City Council Elections. IA – Ballot for Preliminary Election Sept 12

Because of the number of candidates running for City Council, as explained previously there will be first a Preliminary, or Primary, election on Tuesday Sept. 12. To cull the number of At-Large Councilor candidates from nine to eight, and the number of candidates for Ward 2 Councilor from four to two. Then there will be two months of campaigning before the Final election on Tuesday Nov. 7 to select four At-Large Councilors and one Ward 2 Councilor.

Only two weeks before the Primary sample ballots have been released by the Salem City Clerk office. The late release is excusable as Primary Elections for City Council are virtually unheard of, so the City Clerk has little experience. There are two different ballots, one for just Ward 2 residents listing candidate names for both Ward and At-Large election, and one for the other six wards in Salem listing just the candidate names for the At-Large election.

Sorry for the crummy images, but they are scans of xeroxes of the original.

This blog will soon review the issues before making its endorsements for the Primary Election. Then will do the issues and endorsements cycle all over again during the run up to the November elections.

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Traffic Alert Continuing along Boston St

For several weeks now, and for several weeks to come, continuing replacement of utility lines along Boston Street and Bridge St have snarled traffic throughout the Gallows Hill neighborhood. Boston St is backed up all along its length from Essex St up to the Peabody line. Work began on Bridge St, but seems to have mostly transitioned onto Boston St. The Bridge / Boston / Goodhue / Proctor intersection, not the most pleasant of transits even in the best of conditions, has become hellish. Noise of jackhammers and horns of frustrated drivers fill the ears of Gallows Hill residents.

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Boston St is part of State Route 107, so recommending an alternative route is impractical. As it is, impatient drivers keep trying to find a cut-through through Gallows Hill streets, with many unfamiliar with the side streets getting lost and circling round and round.

Don’t despair, the utility work should finish by mid-September. By then construction commencing at the long-awaited Gateway Center at the corner of Bridge & Boston should provide a new font of road rage.

City Council Elections. IIB – A New Ward 4 candidate

As if this year’s City Council elections couldn’t get more complicated, just announced is a new candidate for Ward 4 City Councilor as a write-in candidate. Ana Campos is a resident of Orleans Ave in Witchcraft Heights (Ward 4 Precinct 2), and proprietor of the yarn shop Circle of Stitches, a part of the growing line of creative arts shops along Pickering Wharf. Ana is a Brazilian immigrant and recent naturalized US citizen, and as such reflects recent immigrant Christine Madore, a candidate for Ward 2 Councilor. Two recent immigrants running for City Council seat in a city built by immigrants – how apt.

Announcing as a write-in candidate means that Ana Campos evades the primary elections on Sept 12 and proceeds directly to the Final election on Nov 7. A shrewd step on her part? Or just an accident? Here is the statement from Salem 1st Community Information Initiative on the matter:

Ward 4 will not have a primary election at all on September 12 for ward councilor. They will have a primary for at-large councilor. Should Ms. Campos get more write-in votes than either Flynn or McCarthy in November, she would win the seat.

As a public service, here is reproduced the part of an earlier post about Ward 4 candidates.

The Ward 4 seat is open as the current Ward 4 councilor David Eppley is resigning the position to run for one of the four At-Large Councilor positions. The Ward 4 candidates are Timothy Flynn, of 42 Sable Road in Witchcraft Heights and a Salem firefighter since 1993, and Robert A. McCarthy, of 68 Valley St. also in Witchcraft Heights, and about whom this blog can find nothing more, not even a campaign web site or Facebook page, except for an uncanny resemblance in name to current Ward 1 Councilor Robert K. McCarthy.  Both surnames reflect the Irish heritage of the Gallows Hills neighborhood.

City Council Elections. IIA – Ward 2 Candidates

Ward 2 does not include any part of the Gallows Hill or Blubber Hollow neighborhoods, and so falls outside of the strict purview of this blog, but the McIntire District within Ward 2 has such an out-sized influence on the tenor of Salem that, like the saying, attention must be paid. Plus, with four candidates striving for one otherwise insignificant ward councilor seat, something this way blows. What that something may be will be speculated upon in the next blog post in this series (III – The Temperament).

The Ward 2 Councilor seat is an open seat because incumbent Heather Famico, of 195 Essex St in downtown Salem, is stepping down after serving only two 2-year terms. The official reason for the early departure is a “desire to focus on career and long-term goals”. What the actual reasons may have been will be considered in the next blog post in this series (III – The Temperament). Regardless, the open seat is heavily contested.

