Wednesday, April 28, 2010

ODOT hammers Salem and its own greenhouse gas reduction goals

ODOT CapitolImage by Jason McHuff via Flickr

What is up with the State of Oregon trying to kill Salem's downtown?

At the north end of town the state has been busily filling up the Capital City Business "Center" -- the center of nowhere, actually, -- with hundreds of office workers, in a "center" that has no direct bus service from downtown Salem.* And now ODOT is planning to permanently move hundreds of high-paid white collar technical jobs out of downtown and into an area suited for manufacturing!

So even as the state makes a big show out of its greenhouse gas reduction goals, it keeps moving workers out of the bike-able and walkable core area that has the best service by bus. Instead, it's going to fill prime industrial space in a transit-inaccessible area with office workers, which means expensive interior refits and more driving by all those workers, plus starving downtown businesses of vitally needed customers.

But hey, who cares if Oregon's capital starts to look like Michigan's (Lansing's downtown is a scary, depressing vision -- something that Salem does NOT want to emulate). Something about these deals stinks.
-At the former Tyco building at 4040 Fairview Industrial Drive SE, ODOT wants to take 75,000 square feet of space on a 10-year lease, Miles said. The 4040 Fairview site will become the permanent home for ODOT's Technical Services and a section of Information Services. In all, about 300 workers will be based at the former Tyco building.

The building was built as a sister manufacturing site for Tyco's now defunct circuit board plant in the Polk County town of Dallas. Tyco broke ground on the project in autumn 2000, but Tyco never used the building for manufacturing and it became a symbol of the downturn in Oregon's high-tech industry. The vacant building is now owned by State Investment LLC, a local investment group.

-ODOT's plans call for about 220 employees to go to the former SUMCO building at 3930 Fairview Industrial Drive SE. The agency wants a two-year lease for about 65,000 square feet of space.

Employees at the old SUMCO building will return to the Capitol Mall building when the renovations are complete.

In 2004, SUMCO phased out its local manufacturing operations. The shutdown marked the end of an era that started in the 1980s when Siltec, a predecessor to SUMCO, began making silicon wafers in Salem.

Cascadia Canyon LLC, a group with ties to Sunwest Management Inc., controlled the SUMCO property for several years. Past attempts to bring new businesses to the property came to a standstill when Salem-based Sunwest's financial problems spun out of control in fall of 2008. New owners, who are affiliated with Salem developer Jack Fox, have recently acquired most of the former SUMCO campuses.
There's something that Oregon seems to struggle with that world-class organizations figured out a long time ago: you can't let divisions optimize their own corner of the world at the expense of the whole organization. You have to optimize as a whole. Meaning that, even if we think the move of 300 prime workers is strictly on the up-and-up and has no hidden ulterior motive behind it, it still allows one division (ODOT) to make it's own numbers look better by making Salem's and the State of Oregon's look worse. Only by ignoring the impact of the move on Salem and on the state's own goals for reducing vehicle trips can you are argue that this pencils out, and it would only pencil out for ODOT management. It's going to hurt Salem as a whole, hurt those 300 workers who are losing their options for biking or walking or taking the bus to work, and it's going to hammer downtown businesses.

Funny, there's some prime spaces in the very heart of downtown that could be refitted to serve office workers much easier than refitting manufacturing space ... but apparently no one is keeping an eye on how the state as a whole treats Salem -- especially sad given how much property tax revenue the state doesn't pay. The Legislature loves to badger the feds for timber payments in lieu of taxes for federally owned land, but apparently sees no connection with Salem's starved budgets and all the state-owned property in Salem.

(* Amusingly, Cherriots uses a photo of CCBC in some of its promotional materials with a caption along the lines of "Cherriots, We Take You There" -- irony at its finest. CCBC sits at the far end of the little northeast-pointing appendix grafted onto the otherwise circular Route 14 -- a route almost fiendishly well calculated to be useless.)
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Sad -- scratch Maurer from the list

Susan CastilloThe best candidate after all -- Susan Castillo. Image via Wikipedia

Sad. Ron Maurer appeared to be a good choice for State Superintendent of Instruction . . . but just got this note from Steve Novick:
. . . I would be remiss if I did not tell you that my old and good friend Susan Castillo, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, needs help defeating an opponent, Republican Representative Ron Maurer, who not only opposed Measures 66 and 67 -- thus showing a shocking willingness to see school funding cut - but opposed the Healthy Kids plan in the Legislature, which gave health insurance to tens of thousands of Oregon children. Ron Maurer is not well known, but he's still a threat - because in an anti-incumbent environment, people might just vote against the person they've heard of, especially if she doesn't have the resources to get her message out. In this officially nonpartisan race, with only two real candidates. it's important for you to know that whoever gets over 50% WINS THE WHOLE RACE IN MAY - there isn't going to be a November race.
Susan Castillo is not all that and a bag of chips, but Maurer loses any hope of being able to pass himself off as an advocate for schools and youth by opposing Measures 66 & 67; fighting to keep poor kids uninsured is just a little extra confirmation thrown in. Putting him in charge of schools would be like putting Ted Nugent in charge of meal planning for the Vegetarian Society. I'm sorry I posted anything encouraging people to consider him.
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