An Editorial in the Statesman Journal on March 4, 2018 about “grass-roots” support for a third bridge in Salem misses fact and a majority opinion in opposition to such a costly (both financial and quality of life) position. As a long time West Salem resident, it seems that we must have smarter and more rational means and methods by which to address any traffic “congestion” concerns now and into the future.
From a purely financial point of view, our resources (whatever the source) are not bottomless. The projected cost of a third bridge will be well over half-a billion dollars. Consider the true public good that such an amount of money could begin to effectively address. With the clear eye of a humanitarian and a perspective dedicated to obtaining the best for all, shouldn’t we be focusing on the needs of a community that suffers the effects of: a growing homeless population, mediocre disaster preparedness, mentally ill individuals without services, a geriatric population that is too often overlooked, survivors suffering from child and adult abuse, seismic retrofitting of buildings and existing bridges, an educational system that is limping along, veterans who have earned but do not receive entitled benefits, the dumping of sewage into the river when heavy precipitation sweeps the area, etc. It is these and many other concerns that cry out for a straightening of priorities to address the identified shortfalls. Our task must be building a system of community that limits unbridled growth and that sets about prioritizing the objective of truly enhancing everyone’s life quality; not a third bridge boondoggle.
There are also moral and ethical tasks for each of us in making clear the priorities for our community beyond the use of financial resources. The legacy of those decisions on the physical and psychological well-being of each individual and our environment cannot be overlooked. The displacement of people from their homes and businesses, the increased attack of traffic noise on our hearing, the assault on our vision of yet another cement edifice superimposed over an open and accessible public park and river greenway, the impact of traffic odors wafting down from above into neighborhoods otherwise unsullied, have negative impacts both physically and psychologically on individuals and the community in general. They diminish the quality of our lives.
Finally, may I suggest that the “grass roots” folks in our community are most appropriately identified as those who have little interest in a third bridge when they lack a place to sleep, are burdened in an overcrowded school classroom, or are holding a child that is hanging onto life as a result of an abuser’s hand.
Think about it.
I am a semi-retired psychologist in private practice with an employment history as the Chief of the Oregon State Hospital Psychology Department, Director of the Western Oregon University Counseling Center, Training Coordinator at the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training Academy, Adult Program Manager at the Polk County Mental Health Clinic, and retired U.S. Army officer. I am an active volunteer with community disaster preparedness organizations including the City of Salem CERT Coodinating Council, Marion County Medical Reserve Corps, Oregon Disaster Medical Team, Chemeketa Community College Threat and Disaster Resource Center Advisory Council, and the Polk County Search and Rescue Unit. I serve as a consultant to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and have responded directly to traumatic and critically impacting situations in military combat zones, first responder involved incidents, and civilian school shootings including Umpqua Community College, etc. I was elected to two terms as a Board Member for the Polk and Willamette Education Service Districts and continue involvement in legislative actions and community advocacy opportunities that provide the best decisions for all citizens.