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Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Lazy Walker's Guide to the Ballot

Title page to Locke's Some Thoughts Concerning...Image via Wikipedia

Note that this means that energy efficiency upgrades for schools would make a lot more sense than new construction in many cases -- long overdue. Hat tip to Onward Oregon for writing all this down, saving me the trouble.
High Marks for Measures 68 and 69

Ballots are in the mail and the primary season is in full swing, but did you know a pair of ballot measures face Oregonians that would amend the state constitution and greatly impact the future of the state’s education system?

Don’t worry if you haven’t done your homework on Measures 68 and 69, because you’re hardly alone: They frankly haven’t gotten much attention because opposition to these measures has been scarce — and for good reason!

The writers of Measures 68 and 69 have earned extra credit in our books by simply (and smartly) correcting a longstanding law that's prevented Oregon schools — from K-12 to community colleges to universities — from using their funding most effectively.

For instance, under current law, when Oregon’s local school districts, colleges and universities need to improve or expand a facility, they’re restricted from using voter-approved bond funds to purchase or repair existing buildings. Bond funds, current law goes, can only pay for new construction, which hamstrings local school districts, our community colleges and universities by blocking modernization of existing facilities, an approach which would save money and more briskly create jobs.

Measures 68 and 69 would change this outdated law and allow local school districts, colleges and universities to use bond funds more effectively, flexibly and smartly.

Measure 68 would allow local districts to pass bond levies to pay for repairs, maintenance and upgrades to school facilities in order to protect the health and safety of K-12 students (think adequate bathrooms and alleviating dangerous molds, pests and wood rot). The measure will also allow the state to issue matching funds to make local dollars go further, and help take pressure off schools bursting at the seams with increased enrollment.

Measure 69 will fix the law to allow colleges and universities to use the lowest-cost bond funds for existing buildings, saving money and preserving historical treasures in the process. The measure will allow a college or university to expand — for more classroom space, career and guidance counseling and worker training programs — and use the lowest-cost bonds to bring back to life older buildings that are in sound shape and often historically meaningful. Cash-strapped colleges and universities would also avoid the expense and use of natural resources required when building entirely new structures.

So, now that you know a bit more about Measures 68 and 69, we urge you to join the wide-ranging support of the American Federation of Teachers-Oregon, Stand For Children, the Oregon Education Association, the Oregon School Employees Association, the Oregon Business Council, Associated Oregon Industries, Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council and media outlets like The Oregonian, Medford Mail Tribune, Eugene Register-Guard and Willamette Week and vote YES on Measures 68 and 69.

For more information, visit www.yeson68and69.com.

Onward,
The Team at Onward Oregon
www.OnwardOregon.org
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Get a Fresh Start on your gardening with Fresh Start Market this weekend!

One of the best things in Salem, the Fresh Start Market at 3020 Center Street NE, is having a big plant sale all weekend. There are a lot of plant sales this time of year -- this is one that very much deserves your support. Fresh Start is the kind of program that actually helps young offenders straighten up and fly right instead of just hammering them. Get Mom a beautiful hanging basket, or get yourself some veggie starts, or take a look at the creative crafts that these kids make. It's all good, it's all pretty inexpensive, and it's all important to building the kind of community where kids who make a mistake can get back on track instead of being sent on the fast track to a hard life.

MARION COUNTY JUVENILE DEPARTMENT

505-585-4956

Join us in celebrating the arrival of Spring

Fri. April 30th, Sat. May 1st and Sun. May 2nd

Special Operating Hours

Friday 7:00am to 7:30pm

Saturday 7:00am to 6:00pm

Sunday 7:00am to 5:00pm

Come and enjoy a variety of food specials, a large assortment of colorful flowers, hanging baskets, and healthy bedding and garden plants. We also have several varieties of tomato, pepper, squash and other vegetable plants. Additionally, program youth have created unique wood and metal art, most from recycled materials; all these and more at reasonable prices. Enjoy a free bag of fresh-popped popcorn with your $5.00 purchase of plants or art.


Rain or Shine, we’re firing up our grill to offer Lunch Specials
(Friday, Saturday & Sunday, 11:30 - 3:30)

BBQ HAMBURGER $6 / HOT DOG $5.50
Special includes 2 side dishes & beverage.

Silly rabbit

Shadows on the old railroad bridge across the ...Image by VickyvS via Flickr

Breakfast on Bikes asks a great question: Why has the SKATS "Alternate" mode study only posited an 8% reduction in single-occupant-vehicle trips over the Willamette in Salem?

Silly rabbit, you should know, if the planners had any thought of allowing "alternate" modes to reach their potential, there'd be no case for a $600 million bridge!

And for the Road Gang pushing this fantasy, that's all that matters --- justifying the fat construction contracts and years of consulting fees all aimed at demolishing even more of Salem's heart to serve the automobile. The Road Gang is in a race against time - they know that the Carburban Era is drawing to a close and that if they don't force commitments to a third Salem auto bridge soon, it will never happen because (a) auto usage is declining; (b) there won't even be enough traffic to justify two bridges pretty soon thanks to $4 and then $5 and then $6/gallon gas.
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Why is Salem S . . . L . . . O . . . W?

