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Meters for homeless people? Not those kind of meters

Springfield, OR, just became the latest city to add "parking meters" to its streets as a way to reduce panhandling and pay for services for people who are without homes.

They've installed  "meters." So instead of paying a quarter or two for a half hour of parking, passersby  plug 50-cents in the red parking meters to provide a shower for a homeless person. You can do more -- $1 is a hot meal, $3 is a bus pass and $5 supplies a sleeping bag. The Eugene Register Guard reports the program is administered by St. Vincent De Paul, which collects the money and makes sure it goes directly into services for homeless people.

The Springfield effort is modeled on a program in Denver, which helped get folks off the street and into shelter. A report there found that after 18 months the project resulted in a 92 percent reduction in the number of panhandlers in the downtown improvement district. They've also caught on around the country and in Canada, including Montreal and Ottawa. Portland, just up I-5, also has a "meters for the homeless" effort underway.

Some homeless advocates, however, don't like the concept, as Matt Palmquist reported in Miller-McCune Online.

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Seattle is smarter and luckier than Portland - less hip and green, but we'll take it

As one blogger sees it, Seattle is smarter than Portland.

rita_hibbardwebPortland and Honolulu may be higher on the “green-only litmus test” writes commentator Joel Kotkin, but  Seattle has a “smarter” economy. And I'd add a "luckier" economy to that list, because he goes on to note Seattle's location as the closest major port to the Asian Pacific.

Judging cities by economic fundamentals of infrastructure and livability, he says, would place cities like Seattle, Amsterdam, Singapore and Morterrey, Mexico, ahead of Portland. Seattleites are accustomed to hearing themselves compared unfavorably to Portland. It’s greener. Has more bike paths. Hipper. More livable. And so on. So this is good news for the bigger city with a chip on its shoulder.

Writing in the blog Newgeography, Joel Kotkin says:

"Although self-obsessed greens might see their policies as the key to the area's success, Seattle's growth really stems more from economic reality. In this sense, Seattle's boom has a lot to do with luck -- it's the closest major U.S. port to the Asian Pacific, which has allowed it to foster growing trade with Asia. Furthermore, Seattle's proximity to Washington state's vast hydropower generation resources -- ironically the legacy of the pre-green era -- assures access to affordable, stable electricity.

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Portland's green future collides with its transportation future

rita_hibbardwebSomebody forgot to tell the transportation bureaucrats to switch it off.

Seems Portland’s green goals – everything from increasing bike commuting and telecommuting to ensuring jobs and groceries are close to homes – have met up with the city’s ambitious $20 billion transportation “wish list.”

Darn it. A new study shows that the city’s population growth coupled with the goals in the proposed Regional Transportation Plan would result in so much increased traffic that greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles will jump 49 percent. That’s 49 percent. And it was just a couple weeks ago that Portland and Multnomah County adopted its Climate Action Plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050. And just a couple weeks before that the city vowed to get 25 percent of its commuters on bikes by 2030, as InvestigateWest reported on and heartily endorsed here.

The Portland Tribune reports:

Environmentalists say the new Metro analysis confirms the folly of spending $4 billion on a new, wider Columbia River bridge – the largest project in the Regional Transportation Plan – as well as projects to widen some suburban roads to seven lanes. “We need solutions that don’t lead to more driving,” says Mara Gross, policy director of Coalition for a Livable Future, which represents about 90 organizations.

In the "wish list," roads, bridges and highways would get 57 percent of the $20 billion in the Regional Transportation Plan.

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Urban living on the green frontier: slashing greenhouse gases, taxing cars to build bike lanes

rita_hibbardwebHere’s an update from the front lines of sustainable urban living.

Portland’s City Council has agreed to slash the city’s greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050, changing how homes are heated, how residents commute and how food is moved from field to table, the Portland Tribune reports. This puts Portland, which already is considering putting 25 percent of its commuters on bikes by 2030, as earlier reported by InvestigateWest, front and center in green urban living.

"Some people ask why Portland and Multnomah County need to adopt such an aggressive strategy instead of letting national or global programs take their course," Multnomah County Commissioner Jeff Cogen said. "It does need to be addressed globally, but local leadership really matters.”

Portland's mayor says the plan will spur the economy by adding green jobs producing services and products that can be marketed globally. Read the whole plan here.

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Rainy Portland makes a really serious move to bike commuting - 25 percent on bikes by 2030

Portland wants 25 percent of its commuters on bikes by 2030. I am impressed. Not only is it green, but it's hardcore.

