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December 11, 2013


Brian, At a time when other Police departments are cutting back on staff is Salem adding to the departments staff? Is the Police department cramped for space? Could this project be postponed until a more economically feasible time?

Could Politicians ever be taught how to spend our tax money responsibly?

Wayne, I don't know about police staffing. Regarding being cramped for space, yes, this seems to be true. The police department has some functions being carried out in leased space away from the Civic Center. Having a 72,000 square foot building, or thereabouts, would allow consolidation.

The goal of a new Police Facility is OK. So is, even more so, making City Hall and the Library earthquake-safe. But just as my wife and I were able to retrofit our early 70's house at a fairly low cost to make it more earthquake-safe, so could the City of Salem.

The big cost in the City's proposal is a brand new three story Police Facility that would be crammed into the Civic Center along Commercial Street. It would need expensive underground parking.

By contrast, Eugene was able to remodel an existing building into its police headquarters at a much lower cost -- $17 million vs. Salem's proposed $44 million or so. It is way cheaper to remodel and use surface parking than to build a new building with underground parking.

Yes, the current Salem City government is on a wasteful spending spree. They want taxpayers to fork out $400 million or more for an unneeded Third Bridge, when the current bridges and approaches could be fixed up for around a tenth of that cost.

And now they want taxpayers to pay for a $70 million (or more) bond levy when the cost could be much less with better planning and more consideration of lower cost alternatives. For example, the empty car dealerships on Mission Street near I-5.

On Friday last, SBOB wrote "Using my thumb for comparison on google aerials, those auto dealership buildings don't look like they meet the requirement of 75,000 square foot of building. It would be interesting to know how big they actually are and what is the listing price or FMV. That's the data that would make for a credible alternative to the City's proposal."

And Curt Fisher wrote: "The buildings on the mission street property have over 100,000 square feet. It doesn't appear to be available anymore:


Market value is almost $8mil. and generates over $143,000 in tax revenue per year or $4.2 mil + over 30 years.


I did another property search and there was only one hit with over 70,000 square feet. I didn't join the site to see the listing. Safe to say those building are very rare in Salem.

I'm not sure facts like these make a difference to SCV or not."

What about it, Brian? Do facts like these make a difference to SCV? [I posted this same query on Friday Dec 13 but it either wasn't received, or you decided not to post it.]

Last night, SBOB posted this update: "Last week the City received apps for three demolition permits for buildings that are part of the cluster of car dealerships at 25th and Mission. So it looks like something's heating up there - and it's not a new police station."

If you/SCV have any other examples of "lower cost alternatives" in mind for the City/citizens to consider, now would be a good time to talk about them.

Sarah, I couldn't find that Salem Breakfast on Bikes update. Maybe you could share a link to it. Regarding your December 13 comment, I can't find any sign of it. It isn't in the TypePad spam file, where comments sometimes go. I searched for all of the comments with your name, and all have been published.

As you probably know, the goal of Salem Community Vision is to engage the community and the City in considering better alternatives to the $70 million-plus proposal to build a new Police Facility with underground parking at the Civic Center.

What is wrong with this? You seem to believe that the current City plan, which was arrived at mostly secretly with essentially no community involvement, somehow is the best possible way to build a new Police Facility and make seismic upgrades to the Civic Center.

Before asking taxpayers to pay $70 million or more for something that could cost tens of millions less, and would protect natural areas and green spaces at the Civic Center, what is wrong with debating and discussing alternatives to the City's plan?

There are many ways to do this project less expensively and better. Salem Community Vision has suggested a few broad alternatives. More surely will appear as more people become involved in discussing this subject.

Community involvement is a good thing, Sarah. Accepting the City's $70 million proposal, which grew out of a student project and failed to include seismic retrofitting of the Library, shouldn't be looked upon as unquestionable.

The SBOB update is here: http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=5666195730630249633&postID=1387173544779582984

Thanks for checking on my attempted post. Sounds like the error must have been mine, though I don't know what it was. Over the weekend, our household upgraded our PC equipment. I'm hopeful it will help me avoid such failures in future.

Responding to what you wrote, I know that SCV says its goal is to engage the community and the City in considering allegedly better alternatives. Not sure its actions reflect the stated goal. No matter, my only questions to you were:

1) Do facts like the ones SBOB and Curt posted make a difference to SCV? and,

2) Whether you/SCV have any other examples of "lower cost alternatives" in mind for the City/citizens to consider?

