Let's be clear about the title of this blog post.
I have no knowledge of how rapidly City of Salem officials such as City Manager Powers, Public Works Director Fernandez, and Police Chief Trevor Womack walk from place to place.
But I do have considerable experience with city officials engaging in a different sort of slow-walking, defined as:
For example, on May 17 I filed a public records request with the City of Salem, which, thankfully, gave me a fee waiver for the request:
All emails, text messages, documents, and other communications between Peter Fernandez, Steve Powers, and Trevor Womack that pertain in any way to the “MayDay 2A Rally” in Riverfront Park on May 1, 2021.
After almost eight weeks, I've gotten some of the records. I was told that part of the delay was caused by staff waiting to see if my fee waiver request was going to be approved.
But an initial response to a public records request is supposed to take just five business days, and the records should be provided in another ten business days. I'm on day 39 and still waiting.
Is this deliberate slow-walking, or just a creaky bureaucracy? Hard to say. Maybe a bit of both.
The Salem Breakfast on Bikes blogger used this term in a recent post, which caught my eye. The post is about a proposal by a city councilor.
Back in April Councilor Stapleton asked for a report on opening parts of Union and Winter Streets to those who might wish to walk, bike, or otherwise roll to the Saturday Market.
After some delay, the report will be presented Council on Monday the 12th.
City Staff are presenting two basic options, a "soft" and "hard" redirect to drivers and their cars.
Option #1 is a Soft Closure, in which signage and small barricades are used to discourage through-vehicle traffic on Union Street NE and Winter Street NE. Option #2 is a Hard Closure that employs large barricades and signs to prevent vehicles from entering closed street segments.
But did it have to take three months to develop this? The detail here is not something that should have taken three months. It's not rocket science!
...All in all, the plan does not look like it received great care and attention. It looks a little like a perfunctory pass at a plan, put together at the last minute.
After Councilor Stapleton's April motion, the City could have instead moved quickly to implement a "soft" option in a pop-up mode to trial it for a couple of weeks or a month even. This could have been done in May and June.
...By now, by July, the City could have had an empirically tested plan that used the least intervention necessary to achieve the desired result.
Instead, City Staff are presenting two options to Council asking them to know which one is best, with potentially not enough time to work out the kinks and to let Salemites figure out new patterns of commuting to the market and playing in the street.
It's not too late to try out the concept, but it does not now seem like it will be positioned for maximum success. It's hard not to think City Staff are slow-walking the project.
My impression is that the Salem Climate Action Plan championed by the progressive City Council majority also is getting the slow-walk treatment.
Despite the urgency of slowing global warming before it makes much of our planet barely habitable for humans (Salem's record-breaking 117 degree temperature not long ago sure was unbearable), the proposals being brought forward by City of Salem staff are mostly underwhelming.
Another Salem Breakfast on Bikes post regarding the Climate Action Plan says:
As yet without publishing a release, the City just put up a new sticky note exercise, soliciting comment on a selection of 35 climate actions, presumably ones that survived the previous sticky note comment project, or ones that were consolidated from overlapping candidates.
A lot of the concepts are still very ornamental, signalling lofty intent more than actually likely to reduce meaningful carbon pollution. (Too much of the vague "support," especially, like "Support native biodiversity," for example.) It just seems like we ought to have a better idea of actually effective actions and goals at this point, and could relegate feel-good, but ineffective, gestures to the dust bin or some secondary place. But for the moment they all have equal weight.
...The Climate Action Plan project remains very diffuse and unfocused, and it is hard not to conclude that the effort is in important ways unserious and the goal to have an ornamental and largely ineffective plan that dodges the prospect of real change and real emissions reductions.
Sure sounds like slow-walking to me.