Monday, August 10, 2009

Temporary reprieve on Minto

The five members attending the City Council meeting tonight unanimously voted not to accept the federal easement proposal to lock up 200 acres of cultivated land in Minto Brown Island Park.

Naturally this means that we can expect staff to honor the wisdom of Mark Twain by proving him an acute observer of human nature when he observed that "Having lost our bearings, we redoubled our efforts." Having had to concede repeatedly that the public involvement for this idea was lousy, the plan is to ram through a motion to reconsider and pass the thing with no further public involvement in two weeks, should the feds permit yet another extension (which, if they do, only shows that they want this much more than the people of Salem do).

In other words, the betting is that staff and some of the Council members will push hard to have the Council to entertain a motion for reconsideration in two weeks, meaning that the 5-0 vote to reject the easement only means that the people advocating for the easement want a do-over ....

Tonight city staff admitted that the contract for the easement gives total control of the parkland's future to the feds, that none of the sweet whispers about working with the city are in writing, and that the whole emergency floodplain easement program is not really a good fit for a public park. Nonetheless, expect a full-court press to get this thing jammed through at the last minute, public sentiment be damned.

Word of the Day: Continued

Dictionaries"But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better." George Orwell (Eric Blair) Image by jovike via Flickr

Since the current Minto-Brown Park Master Plan --- the one that the Salem City Council adopted in 1995 after lengthy public involvement and participation -- expressly states that agriculture within the park is appropriate and should be continued, let's see what that word means:
con·tin·ue (kn-tny)
v. con·tin·ued, con·tin·u·ing, con·tin·ues
1. To go on with a particular action or in a particular condition; persist.
2. To exist over a prolonged period; last.
3. To remain in the same state, capacity, or place: She continued as mayor for a second term.
4. To go on after an interruption; resume: The negotiations continued after a break for lunch.
1. To carry forward; persist in: The police will continue their investigation.
2. To carry further in time, space, or development; extend.
3. To cause to remain or last; retain.
4. To carry on after an interruption; resume.
5. Law To postpone or adjourn.
And since the proposal to sell off control of 200 acres of that land would reduce acreage being farmed in the park by about 80%, let's consider that whether that could possibly satisfy the meaning of continue:
re·duce (r-ds, -dys)
v. re·duced, re·duc·ing, re·duc·es
1. To bring down, as in extent, amount, or degree; diminish. See Synonyms at decrease.
2. To bring to a humbler, weaker, difficult, or forced state or condition; especially:
a. To gain control of; conquer: "a design to reduce them under absolute despotism" (Declaration of Independence).
b. To subject to destruction: Enemy bombers reduced the city to rubble.
c. To weaken bodily: was reduced almost to emaciation.
d. To sap the spirit or mental energy of.
e. To compel to desperate acts: The Depression reduced many to begging on street corners.
f. To lower in rank or grade. See Synonyms at demote.
g. To powder or pulverize.
h. To thin (paint) with a solvent.
3. To lower the price of: The store has drastically reduced winter coats.
4. To put in order or arrange systematically.
5. To separate into orderly components by analysis.
6. Chemistry
a. To decrease the valence of (an atom) by adding electrons.
b. To remove oxygen from (a compound).
c. To add hydrogen to (a compound).
d. To change to a metallic state by removing nonmetallic constituents; smelt.
7. Mathematics To simplify the form of (an expression, such as a fraction) without changing the value.
8. Medicine To restore (a fractured or displaced body part) to a normal condition or position.
1. To become diminished.
2. To lose weight, as by dieting.
3. Biology To undergo meiosis.
Nope. As they say on Sesame Street, "One of these things is not like the other." In this case, it's more like NONE of these things is like ANY of the others.

Thus, when people try to argue that it's ok to prohibit growing food on four-fifths of the land now being farmed in the park because ag wouldn't be barred from 100% of the cropland, they are trying to twist the meaning of the words, which is generally a dead giveaway to something not being kosher.

There are some good arguments for the easement deal, and more good arguments against it. One of the most compelling arguments against this deal at this time is that it completely guts the park Master Plan, which is essentially the guidance we the people of Salem gave to city government for how to care for our treasured possession, Minto-Brown Island Park. If the City Council ignores the plain, clear language of the master plan, they are essentially saying that no one can rely on any of the planning documents that the city prepares, even the ones specifically adopted by the council.

Ask yourself -- if the shoe were on the other foot and the city staff were alarmed by some proposed action of the state or federal government, would the city say "Hey, no need to follow any plans developed with our participation ... go ahead and do what you think is best."
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Imagine the ag land on Minto helping keep us healthy and fed

Composite image to illustrate the diversity of...Image via Wikipedia

One of the main arguments against kicking agriculture off 200 acres on Minto Brown is that we would do so today -- forever -- in the face of a huge and fast-growing mountain of evidence that all is not well with our food systems, which have basically become entirely dependent on a copious supply of fossil fuels and a finance system that selects for megafarms that require megaprofits -- meaning producing the cheapest possible food and shipping it a long way.

Here's a great article from todays NY Times calling for a rebirth of the agricultural extension service to help people all over the country select and breed plant varieties appropriate for their particularly place.

If we reject this "Rush, rush!" deal and think carefully, we can, if we wish, restore hundreds of acres on Minto Brown Island AND preserve its rich heritage as an agricultural place; we can convert those acres, one at a time if need be, to organic production and community gardens, with community supported agriculture operations to find which perennial vegetables, to name just one example, are most suitable for this area. We can, in short, act with caution, rather than making an irrevocable commitment of land to a particular (if not particularly well-fleshed out) use.

None of this is possible under the terms of the proposed easement. Instead, just as we will be needing MORE local food for more people, we're talking about reducing ag acreage that is perfectly situated on land we already own.
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