The Candidates

Brendan Murphy, a resident of 19 East Collins St in the Bridge St Neck neighborhood. His candidacy is unusual in that he is a proud blue-collar laborer (first shift Process Technician in Shetland Park), not a lawyer or other professional. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Christine Madore, an Asian immigrant and resident of downtown Salem at 20 Federal St. She is a professional urban planner. Her candidacy is unusual in that she is a proud naturalized citizen, only since 2015, but already running for public office. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Justin Whittier, a resident of 10 River St in the McIntire District, and former president of the Federal Street Neighborhood Association. His candidacy is unusual in that he is a independent artist and proudly has no previous political experience. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Mary Usovicz, a resident of 2 Botts Ct. in the McIntire District, and a long term executive at an energy servicing corporation. Her candidacy is unusual in that she is the wife of former Salem Mayor Stanley Usovicz and has run before for Salem City Council, though there is no mention of such on her web sites. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Summary

The four candidates present an enormous range of past experience, background, occupation and age, and reside in all corners of Ward 2. A lot to choose from. The Primary Election is Tuesday Sept 12, and the two survivors will square off in the Final Election Tuesday Nov 7 to select the new Ward 2 Councilor.

City Council Elections. II – The Candidates

The basics of City of Salem elections explained, this post introduces the candidates for each contested seat. A follow-up post (IIA – Ward 2 Candidates) considers the highly contested Ward 2 seat separately. The next post (III – The Temperament) will try to explain why there are so many candidates running for what are normally disregarded positions, and the last post before the special Primary Election on Sept 12 will present the endorsements of this blog (IV – The Endorsements), coming after exhaustive research to prepare the first three blog posts.

Ward Council Seats

The wards and precincts of Salem generally follow traditional neighborhood boundaries, but with many exceptions. The Gallows Hill / Witchcraft Heights / Blubber Hollow neighborhood fall mostly in Ward 4, with Gallows Hill more in Precinct 1 and Witchcraft Heights more in Precinct 2.  A good chunk of Blubber Hollow falls into in Ward 6 Precinct 2, while a substantial corner of Gallows Hill, including the large Salem Heights apartment complex, falls into Ward 3 Precinct 1. So these three Ward Councilor contests fall into the purview of this blog.

The Ward 4 seat is open as the current Ward 4 councilor David Eppley is resigning the position to run for one of the four At-Large Councilor positions. The Ward 4 candidates are Timothy Flynn, of 42 Sable Road in Witchcraft Heights and a Salem firefighter since 1993, and Robert A. McCarthy, of 68 Valley St. also in Witchcraft Heights, and about whom this blog can find nothing more, not even a campaign web site or Facebook page, except for an uncanny resemblance in name to current Ward 1 Councilor. Robert K. McCarthy.  Both surnames reflect the Irish heritage of the Gallows Hills neighborhood.

The Ward 3 seat is contested between incumbent Stephen P. Lovely, a resident of the Castle Hill neighborhood falling into Precinct 2 and challenger Lisa Peterson, a Broad Street resident falling into Precinct 1.

The Ward 6 seat is contested between incumbent Beth Gerard of 49 Larchmont Road in the North Salem neighborhood falling into Precinct 1 which incorporates a sliver of Blubber Hollow, and challenger Nadine Nastasi-Hanscom, of Bay View Circle in North Salem and also in Precinct 1.

At-Large Council Seats

For convenience, given that there are an astounding nine candidates, this list will be divided into A) four incumbents and B) five challengers. All four incumbents are running for another term of office.

A) Incumbents
Elaine Milo of Marlborough Road on the Peabody line in Ward 4 and current City Council President.
Arthur C. Sargent III of 8 Maple Avenue in the Vinnin Square portion of Ward 7.
Jerry L. Ryan of 11 Locust Street in North Salem in Ward 6 and former Ward 4 councilor.
Thomas H. Furey of 36 Dunlap St in the Mack Park neighborhood of Ward 6.
Note: though At-Large councilors represent the entire city and not a particular ward their ward locations were included for purposes of providing complete information.

B) Challengers
Jeff Cohen, of 12 Hancock St in the South Salem neighborhood, Ward 5 Precinct 1, and current chair of the No Place for Hate Committee.
David Eppley, of 69 Boston St in the Gallows Hill neighborhood, Ward 4 Precinct 1, and current but resigning Ward 4 councilor.
Domingo Dominguez of 18 Raymond Ave in the Salem State area of South Salem, Ward 7 Precinct 1, and the only candidate to have ever resided in The Point neighborhood.
Elizabeth Bradt, of 22 Larchmont Road in North Salem, Ward 6 Precinct 2, veterinarian and founder of All Creatures Veterinary Hospital in Blubber Hollow.
Brendan Peltier of 122 Bay View Ave in the Willows neighborhood of Ward 1 Precinct 1.
Note: address information on challengers was initially sketchy but has now been filled in.

Phew, so many names, and this does not even include the four candidates for Ward 2 Councilor. And oh, a preponderance of candidates (three) from the Ward 6 North Salem neighborhood.

