Thursday, November 29, 2012

Bridgasaurus liars budget leaps up another $130 million, a hike too small to merit explanation at council work session

One of the most amazing features of the sprawl lobby rodeo last night was not the successful efforts of the CMH2-Hill and SEDCOR/Chamber cowboys to herd the little council doggies into the chute to be led to slaughter -- that was never in doubt, as this process has been wired from the day it began -- no, the astounding thing was that the council was apparently instructed to make sure that the number $800 million got repeated as often as possible when referring to the liars budget for the deal.  (The liars budget is the pretend cost figure that contractors and ODOT will admit to for a boondoggle, before the inevitable massive overruns.)

So, presto, another $130 million on the barbie with nary a peep of explanation.  Remember the old ad campaign by the ranchers about "Beef, it's what's for dinner?"   ODOT and the sprawl lobby have a version of that ad running in their dreams every night: "Salem, it's what's for lunch."

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

If congestion is an issue, there are many smarter and better fixes other than blowing $700 M on a Third Bridge Boondoggle

This isn't the only possible approach, but it nicely illustrates that there are many ways to skin the cat of congestion that don't involve blowing $700M+ (before inevitable overruns) on new concrete:

Two of Salem's best things together, twice (12/4, 12/5)

Friends of Straub Environmental Learning Center and Salem Cinema present

"Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time."

two benefit showings for
Straub Environmental Learning Center at Salem Cinema!

See the first full-length, high-definition documentary film ever made about legendary conservationist Aldo Leopold and his environmental legacy at Salem Cinema! Green Fire shares highlights from his extraordinary career, explaining how he shaped conservation and the modern environmental movement. It also illustrates how Leopold's vision of a community that cares about both people and land continues to inform and inspire people across the country and around the world. Leopold’s ideas remain relevant today, continuing to inspire projects nationwide that connect people and land.
DATES: Tuesday, Dec. 4 & Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012
TIME:    7:45 pm
LOCATION: Salem Cinema
1127 Broadway St. NE, Salem
TICKETS:  $10 in advance/$12 at the door

Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time has been honored with an Emmy award for Best Historical Documentary at the 54th annual Chicago/Midwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in a ceremony that took place Sunday, November 18, 2012.

The first full-length documentary film ever made about legendary environmentalist Aldo Leopold, Green Fire highlights Leopold’s extraordinary career, tracing how he shaped and influenced the modern environmental movement. Leopold remains relevant today, inspiring projects all over the country that connect people and land.

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Monday, November 26, 2012

A Scorecard for the City Council Boondoggle Worksession on Wednesday, 11/28, 5:30 pm

For reasons unclear, the City Council has moved their worksession away from Council Chambers (and the CCTV cameras) so you'll have to come out to the Anderson Room at the Salem Public Library this Wednesday, 11/28, at 5:30 p.m. to see whether the City Council intends to do its job and subject the most expensive public project proposal in Salem's history to the kind of serious, skeptical scrutiny that it deserves, or whether they just hope to let the Concrete Lobby roll by them.

Remember, this is a council that devoted HOURS and HOURS to public meetings and multiple public hearings to whether Salem residents could keep a few chickens in the yard.  This is a decision with a million times more magnitude, so this merits at least dozens of times the level of investigation.

Here's a scorecard for you for Wednesday night, so you can see which council members take their responsibilities seriously (by demanding serious, research-based answers on each issue):

How many of these critical issues does the Salem City Council address at its November 28th work session on the Third Bridge?

c     The Council discusses a plan to pay for the 3rd Bridge, acknowledging that it will involve considerable local revenue from tolls on all bridges, a property tax ballot measure, or a gas tax increase.

c     The Council discusses the fact that traffic on the existing bridges is at a 10-year low and that this trend is likely to continue with increasing gas prices and other changes in people's driving habits.

c     The Council discusses the fact that the 3rd Bridge will require purchasing 75 acres of new right-of-way that will displace over 160 homes and businesses.

c     The Council discusses the fact that the 3rd bridge will create visual and noise pollution through neighborhoods for 2.7 miles from West Salem to Highland when these residents find themselves under the longest elevated freeway in Oregon.

c     The Council discusses the fact that the 3rd Bridge will reduce the size of Wallace Marine Park and destroy the beauty and natural setting of much of the park.

c     The Council discusses the fact that planning for the 3rd Bridge is $5.5 million over its original $2 million planning budget and is four years late.

