Totally predictable. But disturbing all the same.
Courtney Knox Busch and other city employees played games with a survey intended to gauge public support for an upcoming $300 million bond measure by purposely slanting the survey to make it less likely that those responding would say Yes! to the Salem Bike Vision proposal to build a network of protected bike lanes.
City councilor and Mayor-to-be Chris Hoy recognized this game a month ago, as I noted in a May 24 blog post, "Mayor and city staff try to keep Salem from having protected bike lanes."
Discussion then turned to the public opinion research mentioned in the Next Steps above. This led to more evidence that city staff are trying to prevent Salem residents from enjoying protected bike lanes, even though the authority to decide what projects are included in the bond measure is in the hands of the City Council.
Councilor Stapleton asked Courtney Knox Busch, a City of Salem staff person working on the public opinion research, to describe the question being asked about protected bike lanes. Busch said that she didn't have the exact language before her, but it said something about how people would feel about the bond measure if a change was made to add the protected bike lane project.
Councilor Chris Hoy, who was recently elected Mayor (takes office in 2023), immediately realized how loaded that question would be. After all, Busch and Bennett had just taken pains to emphasize to Stapleton that there was time for her to try to get the Salem Bike Vision proposal added to the project list, since the bond measure didn't need to be finalized until August 8.
So currently there is nothing to be changed in the bond measure, since it hasn't been approved by the City Council yet. Hoy correctly said that the survey question should say something like, "How would you feel if the bond measure includes protected bike lanes."
Busch waffled around in her response to Hoy, offering up a rather lame statement that the survey research company being paid to do the public opinion research knows that they're doing. She assured Hoy and the rest of the council that this wasn't a "push poll" intended to get a certain answer.
OK, but it sure looks to me like Mayor Bennett and City of Salem staff are doing what they can to kill the popular protected bike lanes proposal. Hard to say why. My suspicion is that they've heavily bought into traditional road projects and don't want $10-15 million going to bicycle infrastructure.
Since there's supposed to be a vote on what to include in the bond measure at the June 27 City Council meeting, that agenda item contains pertinent background information.
Such as, bike lanes were by far the most popular item in a list of projects that could be included in the bond measure, based on public comments/feedback. Councilor Stapleton asked for this information.
But the public opinion survey mistakenly led people to believe that the projects to be included in the bond measure already had been decided on -- the exact thing that Councilor Hoy said shouldn't be done in regard to protected bike lanes.
An honest approach to the survey would have been what Hoy suggested. Ask people if they would be more or less likely to support the bond measure if it included protected bike lanes separated from traffic. Instead, games were played, because the question asked was this:
This is infuriating to those of us who strongly favor protected bike lanes. Again, the projects for the bond measure haven't been finalized. That's supposed to happen at next Monday's meeting. So until the bond measure is finalized, obviously it isn't possible to make changes to the measure, because there's no measure to change.
Yet city staff turned the public opinion survey into one of those notorious "push polls" designed to get the answer you want from people by framing the protected bike lanes question as stated above.
They didn't even phrase the question as "If the City made this change, would you be more likely to vote 'yes' to support the measure, or 'no' to oppose it?" After all, this is just $10 million in a $300 billion bond measure.
Instead, those responding to the survey were asked if they'd vote yes or no on the entire measure, just because protected bike lanes were included.
Again, it's maddening to see city staff putting their thumb on the scale of something as important as protected bike lanes, just because they want to see the Salem Bike Vision proposal rejected for reasons I find difficult to fathom.
As I said in the previous blog post:
City staff kept saying they don't want the bond measure to be controversial. Well, here's some news for them. If you keep on playing games with Councilor Stapleton and other advocates for protected bike lanes, you're going to end up with a controversial bond measure.
It looks like this is what city staff want, a controversial bond measure. OK, I love controversies. I noted that the survey didn't ask if people would prefer to have their property taxes lowered by voting down the $300 million bond measure on the November ballot, since this would replace a previous bond measure.
That's an obvious option for opponents of the measure to bring up. I'm not saying that I'd be an opponent, but I definitely wouldn't be a supporter of the bond measure given the games that have been played with the Salem Bike Vision proposal for protected bike lanes.
Lastly, it's bizarre that apparently no one on the City Council committee charged with recommending projects for the bond measure got to review the public opinion survey questions. I say this because Councilor Hoy and Councilor Stapleton are on that committee, and they hadn't seen the question about protected bike lanes.
This is another example of how city staff have been trying to manipulate things so protected bike lanes don't get a fair consideration. To which I say once again, infuriating.