Saturday, February 21, 2009

See you at 7:45 tonight or thereabouts!

Chickens in the Yard (CITY) is rounding up people to come to the Salem City Council meeting this Monday, February 23, to speak during the open public comment period (i.e., not limited to agenda topics) that follows the scheduled business on the agenda. (See item 10 here.) A C.I.T.Y. leader sends:
. . . Re: the agenda for the City Council Meeting on Monday. Unfortunately, it is really long (5 pages). We can't speak until item #10; see the very last page. But I spoke with the City Recorder about this and she said some of the items will go very quickly. Her best estimate is that we will be able to start between 8:00 and 8:30. If we are not finished by 10:00, the council will vote to either stay late and keep going, or continue at another time.

Note to Speakers: If you happen to be speaking when/if they decide to wrap things up and cut us off, be sure to immediately request that we be placed ON THE AGENDA for the next meeting. Hopefully, this won't happen, but I wanted to have a plan just in case.

SEE YOU ALL MONDAY NIGHT - City Hall, 555 Liberty, Room 240!
So you probably don't have to be there right at 6:30 p.m. -- 7:45 p.m. is probably fine.

But please do come, and come early enough to make sure you're there to let the city council members know that it's important to you and that, even if you don't plan to keep any laying hens yourself, you want other people in resedential zones to be able to do so, for the benefit of themselves and of the community as a whole.

Note the map of Salem neighborhood associations that have endorsed the C.I.T.Y. campaign! And also note that just because other neighborhoods haven't doesn't mean that they don't have a lot of residents who would love to keep some laying hens -- each neighborhood has its own politics and personalities.

The Great God Auto Threatens Your Children

This is what building a society around cars produces --- note that the typically bureaucratic response suggests that the problem is caused by parents or not giving enough money to the medical-industrial complex. The Sprawl Machine doesn't just produce ugly places that will be impossible to use as energy becomes scarce and expensive -- it also hurts children, who are becoming crippled and debilitated by our development patterns that make walking and biking rare activities instead of everyday acts of a healthy young person.
Initiative Takes Aim At Obesity In Children

A coalition of health groups and insurance companies yesterday unveiled an initiative, billed as the first of its kind, to help battle one of the nation's biggest health problems: childhood obesity.

Officials of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a joint effort of the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation, said the initiative is designed to give children better access to health care to fight obesity. Participating insurance companies would pay for at least four visits to a dietitian and four visits to a physician each year to provide guidance to children and their parents on how to eat better and take other steps to reduce and control their weight.

More than one-third of children in the United States are overweight or obese, raising fears that they could constitute the first generation in recent history to have shorter life spans than their parents. One of the biggest problems many families face in fighting obesity is getting insurance companies to pay for doctor visits and other care to help deal with the problem. . . .

And to this we say "Amen, brother, Aaaaaamen."

Post-Carbon Oregon has a great post talking about the weird inversion of priorities that makes us do more to guarantee a place for cars in Salem than people.

As an example, in Salem residential zones, you are mandated, by law, to maintain two off-street parking spaces for cars --- even if you don't have a car. This can include garage spaces or driveway spaces, or both. Think about what this says about our priorities and the way that cars have dominated our thinking for the past 60 years:
  • You're not required to have a garden, even though it's a certainty that residents must eat. In fact, you are prohibited by law from tearing up your driveway and growing food to feed your family in that space, even if it's the best spot you have for growing food.

  • And no matter how much southern exposure you have, you're not required to have a solar hot water heater, even though it's a certainty that you use hot water.

  • You're not required to have a bike, even though most trips we take are easily walked or biked.
Nope, one of the few things you MUST have is two cars full of parking, because the mindset reflected in our city code is that the Great God Auto Must Be Served.

So we're in a situation where the global economy is melting down and hunger is rising all across the state, but if you put a chicken coop on your driveway and an enclosure on the unpaved area next to the driveway to give the hens some room to roam, you are not only going to be fined for the heinous crime of trying to provide your family with safe, affordable food, you're also going to be ordered to remove the coop because you have infringed on Great God Auto's privileged position in Salem society.

Estimates are that, for every car kept overnight in the typical American community, there are fully seven parking spaces distributed around town to serve that car. If anything, that's probably low: Look at the sea of asphalt next to every big box building and strip mall, then add the two spaces per residence, then add the oceans of parking next to most newer churches, then add the acres of parking surrounding our high schools, then add the parking ramps and the big lots for office complexes, and the vast lots designed to serve auto commuters, then add all the on-street parking . . . .

No wonder our economy is so tattered --- we've taken a huge amount of Willamette Valley soil --- some of the finest in the world, in one of the best growing areas in the world --- and paved it over to serve autos. Providing all that parking makes things spread so far apart that people feel that they have to use a car, thus powering the cycle further down the drain.

In return for this weird act of auto worship, we get to deal with the pollution and runoff issues, and we get a distorted tax system because speculators holding valuable prime land off the market pay artificially low taxes on that land because it's not "developed" -- in other words, they throw down some gravel and use the land for parking because we assess property based on current use rather than on the land value if developed appropriately.

This means that people who do develop their land further pay more in taxes, while those who keep land right in the heart of town as parking lots pay very little.