic

One more reminder.

PDX congestion dropped 1/3 in 2008 -- bigger bridge desperately needed!

If they don't build that 12-lane monstrosity, how will they ever get the congestion back to where it should be??? (Meaning the level that justifies endless paving for the Road Gang.)

Of course, the same is true for Salem: Congestion is dropping fast. But we're just too small to measure. But Salem blowing $600M on an unneeded third auto bridge is at least as stupid as Portland blowing $4.2B on unneeded expansion of a bi-state bridge.

Speaking of why these bridges are totally the wrong direction, here's this insightful article on how ODOT is going to have to do a fast about-face once we admit that CO2 is a pollutant:

But if the Obama Administration moves forward to regulate greenhouse gases, that could all change -- whether or not EPA institutes cap-and-trade or any other new sort of climate policy.

How? The key lies in one of the wonkiest of all policy areas: "transportation conformity." The Clean Air Act says that the regional bodies that spend federal transportation dollars must write plans that "conform" to a state's clean air implementation plan (known by the cognoscenti as a "SIP"). So when these regional bodies dole out federal dollars, they must certify that these plans will ensure that the plans won't harm air quality (DOT must sign off after consulting with EPA). Building transportation projects means pollutants, but usually the transportation plans can adopt Transportation Control Measures ("TCM"s) to reduce these pollutants.

So what does that have to do with land use? So far, nothing. But that is only because the pollutants that federal law cares about are so-called "criteria" pollutants: particulates, ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, etc.

If, however, EPA decides that carbon dioxide is also a criteria pollutant -- which it probably will -- then that means transportation plans must also fit in under state limits on carbon dioxide emissions. And that might transform federal transportation policy, because reducing carbon dioxide, far more than any other pollutant, means reducing Vehicle Miles Traveled. And reducing Vehicle Miles Traveled means changing land use patterns.

This is all complex and contingent, and the reason why lawyers (some, at least) get paid the big bucks. But to go through the motions again:

1. If EPA regulates carbon dioxide, then state implementation plans will have to show how they will reduce carbon emissions.

2. If state plans aim to reduce carbon emissions, then transportation plans will have to "conform" to them.

3. If transportation plans must conform to them, then these plans will have to show how they will reduce vehicle miles traveled.

4. In order to reduce vehicle miles traveled, land use patterns are going to have to change: they will have to be more compact, and rely more on transit.

What about those local governments that control land use? Why should they care? Because if they don't, then they won't get federal money for their transportation projects. And that will mean a lot to them.

Nine (missed) meals away from anarchy

This is why things like turning lawns into gardens and raising hens in urban areas matter. A lot.

Nine meals from anarchy?

Richard Cornish meets the man known as the Al Gore of food security.

HE LOOKS more like a genial uncle than a harbinger of doom, but the UK Soil Association's Patrick Holden visited Australia recently to deliver a sobering message. . . . Sometimes referred to as the Al Gore of food security, Holden warned that if the west doesn't focus on shoring up food security it could leave itself open to a food crisis.

"Think of the global credit crises," he says. "Well, in 10 to 15 years we could see something similar happen with food, a sort of global food crunch. This would have far worse consequences than this financial crises ... In just a few generations we have burned almost all our reserves of fossil fuel and pumped the gas into the atmosphere."

Holden refers to the fact that almost all the food in the Western world is grown using oil. Tractors and harvesters run on diesel, chemical pesticides are made from oil; fertilisers are either made directly from oil or mined from rapidly diminishing mineral reserves.

He also describes a global food production and distribution system that uses oil to transport food not only around the world but within national borders.

"We rely so much on oil for our food that if something were to disrupt that supply, such as a political incident like we saw recently when Russia cut off gas supplies to Europe this winter, terrorism or war, then our food stocks would run out.

"We must also consider that we have reached peak oil production and it's just going to get more expensive from now on."

A report by the Soil Association refers to the 2000 fuel protest that brought London to within three days of running out of food. The first head of the Blair government Countryside Agency, Lord Cameron of Dillington, came back with a chilling report: "The nation is just nine meals from anarchy."

Holden wants governments around the world to tackle what he calls an "emergency in the wings".