c     The Council discusses the fact that a financing package was promised in August of 2008 and that it is highly unusual to wait until a design is approved before deciding how to fund it.

c     The Council discusses the fact that after six years of meetings, the preliminary preferred alternative (4D) for the 3rd Bridge did not receive support from a majority of the Salem River Crossing Planning Task Force.

c     The Council discusses the fact that all three of the Neighborhood Associations that are in the path of the 3rd Bridge are on record as opposing it.

c     The Council discusses the fact that the 3rd Bridge will take retail business away from Salem by making it easier to get to Keizer Station and the Woodburn Outlet Mall.

c     The Council discusses the fact that plans for the 3rd Bridge plan ignore less expensive options to relieve peak hour congestion, such as off-ramps to fix the ends of the existing bridges with better traffic flow to Glen Creek Drive and Front Street north, and bike lanes and better transit to West Salem.

Thursday Night, 11/29, at Salem Public Library: The Willamette River

English: Aerial view of the Willamette River n...
English: Aerial view of the Willamette River near Salem, Oregon, shown as a diagram to explain the 1996 flooding in the area. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Straub Environmental Learning Center will be hosting another lecture in this year’s series on Thursday, Nov. 29th at the Salem Library from 7 pm – 8 pm. 

Travis Williams will cover a range of topics related to the Willamette River. He will focus on the Clean Water Act, and the status of the Willamette River's water quality and habitat. He will provide a brief update on the Portland Harbor Superfund site and the likelihood of a comprehensive and timely cleanup. He will also provide a focus on the Willamette River Greenway Program, a fantastic public lands vision for the Willamette that was created back in the late 1960s by Governor Straub.  The Greenway was hatched near the same time as the Beach Bill, originally envisioned with the same notion of public trust values, yet this program did not reach the same heights.

Travis Williams has worked in river conservation since the 1990s and since 2000 has led Willamette Riverkeeper (WR). In addition to directing WR’s operations, he serves as Riverkeeper, making regular patrols of the river from Eugene to Portland and seeking to uphold the Clean Water Act through Advocacy and legal action. While implementing the Clean Water Act, Cleanup up Portland Harbor, and decreasing the impact of dams along the Willamette are his main priorities, Travis also enjoys getting people to experience the river in low impact craft such as canoes.

Earlier Travis worked for American Rivers and Conservation International in Washington DC. He is an avid canoeist who has traveled many western rivers and photographed their natural beauty. He holds a B.A. in International Studies from Portland State University and an M.S. in Environmental Science from The Johns Hopkins University. A fifth-generation Oregonian who grew up in Milwaukie, Oregon, Travis was on the Willamette River with friends at a young age. In March of 2009, his book The Willamette River Field Guide, was published by Timber Press. He has received the Skidmore Prize in 2004 for his leadership, and was awarded the Columbia River Hero Award by the Columbia Basin Toxics Reduction Workgroup for his work on reducing toxics in the Willamette. He is now working on a book about the John Day River.

See you on Thursday night!  Life Source Natural Foods will be providing free snacks before and after the lecture.

Michelle Cordova
Manager, Friends of Straub Environmental Learning Center
Mailing Address: PO Box 12363 Salem, OR 97309
Physical Address: 1320 A Street NE, Salem, OR 97301
Phone: (503) 391-4145
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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Know someone struggling to make it financially?

Help them get connected to this program to help low-income folks remain able to access jobs and services.   Cellphones are crazy overpriced, and totally unregulated, so the poor are hard-pressed to find a deal that doesn't turn into a nightmare for them, with shady bottom-feeding services dominating.  But the inability to connect to employers and service providers readily via a phone is one of the biggest barriers that financially stressed people face.  Solution?  A subsidy program that helps use the Universal Service Fee money we've been stocking up for years to make sure the poor can stay connected without having to deal with a payday-loan type cellphone operation.

Here's a program that uses the Universal Service Fee money to help such people stay connected.  (Clip starts about 15 seconds in.)

  Assurance Wireless is a federal Lifeline Assistance program brought to you by Virgin Mobile.  Lifeline is a government benefit program supported by the federal Universal Service Fund.

Enrollment is available to individuals who qualify based on federal or state-specific eligibility criteria. You may qualify if you are on certain public assistance programs, like Medicaid or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). You can also qualify based on your household income. You must provide proof of program participation or proof of income.

The Lifeline Assistance program is available for only one wireless or wireline account per household.  Separate households that live at the same address are eligible, including residents of homeless shelters and nursing homes, for example.  Residents with temporary addresses are also eligible.