Sarah, I want to challenge you on your assertion that Salem Community Vision's actions don't reflect its stated goal of engaging the community and the City in considering alternatives to the City's $70 million (or more) proposal.

What makes you say that? How is SCV acting at odds with that stated goal? I'd like to know your response.

I've been involved with SCV almost from the start. I'm aware of what members have been doing, and what they are planning to do -- which is a heck of a lot more democratic, open, collaborative, and community-oriented than how the City has been acting.

As I said before, Salem Community Vision is looking for alternatives, plural, not a single alternative. So what happens with the Mission Street property is largely immaterial to the goal of SCV. I tried to explain that in a previous comment.

Regarding the Mission Street property, I got this from a SCV member today:

Attached is today's listing of the
Capitol Chevrolet / Toyota buildings
14.54 acres.
72,000 sq.ft. Capitol Chevrolet
24,000 sq.ft. Capitol Toyota
96,000 sq.ft. TOTAL

Isn't the City needing 74,000 sq.ft. for a police station ?
With plenty of parking spaces.

So at present the building are still for sale. As you're probably aware, real estate transactions can involve a lot of bargaining, misdirection, and strategizing.

Until those two ex-car dealerships are gone, they're still standing. Simple truth.

It is not up to SCV to find all the possible sites for a new Public Safety building. It is the job of Salem's staff to do that work. However, so far we have identified several vacant lots or lots with buildings that have something on them that could be used or remodeled.

What we are promoting is not a specific site, but a real consideration of alternate sites. If you go into the City web pages on this issue you will find that they identified 31 such sites, but they created a criteria that was so narrow that only a few would qualify. Who set up that criteria and why was it crafted the way it was. Was it because studies show that these elements are what a police station needs, or are they based on preconceived notions and/or personal preferences that would lead you back to the Civic Center?

When asked what kind of study was done to determine the type of delivery model would be most efficient for giving Salemites the best response times Police Chief Gerry Moore admitted that no such research had been done. He just had personal observations that being close to City Hall was best.

SCV is asking for a more open dialog on this part of the bond plan. People that we have presented our ideas to in the general public have said that they feel like there needs to be more discussion before a final bond proposal is set forth.

SCV worst fear is that the much needed seismic improvements and even the needed Public Safety building might not happen because a bond that is too large or not well thought out will fail with the voters. Then it may take years to get back to this issue again.

SCV is trying to encourage more people to talk to their elected officials about this matter. What we come up with is more likely to be better if we all participate!

Or maybe this is more like it, "SCV['s] worst fear is that the much needed seismic improvements and even the needed Public Safety building might not happen because", as the result of an orchestrated political campaign by a group calling itself SCV, the bond measure supporting the improvements was widely perceived to be "too large or not well thought out" and so failed "with the voters." Somewhat reminiscent of the brilliantly orchestrated political campaign against metered parking downtown. With community leaders like SCV, I don't hold out much hope for meaningful civic engagement in Salem.

Sarah, your analysis is flawed.

Salem Community Vision is indeed worried that the police facility and seismic retrofitting won't happen -- because voters will reject an over-priced bond measure.

There's a good chance any bond levy proposal would fail. But the chances are greater if the levy is poorly thought out and excessive. If you read the Oregonian, you'll know that Beaverton (I believe the city was) recently reduced a bond proposal for a new police facility from $50 million to $30 million for much the same reason.

Regarding downtown parking meters, about 9,000 citizens signed petitions to stop parking meters from being put in downtown. That is true meaningful civic engagement, not politics.

Politics came in when the Salem City Council decided not to let people vote on the citizen initiative, which sponsors of the initiative preferred as another form of meaningful civic engagement -- discuss and debate the pros and cons of downtown parking meters in the run-up to the May election.

Instead, the City Council adopted the initiative on its own. So they now own it, so to speak. So if you don't like free unlimited downtown street parking, blame the City Council members. They were the ones who chose to circumvent a vote of the people by banning parking meters themselves.

No question, Brian, we in Salem "own" the parking mess created by giving the petitioners exactly what they demanded. Maybe it makes SCV feel better to blame the City Council for that, but it doesn't help the rest of us.

SCV keeps writing about wanting "dialog", but when the city offers to meet with your "experts", you guys refuse. If SCV values transparency and public engagement, how come you won't publish notice of your "steering committee" meetings, or divulge who is on the steering committee?

Sarah, again I beg (or choose) to differ with you. What "parking mess" are you referring to? Please be specific.

