First off, it's great that City officials have released a 2018 report on how the City of Salem is making progress on goals in the recently adopted Strategic Plan.
The report is nicely designed, attractive and clear. It's easy to read. And it reassures citizens that the folks at City Hall have some clear direction in regards to how Salem needs to change for the better.
I've only given the report a quick read, but wanted to share my first impressions of the 2018 Annual Community Report.
The high-level goals in the Strategic Plan strike me as pleasantly vacuous. They're written in bland bureaucratese. It's hard to argue with them. It's also hard to find much meaning in them. To me, a goal should both indicate a path taken, as well as reflect a path not taken.
Just about every city in the country could have this Vision, Mission, and Values. There's nothing here that makes me go, "Wow! It's great that Salem is choosing this unique way forward!" Plus, the grammar of the Vision statement is pretty bad. How could the economy and environment not be open to all? Seems like "that is open to all" should have followed "A safe and livable capital city..."
And again, who wants an unsafe and unlivable capital city? Platitudes have their place, I guess, but they're also pretty much useless in any practical sense.
The obligatory photo of the Mayor and eight city councilors followed the Accessibility value statement (shown above) that Salem is "open and inclusive." OK, but the people who currently lead City Hall are all white, and seven out of nine are male. Next year newly elected councilor Jackie Leung will replace Steve McCoid, so that will bring a bit more inclusivity to the City Council.
It's nice to show this breakdown in the report. What it shows is that most money spent by the City of Salem goes to the police and fire departments and utilities/transportation (transportation meaning roads, almost entirely). Is this what citizens want? Maybe. But if efficiencies are desired in how public dollars are spent, obviously these are the areas to look at first.
People love the Salem Public Library and City parks, by and large. Affordable housing and homeless services, not nearly as much. Not surprising. It just shows that whatever City officials are doing in these areas, more needs to be done.
A shorter way of describing this section would have been "Things are falling apart and we don't have money to fix them, much less give citizens additional good stuff that they want. So taxpayers are going to need to fork out more money."
I searched the report for every mention of "bicycle." There was exactly one. Here it is. LED lamps provide good lighting for bicycles, along with cars and pedestrians. Whoopee.
Of course, that assumes it is safe and easy to read a bicycle in Salem, which it isn't. The absence of any mention of bike paths or dedicated multiuse paths shows how autocentric City of Salem policies are. We're way behind other cities in Oregon in this regard.
Regarding biking in Salem, it makes no sense to lump walking and biking together. It's easy to walk on a sidewalk in Salem. At least, in areas that have sidewalks. But it isn't easy to bike, unless you're a young fearless Spandex-clad rider willing and able to mix it up with cars on a "bike lane" that consists of just a painted line on a busy street.
Today the Salem Breakfast on Bikes blogger wrote a post about how Salem is falling farther behind other cities when it comes to bicycling. Excerpt:
Bicycling Magazine today published their list of the top 50 cities for bicycling, and Salem fell off of it.
Salem has declined steadily in the ratings over the last decade:
Portland has declined also, to sit at #5, and Eugene climbed from #18 to sit at #7.
...In any case, Salem's previous spots in the top 50 were probably overstated, but the trend is on point: Relative to other cities, Salem is falling behind and only weakly dedicated to improving riding conditions. New facilities like the Minto Bridge and Geer Park are great, but they are not fully connected into a comprehensive system of bike transport.
Just getting the Winter-Maple Greenway completed is a slog, and there is no plan yet for a successor, second Greenway. The Union Street bikeway/greenway/whateverway remains fragmentary; while its funding is in place, construction and completion is a few years off. Salem also did not renew their LAB Bicycle-Friendly Community rating.
On discrete projects some cheerleading is plausible, but overall the system is not keeping pace.
Lastly, these figures show a basic yin and yang of living in Salem. It costs less to buy a house here, compared to other Oregon cities. Yay! But people in Salem have a median household income that's 15% below the state average. Boo!