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Community Values, Part 2

(Community Values . . . )

So I had to have a heart-to-heart talk with myself about whether it made any sense for me to run again. More importantly, would it make any difference whether I did or not?

For awhile I was persuaded that, like my predecessor, Roger, I should just pass the torch along to someone else. However, when I let this be known, there were those that suggested that not running was tantamount to surrendering my ideals to the opposition; that no one who held our point of view had a better chance than me to be elected as mayor.

I became convinced that that was probably true. If I ran, I would probably win; if someone else ran, they would probably lose. Not running was akin to simply giving up on my vision for this community. My younger son, Darrin, put it pretty poignantly by telling me that if I didn’t run, it would be the first time in his life that he ever saw me give up on anything. . . . It was as simple as that, at least to him.

So, I decided not to give up. I decided that the issue of the quality of the lives that we share here in this community is more important than the long and sometime tedious hours that seem an inseparable part of this job.

What would I wish for our community, if I can motivate both the people and our elected representatives? It would be nothing less than what drew me, and probably you, to Salem to begin with: a community where open space is in abundance; where there is plenty of clean water for both people and industry; where history is valued; where crime is managed within tolerable limits; where the quality of life in each of our neighborhoods is elevated above expediency; where youth are supported; and where every member in the community is valued on the basis of the content of their character.

So how does all of that translate into actual policies? In my view, it means that we have to use our land resource within our Urban Growth Boundary efficiently, thereby lessening the pressure to expand that boundary and pave over more farm and forest land. The less land that we need to service growth, the less farmland, forest and open spaces will be lost to urban sprawl in the future.

However, we must be careful to enhance the quality of our environment, while we accommodate better land efficiencies, and that requires careful planning and thoughtful attention to good principles of urban design. We urgently need to put into place an “end plan,” describing in substantial detail what it is that we wish this community to be, not 10 or 20 years from now, but 50 years from now. If we don’t create such an end plan, we will continue to react to growth, rather than managing it as it comes into existence.

There are those who accuse me of either being foolish or arrogant to believe that we could “know” what this community will be like 50 years hence. They miss the point by miles. Someone once said “The best way to predict the future is to plan for it.” I believe very strongly in that principle. We should not wait to see what indiscriminate growth brings us over the next 50 years. We should get about the process of creating the future we want for our community over the next 50 years, through comprehensive planning now, and then make sure that we are building towards that vision.

Some people are unable to contemplate a plan that says “We will build to here, but no further.” They say that growth cannot be confined to a particular area. However, all they need to do is visit southern California and take note of the fact that when communities grow hard against each other, it is just as if somebody has said “We will grow to here and no further,” except that in allowing it to happen in that fashion, these communities paved over all of their surrounding agricultural and open spaces. Is that the result we want for Salem? I trust not.

We should zealously work to preserve at least our present quality of life for our grandchildren, and their grandchildren as well. However, with every day that passes without such an end plan in place, we irreversibly commit more of our land, water, and air resources to the kind of future that defines southern California communities today.

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