Almost everybody has mistakenly sent out an email that had a regrettable something in it. City of Salem officials have joined this large club, as KATU reported in "'Kind of embarrassing': Salem authorities send email with note not meant for public."
SALEM, Ore. -- An official with the city of Salem admits it's "kind of embarrassing."
The city sent out an email alert that included a footnote the public was not supposed to see.
The footnote is regarding whether to tell the public about the cost of a road project in downtown Salem.
...Gotterba said the budget information he released to KATU Thursday is available through a public records request but also admitted it was not included in either of the two news releases put out about the project.
Here's a KATU video story about the downtown bike paths email embarrassment.
A Salem Breakfast on Bikes post, "Controversy over cost of downtown bike lanes is unwarranted," correctly observes that what is most concerning about the email is how City of Salem officials are worried about whether citizens will think that a much-needed $244,000 downtown bike lane project is too expensive, but are proud of their hugely wasteful Billion Dollar Third Bridge and $82 Million Police Facility projects.
A footnote meant for internal communication only was not edited out of a public message on the bike lanes for High and Church Street, and it doesn't look very good. Especially in light of the proposals to overbuild a new Police Station and overbuild a giant new highway and bridge across the Willamette River, it seems to feed a narrative of an out-of-control and secretive city.
The truth in this case is the opposite.
Construction costs might be higher than we like, but relative to industry norms, the City of Salem routinely brings in small road construction projects under budget. The costs from the 2008 road bond projects came in about 80% of budget and by adding a bunch of smaller projects, the City was able to add by count of projects another 50%. Sure, much of this was during the Great Recession, but the facts are that the City is not profligate on small and medium-sized road projects.
The project for bike lanes for Church and High is no different.
Yet the staff person's mistakenly-shown note says about construction of the bike paths, "People might see it as a very expensive project."
No, they won't. People love bike paths. Salem's citizens want more bike paths. And not just a few disconnected blocks of them. They want an interconnected system throughout our city of bike paths, bike boulevards, and multiuse paths.
This can be built for hugely less money than autocentic road improvements cost. So the real embarrassment in the City of Salem's email isn't that officials were trying to hide the cost of the bike paths from the public, but that they felt a need to do so -- which shows a lack of commitment to building better cycling/pedestrian infrastructure in this town.
Oh, there's one other thing that City officials should be embarrassed about.
In the KATU video, City spokesperson Mike Gotterba says that 3 to 5 managers approved the email before it was sent out. Um, this doesn't sound very efficient to me. One manager's review sounds sufficient to me.
But it is well known that the Mayor Peterson administration is highly secretive and controlling.
Thus it isn't at all surprising that the folks at City Hall debated how open and transparent they should be about the $244,000 cost of the downtown bike paths. This is disturbing. What's even more problematic is that City officials are so wary of the comparatively low cost of making Salem streets more bike and pedestrian friendly.
The Breakfast on Bikes post says:
A typical enhanced crosswalk with a pedestrian refuge median (no flashing beacon) is in the neighborhood of $50,000 or $60,000 - the same amount the SRC [Salem River Crossing, or Third Bridge] is spending on average each month. Imagine, well over 100 medians for walking safety!
By this measure, the cost for 10 or 12 (it's actually 14+) blocks of downtown bike lane and parking reconfiguration is proportional.
When the Glen Creek/Wallace interchange cost around $10 million, this project on Church and High only costs about 2% of that total. Again, is this really so out of proportion?