First off, it's been a long time since I used "pizazz" in my writing.
The word dates from 1935-40, and is out of fashion, but it seemed absolutely perfect to describe what I found missing in last Wednesday's meeting where progress on an update to the Salem Area Comprehensive Plan was discussed by City of Salem staff and hired consultants.
This photo of the beginning of the "Our Salem" open house in the Court Street Christian Church captures the non-electricity of the gathering, which attracted about 30-40 people.
Sure, it was a warm sunny day, so sitting inside from 6-8 pm, or thereabouts, likely didn't sound all that appealing to some potential attendees. Still, the first page of a meeting handout said:
Now we ask:
"Are we heading in the right direction?"
"What is our community vision for the future?"
It could be that the now didn't really refer to this meeting, but to the Future Work described on the handout that sounds a lot more exciting.
Establishing a community vision for future growth, and updating the Comprehensive Plan.
-- What do we value?
-- How do we want Salem to grow and develop?
-- What goals do we have?
-- How can we improve our community?
-- What goals and policies do we want to guide development and how we grow?
Don't get me wrong: the meeting was well organized and the staff/consultants did a good job. I'm just hoping, and waiting, for the Future Work that is billed as starting in Summer 2019.
After all, I still believe in what I said in an October 2018 post, "Salem Comprehensive Plan needs simple vision, not complex platitudes."
"Why?" and "How?" are the only questions that need to be asked. Why is an upper-level question. How explains what's needed to attain the Why. Why's and How's alternate as needed for a particular situation.
For example, why does Salem exist? This is a top-level question that I've never heard asked, much less adequately answered. It, or a question very much like it, should be part of the Comprehensive Plan update. Here's some answers that I think ordinary people would offer up:
To help people who live here be happy
To be an economic center with good jobs
To preserve Oregon farm and forest land by limiting urban sprawl
There are many other possible answers, of course. My point is just that unless simple high-level vision questions are asked and answered first, a planning process is prone to veer off into bureaucratic objective/criteria setting that isn't grounded in fundamental human values.
I did enjoy the Q&A portion of the meeting. That's when people expressed what matters to them in everyday language. Such as, dealing with income inequality, having as much open space as possible, reducing carbon emissions.
A good portion of the Our Salem presentation dealt with the results of a draft Greenhouse Gas Inventory. As noted by a Salem Breakfast on Bikes post, "Greenhouse Gas Assessment points to cars," transportation is the biggest contributor to carbon emissions in Salem.
What grabbed my eye in the presentation was this slide.
This shows greenhouse gas emissions for all of Oregon, with the red line at the top being projected emissions under current policies and the steeply descending yellow line being "Oregon's statewide GHG goal trajectory to 2050."
Wow. If Salem is to do its part in meeting this goal, our city has to markedly reduce its carbon pollution, particularly in the transportation sector. The good news is, this subject is filled with...pizazz! Here's some pizazz'y buzz words.
Less driving, more walking and bicycling.
Dedicated bike paths all over town.
Young and old meeting as they safely and happily walk and bike.
Expanded mass transit that everyone wants to use.
A downtown designed for people, not cars.
Electric vehicles, including buses, everywhere.
Rapid charging stations everywhere.
Trees planted everyplace possible.
Open space preserved everywhere possible.
Zoning that allows restaurants/shopping in more residential areas.
Wider choice of energy-efficient housing.
I'm sure other people could add to these ideas. But what I've listed excites me. More ideas would excite me even more.
Hopefully future Our Salem meetings will involve visioning exercises that attract lots of people eager to explore and discuss how they want Salem to change for the better. With... pizazz.