"I look around Sydney and it's obvious. The city has engulfed so much arable land, its farming land and now the food has to come from so much further away. It's the same for all Australian cities."

He says governments should consider putting plans in place to achieve sustainable agriculture that doesn't rely on oil and chemical fertilisers, and to grow staples close to where people live.

He points to organic farming not just as a way of farming sustainably, but also of sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. "Our practice of using nitrogen fertilisers is oxidising our soils," he says.

"The nitrogen burns the carbon and this goes up into the atmosphere as CO2."

When asked if his claims might just be a way of scaring people onto the organic bandwagon, he says: "I am not apocalyptic. But yes, I want to see more people farming organically. What is at stake is our health and the future of the next generation."

Holden sees a need for a bottom-up movement where people put pressure on governments to address food security. . . .

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Food & Sustainability Book Group forming

LOVESalem visitors can look into joining a "potluck and books" group being organized by a local sustainability advocate, Melissa A, who is a real asset to our little city.

The first meeting will take up the very well-reviewed and popular book by Barbara Kingsolver, a gifted writer, called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.
Well ladies and gentlemen, I've composed a survey page on SurveyMonkey.com to gather your responses as to when we should hold our first monthly book discussion & potluck. The book we will discuss is: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.

You are getting this invitation because you've recently participated in a discussion group (i.e. Menu for the Future), wish you had participated, participated in one in the past, or are perhaps a food-conscious person who wants to socialize and join this group :)

Here's the link you need to access in order to cast your input:

FYI - You can forward this to your friends who might be interested in attending, the survey is not restricted to just the e-mail address I'm sending this to. AKA, spread the word!
If you want to participate, complete the survey (link above) and you can contact Melissa at community.dreamer@yahoo.com

Kids Bicycle Program in Salem

A recently appointed member of the Cherriots Board sends this encouraging message:

The Salvation Army in Salem has started a bicycle repair program to teach our residents and children some skills. They have also donated the repaired or reused bikes.

Anyone interested in volunteering, donating bikes or repair tools, money, or finding out more about the program may contact Chaplain Dan Reichman. His cell phone # is 503-999-0179.
--Kate Tarter

Word: Amusing Ourselves to Death


"[Americans are] probably the best entertained and least informed people in the world," Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., said Friday at the BuiltGreen Conference in Seattle, noting that we know more about the decline of Britney Spears than we do about global warming. It was one grim truth among many that he shared with the audience of architects, planners, and green building folks.

See you April 18!

Grand Opening of the
Union Street Railroad Bridge

Saturday, April 18, 2009, 10 a.m.

Riverfront Park (North End)

Presentation, ceremony, bridge parade, entertainment for the whole family and refreshments.

Parking available at Wallace Marine Park and Riverfront Park.

[Sadly, Cherriots no longer operates on Saturday, so you can't catch a bus to this event. However, ideally there will be great weather for biking.]

Monday, March 9, 2009

Where the money goes


NY Times - One in every 31 adults, or 7.3 million Americans, is in prison, on parole or probation, at a cost to the states of $47 billion in 2008, according to a new study. Criminal correction spending is outpacing budget growth in education, transportation and public assistance, based on state and federal data. Only Medicaid spending grew faster than state corrections spending, which quadrupled in the past two decades, according to the report by the Pew Center on the States, the first breakdown of spending in confinement and supervision in the past seven years. . .

States have shown a preference for prison spending even though it is cheaper to monitor convicts in community programs, including probation and parole, which require offenders to report to law enforcement officers. A survey of 34 states found that states spent an average of $29,000 a year on prisoners, compared with $1,250 on probationers and $2,750 on parolees. The study found that despite more spending on prisons, recidivism rates remained largely unchanged.

It would be in Salem too, were Cherriots not cutting back

Washington Post story on the nationwide surge in transit ridership.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

3/9 -- CITY Round 2 at Salem City Council

Be there to support urban chickens! Because hunger is returning to America:
Food bank representatives agree on one thing: the need for their services is spiking in a way none of them can recall. Again and again, they emphasize that lines at food pantries are growing longer, seemingly by the month, and that those in line are younger and often more middle class than ever before.