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Don't miss this one in the busy December whirl

(NOTE:This terribly misnamed movie is about our insane sickness financing system, not forests.)

Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare
Showing at Salem Progressive Film Series in The Historic Grand Theatre,
Thursday, December 13, 2012    7 p.m. (doors open at 6 p.m.)

ESCAPE FIRE: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare tackles one of the most pressing issues of our time: how can we save our badly broken healthcare system?

American healthcare costs are rising so rapidly that they could reach $4.2 trillion annually, roughly 20% of our gross domestic product, within ten years. We spend $300 billion a year on pharmaceutical drugs – almost as much as the rest of the world combined. We pay more, yet our health outcomes are worse. About 65% of Americans are overweight and almost 75% of healthcare spending goes to preventable diseases that are the major causes of disability and death in our society.

It’s not surprising that healthcare is at the top of many Americans’ concerns and at the center of an intense political firestorm in our nation’s Capitol. But the current battle over cost and access does not ultimately address the root of the problem: we have a disease-care system, not a healthcare system. The film examines the powerful forces maintaining the status quo, a medical industry designed for quick fixes rather than prevention, for profit-driven care rather than  patient-driven care.

ESCAPE FIRE also presents attainable solutions. After decades of resistance, a movement to bring innovative high-touch, low-cost methods of prevention and healing into our high-tech, costly system is finally gaining ground.

Filmmakers Matthew Heineman and Susan Froemke interweave dramatic personal arcs of patients and physicians with the stories of leaders battling to transform healthcare at the highest levels of medicine, industry, government, and even the U.S. military. ESCAPE FIRE is about finding a way out of our current crisis. It’s about saving the health of a nation.

Related articles -

1) interesting thoughts in an essay here
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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Looking for a Good Cause?

The Power of Community was our first film Passive House: A Building Revolution is Next!

Please Join Us In Getting Out Our New Film!

Dear Friends,

This film, the second in the series, tells how to cut CO2 from buildings by 80 to 90%!

Today 48% of all US energy used and CO2 generated is from our buildings, 85% of that is in heating and cooling them.  Our new film on the Passive House addresses this issue.

I am reaching out to you again, most of whom have copies of our first film, The Power of Community.  If you found it inspiring and valuable, please help fund our new film.  I am working on final professional editing, sound, color, and graphics - all cost money.

There are two ways to help.  First, send a donation through our Kickstarter campaign at or through our website at and note it is for the new film.  Either place you can donate at whatever level you can - every dollar makes a difference.  Second, and this is very important, even if you can't help financially, share what we are doing with others and encourage them to join us on Kickstarter and in getting Passive House: A Building Revolution out!

It is a film that is very timely.

Thank you very much!

PS. Powell Smith wrote up a great support page for our Kickstarter Campaign: 

Passive House is a method of building and retrofitting that reduces heating and cooling energy use.

This film is nearing completion and we need your help Now!
We have 20 days to finish our funding on Kickstarter!

Quick Links...
Community Solutions -- Our Main Website
Passive House Film Website
The Power of Community Film Website
Kickstarter Film Funding Site

Community Solutions Contact Information
phone:  937-767-2161

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Wonderful late fall dinner @ Pringle Creek Community

 In case your eyes are as bad as mine and struggle with low-contrast printing, it says:

Dinner with Pringle Creek
Join us for a dinner with Pringle Creek

We would like to invite you to join us for the second in a series of local eating events at Pringle Creek Community. This month our menu centers around foods from the Root Cellar, produce coming out of our garden & orchards with several supplements coming from vendors in and around Salem.

If you are interested in hearing more about what we are doing here at Pringle Creek, or you're just looking for a good meal, come to our Dinner at Pringle Creek

Friday, November 30th at 6:00pm.

 Our menu for the evening is $15 for Vegetarians and $20 for Omnivores with proceeds going to support our garden & orchard programs.

Space is limited, so RSVP as soon as possible either by email to or by phone at (503) 315-1055.

Autumn Harvest Menu

Spinach Puffs

Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

Pumpkin Shepherds Pie

Apple Gallete

Pringle Creek Community, 3911 Village Center Dr, Salem, Oregon 97302

The real Greatest Story Ever Told

Monday, November 19, 2012

You don't have to be a Democrat to attend, just someone concerned for Salem's future

Greenwash This: Dumping 500 lbs of Coal at Ban...
Greenwash This: Dumping 500 lbs of Coal at Bank of America (Photo credit: Rainforest Action Network)
Join us for lunch with Evan White---at noon, Wednesday, November 28.

