“Tyranny of the Majority…Wow!”

WSNA Meeting 6 19 17 1

 

Do Salem and our broader region need another bridge? Many think so, and are working with Salem Bridge Solutions, and have signed the petition at salembridgesolutions.org, to help focus support for getting it built. Not everyone agrees, however, as is to be expected within a diverse community. There are even a few in West Salem, who happen to be in leadership roles on the West Salem Neighborhood Association (WSNA), who are adamantly opposed.

Linda Bierly’s Guest Opinion on September 22 was revealing, and a great example of why there have been contentious moments during WSNA meetings over the past few months. In essence, her belief seems to be that WSNA should be like other associations, where a board makes the decisions rather than the members.

She talks about her fellow residents, who she thinks she should represent, as an uninformed, antagonistic “mob” who use fear, and even physical and verbal intimidation tactics to achieve their single-purpose agenda! It all sounds so sinister, so what’s really going on in WSNA?

In a word…change. Until recently, WSNA was a sleepy neighborhood association with about a dozen, mostly retired people, regularly attending. In May, the news came out that WSNA had declared itself to be “neutral” on building a bridge. Knowing the overwhelming majority of West Salem residents want the new bridge, a group of residents began attending WSNA meetings and requested a vote to support a bridge.

After promising a vote, the leadership of which Linda is a member, refused to put it on the agenda, stating repeatedly, “we don’t want to be run by a TYRRANY OF THE MAJORITY.” Residents were put in the position of having to overcome this attempt to disenfranchise them by their own “leaders.” They proceeded to have the biggest turnout in Salem neighborhood association history, with over 350 people attending to vote for the bridge! This did not sit well with the leadership, who continued to oppose their own community at every step.

As details came to light, including the Land Use Committee recommending confusing plans that happen to directly benefit themselves, using $3.6 million taxpayer dollars, their plans began to unravel. With the community now involved, the leadership turned to bully tactics with their Parliamentarian shouting in the face of a community member, as leadership refused to tell the community about the upcoming election process.

Fortunately, these mini-dramas are coming to a close as WSNA elects new leadership on October 16th. Our community needs leaders who listen and represent the will of the vast majority. That’s true at the neighborhood association level as well as at City Council. 

We need leaders who are not stuck in the past, but leading toward the future we want for our city. That means people who understand that we must build the infrastructure to serve our current and future needs, and leave a legacy for our children.

To become part of the solution, join over 2,800 local residents on the Salem Bridge Solutions Facebook group.

 

Inconvenient but Not Fatal

As Mark Twain famously responded to the rumors he had passed away, "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated." Likewise, the recent decision by the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA), which some are trying to proclaim a mortal wound to our hopes for a new bridge, is actually more of a head cold. Yes, it's annoying and something we will need to deal with, but it won't be the end of our bridge, and we're certainly used to dealing with congestion!

So what's the truth about this decision? Well, the people trying to stop the bridge made a total of 16 complaints to LUBA with 13 of them rejected completely. In fact, LUBA essentially agreed with the need for a bridge, finding all of the substantive arguments about the need for it to be correct. Two of the three findings they made requiring simple corrections were very minor issues, and on the third one they are probably wrong.

The first issue needing to be addressed is the preference of LUBA that the city use a different population estimate for our growth over the next 20 years. The city had included an estimate of our growth rate resulting in a population of 316,000, and LUBA pefers a rate that results in a population of 300,000 people. In either case, we are looking at nearly doubling the population over this timeframe. The need for a bridge is completely clear whichever number is used and the city can easily use their other number to resolve this issue.

The second issue was a true technicality with a requirement that the findings the city published and provided regarding the effect of the project on the Willamette Greenway be read into the record. Seriously, that's it. Someone (presumably with a great voice) needs to read the findings into the record. Not exactly an enormous obstacle.

Third, LUBA found the city should have rezoned the land being brought into the Urban Growth Boundary (the island in the river where the bridge will pass over). This is probably not correct, since it is not legal for the city to rezone property that is not in the city. This will likely be turned over on appeal.

None of these are significant problems and all should be able to be resolved easily. For a good explanation of these issues, listen to Salem Mayor Chuck Bennett on the Gator and Denise Show (starting about 14:50). 

There are those who may try to take advantage of these technical issues to attempt to turn a cold into a terminal illness for our bridge, but we will be keeping a close eye on the process and alert everyone if we need to turn out to provide a boost to our bridges' immune system. Stay tuned...  