Families who just months ago didn't even know what a food bank was and would never have considered visiting a food pantry now have far more intimate knowledge of both. Embarrassed to approach institutions that they previously identified with the poor and indigent, many, say food bank officials, are also waiting far too long to seek aid. Other formerly middle class Americans who have never dealt with, or even thought about, food insecurity before simply don't know whom to call or where to turn.

These points echo a December 2008 survey conducted by Feeding America, a national hunger-relief charity. Its network of more than 200 food banks in all 50 states distributes more than two billion pounds of donated groceries annually to 63,000 local charitable agencies. Its survey found that, of 160 food banks, 99.4% of them reported seeing more first-time users in 2008.

For America's food banks this has meant one thing: that they, too, are needier. They need ever more fresh food, non-perishable food, and non-food items like cleaning products and toiletries from wholesalers, retailers, food distributors, corporations, charities, government agencies, local farms, and individual donors. They need ever more storage and freezer space. They need ever more volunteers. They need ever more food that can be made available on appointed distribution days at food pantries. And they need ever more emergency food supplies, available on demand for people who suddenly realize that they are hungry and out of options, possibly for the first time in their lives. . . .
Even as Americans who once might have donated food or money now find themselves in need, people still have the urge to help as best they can. At one West Coast food bank, a representative told me of a man who recently came in with a proposition. He needed six weeks of food assistance while he was putting together the money to travel across country and move back in with his parents. Until then, he suggested, he would work for the food bank to pay his way . . . .
But that communal spirit can only take food banks so far, given the troubling trends on the horizon. According to Valanti, large foundations are reviewing their "decimated portfolios" and trimming donations, leaving organizations like hers wondering what the future will bring. In fact, the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank's subsidiaries are already struggling to obtain needed grants to secure new freezers to store food for the increasing number of nouveau needy. At the same time, she points out, food donations are actually down in her area, while the organization's food purchases have increased by an astonishing 560% in the last two years . . . .
Tens of millions of Americans were already suffering from hunger and food insecurity before the current depression. In fact, in 2006, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that 35.5 million Americans were "food insecure." Now, however, those numbers are bound to swell, thanks to the growing ranks of America's nouveau needy. "It's the new face of hunger for us. Before we primarily served the low-income population, the working poor, as people call them," says the San Diego Food Bank's Chris Carter. "Now middle class families who were in retail jobs, construction, the real estate industry… are finding themselves in our lines. Some of these people are those who would have donated food to us before, who would never dream they'd be in one of our food lines, and now they need help."

From his conversations with clients at the food bank's distribution sites, Carter sees bleak times ahead, especially for the staggering number of people who have, as a last resort, been maxing out their credit cards. "We've seen the credit crunch on Wall Street and the ripple effect that it's had on more vulnerable industries across the country. I think there's going to be a credit tightening at the consumer level. When that happens we're going to see a huge surge in demand," he said recently. "This is going to get worse before it gets better."

Such prospects will spell trouble in the years ahead. The Federal government is now pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into bailing out broken banks. If hunger and need continue to skyrocket, food banks may be the next banks to break. Who will bail them out?

Uh-oh -- a shoe poised to drop on Salem Center's head

Salem, by the standard of American smallish cities, enjoys an enviable downtown, with its beautiful old buildings preserved and a reasonably lively streetscape at night. It's dead in comparison to some much larger cities, but plenty of others are even more dead than Salem at night.

But it looks as those the retail collapse -- the end of the line for the "shop 'til you drop" mentality and the easy credit whirlwind -- could take out Salem Center's owner. The death of the landlord doesn't kill the tenants, but the tenants, especially the chain department stores are already struggling terribly, which means that Salem might have gaping vacancies in its downtown core within the next couple years.

One of the opportunities/challenges that groups like the Salem Transition Initiative for Relocalization (STIR) will face all over America is how to put dead retail spaces (both freestanding big boxes and downtown stores) to productive use.

As the consumer-driven economy runs aground, it's going to scatter a lot of flotsam and jetsam of empty stores that are peculiarly ill-suited for other uses, at least within the narrow range of thinking typically applied. We think in terms of replacing one failed tenant with a similar competitor, who refaces the building and continues on.

But in the world of tomorrow that's arriving today, the endless square miles of expensively lit and air-conditioned retail space surrounded by even more parking has little chance of success.