I park downtown often. I haven't noticed any difference in where I'm able to park, and how easily, now that time limits have been removed. Maybe you have had a different experience.

Yes, some tweaks need to be made to the City's parking ordinance. People who live downtown shouldn't be allowed to park onstreet. And the City needs to do a better job of enforcing the ban on employee parking.

Regarding the City wanting to talk with Salem Community Vision: it is my understanding that the City rejected a joint debate/discussion with SCV at an upcoming Salem City Club meeting.

Salem Community Vision believes in open community dialogue, not closed-door City of Salem meetings. The general public needs to be involved in the discussion of how to move ahead with a new police facility and seismic retrofitting of the Civic Center.

Hopefully the City will change its mind and say "Yes!" to engaging in that sort of discussion with Salem Community Vision and other citizens.

This could happen at a Salem City Club meeting, or even better in my opinion, at a special community forum in the evening, when many more people could attend.

Do you support this, Sarah? Would you like to see City officials and Salem Community Vision volunteers debate/discuss the City's proposal and lower-cost alternatives, then open the discussion up to questions and comments from the audience, with the event filmed and shared by CCTV?

Hopefully you do. It's hard for me to believe anyone wouldn't want this sort of open democratic event to take place. If so, please contact the Mayor, City Manager, and City Councillors.

Tell them you believe in open debate/discussion, and want to have the City engage with citizens prior to putting a $70 million (or whatever the cost is) bond levy on the November ballot.

If you'd like to become involved with Salem Community Vision, I'm confident this can be arranged. Maybe you'd like to come to the next steering committee meeting?

What parking mess? Maybe you should talk to your SCV colleague Carole Smith. The one thing she and CanDo's representative on the Council seem to agree on is that the current system, the one specified in the petition, isn't working.


I say again, if Steering Committee Vision believes in open community dialogue, and objects to alleged "closed-door" City of Salem meetings, why hasn't SCV had more "open-door" meetings of its own? Why doesn't it publish notice of its meetings, its minutes or the details of its alternative plan, or divulge the identities of the invitation-only steering committee?

Sarah, I'm a big believer in outrage. I get outraged about stuff all the time. But the way I see it, outrage should be directed at outrageous things.

Otherwise it isn't healthy. Not for the person getting outraged, or for the objects of their poorly directed outrage.

So let's compare the object of your current outrage, Salem Community Vision, with another entity that, so far as I can tell, you aren't outraged about: the City of Salem.

Salem Community Vision, or SCV, isn't a public organization. Or a private one. It isn't any sort of organization. It doesn't have any funds, any bylaws, any membership, any board of directors, any officers.

SCV is just a bunch of people who get together to discuss ways to improve community involvement in City decisions. They volunteer their time. When something needs to be paid for, somebody pays for it. When something needs to be done, somebody offers to do it.

If you go to the Salem Community Vision Facebook page, you'll find lots of details about what SCV is doing and proposing. It's all there; nothing is hidden. You also can search my blog (use Google box in right sidebar) for "Salem Community Vision." I've put up several blog posts about what the group is doing.

Possible outrage object #2 is the City of Salem. This is a highly organized public organization that gets many millions of taxpayer dollars and is supposed to act openly, fairly, and transparently. Let's consider some things the City of Salem has been doing that, again, you don't seem to be outraged about:

-- Spending many tens of thousands of dollars on planning for a new police facility and Civic Center renovations in almost complete secrecy over the past few years. Only recently were minutes of the planning group's meetings made public. Until then, citizens were rebuffed in their efforts to learn how taxpayer dollars were being spent.

-- Being on the verge of approving the inaccurately named "Salem Alternative" third bridge plan without a public hearing, even though the Salem River Crossing Task Force has markedly changed the design of this plan. The City of Salem is on track with a plan to destroy dozens of homes and businesses without ever giving these people a chance to testify at a public hearing or be involved in the planning process.

-- Taking over the downtown business association, along with the association's funds. Now the City Manager, Linda Norris, rules over a hand-picked advisory group which meets in secret and doesn't make minutes of its meetings available to the public. Or the Statesman Journal newspaper.

-- Having a string of meetings of a parking task force that didn't let members of the public speak at the meetings, and never asked downtown businesses what they thought of the parking meter proposal.

I could go on.

I'm currently involved in a Circuit Court case involving alleged abuses by the City of Salem of Oregon's public records law. My attorney is confident that we will show that Peter Fernandez, and other City officials, have been failing to abide by some basic premises of that law.