This icon, known as the "feed icon" ...Everywhere but Salem, this is the symbol of enhanced transparency. Here's it's the symbol of missed opportunities. Image via Wikipedia

SLOW, as in Salem . . . . Lags . . . . Outrageously . . . . Why?

Salem's Community Development Department sends out a "Community Connections" newsletter --- it's a pdf, of course, because there is a huge paranoia among government types who seem to live in fear that if you make information easy to forward and share, people might forward and share it! So we use pdfs to prevent that.

What's weird is that Salem finally tiptoed ever-so-gingerly into the late 20th Century recently, creating an RSS feed for the public so that Salem residents could keep up with what's going on. Note the most recent flash announcement here at Salem's "City of Salem News" site -- that's right, it's an announcement that the replacement fire chief would be the fire chief for good. Great -- that's a fine thing to report. But is that really all that the official city has had to share with the public since April 6??? What about all the articles in this multi-page Community Connections?

Whomever ascends to the Mayor's throne next month should make fixing the retarded public outreach office a top priority. We're going to be cutting budgets for as far as the eye can see, and that's going to be a very painful process -- the only thing that will make it worse is if the city keeps using the equivalent of carrier pigeons to share information and keeps choosing to use information formats that are all about preventing people from getting the information quickly and sharing the parts that are of interest.

HINT to Salem: quit with the paranoia and the "We have to use pdfs or someone might change something and make it look like it came from us" -- believe me, if someone wants to spoof a City of Salem communication, it would be child's play to do. But nobody wants a pdf as the front-line communication media. The only thing you're communicating when you communicate via pdfs is that you aren't really much interested in communicating.
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Documentary on environmental causes of breast cancer

An overview of the structure of DNA.Image via Wikipedia

Given the huge spike in breast cancer since WWII and the fact that human genetics haven't changed in that time, perhaps it has some other cause . . . hmmm, what could that be? Hmmm . . . must ponder that.
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Response to Dean Baker's "The Deficit and Our Children"

Long-term oil prices, 1861-2007 (top line adju...Long-term oil prices (yellow line is inflation-adjusted) 1861-2007. The recent price spikes will soon be recalled as "the good old days." Image via Wikipedia

I really like and admire Dean Baker and have greatly valued his sharp insights over the years. I put no stock in anything the shysters in the Concord Coalition are selling, and despise the transparent efforts by them and others to repeal the New Deal in the name of deficit reduction (while leaving the military and Wall St. riding high on the hog, naturally). His article (linked below), "The Deficit and Our Children" is a fair attempt to counter the faux hysteria of the right over deficits (now that a Democrat is in the White House).

However, I fear that, like most economists, Baker has entirely missed something that will have a profound effect on his rosy projections of great future wealth thanks to the magic of growth: the end of cheap energy, often referred to in shorthand as "peak oil."

I like to summarize it for people this way:

(1) essentially all our great wealth in the US reflects not our industry or ingenuity or Providential favor but rather our dumb luck at conquering a land richly endowed with abundant and essentially free energy. Our economic growth parallels exactly our increased consumption of these fossil fuels.

(2) Coal is a health disaster, not only in miners killed directly but in catastrophic direct and indirect environmental consequences of coal use, particularly in climate change. We must stop using coal, leaving nearly all of what remains in the ground or else be doomed by our own poisons.

(3) Oil has reached or is just past its point of maximum abundance now -- meaning that, from here on out, it will inexorably decrease in availability, forcing prices up to bring supply and demand into equilibrium.

(4) The relentless increase in oil prices -- even aside from the great price volatility we can expect, which is very destructive to our complex economic systems -- make Baker's growth projections absurd. We are going to learn that ultimately economic wealth depends on natural resources, and that tying everything in our economy to an assumption of endlessly available cheap energy was a disastrous (albeit easily explained) blunder.

(5) Because our entire economic system is based on continual growth and because our economy is very unlikely to grow and is instead highly likely to shrink relentlessly to reflect the steady decrease in the availability of energy and the total absence of the kind of cheap energy we've come to expect (and upon which we've set up everything in America, from suburbia to health care), we can expect a wrenching change in the next decade. When we're facing persistent and ineradicable unemployment at 40-50%, we're going to find out that arguments about the health of the social security trust fund in 2043 are about as relevant as the price of tea in Lilliput.

(6) To bring this back to health, the point is this: Just as our public health demands are going to be climbing --- thanks to climate disruption, the huge "baked in" amount of obesity-related diseases, and collapsing civil infrastructure (clean water) and peoples' inability to afford the medicines we've taught them to expect --- our resources are going to be shrinking steadily.

For a good menu of stories exploring the connection between health and the end of cheap energy, you can go here

For a concise explanation of the mechanics of peak oil and a good introduction to other resources, try here: http://energybulletin.net/primer

For a good attempt to explore the health consequences of trying to use coal to maintain the high-energy lifestyle, see here:

Climate Chaos: Your Health at Risk What You Can Do to Protect Yourself and Your Family (Public Health)


Baker's column is here.
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