Tuesday, April 27, 2010

An opportunity for a REAL taste of history

store signImage by Sideshow Bruce via Flickr

Not far from here. Open daily, May-October.
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Tell DEQ: Get Beyond Coal NOW -- Convert or shutdown Boardman by 2014 at the latest

Looking east up the Columbia River Gorge, from...Just one of the many beauties of nature put at risk by runaway climate chaos caused by burning coal at Boardman. Image via Wikipedia

From Friends of the Columbia Gorge:
PGE's coal-burning power plant near Boardman is the #1 stationary source of greenhouse gasses in Oregon and the largest source of nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide in Oregon. These pollutants are damaging ecosystems, impairing scenic views and endangering Native American cultural resources in the Columbia River Gorge.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is now reviewing a "Title V" operating permit that would allow PGE's coal plant in Boardman to continue spewing dangerous pollutants into the Columbia River Gorge and surrounding areas. This permit is an opportunity for DEQ to require full compliance with the Clean Air Act by requiring modern pollution control technology at PGE's Boardman.


#1. WRITE THE DEQ TODAY. Ask that they require clean up or shut down of PGE's coal plant in Boardman. In the past, your voice has made a difference! Thousands of comments from the public forced the DEQ to require more aggressive mercury controls at Boardman. Click here to take action.

[If you're in Portland: #2. TELL THEM IN PERSON by attending a public meeting on Tuesday, May 4th. We are hoping to fill the room with passionate supporters who will wear "beyond coal" t-shirts, provided by the Sierra Club! Click here for details.]
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What the Democrats in Congress Ought to Do

Seal of the U.S. government's Small Business A...Image via Wikipedia

The GOP get absurd amounts of support from small business owners, considering how often the GOP ideas are actually just pro-big-corporate and anti-small-business.

But the image of the parties is there and needs fixing. To help with that, here's an idea I just sent to Congressman Kurt Schrader, who is on the Small Business subcommittee.

If the Democrats grab hold of this, they will have a great issue to run on in November, and the GOP will be totally unable to oppose it without looking completely unprincipled (I know, I know, but they don't like to have it made so obvious . . . )

Idea 1
This is a proposal for a small business financing improvement that could be a signature initiative for Democrats and help lots of people here in the jobless "recovery."

1) Allow anyone starting a new small business to tap their 401(k)/IRA/457/403b retirement funds to fund the small business or to serve as security for an SBA loan.

2) Allow the funds to be withdrawn or pledged as security for a small business development loan without tax penalty and with state and federal tax deferred until the business has been established for three years.

3) After three years, either (a) the money is replaced in the fund(s) and no tax consequence occurs; or (b) 20% of the total withdrawn has to be declared as regular income for the next five years.
That's the main idea and I can't see any downside to Democrats here whatsoever -- it's a pro-small business idea, it would help workers left unemployed by job cuts, and it doesn't require any federal outlay.

Idea 2
Allow anyone who is unemployed to make mortgage payments from their retirement accounts without the 10% penalties -- that is, they have to declare the distributions as regular income in the year that it's used, but people shouldn't have to pay a tax penalty for using retirement assets to preserve their ownership of their #1 retirement asset, their home.
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Yay! An elected official actually looking further than a car-length ahead

Bob Krebs of the Cherriots (um, "Salem-Keizer Transit") board sends the encouraging word that the Cherriots board is thinking about the future and about providing some transportation options that don't demand liquid fuel.
Modern streetcars are again being considered as a means to upgrade transportation options in the Salem-Keizer area. A new citizens’ committee is being organized to look into how streetcars might best serve our community. The committee is a working group that will report to the Salem-Keizer Transit Board.

You are being contacted because you have served on an earlier Salem streetcar committee or have expressed an interest in streetcars. This new group will meet, 60 to 90 minutes, once or twice a month to work on this project. If you still have an interest in this concept and would like to participate, you would be welcomed as a member of this new committee.

Committee members will develop a work plan and goals for the project. We will be researching technology and costs to find what might work best in Salem-Keizer. Our focus will be on corridors where there already is travel demand and where the streetcar can provide needed additional capacity and increased transit usage. Creative ways to keep construction and operation costs affordable will be considered. One of our goals might be to develop a new streetcar system model that can be used for medium size American cities.

Many things have changed since the Central Salem Streetcar Feasibility Study was completed. There are now federal grants available to fund new streetcar systems. This could bring new dollars into our region without jeopardizing current transportation programs. A few months ago the first modern streetcar manufactured in the U.S. rolled out of the factory in Clackamas, Oregon.

I hope you find this proposal as exciting as I do. A streetcar system will end up producing many jobs for our community and the State of Oregon. It would give Salem-Keizer a more positive image for attracting new businesses and providing more employment opportunities. There would be a surge in transit oriented development and mobility improvements that support a viable local economy.

I invite you to join me as a member of this new Salem-Keizer Rapid Transit Streetcar Committee, planning for our future. There will be a lot of work, but lots of fun too.
To participate, just send me an e-mail (krebsr@cherriots.org) or call 503-588-2424 ext. 2328 to advise us that you would like to serve.
Streetcars tend to get oversold and caught up in developers' schemes, but the basic concept is outstanding for a place like Salem, where we have sprawled into a low-density place that makes us terribly vulnerable to the coming waves of oil-price peaks. An electric streetcar system, particularly one designed to integrate smoothly with bicycles, would be ideal.

How to integrate streetcars with bikes? Easy -- a separate "bike car" on each run with wide side-doors on both sides to allow people with bikes easy-on/easy-off so that they can continue their trips by bike, operating on car-free rights of way where possible (bikes, peds, streetcars, and emergency vehicles only).