Hypocrisy. We're all prone to it.
But conservatives in Salem sure seem to be more hypocritical than progressives -- especially when it comes to the most controversial local political issue in this town, the Salem River Crossing or Third Bridge.
I don't recall any of my progressive friends calling into question the legitimacy of a long string of pro-Third Bridge votes by the Salem City Council back when conservatives were in power.
And I sure don't remember any members of that right-leaning council majority saying that even though one of their campaign positions was to build a Third Bridge, this really doesn't mean much, so maybe their constituents really want them to vote against constructing the billion dollar boondoggle known as the Salem River Crossing.
Yet now that progressives have a 5-4 majority on the City Council, and all five campaigned with a pledge to stop the madness of pressing ahead with an unneeded, unwanted, and unpaid-for Third Bridge, suddenly conservatives in this town are claiming that the five progressive councilors don't really have a mandate to kill the Salem River Crossing.
Well, they sure do, in exactly the same way the previous conservative council majority was able to press ahead with the Third Bridge.
Elections have consequences. An excellent Salem Weekly editorial, "Time to end the Salem River Crossing project," speaks the truth to bridge advocates who suddenly don't believe that campaign promises count for anything.
In May of last year three new City Councilors were elected [Cara Kaser, Sally Cook, Matt Ausec], all of whom ran on a platform opposed to moving forward to complete planning on the 3rd Bridge. The three would take office in January, joining long-time 3rd Bridge opponent Tom Andersen.
...And they were joined in March by yet another anti-bridge Councilor, Chris Hoy, who defeated pro-bridge Gregg Peterson and two other candidates to replace pro-Bridge Daniel Benjamin who had resigned his seat in November. That makes a five-member Council majority opposed to the Salem River Crossing Project. They already flexed their muscles in April when they voted down an agreement with the Department of Land Conservation and Development that would have moved the project forward.
So now it’s time for enlightened leadership to end an ill-conceived and badly managed planning project that has dragged on for 11 years at a cost of nearly $8 million for consultants alone, not to mention the hundreds of hours of staff time and Council time that have kept a bad idea alive.
Everyone should respect the fact that the last five candidates elected to the Salem City Council ran against the 3rd Bridge. All of them defeated candidates who were for the 3rd Bridge. Elections should have consequences. The majority in five of the eight wards in Salem showed by electing these Councilors that they are not in favor of a 3rd Bridge.
It’s time for all of the City Councilors and the Mayor to hear the voice of the majority and bring this sad chapter in Salem’s history to a close.
There's a newly formed Salem Bridge Solutions group that seems to believe that if they all wear their green "Build It Now" shirts to enough community meetings, and act like thugs when they don't get their way, that's reason enough to construct a Third Bridge.
They forget that when progressives found themselves on the short end of a City Council majority, they worked their butts off to win five council elections in a row and regain the power to decide City of Salem priorities.
Conservative bridge advocates now can try to do the same thing.
If they believe that Salem voters are excited about paying a $1.50 each-way toll on a Third Bridge and the two existing bridges, along with having a local gas tax and higher vehicle registration fees imposed to pay for the bridge, then they should find people to run for the City Council who support these unpopular policies.
Or, as a comment on a Salem Weekly Facebook post about the Third Bridge says, bridge advocates could collect signatures to put a city-wide initiative on the ballot.
Anyone who wants to collect signatures and put a local initiative on the ballot for the 3rd Bridge is welcome to do so. If the measure is honest and talks about the necessity of tolls, new fees and taxes to pay for it, it will get creamed.
The official funding strategy for the Third Bridge says that $1.50 each-way tolling on both the new bridge and current bridge would be the main source of money for it. Most people in Salem don't want to pay three bucks to go back and forth across the river.
This inconvenient truth isn't mentioned by the Build It Now folks -- who never have explained how it would be possible to quickly build a half billion dollar bridge (about a billion with financing costs included) when there's no money for it.
Plus, it would be hugely less expensive to deal with rush-hour congestion on the two current bridges in other ways that have been clearly documented by the No 3rd Bridge folks who now have the upper hand.
Here's another excerpt from the Salem Weekly editorial.
Once that is done [ending the Salem River Crossing project], we’ll need the Council’s leadership to move on and pursue more realistic and affordable solutions to our peak hour traffic congestion problems downtown and in West Salem.
Two opportunities present themselves with the passage of the transportation package by the Legislature just a few weeks ago. The package not only includes significant new funding for Cherriots, it includes funding for a seismic retrofit and possible other design improvements to the Center Street Bridge.
Our City Council needs to now focus on those two opportunities, along with other potential solutions, after they pull the plug on the 3rd Bridge.