Let's understand one thing about Salem Hospital: it is the biggest part of a giant corporation, not a small community health care provider.
The revenue of Salem Health, its parent organization, was over $500 million a few years ago. It's CEO, Norm Gruber, is said to make over a million dollars a year now. He made $877,000 in 2011.
So this is one reason I'm rooting for an elderly blind woman, Beverly Rushing, who is going up against Salem Hospital in her appeal of the City of Salem's outrageous approval of the hospital's plan to needlessly cut down thirty majestic trees for an over-sized parking lot, and demolish a historic building, Howard Hall, that has deep significance to Oregon's blind community.
Download City's Howard Hall demo decision appealed to state board
Download Howard Hall has significance for the blind community
For Rushing, Howard Hall was a second home when she was growing up. The dormitory at 700 Church Street SE is the last remaining building on the former Oregon State School for the Blind campus.
The thought of Howard Hall's demolition "breaks my heart," Rushing said. Howard Hall, which was built in the 1920s, has too much historic significance for the city to allow it to be razed, she said.
It's a classic David vs. Goliath situation. One person who has an abiding sense of This isn't right fighting City Hall and this town's largest employer.
Hopefully Salem Health and Salem Hospital will realize there is no way they can win this battle. Even if their high-paid lawyers end up coming out on top after the Land Use Board of Appeals hears Rushing's appeal, their reputations will be forever tarnished.
Representatives of the blind community have said that five times their attempts to negotiate a compromise with Salem Hospital over Howard Hall were rejected. Likewise, professional architectural renderings that show it is possible to save most of the ancient trees on the property, rather than cut them down for a barren parking lot, have been rejected out of hand by the hospital.
If you care about preserving trees and historic buildings, take a few minutes to learn about what will be lost if Salem Hospital gets its greedy way.
Salem Community Vision also has a description of this issue on its web site, "Save ancient trees and historic Howard Hall." A call to action is at the end. Please heed it.
What can I do to save the ancient trees and preserve Howard Hall?
You can write to the CEO of Salem Hospital, Norm Gruber. Urge him to compromise with the neighbors and the blind community to save the ancient trees and preserve Howard Hall.
You can write to Alan Costic, who chairs the Board of Trustees of Salem Hospital. Tell him that the policy-making Board has a responsibility to review the staff decisions to determine if they are in the best interests of Salem Hospital and the Salem community.
You can write to the Salem City Council. Tell them they need to reconsider their decision to allow the demolition of historic Howard Hall. They also need to review the City staff decision to allow the destruction of significant Oregon white oak trees on the site.
We hope that appeals to LUBA will slow down, if not halt, the rush to demolish a Salem historic landmark and destroy more than 40 trees in our urban core. But we can't rely on this process alone. We need an outpouring of citizen concern expressing the strong opinion that in Salem we don't tear down our historic landmarks, and we don't clear cut ancient Oregon White Oaks and Douglas Fir trees.
Please do your part and make your voice heard.