So Sarah, I'm not sympathetic to your outrage. Even if Salem Community Vision were an actual private organization, rather than just a group of people acting together, do you really believe that it is necessary for private organizations to act like public entities?

If you, say, formed a group to lobby the City of Salem for more and better bicycle paths, would you consider that it is necessary for you to publish notice of your meetings, along with your minutes, and make public the membership of your group?

This seems absurd. There is a reason some groups are called "public" and some are called "private." The City of Salem is spending taxpayer dollars and making decisions that markedly affect the public. Private groups like Salem Community Vision aren't.

Again, you have the right to be outraged at anything you choose to be outraged about. But to be outraged at private citizens who are trying to make their community better strikes me as poorly directed outrage.

America has a long and cherished history of citizen activism. I would never challenge the right of people to get together and do what they could to work for more community involvement and better governmental decision making.

Maybe you have a problem with that. I sure don't.

I neglected for lack of time to respond to your question whether I'd like to come to the next Steering Committee meeting. If the steering committee were my local government, and I were proposing a "responsible and affordable" alternative plan for the police facility and Civic Center seismic upgrade that I was broadcasting far and wide I had, I would. http://www.statesmanjournal.com/article/20131221/OPINION/312210011/Salem-losing-millions-facility-proposal So I find it not a little odd that the steering committee has chosen NOT to accept the city's offer to meet with their expert(s) so that their "responsible and affordable" alternative plan can be included in materials provided to the City Council.

Also odd is your persistent practice of personalizing your arguments. Your assertion that I was outraged ("So let's compare the object of your current outrage", above) is an obvious projection, not that my outrage or lack of it has the slightest thing to do with whether Steering Committee Vision is saying one thing (that it values transparency and community involvement) and does another (meets in secret to develop its proposals and strategies, won't identify its members, refuses invitations to meet with the city).

The fact that Steering Committee Vision is an unincorporated association of unidentified persons who've not adopted bylaws or any other organizational formalities is not a defense to SCV's hypocritical behavior, that is, its failure to act in a manner consistent with its stated values, as outlined above. And, your answer to the charge that it's hypocritical for Steering Committee Vision not to give notice of its meetings, publish its minutes, or identify its members is that it's not required by law to do so is risible.

I've been watching SCV's FB page face for some time, the page that you claim has "lots of details about what SCV is doing and proposing." However, from November 29 to December 18, the Steering Committee posted nothing on the page. Nothing at all was posted during the time that SCV would have been developing its alternate proposals and strategy for getting it before the City Council, a time that an organization purporting to value community involvement and transparency could be expected to involve the community.

The December 18 post is hardly detailed, nor are your blogs, nor is there anywhere in either that one can find the details of this "responsible and affordable" alternate proposal that SCV keeps claiming to have -- you know, the one the city invited SCV's expert(s) to share so that it could be included in the information provided to the City Council, but SCV refused?

Sarah, I've tried to correct your false beliefs about Salem Community Vision. But obviously you aren't open to accurate information. Keep on believing what you believe if it makes you feel good. I just hope that you realize, somewhere in your believing brain, that your beliefs aren't true.

See, here's the thing Brian. If Steering Committee Vision has no specific alternate plan or proposal, but just the questions and "No"s set out in its brochure (which the FB characterizes as containing "the details of the SCV alternative proposal" (at least until your spin doctors correct it), then their "experts" had/have no basis in fact for saying it is possible to provide a "Civic Center Police Facility and seismic retrofitting of City Hall...for $37.5 million" (from SCV's petition), and there is no factual basis -- just your belief in your experts' abilities -- for characterizing the City's preliminary proposal/plan was "ill-considered", "hugely expensive", "wasteful", "crazy" (quoting Geoff) or "bloated." (All from your November 6 blog.) Moreover, that kind of propaganda erodes trust and prejudices the citizenry against the city, as it is intended to do, and insults everyone's intelligence, thereby chilling, rather than encouraging civic engagement. Perhaps most important of all in this context, it substantially decreasing the chances that ANY bond measure will pass.

If what Steering Committee Vision wanted was consideration of "responsible and affordable" alternate proposal, its leaders would have accepted the City's recent invitation to have their alleged proposal/plan included in the information that will be given to City Council. They didn't do that, so I don't believe SCV wants what it says it wants, or that its claims are based on anything other than speculation. Noting you have a mere 15 signatures on your petition, at least half of which are the Steering Committee's, I suspect I am not alone in what you call my "false beliefs" about Steering Committee Vision.

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