Last note: councillor versus councilor. Both are correct spellings, and City of Salem uses the double-l spelling, though preferred American usage is the single-l version. This blog will use the single-l version, if for no other reason than that spell check keeps changing double-l to single-l, and spell check gets angry when overruled.

 

 

 

 

City Council Elections. I – The Basics

The elections for Salem City Council and Salem Mayor are coming soon. Because of enthusiasm engendered by national politics (more in a later post), there are more registered candidates than can be accommodated. State law says the number of candidates can be no more than two times the number of open seats. Salem has 11 councilors, seven ward councilors from Wards 1 through 7 plus four at-large councilors.

So for the seven ward councilors there can be no more than two names on the ballot for each ward, a condition met by 6 of the 7 ward council seats, the glaring exception being Ward 2 (Bridge St Neck, Salem Common neighborhood in Precinct 1, northwest portion of downtown and a corner of Mill Hill neighborhood and the McIntire District in Precinct 2), which has an astonishing four candidates. Two of the four Ward 2 candidates get eliminated in special Primary election Tuesday Sept 12. All Ward Council seats are contested except for Ward 7 (Salem State and Vinnin Square areas of South Salem), where Steve Dibble is running uncontested. To have so many contested City Council seats is unusual, but perhaps a reflection of the times we live in.

Running for the four At-Large City Council seats are nine candidates. Since state law mandates no more than eight (=2×4) the At-Large seats have to be included in the special Primary election Tuesday Sept 12. The one with the fewest votes gets lopped from the list, with the remaining eight contesting in the Final election Tuesday Nov 7.

A lot of trouble to eliminate one candidate, but so be it. Given the expected low turnout in the Primary, which will be even lower than the expected low turnout for the Final, just a handful of votes could separate “winners” from losers. Can you say “recount”? Even worse, only four candidates can be selected in the at-large ballot, and two in the Ward 2 ballot. At-Large ballots with 5+ selections, and Ward 2 ballots with 2+ selections, and there are sure to be many, will be invalidated. Can you say “recount” many times more?

Running for mayor are two candidates, the incumbent Kim Driscoll and the challenger former Ward 6 councilor Paul Prevey. There was almost a primary for mayor, as two other candidates pulled papers but could not get the requisite number of signatures to be certified. A bullet averted.

 

Public Meeting for Blubber Hollow Complete Streets Project

Announcement from the City of Salem:

City Will Host Public Presentation and Discussion Regarding Planned Complete Streets Improvements to Bridge Street

On Thursday, September 7th the City of Salem will present design details and host a public discussion about planned Complete Streets improvements to the Bridge Street corridor, stretching from Boston Street to Flint Street.  The presentation and discussion will be held at the Salem Moose Family Center Function Hall, located at 50 Grove Street, #218 (corner of Grove Street and Harmony Grove Road) between 6:00 PM and 7:30 PM.  All are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Background: In 2014, the City of Salem enacted a Complete Streets Policy that commits it to designing and constructing public transportation infrastructure to provide for safety, comfort, and accessibility for ALL users of streets, trails, and transit  systems: pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, motorists, commercial vehicles, and emergency vehicles, and people of all ages, abilities, and income levels.

In 2016 the City was awarded a $3.5 million grant from the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development’s (EOHED) MassWorks Infrastructure Program to design and implement Complete Streets enhancements to the Bridge Street corridor.  The planned improvements minimally include:

  • Construct Bridge Street biking and sidewalk enhancements between Flint and Boston Streets to promote additional bike use and walking to and from North River Canal Corridor (NRCC) development sites and the downtown Salem MBTA Commuter Rail Station.  Design and replace the existing four-lane roadway with a three-lane roadway that will physically separate bicycle movements from parallel motor vehicle traffic, with separated multi-use pathways on both sides of the street. Repave Bridge Street between Flint and Boston Streets, including the intersection approaches. New street lighting and landscaping to enhance the environment for pedestrians and bicyclists.

  • Replace traffic signal at the intersection of Bridge Street with Boston and Proctor Streets with a more efficient signal system. Upgrade the signal at Flint/Bridge Streets to accommodate multi-modal use.

  • Complete an incomplete shared use path between Grove and Bridge Streets. The remaining 250 +/- foot segment would be constructed between 28 Goodhue Street and Bridge Street.

  • Provide better 150 +/- foot connection between Bridge Street and Leslie’s Retreat Park shared use path on Flint Street in conjunction with signal modifications to the Flint Street/Bridge Street intersection.

  • Provide median crossing for pedestrians/bicyclists with a rectangular rapid flashing beacon at the Bridge Street end of the shared use path.

Complete Streets Presentation

Note: this is the same day as the planned groundbreaking ceremony for the Senior Center on Bridge St in Blubber Hollow. Groundbreaking at 11 am, then walk two blocks away for Complete Streets presentation at 6 pm. A busy day for Blubber Hollow / Gallows Hill.