First of all, with the number of firms failing, it's going to be hard to find many Retailer B's to go where Retailer A's have failed. Secondly, the costs of operating those structures are already killing retailers now; when the effects of peak oil really kick in the low-margin retailers will likely not survive in anything like their current form.

Thus, people who are attuned to the problem now have a great opportunity: we need to start envisioning ways that former retail spaces can be reused in new ways. Obviously, anything with a big expanse of roof should be considered for rooftop gardens and distributed solar power production. How about housing? Can these spaces be used to house people inexpensively, despite the high ceilings? Is there a way to use these buildings to provide decent shelter?

Salem is likely to face some opportunities along these lines.

Mark this day: NYT Columnist Notices that "Mother Nature doesn't do bailouts"

Until quite recently, folks like Friedman were still all about the earth being "flat" and dreaming of endless growth, with a constantly increasing volume of goods and services winging their way around the world thanks to the wonderfulness of globalization.

But, give him credit, he has not only caught on to the fact that his little fantasy world is impossible, he is willing to rethink and recognize reality [mostly -- though he insists "we must have growth" still) in print before millions of people, which can't be easy.
The Inflection Is Near?

. . . What if the crisis of 2008 represents something much more fundamental than a deep recession? What if it’s telling us that the whole growth model we created over the last 50 years is simply unsustainable economically and ecologically and that 2008 was when we hit the wall — when Mother Nature and the market both said: “No more.”

We have created a system for growth that depended on our building more and more stores to sell more and more stuff made in more and more factories in China, powered by more and more coal that would cause more and more climate change but earn China more and more dollars to buy more and more U.S. T-bills so America would have more and more money to build more and more stores and sell more and more stuff that would employ more and more Chinese ...

We can’t do this anymore.

“We created a way of raising standards of living that we can’t possibly pass on to our children,” said Joe Romm, a physicist and climate expert who writes the indispensable blog climateprogress.org. We have been getting rich by depleting all our natural stocks — water, hydrocarbons, forests, rivers, fish and arable land — and not by generating renewable flows.

“You can get this burst of wealth that we have created from this rapacious behavior,” added Romm. “But it has to collapse, unless adults stand up and say, ‘This is a Ponzi scheme. We have not generated real wealth, and we are destroying a livable climate ...’ Real wealth is something you can pass on in a way that others can enjoy.”

. . . “Just as a few lonely economists warned us we were living beyond our financial means and overdrawing our financial assets, scientists are warning us that we’re living beyond our ecological means and overdrawing our natural assets,” argues Glenn Prickett, senior vice president at Conservation International. But, he cautioned, as environmentalists have pointed out: “Mother Nature doesn’t do bailouts.”

. . . “We are taking a system operating past its capacity and driving it faster and harder,” he wrote me. “No matter how wonderful the system is, the laws of physics and biology still apply.” We must have growth, but we must grow in a different way. For starters, economies need to transition to the concept of net-zero, whereby buildings, cars, factories and homes are designed not only to generate as much energy as they use but to be infinitely recyclable in as many parts as possible. Let’s grow by creating flows rather than plundering more stocks.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

As Maine Goes . . .

A great example to follow for preserving ecosystems and taking a step towards sustainable policy-making.

"Today the citizens of Shapleigh, Maine voted at a special town meeting to pass a groundbreaking Rights-Based Ordinance, 114 for and 66 against. This revolutionary ordinance give its citizens the right to local self-governance and gives rights to ecosystems but denies the rights of personhood to corporations. This ordinance allows the citizens to protect their groundwater resources, putting it in a common trust to be used for the benefit of its residents. Shapleigh is the first community in Maine to pass such an ordinance, which extends rights to nature, however, the Ordinance Review Committee in Wells, Maine is considering passing one in their town. These communities have been under attack by Nestle Waters, N.A., a multi-national water miner that sells bottled water under such labels as Poland Springs. .... "

A great question

If you want to understand what's coming

Yes, the future is hard to predict. But that cliched truism doesn't mean that you can't look at the present trends and extrapolate intelligently to set some boundaries on what the future would likely produce. After all, unless the aliens come, we know that we live on a finite planet, we have a fair to good understanding of many important physical laws that will continue to govern how things work on this finite planet, etc.

