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Friday, May 29, 2009

If you belonged to the Friends of the Salem Public Library

You'd receive the newsletter, in hard copy or via email (your choice), packed with so many upcoming events for kids and families that it's simply not worth trying to list them all. Join the Friends. It's absurdly cheap, tax-deductible, and all your donation goes to support programs and activities that the regular (read: collapsing) city budget cannot.

So, again, join the Friends. Support your library. Stay on top of what's going on.

Your family came here when? I can top that: I AM an Oregon Pioneer

The terrific High Country News has a great essay from an Idahoan titled "Call me a local and forget about my grandpappy" (subscription required -- and well worth it!), where a woman notes the same peculiar habit that is also common in Oregon: starting every public pronouncement by locating the number of generations between you and your pioneer ancestors on the Oregon Trail.

That HCN essay made me realize a couple things:

First, pioneers tended to be the kind of folks who left where they were to get away from people who determined a person's social standing by referring to the person's family. In other words, whenever you start off by saying "As a fifth-generation Oregonian . . . " you're saying "I'm the kind of person that my pioneer ancestors fled from."

Second, people who emigrate to Oregon today have more in common with your ancestors than you do, because we packed up all our things and moved to this beautiful state just like they did. We are pioneers, in other words.

We didn't have the luck to be born here, but we did have the luck to see how much worse it can be elsewhere, in places where they despoil their wildernesses and pave over their best land. And, like your pioneer ancestors, we found that our destination was already inhabited. Be glad that we are treating you much better than your pioneer ancestors treated the inhabitants they found here.

Word: Mid-Valley needs passenger rail

Amtrak CascadesImage by AaverageJoe via Flickr

Amen. Although we'll be doing well to reestablish credible service of any kind, much less high-speed rail, she is sure right that the Highway Department (hiding behind the name "Oregon Department of Transportation" in the same way that the War Department changed its name to "Department of Defense") seems intent on destroying rail in Oregon.

The big dose of highway pork that the Legislature is ladling out is just another monument to our firm commitment to ignore the facts about energy: we can not and will not keep the carburban everyone-must-drive lifestyle going much longer. We are bankrupting ourselves trying; worse, we are foreclosing the very options that we will need to maintain a decent society in the post-oil period.
Years ago, Oregon's rail experts designated projects to add trains, increase speed. We invested millions in track improvement. Oregon, Washington and British Columbia are designated Federal High Speed Rail Corridors. Historic rail stations like Salem's are restored by donations and government.

Rail development brings construction work, permanent good paying jobs, careers, business opportunities state wide and economic prosperity. We should be aggressively applying for stimulus funds.

With my new enthusiasm, I met with state officials involved in rail. Pretty audacious and courageous for me.

I am stunned with what I learned.

No expressed urgency to apply for federal funds. No alarm that our second Cascades train is on the budget chopping block. No plan to replace the train set, Eugene-Portland route, on loan from Washington, with similar high-quality equipment.

Doubly catastrophic, silently without open study, publicity or public input, ODOT officials plan to move the high speed passenger rail corridor to the short line railroad through Salem's Highland and Grant neighborhoods, by-passing our landmark station and apparently abandoning Oregon City.

The silence means that the public will have no idea until it's too late.

How this grandiose plan connects Amtrak in Portland, Albany or Eugene, or passengers destined to Seattle or Klamath Falls is a mystery not answered. Mandated studies, costs, environment and social impacts take time, applying for desperately needed federal money becomes impossible. ODOT's proposal is oddly futuristic, probably killing expanded Mid-Willamette Valley passenger rail travel in my lifetime.

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