Note #2: the $3.5 million MassWorks grant mentioned was awarded last November with plans to “begin making improvements in the spring”. Here it is almost fall and only now are plans being presented, never mind work “in the spring”. Rather typical of Salem, though. Better late than never. Actually faster than the Senior Center which was supposed to get going almost a decade ago.

Old Ethnic Neighborhoods of Salem

This old map below, taken from a 1956 study on the health needs of Salem (Community organization: action and inaction), contains a marvelous frontispiece showing the distribution of ethnic immigrants throughout Salem’s industrial period (roughly 1850-1950). Though the map is an abstract schematic and as such difficult to overlay on a current street map (it helps to follow the railroads), still it conforms to common lore. Polish immigrants concentrated along the waterfront with a secondary nexus on the far side of the Salem Common; French-Canadians (Quebecois) in The Point then spreading southwesterly towards Castle Hill; Italian immigrants in a tight knot on Mill Hill around St. Mary’s Italian Church; and most pertinent to the focus of this blog, a teeming Irish immigrant community along Blubber Hollow and up Gallows Hill.

Salem Ethnic Map

All these formerly tight knit communities dispersed in the great suburban migration of the 2nd half of the 20th century, shredding the fabric of the old neighborhoods. Wistful remnants remain. The AOH Hall on Boston St in Gallows Hill still has its function rooms in heavy use, though these days more for quinceañeras than for Irish christenings, reflecting the recent influx of Dominican immigrants into Salem.

Another echo of past ethnic neighborhoods are the named Veterans’ Squares scattered throughout the city, commemorating veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice in twentieth-century wars. The Veteran’s Service Department of the City of Salem endeavored mightily to match surname to place. In Gallows Hill there exist Corrigan SquareHennessey Square, Butler Square, and O’Donnell Square, all proud Irish surnames.

Flowers at the Proctor’s Ledge Memorial

It was inevitable that individuals, descendants perhaps of Witchcraft Trials victims, would leave bundles of flowers at the Proctor’s Ledge Witchcraft Trials Memorial on Gallows Hill. The real question is why it took several weeks after the dedication for this practice to begin.

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The flowers are allowed to remain for several days, after which they are given to the City of Salem composting program. “All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.” Ecclesiastes 3:20.

 

McIntire Privilege. III.

Continuing what will eventually be an extended series of examples of McIntire Privilege, in this post we consider the odd Quiet Zone signs on Essex St near the Salem Library. They are arranged a short distance apart, the first declaring the start of a quiet zone heading towards downtown by Monroe St, the second declaring the end of the quiet zone a short block away by Hamilton St; a matching pair across Essex St heading away from downtown from Beckford St back to Monroe St.

The signs are head-scratchers. Quiet Zone for what? The library perhaps, but the Quiet Zone is displaced up Essex St from the library, and the librarians disavow any association with the signs, as they discourage library patrons from using the library. Quiet Zone from what? It’s not like parades or demonstrations frequent the city street; no fraternities and music halls on the block.

Quiet Zone from traffic congestion perhaps? No can’t be, as signs like that never discourage drivers, and are difficult to read clearly when passing at 30+ miles per hour. Besides, Essex St is a main corridor into and out of downtown Salem and extends for blocks on either side of the Quiet Zone. Noisome vehicles become silent for a block then resume prior sound levels – don’t think so.

The mystery deepens when a closer look shows that the signs are not official City of Salem signs. The City has nothing to do with the signs. Turns out the signs were paid for and installed by a neighborhood group on its own initiative, when the city turned down a petition for official signs, although the City did permit installation of “private” signs.

Also note the “Resident Sticker Parking Only” signs affixed on the same posts. Those are official City of Salem signs. Such resident parking zones are a plague throughout Salem. They do NOT work and so should be outlawed. Resident zones are never enforced, as police have better things to do. The fees are too nominal to discourage street parking and push resident cars into little-used driveways and garages instead. The only enforcement possible is when a neighbor calls police on a neighbor, leading inevitably to an escalating series of counter-calls and vituperations, tearing neighbors apart. Given the neighbor upon neighbor accusations that marked the Salem Witchcraft hysteria, you’d think that Salem, of all places, would be leery of even the mildest neighbor confrontations.

Though resident parking zones exist throughout Salem, not just the McIntire District, they are particularly repellent in the wealthy McIntire District, where most homes have garages, multi-car garages often. Homeowners there, like homeowners everywhere, are just too lazy to pull the family car into the family garage, preferring to leave the car on the street by the front door, meaning that street parking then becomes part of the property. Hence the clamor for resident parking zones, and the resignation of city officials in bending to residents’ demands.

So, in the McIntire District there is a futile and meaningless Quiet Zone paid for by wealthy residents themselves. What could explain such folly? Could it be—McIntire Privilege?