Emerging Issues Series
The Road Forward from Election 2012


Evan White, speaking on

Coal Trains & Export Facilities -- 
Their impact on Salem and the Mid-Willamette Valley

Noon to 1 PM
Kwan's Cuisine, 835 Commercial St SE, Salem, Wednesday, November 28, 2012

White will speak on speak on local efforts to inform citizens on the impact of proposals to transport coal by rail through Salem to a proposed coal export facility in Coos Bay. 

Evan White was born in New York City, raised in Honolulu Hawaii, and went to college on "the mainland."  He has a BA degree in Economics from Claremont McKenna College, an MA in Economics from the University of California at Berekely, and an MBA from the Wharton School of Finance.  He served as a Finance Officer in the US Army, had a brief career in private industry, and then joined the staff of the Oregon Public Utility Commission as its first economist.

Evan has been a Salem resident since 1972.  Now retired, he works as the volunteer Land Use Chair of the Sunnyslope Neighborhood Association and does income taxes for seniors and low income persons through the volunteer AARP tax aide program.

Several months ago, he met a Beyond Coal advocate at the Salem Saturday market who recruited him to the effort to help educate Salem residents about the risks that coal trains would pose to our community.

Cost: $11.50 (Includes Buffet Luncheon, Tea & Gratuity)
Reservation Deadline-Tuesday, November 27

To make your reservation:  e-mail: link)
or call our message line: 503-363-8392

Please join us to hear Evan White. We encourage you to bring your questions and comments.  As always, we would like to welcome our guests with a large audience. You can assist us in planning a successful luncheon by MAKING YOUR RESERVATION EARLY. (Kwan's requires a headcount on the day before the luncheon to ensure adequate seating and food servings.)

To make your reservation for the Wednesday luncheon, please reply to this message at giving your name, telephone number, any special dietary needs, and the number of people who will attend.

You may also make a reservation by calling our message line at 503-363-8392 and providing the same information. Please indicate that you are making a DemoForum reservation and state the name and date of the event.
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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Coal Trains and Selling Out the Willamette Valley

The Willamette Valley contains most of Oregon'...
The Willamette Valley contains most of Oregon's population; it extends from Portland in the North to Eugene in the South. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyone who lives in Salem and environs needs to anticipate what coal exports really mean here:  Selling out our future for the empty promise of a few jobs.  Look at the states where King Coal has had its way (West Virginia, Kentucky, PA), and compare them to Oregon.  Now, which is the better model?

Coal exports down the Columbia and up to Bellingham and down to Coos Bay mean the destruction of livability in the Willamette Valley in service of global capital seeking to maximize profits by externalized costs (environmental devastation, climate disruption, reduced property values all along the routes of these behemoth coal trains), with no benefits to the people paying those costs (us).

Coal exports are a gigantic step backwards for the US.  Not only does it return us to the days of colonial status, exploited for our raw materials and stuck with the negative consequences, but it would help ensure a runaway carbon nightmare of the Six Degree C (11F) hotter global temperature average, which is pretty much a nightmare future in the best case.

Anyone with children or grandchildren or simply a modicum of concern for the future needs to realize what a serious threat we face from continued use of coal. 

Bottom line:  if the Iranians and North Koreans had a thousand 100-megaton nukes each and the means to drop them on any place in the world, that would only be a tiny fraction of the threat we face from coal.  It's only the limits of our primitive monkey-based brains that make it so easy for us to see threats from other bands of monkeybrains and so hard to recognize the much more potent and serious threats we unleash upon ourselves.
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Friday, November 16, 2012

We live in a wonderful state for eaters

Oregon: Thanks to our land use laws and dedicated watchdogs
"No Farms No Food" should not be an issue

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Spread it Around: Just Label It!

WORD: If you want lower taxes and a better state, listen up! (Oregon Out of Balance)

This group, Partnership for Safety and Justice, is invaluable.  Spending on prisons is THE budget issue for at least the next 20 years.  And it boils down to this:  are we going to spend ourselves broke on policies that we know only fuel the crime and incarceration cycle, or will we support public officials who dare stand up and put out that the prison Emperor is not only buck naked, but is also stealing our future?

