Ah, Salem. It's sad how you're never able to rise above the moniker of "Oregon's boring capital city."
Today's Statesman Journal had three stories on the front page that demonstrated how far Salem has to go before it's worthy to be considered anything more than an I-5 gas stop between Portland and Eugene.
First, there's "Lefty's Pizzeria on State Street closes suddenly." I didn't go to Lefty's often. But I knew that it was one of the few places in Salem where you could enjoy live blues, jazz, and comedy.
Believe me, if you live in Salem you're used to singing the blues. And you definitely need comedy to cheer you up whenever the thought "Oh, my god, I'm stuck in Salem" won't get out of your mind.
Second, I read about "Residents to repair, not own, Salem's sidewalks." Now, I don't live in the Salem city limits. But even so this strikes me as a ridiculous idea.
The City Council's notion is to make each property owner responsible for repairing the slice of sidewalk in front of their home or business.
As one of the commenters on this story said, why not also make people maintain the part of the public road in front of their property? Or the sewer and septic lines? It's one more nonsensical city decision that makes residents sigh, "Ah, (or ugh) Salem."
Third, I learned that "City's troubled properties create thorny problems for officials, eyesores for unhappy neighbors." This story was about Salem's dangerous and derelict buildings, only one of which is downtown.
However, many more downtown buildings are empty, boarded up, and also eyesores. I've noted that the best thing about downtown Salem is the plethora of vacant free parking spaces, because there's so little reason for anyone to go downtown.
Earlier in the week there was another depressing Salem story, "Fairview site may be sold to pay creditors." The 245 acre Fairview site was supposed to be a model sustainable development.
My wife and I owned shares in the LLC (Sustainable Fairview Associates) that bought the Fairview property and eventually sold it to a group led by a Portland developer, Phil Morford.
Our decision to cash out when the opportunity presented itself looks really wise in retrospect. Because now Morford probably will have to sell the property to someone else, and the sustainable zoning looks shaky – reading between the lines of this quote in the newspaper story.
Last week, the bankruptcy trustee met with Salem city officials and discussed the property's zoning and infrastructure. Plans for the Fairview site are flexible and shouldn't deter a potential buyer, McKittrick said.
Translation: "The city doesn't give a rip about sustainability and would be just as happy to see a traditional development be built, if that's what it takes to get more property taxes flowing into Salem's coffers (not that we'll pay for sidewalk repairs even then)."
Seemingly recognizing what's in the cards for Fairview, given the Mayor's and City Council's eminently unGreen credentials, the Statesman Journal editorialized "Ecologically friendly plans should be in land's future."
Well, we shall see. There's no sign that the black cloud of boring mediocrity is going to lift from Salem anytime soon. Maybe Fairview still will be a ray of creative sustainable light.
But I doubt it. Even without Lefty's Salemites are still singing the blues.