Salem can be a deeply irritating place to live when a comparison to other cities in Oregon screams Salem sucks!
A notable example is how Portland, Corvallis, Eugene, and other cities all have climate action plans aimed at reducing greenhouse gas polllution, while Salem doesn't.
Because of the leadership of the current progressive majority on the City Council, a draft greenhouse gas inventory for the Salem area has been developed, though.
Recently Tracy Loew of the Statesman Journal wrote a great story, "Salem's per capita tailpipe emissions highest among biggest Oregon cities." (title of online version) Here's how it starts out:
Most carbon emissions released within Salem's city limits come from vehicle tailpipes, the city’s first greenhouse gas inventory found.
As the state capital, Salem draws 63% of its workers from elsewhere, the study states. And 86% of the people who work in Salem and live in the city commute by car — a higher percentage than in Oregon’s other largest cities.
As a result, Salem's per capita transportation emissions are nearly double those of Portland's, and significantly higher than Eugene's.
The inventory, completed this month, is the first step for Salem to develop a possible climate action plan — a local plan for cutting carbon emissions to help stem climate change.
Salem is the only large city in Oregon without such a plan.
Portland, Oregon’s biggest city, was first in the nation to create a climate action plan, in 1993. Eugene, which is about the same size as Salem, approved its plan in in 2010.
Gresham, Bend, Beaverton and Medford have climate action plans. So do some small Oregon cities, including Ashland and Milwaukie.
The results of Salem's greenhouse gas inventory have been known for several months. Environmental activists and members of the City Council have been urging that Salem take the next step and fashion a Climate Action Plan.
Yet Steve Powers, the City Manager, didn't include any funding for a Climate Action Plan in the budget for the next fiscal year. A Salem Reporter story by Troy Brynelson, "Salem councilors favoring new revenue for climate action plan," contains some infuriating information.
Salem staff say there isn’t enough money or city planners for a full-scale climate action plan.
The Community Development Department, which would administer the program, currently has one long-range planner.
According to department director Norm Wright, that lone planner is currently in charge of work to update the city’s comprehensive plan called “Our Salem.” That planner also would help Salem change its codes if the Legislature approves statewide zoning changes.
Wright estimates a climate action plan would cost $120,000 to complete and require four full-time employees to administer.
“I think the big concern that we have is we are so committed right now to the current planning efforts we have currently underway that we cannot easily take on this project without a significant investment,” said Wright. “We would need a pretty significant investment that the budget isn’t quite capable of supporting.”
Wow. We have a really short-sighted and clueless bunch of bureaucrats at City Hall.
For one thing, how could a Climate Action Plan take four full-time employees to administer it? Somehow the City of Salem is getting by with only one employee doing long-range planning for everything. It's hard to believe that overseeing a Climate Action Plan would take four times as many people.
And even if it does, isn't preserving Earth's ability to be habitable for humans more important than anything else?
It's astounding that we have a City Manager and director of the Department of Community Development who are so uncaring about the most important issue facing Salem, Oregon, America, and the world: rapidly rising temperatures caused by greenhouse gas pollution.
Hopefully the City Council will have more sense than Steve Powers, Norm Wright, and the members of the Budget Committee who failed to include any money for a Climate Action Plan.
The Statesman Journal story says, "The council has scheduled a public hearing on the budget on June 10 and will vote on it June 24."
If you agree that Salem needs to have a Climate Action Plan, email city officials and tell them this: [email protected]
The Salem Breakfast on Bikes blogger has a cogent take on the Statesman Journal story in "Yes, It's the Cars." Excerpts:
We have to make shorter trips and make fewer trips. We have to reduce the total miles traveled in addition to converting the auto fleet to electricity.
We will need to change our zoning and shift away from vast swaths of single-family housing, no matter how much "neighborhood character" we fear might be lost. But doing so will help with housing affordability. We will also need to make transit work much better. More people living near frequent service lines will help generate demand for even more frequent service.
...Yes, it's the cars, and we have to figure out ways to drive less. Once we are willing to talk for real about our overreliance on cars and drive-alone trips, problems with pollution, housing cost, congestion, road safety, and even city budgets and infrastructure costs start to look more solvable. But as long as we do not contemplate disturbing our autoist system, these problems remain intractable.