So read this article. It explains one hell of a lot about what we can expect. And it ends well, pointing out that the future trends need not portend disaster -- it's our choice about how to respond. We can try to cling to business as usual, pouring more and more of our efforts into propping up a society that requires abundant, cheap energy in ever greater quantities, or we can adopt gracefully to the future that is fairly clearly before us:
Despite his gloomy outlook on oil supplies, Brown strikes a hopeful note. He thinks the world can manage the needed downsizing once people abandon their faith in the myth of perpetual economic growth. Having done that, they can band together with their neighbors and fellow citizens and create a new low-energy society that he believes could end up making us healthier--we'll have to walk and bicycle more--and more connected to our neighbors with whom we'll have to work closely to make our communities work.

Friday, March 6, 2009

More STIRring on relocalization

The Salem Transition Initiative for Relocalization (STIR) will hold its second meeting

Date: March 17, 2009 (Tuesday)

Time: 7:00 - 9:00 (can stay later if desired)

Place: Tea Party Bookstore, 420 Ferry St. SE (Corner of Liberty & Ferry) UPSTAIRS meeting room. (The door on Liberty leads to an elevator for those needing to avoid stairs.)

Anyone interested in working to help Salem prepare for the challenges of peak oil, climate change, and the worldwide economic meltdown (and to help draft an Energy Descent Action Plan for Salem) is invited.

If you want to join the STIR discussion list, request an invitation to join the list here.

Speaking of chickens, C.I.T.Y. has a website

It's here. Bookmark it now to stay on top of the action as Salem undertakes a land use change to permit urban chickens.

Would you rather hear chickens or hungry peoples' stomachs?

One of the worst, least-justified phony excuses to continue barring urban chickens is noise.

In a city split by active train tracks, that has allowed a helicopter school to practice right in the city, that allows any number of dogs, roaring motorcycles, and constant sirens, there is simply no reasonable way to compare those aural assaults with the barely-audible sounds of chickens.

And then there's this report from Marion-Polk Food Share:
Number of Families in Need Rises Further into Record Territory

Another quarter has passed, and halfway through our fiscal year, need has climbed yet higher. Currently, an average of 6,294 families a month are seeking the aid of food boxes.

That average is up more than 300 families a month from last quarter’s all-time record levels, and means that there are now 682 more hungry families per month than last year at this same time.

Need is up most sharply in rural Marion and Polk counties, where it is 20.2% higher than at this time last year. Salem-Keizer’s increase stands at 5%, but that number, too, may be about to go higher.

Never-before-helped families are latest sign of troubled economic times

During January, alone, 562 never-before-helped Salem-Keizer families received food boxes. That number is significant because it is the most new families ever recorded in a single month, and because client service records go back to the early 1990’s.

While exact numbers are not currently available for rural areas, representatives from rural Marion and Polk counties charities report seeing many new families as well.

MPFS is buying more food than ever before

In recent years, our largest single source of food has been product donations from the local food industry. These donations have been comprised of various items companies would classify as “waste” and, indeed, before food banks much of this food was discarded in landfills.

More recently, as economic conditions have tightened, businesses—quite understandably—have had to become more efficient in order to stay afloat. That has meant fewer food donations to help struggling families.

In response, like never before, MPFS has made massive food purchases: seven entire semi-truck loads of food in the past eight weeks.

Purchases were made strategically. Six of the seven semi-loads were acquired locally, including three loads of canned vegetables from Norpac and two loads of canned pears from Truitt Bros.

Buying from local companies means we keep people in our community working and, if people are working, they are less likely to have to need the aid of a food box. Additionally, according to Ray Burstedt, President of SEDCOR (Salem Economic Development Corp.), every dollar spent on local salaries cycles back into the local economy at least three times. That helps our community weather these trying times.

Purchases only possible due to generous donors

The combined price tag for the seven semi-loads of food mentioned above was just short of $114,000, but the result of those purchases was 294,000 pounds of much-needed, nutritious food.

“We could not have done this without the help of the community,” said MPFS President Ron Hays. “It was the generosity of local individuals throughout the holidays that got us this food.”

“We also are grateful to Norpac and Truitt Bros., who gave us very good deals on the products we purchased,” said Hays. “There is nothing that gives me hope in these times like the generosity I see in this community.”