ODOT Bridge Decision...Action Needed!

 bridgeatnight

 We have GREAT news about our progress on the bridge BUT we need your help to make sure it stays great news!

First, the great news. ODOT has almost competed one of the last hurdles before we can get the permit to build the bridge. That hurdle is the Environmental Impact Study reporting their findings about the impact on the Wallace Marine Park. The findings ODOT has issued are that building Marine Drive to connect to the bridge will have a very minimal impact. This is true, and a great result for us in getting the bridge approved. 

Now for the BUT. Part of the process for this report is a public comment period so the community can give their input. The people opposed to the bridge have asked for, and been granted, an extension of the comment period to July 28th, so they can gather as many comments in opposition to the findings as they can.

We can't let them win this comment battle. Those of us who want the bridge need to send our own comments to ODOT supporting the findings and explaining that the minimal impact on the park is far outweighed by the positive impact a bridge will have for our community. WE NEED HUNDREDS OF POSITIVE EMAILS to counter their negative ones.

Here is how you can help build the bridge! Send your email to ODOT which will make the decision, the Salem City Council who will also be taking a position on the findings, and SBS so we know how many have been sent. Here are the addresses:

ODOT: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
Salem City Council:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Salem Bridge Solutions: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Use the following subject line: 

Subject: Wallace Marine Park 4(f) Comment 

Here are points to include in your email:

  • Your address
  • Your support for parks AND transportation system
  • The need for Marine Drive and the bridge
  • You agree the impact on the park will be small

Here is an example...but please take a couple of minutes to modify it so the people receiving it know it is from you personally and not just a form letter. This is important!


Dear Ms. Henson and Salem City Council,

I live at (insert your address) and am a supporter of our parks and our transportation systems. 
I agree with the findings that the impact on Wallace Marine Park, Wallace Natural Area and the walking trail will be minimal and encourage you to move forward with this project. The completion of Marine Drive and  the Salem River Crossing bridge will have a tremendous positive impact on our community and are certainly worth the minimal impact to the park.

Sincerely,
(Your name)

Thanks for helping us Build it NOW!

 

WSNA's New Position...Build it NOW!

WSNA Meeting 6 19 17 1

WSNA's New Position...Build it NOW!

Thanks to a historic turnout of West Salem residents, property owners and workers, the West Salem Neighborhood Association voted overwhelmingly to support our motion to have WSNA "officially support the Salem River Crossing, complete the Environmental Impact Study and act as soon as possible to complete a new bridge." With nearly 90% of the people in attendance voting for the bridge, WSNA's now officially on board to Build it NOW!

It was truly incredible to see our members pouring into Roth's to participate in this vote. Our turnout was MORE THAN DOUBLE the highest turnout for any neighborhood association meeting in Salem history! That doesn't count what we estimate was over 100 people who showed up to vote for the bridge but eventually left in the overwhelming confusion as we waited for the Co-chairs to secure another room! Our members continue to show patience and resolve while maintining respect for others who voice different opinions. We are making incredible progress friends!

Now it's time to switch gears from the intensity (and boredom) of meetings and have some fun working together to build our movement. We are planning Neighborhood Walks and Bridge Brigades over the summer to let our neighbors know about our campaign and get them to join us. Our first Neighborhood Walk will be this Saturday. We will meet at Roth's at 9:30 (grab a donut and coffee...or something healthy if you prefer) and pair up to walk the neighborhoods of our community. Craig and Mike will have our business cards to hand out and coach you on our simple presentation. We'll wrap up about 12 and head to Walery's Pizza for lunch for those who have time. We'll be scheduling a Bridge Brigade some time next week and holding signs on the bridge during the evening gridlock. I'll be posting events for these soon. Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you would like to help organize any of these!

Turning Out Turning Tide

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Turning Out...Turning Tide

As our beautiful green tide rolled into the City Council meeting last night you could feel the energy that comes with this kind of turn out. Our group, as always, conducted ourselves courteously and professionally as we listened and waited for our chance to speak. Mitch Teal led us off as SBS member after member articulately described what we wanted and why. The issue of the night was whether to build Marine Drive or allow an alternative proposal that would make it a much less useful project. After a long night of testimony followed by debate among the councilors, they decided to table the Marine Drive issue for now and assign it to a work group. While this is not a total victory for us, it's way better than the alternative proposal. Now we have the opportunity to really shape the outcome to what we need to support the bridge!

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