When you get your ballot for the November 3rd election in the mail there are many reasons to open it up, vote Yes for Cherriots, and mail it in, or drop in in a ballot box. We’ll give you ten of them.
1. The measure provides much needed bus service on evenings and weekends in our community. It’s a matter of social justice, in a city our size, to provide transportation every day of the week and in the evenings to people who don’t own cars so that they can get to work, to school, to medical appointments and elsewhere.
2. The measure will also provide bus passes to every middle school and high school student in Salem, even those in private schools and home schools. That’s terrific. It will encourage these young people to make what hopefully will become a lifelong habit of using public transit.
3. Cherriots has recently revamped its bus routes to serve more people with more frequent stops along major arterials, just like in bigger cities. On streets like Commercial St. you no longer have to consult a schedule because a bus comes every 15 minutes. The YES for Cherriots measure on the November ballot completes the second phase of these improvements by making improved service available every day and in the evenings.
4. We have parking problems in Salem in many close-in neighborhoods. The cars of high school students and commuters and people coming to events like the State Fair oftentimes line the curbs. Better transit service would mean fewer cars on the road or in parking areas.
5. Everyone has the responsibility to future generations to look at their lifestyle and ask themselves how they can reduce their carbon footprint. For many, a good response is to start to ride the bus to work and to shop and to recreate. We need good transit service in order to make this choice viable, and this measure will help provide that.
6. Portland, Eugene and Corvallis are all well-known for their outstanding transit service. Portland has been a national model for a long time. In Corvallis, bus service is free. We are competing with these towns for new residents and new businesses. We just can’t compete if we continue to have substandard transit service.
7. The YES for Cherriots measure will fund better bus service with a very modest 0.21% payroll tax on roughly 5,600 businesses in Salem-Keizer and on Salem Hospital. It is estimated that half of these businesses will pay an annual payroll tax of $169 or less, and even a business with a $1 million payroll will only pay $2,100 a year. It’s not too much to ask, and it certainly won’t put anyone out of business.
8. Opponents of this measure have charged that it is unfair because the State of Oregon and City and County governments will not have to pay the new payroll tax. The fact is that for a long time the State of Oregon, our largest employer, has paid a de facto payroll tax to Cherriots amounting to about $5 million a year. It’s about three times higher per employee than private businesses would have to pay if this measure passes. It is true that the City and County won’t contribute, but only because the Oregon Constitution forbids one unit of local government from taxing another.
9. All property owners in Salem-Keizer are already supporting Cherriots with a property tax that brings in about $10 million a year. As mentioned above, the State of Oregon provides about $5 million. Fares bring in another $2 million. Unlike Portland and Eugene, which already tax private employers, employers here have not had to support transit service with a payroll tax. It’s only fair that they begin to contribute their share like businesses do in Portland and Eugene.
10. Our Cherriots transit service is part of “the commons” in our community, and every resident and every business (and, yes, even Salem Hospital) has a responsibility to fund “the commons” that serves us all. That includes our library, our parks, our schools, our public safety services, our roads and water facilities, and our transit service. It is wrong for any individual or any group to seek to evade that responsibility. If we want to live in a city we can be proud of, a city that serves us all, we must all do our part.
Salem Weekly editorial board members:
Lois Stark, Russ Beaton, Jim Scheppke, William Smaldone, Naseem Rakha, A.P. Walther.