Letters: Safety fixes could worsen congestion
Your Jan. 16 article "Speed limits might drop on residential streets" struck a nerve with me and needs further commentary.
First, I am a retired planner and am very concerned at how Portland is addressing growth issues in a piecemeal fashion instead of in a comprehensive "big picture" approach. Vision Zero and reducing street speeds is a perfect example.
Don't get me wrong, Vision
Zero and speed reductions will help to increase pedestrian and bicycle safety. However, it does nothing to address the increased traffic congestion Portland now faces.
In some cases, Vision Zero could exacerbate congestion where it causes a reduction in street capacity for arterial streets. Such is likely to occur for Southeast Foster Road, which provides a high-capacity corridor to I-205, but is proposed for reduction to two travel lanes, down from four.
Yes, I-5 and I-205 are becoming commuter nightmares. But the connecting arterials also are experiencing systemic congestion problems. Truly, this is a situation where the state, city and Metro need to do a better job in anticipating transportation growth needs and stop assuming everyone is going to suddenly start biking or busing. (It just doesn't work like that in reality.)
Even with Vision Zero, better enforcement is necessary as red-light runners and distracted drivers (both for cars and bicycles) are an increasing problem.
And because Portland is repeatedly on the worst commutes list nationwide, we'd better hope there is never a missile scare in Portland (like recently in Hawaii) because the streets will become a gridlocked chaos.
Metro polls support climate action legislation
The recent MyView commentary by John Charles Jr. of the Cascade Policy Institute was as illuminating as a tweet by our president. To consider global warming "a scam" and conclude that global warming legislation does not deserve a hearing is appalling to see in print. His article also is a perversion of the poll from which Mr. Charles drew his conclusions.
In fact, the poll showed an increase in importance of climate issues — up to 66 percent in 2017, from 60 percent in 2015. Further reading of the research puts the number up to 85 percent when adding the 19 percent who feel it is somewhat important, to the 66 percent who feel it is either very important or extremely important. The poll is available at: tinyurl.com/yblc7ecq.
The poll also revealed that 76 percent prioritize protecting natural areas, and 72 percent feel conserving farms and forestlands is a priority.
What is also clear from the poll is the prioritization of day-to-day challenges like homelessness, poverty and good jobs, over our long-range challenges like climate. Maslow's hierarchy of needs predicts such ranking.
The identified problems of congestion and insufficient housing are related to population growth, which will only increase as a result of climate refugees. We must all understand the vital importance of climate action legislation in addressing these interconnected challenges.
The Tribune editors would do well to better vet opinion articles for the spreading of disinformation. The public needs truth now, more than ever. You won't find it at the Cascade Policy Institute.
Natural gas vs. coal: apples and oranges
Regarding John Paul Williams' column "Liquefied natural gas versus coal pollution, My View" in the Jan. 4 Portland Tribune: He is apparently deliberately comparing apples to oranges.
He criticizes Sen. Jeff Merkley for stating that the proposed Jordan Cove LNG export terminal "would be the biggest greenhouse gas emitter in the state, and that natural gas pollutes as much as coal."
Williams then goes on to distract us over how LNG creates far less local low-altitude smoke, soot and smog, which cannot be denied. But the greenhouse gas is not smoke, it is the carbon dioxide from combustion, and LNG does create as much of it as coal does.
Actually, burning LNG would create more carbon dioxide because they would burn far more of it since it does not cause local smog. Instead it rises up into the upper atmosphere, creating a one-way-mirror effect that reflects solar heat back down to Earth, creating the global warming that is undeniably disturbing our climate — 98 percent of professional atmospheric scientists and academics say so.
Sen. Merkley is correct, and Williams apparently is confused about the differences between smoke and carbon dioxide. Smoke, soot and smog settle; carbon dioxide rises; and burning more LNG will cause global warming much more than coal.
L. Todd Sullivan
RIP an intrusion in our neighborhoods
The Residential Infill Project (RIP) currently underway is an aggressive intrusion into many single-family neighborhoods.
One of the proposals is to increase the number of accessory dwelling units allowed on most lots. Supporters of the project claim that the ADU increase is necessary to accommodate the influx of population expected over the next decade.
In fact, the very low percentage of ADUs built under the current allowance argues against any need to increase them.
Based on current data, Portland has sufficient buildable land under current zoning provisions to offer housing for our growing population. The RIP will not improve affordability because the cost of homeownership includes many factors, including property taxes, city services and upkeep.
The City Council faces a choice between responsible planning for growth and the largely unacceptable proposals in the RIP. I hope they will choose to be responsible to those of us who have invested in our Portland homes for years as well as our soon-to-be new neighbors.
Fix Oregon's initiative process
Secretary of State Dennis Richardson is trying to make Oregon's initiative process fairer to citizens and citizen activists. One of his revisions to the rules would enable chief petitioners to circulate an initiative petition during the ballot titling process. This is a very welcome change.
Advocates for the status quo are up in arms because they would lose their ability to invalidate petitions they don't like by delaying them until the clock runs out. This has happened too many times in the past.
The process as it exists today gives the Legislature and the attorney general near-total control of initiatives. This is the opposite result of what was intended in creating the right of citizen initiatives.
Appeals have become a tool to freeze the initiative process and kill the initiative before it can be put before the public. This is especially harmful to volunteer citizen groups that have limited financial resources and cannot fund large-scale paid signature gathering.
Richardson should be thanked and supported in his efforts to make changes that would return to citizens the ability to mount initiatives without the harassment of forced delays caused by well-financed opponents' appeals. These delays can render the initiative process worthless, and void the right that was established in the state's Constitution.
Elizabeth Van Staaveren
Don't send fire trucks on medical calls
Regarding your article "County drops proposal to privatize 911 response," private companies should not be involved in 911 call responses. At the same time, fire trucks should not respond for medical assistance. Local governments should employ medical respondents equipped with proper vehicles and equipment.
Support new form of city government
The City Council candidate that I would vote for is the candidate who promises to push for a ballot measure ending Portland's pathetically outdated and inefficient form of government and replacing it with an expanded City Council elected by districts and a city manager, with a much stronger mayor's office.
As it stands now, City Council commissioners are in fiefdom silos that are basically hands-off for their colleagues. Consequently
Portland's bureaus and their directors have acquired far too much power and remoteness from Portlanders, free to make their own unsupervised policies in many cases that don't always serve the average citizens. Even former Commissioner Steve Novick has editorialized about this terrible governance system. Too much money has co-opted Portland's city government and kept the well-heeled power structure fat and happy.
Portlanders should grill the many candidates running for the two seats up for grabs to see which one believes in reforming our local government. A candidate that commits to this will certainly gain an edge among voters.
Further, there must be a rekindling of the grass-roots effort to create a ballot measure for a government change. Only then will Portland citizens be properly represented, by district and not "at-large."
Lack of accountability in our local government has led to some terrible development and neglect over the past 20 years and if enough younger voters actually take an active interest and use their power, they can make this much-needed change happen and positively affect their city for the future.