The current crop of conservatives running Salem's City Hall (hopefully, not for much longer) have done a lot of outrageous stuff. But the Numero Uno outrage has to be the Billion Dollar Boondoggle, a.k.a. the Salem River Crossing, or the Third Bridge.
Before I describe the latest piece of sleaze that's been laid on top of this special interest crap pile, let's review some of the history of this mess.
In June 2013 the Salem City Council voted to approve a "Salem Alternative" design for the bridge. I wrote about this in Salem City Council votes for Third Bridge in absurdist drama.
Wikipedia tells us something about absurdist dramatists:
Their work expressed the belief that human existence has no meaning or purpose and therefore all communication breaks down. Logical construction and argument gives way to irrational and illogical speech and to its ultimate conclusion, silence.
Unfortunately, the only people silenced at the council meeting were people who would be affected by construction of the bridge, along with opponents of this unneeded, unwanted, and unpaid for example of wasteful government overreach (literally, from one bank of the river to another, over a large floodplain).
I watched a resident of West Salem who had just returned home from a lengthy time away be shushed up by Mayor Anna Peterson when he fervently asked to say something about just learning that his neighborhood was going to be trashed by bridge approaches.
However, the Mayor, city council members, and Public Works Director Peter Fernandez had plenty of time to engage in self-congratulatory excess, patting each other on the back so much I thought, "Geez, get a room" and "You should have a massage license to do that sort of stuff."
The Salem Alternative was supposed to be a kindler, gentler bridge design.
The No 3rd Bridge folks recently put up a post with a video showing Public Works Director Peter Fernandez "telling the Salem City Council on May 13, 2013, that the 'Salem Alternative' 3rd Bridge that the Council approved a month later would have no impact on residential properties on either side of the river."
Yes, Fernandez said "No existing residential properties will be removed on the east or west sides of the project." Meaning, no houses or other dwellings would be removed on either side of the river where the Third Bridge would land.
At the May 13, 2013 City Council meeting there was a Salem River Crossing slide presentation that showed this. Here's a screen shot from the CCTV video of the meeting.
The slide says, "No existing residential properties are removed."
So the City Council voted to move ahead with the Salem Alternative -- which, they were told, wouldn't cause any homes to be demolished.
But just a few months later, in November 2013, I blogged Dude, where's the Salem Alternative bridge?
OK, maybe its not a good idea to title this blog post after a 2000 stoner movie, given that most of my readers here in Salem, Oregon haven't had the cinematic experience of being wasted and unable to find their car.
But it just seemed so freaking appropriate after No 3rd Bridge and Breakfast on Bikes shared how the unneeded, unwanted, and unpaid-for proposed new bridge across the Willamette River has become nearly unrecognizable after someone -- consultants?...tooth fairy?...who knows? -- markedly altered the "Salem Alternative" design approved unanimously by the City Council.
Where did the Salem Alternative go? Somebody at the City needs to put out a missing bridge alert. It could be wandering around lost in some scary wasteland, like Keizer Station.
Because a few days ago No 3rd Bridge reported (emphasis added):
The "Preferred Alternative" 3rd Bridge that the Council is set to add to the Salem Transportation System Plan before the end of the year "displaces" 55 homes on both sides of the river according to draft reports that NO 3rd Bridge obtained through a public records request to ODOT. It also displaces 65 businesses.
So after Peter Fernandez assured the City Council in 2013 that the Third Bridge would cause zero homes to be removed, now we know that 55 homes will be demolished for the Billion Dollar Boondoggle.
Kind of a big deal, don't you think? Especially if you're a resident of one of those homes.
Now we get to the "deception" part of this blog post's title. Over on the City of Salem's Salem River Crossing web page, there is a link to the staff presentation slides shown at the May 13, 2013 public hearing mentioned above.
Earlier in this post I shared a screen shot of one of the slides. You know, the one that says ""No existing residential properties are removed."
The funny thing is -- but really, this isn't amusing -- when you click on the May 13, 2013 Staff Presentation Slides link on the City of Salem Salem River Crossing web page, this is how that slide looks.
Now the slide says, "No existing residential properties are removed in Pioneer Village" rather than "No existing residential properties are removed." So somebody altered the slide after the presentation to the City Council.
Sure looks like an attempt to rewrite history. We can even say, "cover up."
Seemingly, after the bridge design was changed from what the Salem City Council approved, causing 55 homes to be demolished rather than zero, the May 13, 2013 slide presentation was altered.
Unless the video of the City Council meeting is viewed -- and how many people are going to do that? -- no one would know that the slide presentation was changed after the fact.
This could be a violation of Oregon law dealing with tampering of public records (again, emphasis added).
A person commits the crime of tampering with public records if, without lawful authority, the person knowingly destroys, mutilates, conceals, removes, makes a false entry in or falsely alters any public record, including records relating to the Oregon State Lottery.