Oh, man. Here we go again.
City officials here in Salem, Oregon are trying to do what happens so often in this town: screw over citizens with very little public notice in a fashion that goes against the will of the people.
At next Monday's City Council meeting, February 8, the agenda has an Action Item that is difficult to decipher -- which is the goal when you're trying to do something sneaky.
(c) Marine Drive NW, Urban Growth Boundary, and Streets and Bridges Bond Funds – Wards 1, 8 – Councilors Bennett, Lewis – Highland, West Salem (PW)
Recommended Action: Authorize using Streets and Bridges General Obligation Bond funds for right-of-way acquisition and construction of Marine Drive NW south of the Urban Growth Boundary (near Cameo Drive NW), and allow opportunity purchases of right-of-way needs in Marion County for the Salem River Crossing Preferred Alternative.
Click on that link and you'll be led to a staff report by Public Works Director Peter Fernandez about this issue.
It's the "opportunity purchases" part that is most irksome.
Basically it means that the City of Salem wants to spend a bunch of money to buy up property in the Highland neighborhood on the east side of the Willamette River where a bridgehead for the billion-dollar boondoggle called the Third Bridge (a.k.a. "Salem Alternative") would land.
Only problem is, the Third Bridge isn't needed; there's no money to pay for it; and necessary approvals to build it haven't been obtained.
So why are City officials wanting to spend taxpayer dollars on property purchases that likely will never benefit the public, because chances are the Third Bridge will never be built? For sure, not in the foreseeable future.
I readily admit that I know much less about this issue than the No 3rd Bridge folks. So I'm going to let their recent Facebook posts do the rest of the talking in this post. This one is from yesterday.
WARNING: HIGHLAND NEIGHBORHOOD — "THE CLOUD" IS ABOUT TO DESCEND
If City staff have their way on Monday night "the cloud" over the Highland neighborhood that Councilor Diana Dickey warned about two years ago will begin to descend.
City staff is proposing to spend up to $3.6 million of the 2008 Streets and Bridges Bond fund money to begin to purchase right-of-way for the 3rd Bridge in the Highland neighborhood. The Council is being asked to approve this plan on Monday night (Agenda Item 3.3c).
The proposal is artfully disguised by calling it "opportunity purchases in Marion County ... within the proposed alignment of the Salem River Crossing Preferred Alternative." In plain English that means buying homes and commercial properties in Highland that will be a detriment to other other development and will lower property values for adjacent homeowners -- it's "the cloud" that Councilor Dickey warned about.
This one really snuck up on us. City staff was probably hoping we wouldn't notice. But we did. Now you need to email the Salem City Council <firstname.lastname@example.org
And this post is from today:
In 2008, in the campaign for the Streets and Bridges Bond, the City put out the information sheet below.
It states unequivocally that bond funds would be used to purchase right of way for the 3rd Bridge ONLY after "a preferred alternative alignment is approved by the Federal Highway Administration."
So the proposal that staff is making to the Council on Monday night to purchase right of way in the Highland neighborhood before FHWA approval (not anticipated until 2017) would break faith with the voters.
If the Council ever wants to pass another City bond election in Salem they need to make sure the City keeps its word on this one.
Well, the Federal Highway Administration hasn't approved the Third Bridge.
So, again, why is there an attempt to spend money from the 2008 Streets and Bridges Bond on buying up bridgehead right-of-way property that the City of Salem said back then wouldn't happen if voters approved the bond until the Federal Highway Administration approved a new Willamette River bridge?
Seems both sneaky and sleazy to me.
If you agree, tell the Mayor and City Council, "Hands off on buying land for a bridgehead that's needed for a billion-dollar bridge which hasn't been approved, and probably won't ever be built."
Email address: email@example.com