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Monday, November 12, 2012

WORD: 3d Bridge a Gigantic Boondoggle

Oregon State Highway 22 (Willamina-Salem Highw...
Oregon State Highway 22 (Willamina-Salem Highway) intersects Oregon State Highway 223 in Polk Station. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
What's most interesting is that the most-reliably anti-tax groups in Oregon, the Chamber of Commerce and the Homebuilders -- two groups that fight ferociously against taxes usually -- got up and waved their hands about "future growth," and made empty claims about the need to build this monstrosity for the vague "future" needs.   Thus, they showed their true colors:  they aren't against making you pay higher taxes, just taxes that provide you with services.  If you have to pay higher taxes so they can make a lot of money, hey, they're all for that.

That tells you just about everything you need to know about this project:  It's nothing but a money grab by land speculators and developers who are salivating at the thought of sprawling all the way to Dallas and all the money they can make if they can buffalo the people of Salem into building them a bridge (and paying for it!) that will only hurt Salem and benefit them.

Not only do we not need this project, it's the epitome of making the problem worse at great expense.  Traffic counts over existing bridges are already declining and will continue to do so, and Salem's congestion problems are not a function of how many lanes go over the river but the idiocy of how we handle the traffic at each end.

Moreover, the Highway Lobby's refusal to apply least-cost planning methods to what little congestion we face in Salem for a couple of brief periods daily tells you everything you need to know -- this isn't a solution to a problem, this is a profitable project that they want to ram down our throats regardless of all other considerations.  If Salem had a serious congestion problem, it would be greatly reduced if not eliminated instantly just by staggering the start times for state government workers and offering good cross-river transit options.  A "fast-pass" electronic toll collection system on the existing bridges would not only provide all the money needed to address the problems with the existing on and off interchanges, it would also encourage carpooling and other reductions in cross-river trips.

Of course, these wouldn't put millions of dollars into the pockets of the land speculators and the concrete lobby businesses who care about nothing but taking your money and making it theirs.
On Nov. 5, dozens of Salem residents filled the City Council chambers to say no to building a $687 million bridge and freeway from Highway 22 to Interstate 5.

Their testimony was eloquent and convincing about the fact that this project is destructive, too expensive, not needed and should be rejected by the council. They said we can relieve congestion by fixing the bottlenecks at both ends of the bridges and by improving transit, all at a much lower cost.

Alternative 4D, as the third bridge is called in the staff report, will not relieve congestion on the existing bridges and will destroy 160 residences and small businesses.

The only testimony in favor of the third bridge came from the homebuilders association and the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce, but when pressed by Councilor Chuck Bennett if they would be in favor of imposing tolls or raising taxes to fund the third bridge, they could not give him a straight answer.

The council will hold a work session on Nov. 28 and resume the public hearing on Dec. 10. I hope concerned citizens will mark their calendars and plan to be at the Salem City Council to continue to oppose this $687 million boondoggle.

Jim Scheppke
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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Monday, November 5, 2012

Stand Up for Sanity, tonight, 6:30, Salem City Hall

This is it -- public hearing on the biggest boondoggle ever proposed, a make-work corporate welfare, land speculator subsidy extravaganza, the "Salem River Crossing," with a Liar's budget of   $670 MILLION, even though the planning budget alone is already overrun by FOUR years and 350%, blowing $7.5 million on a planned $2 million.

Read this great op-ed post (buried by the S-J in the small readership Monday paper instead of putting it in Sunday's):

It's crucial that you vote, yes, but voting is not enough, it's just the bare minimum; a healthy democracy requires real citizen engagement, even though the powers that be would prefer that you stay home and watch the Ducks and other circuses.

This absurd boondoggle was the spark that got LOVESalem started.  The more we studied the absurd and intentionally deceptive and misleading output of the planning process, the more aware we became of the incredible void in Salem's information offerings, and we have aimed to help fill that void a bit, for going on five years now.  This unbelievably bad idea is only understandable as the last gasp of the auto dinosaur mindset, where the concrete lobby and the Polk County land speculators and developers make their final stand against the fiscal conservatism they like to profess (for others).

Although there is a strong chance that this project collapses on the immense weight of its own internal contradictions and the gossamer thinness of its financial funding likelihood, there are still good reasons not to take that for granted.  In other words, we still need you to come out tonight and help drive some nails into this monster's skull, because this is a zombie idea, and they never really die.  Even though the chance of this being built is low, the harm from the boondoggle is already being felt, and if it were actually launched, Salem would become yet another city destroyed in the name of auto sprawl.  The harm is too great to ignore this.  Come out tonight and demand that this process be stopped, and that the money being wasted on high priced planning consultants be used for our real needs.