Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Local Heroes of the Year: No 3rd Bridge

Of all the people and groups of people doing good things in Salem, one group stands out, both for their persistence and dogged commitment to helping Salem avoid a catastrophic mistake and for their willingness to take a stand for benefitting the community as a whole, despite being sniffed at and dismissed by the "very serious people" who believe that thinking for ones self is vastly overrated.

Although I quarrel with the name (I think Fund Fixes First! Is both more appealing and more accurate), there can be little quarrel that the leaders of No 3rd Bridge, Scott Bassett and Jim Scheppke, and a small -- but intense, well informed, and indefatigable -- band of stalwarts are the true "First Citizens of Salem." 

Because what a real citizen gives to his or her town is not her or his obedience to the payers of the pipers -- rather, it is good judgment and willingness to oppose bad ideas, the stock in trade of the boosters and the lobbyists trying to drum up a parade that will enrich them and their corporate masters and bosses who populate the Chamber of the 1%.

Here is their review of 2014. After reading, take a moment to thank them for their work. Opposing nonsense like the Bridgasaurus Boondogglus is tough work -- telling the powerful and the privileged "NO" is never the path to easy times, and it deserves a toast.


The end of 2014 saw plans for the 3rd Bridge in disarray. The #1 champion for the bridge, Salem City Councilor Dan Clem, retired from the Council and from the Oversight Team. Several Councilor are unhappy with the latest plans and Tom Andersen who strongly opposes the bridge will take his seat on the Council next month. The funding plan developed by the Oversight Team includes tax and fee increases on everyone in Polk and Marion Counties and a toll on the Marion and Center Street bridges — clearly a non-starter that the Federal Highway Administration should reject as a fantasy. The project timeline was pushed out two more years to 2016, all the better to keep the consulting money flowing to the project consultants who have billed an average of about $58,000 a month for their services since 2006.

Here are the highlights of a year in which great progress was made in putting more nails in the coffin of the 3rd Bridge ...

January: Marion County Commissioners approve the “preferred alternative” for the 3rd Bridge with no public hearing and no public comment.

February: Oversight Team meets and approves the “preferred alternative” we call 4D Lite despite getting no input from the cities of Salem and Keizer. Marion County Commissioner Sam Brentano makes comments in the meeting supporting tolling the Center and Marion Street bridges to pay for the 3rd Bridge.

March: Scott Bassett and Tom Andersen file to run for Salem City Council. Opposition to the 3rd Bridge is a major plank in their platforms.

May: Tom Andersen wins a seat on the Salem City Council with 52% of the vote and Scott Bassett comes within 200 votes of upsetting his opponent who outspent him 3 to 1.

June: NO 3rd Bridge holds first-ever rally in front of Courthouse Square. 30 supporters wave signs and listen to speeches before attending a Salem River Crossing Open House.

July: NO 3rd Bridge launches letter writing campaign to ODOT to oppose a City of Salem grant request to plan the “bridge districts” at both ends of the bridge. ODOT turn downs the grant request in August.

August: The State Bridge Engineer tells a regional transportation planning committee that the Marion and Center Street bridges will not survive the next Cascadia megaquake, but that retrofitting them is a low priority for ODOT.

September: Oversight Team meets and selects the bridge type — a segmental precast concrete box girder bridge.

November: Salem City Council holds a heated work session on the 3rd Bridge. Council President Chuck Bennett calls the latest plans “lipstick on a pig” and “a real disappointment.”

December: Oversight Team holds a funding workshop and a week later meets to develop a rough funding plan that includes gas tax increases, vehicle registration surcharges, property tax increases and tolling the Marion and Center street bridges. NO 3rd Bridge calls the plan “a non-starter."


Happy New Year! Go Ducks!!

Jim and Scott

Jim Scheppke and Scott Bassett

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