Because, you know, it rains in Portland. It's gray, sloshy rain. Rains all day. Rains from the ground up, and sky down. If you livrita_hibbardweb2e in Portland, or Seattle, and you spend any time at all on a bike, you know what I mean. When it rains so much and you're commuting, the rain comes up to meet you. And it's gray, dirty rain by that point. But I digress.

I admire this move by Portland. It's in the city's official Bicycle Plan for 2030.  I took a look at this plan, and it calls for an expansion of the city's network of bikeways from 630 to 930 miles.  Seattle, Vancouver, San Francisco, all you other west coast cities that pride yourselves on being green? What say you?

In Keep Reading

Oregon's Klamath Tribes seek land near Portland for development

Oregon's Klamath Tribes have resurrected a plan to procure nearly 400 acres of prime real estate off Interstate 5 near Portland for commercial development, potentially becoming one of the first tribes in years to take off-reservation land into trusts, writes Dana Tims of the Oregonian.

The tribes' proposal has gathered fury from various land-use groups, and even from other state tribes. The Klamath tribes are traditionally from southern Oregon. Critics say the distance of the tribes' reservation from the Wilsonville land near Portland makes their bid something of a stretch. Others worry that commercial activity in the area would ignite development up and down the I-5 corridor. While Clackamas County recently designated much of the area for rural purposes, the non-native brothers who own the property -- and the ones behind the proposal -- argue that the area is already urbanized. Said Chris Maletis, one of the brothers:

Currently, we do not have large parcels of employment land that are strategically located to accommodate future growth. This is and always has been a piece of property that meets the region's needs for significant employment lands.

Language in the tribes' restoration act, which differs from many other Oregon tribes, make the probability of the them receiving the land higher. But expect a lengthy fight across many jurisdictions on this one. Once in trust, Oregon land use laws -- which aim to closely monitor and plan urban growth and development boundaries -- would no longer apply to the land.

Luring salmon back to Seattle, Portland... and Paris! Yes, salmon are found to be in Seine

Joshua McNichols just produced an interesting story for Oregon Public Broadcasting about how scientists in Seattle, and business owners and others in Portland, are trying to lure salmon back to the city.

In Seattle, researchers are experimenting with roughening the surface of seawalls, creating nooks and crannies to encourage the growth of plants that help shelter tiny critters that feed young salmon. Those salmon pause at Seattle's waterfront while making the transition from fresh water to the Pacific Ocean.

In Portland, Mayor Sam Adams is pushing for a lower-tech solution: Planting trees and other vegetation at the waterfront. It's a strategy that's been tried with success in Seattle.

Making the transition zone through cities like Portland and Seattle safe for salmon is  important work, says salmon expert Jim Lichatowich. He points out that the fish must pass through a series of well-functioning habitats to optimize the number that ultimately make it to the Pacific, and then return:

If you have three of those habitats that are degraded, and if through heroic efforts you fix two of those links, the chain's still broken. And it's really an important metaphor because it helps explain how we could spend so much money on salmon recovery efforts and get so little out of it.

(If you haven't read Lichatowich's Salmon Without Rivers, I suggest you do yourself the favor. Fascinating stuff.)

Out in the countryside, meanwhile, the Bonneville Power Administration is using one of its helicopters to fly over streams and measure their temperature by way of a thermal imaging camera, Tom Banse reports for KUOW.

As homeless tolls rise, so does the need for a solution

Nine bodies of homeless men have been found outdoors in and around Anchorage since May of this year, with the latest discovered this weekend, reports Kyle Hopkins in one of a series of stories in the Anchorage Daily News. The most recent man had been dead for several days before discovery. Police report no signs of foul play, but don't yet know his cause of death.

Four of the previous deaths were alcohol-related, but no other links between all the bodies are apparent. Four of the men were Native Alaskans, spurring talk that the deaths were racially-motivated killings, but so far no evidence has been released to back this up. One man was robbed and beaten to death in Centennial Park by two 18-year-olds who stole a duffel bag, $7 and beer. They have been charged with second-degree murder. Police say at least one of the teenagers was living at a camp in the park as well.

The cluster of deaths highlights a growing problem. Following recession and “gentrification” of downtown Anchorage, the number of homeless people in the city increased 35 percent from last year to almost 3000. Only about 13 percent are substance abusers or chronic inebriates. And with shelters overflowing, the question now is, where are these people going to go?

The police say they would like to get homeless people out of camps and into a centralized location, perhaps a tent city, similar to what Seattle did with their “housing first” plan where they set people up with housing without requiring them to halt substance abuse first.