Salem Election 2017 – Where Stands City Council Now?

On an election night when progressives swept the board in even unlikely places (Helena Montana – really ruby red Montana!!?) the results in historically progressive Salem were decidedly mixed. The Salem Sanctuary for Peace (Yes on 1) ballot initiative handily passed, winning in all wards except Ward 4. Mayor Kim Driscoll easily won reelection, leading in all wards, even retrograde Ward 4.

On City Council two of the retrograde Gang of Four, who twice voted against the innocuous Salem Sanctuary ordinance (given a second chance still fouled it up), were shown the door – the rapscallion Ward 3 councilor Steven Lovely and the obstructionist At Large Councilor Jerry Ryan. But two others return, At-Large Councilors Elaine Milo and Arthur Sargent, and will still be available to damage Salem.

The replacement in Ward 3, which includes a significant corner of Gallows Hill, is progressive Lisa Peterson. The replacement for At Large Councilor is the ever enigmatic and perennial candidate Domingo Dominguez, who finally won a seat on his 5th try, running on the justifiable program that it was time for a minority member on City Council. Worrisome is that Mr. Dominguez has never met an issue that he could not mealy mouth. Even on the Sanctuary ordinance he equivocated, and he is an immigrant. The positions he will take when seated are unpredictable.

Counting Dominguez tentatively on the progressive side of the ledger leaves the future City Council with eight progressives (At-Large Tom Furey and Dominguez plus Ward 1 Robert McCarthy, Ward 2 Christine Madore, Ward 3 Lisa Peterson, Ward 5 Josh Turiel, Ward 5 Beth Gerard, Ward 7 Steve Dibble) versus three arch-traditionalists (At-Large Elaine Milo and Arthur Sargent and incoming Ward 4 Councilor Timothy Flynn). Not much different from the seven to four split of the outgoing City Council.

But perhaps enough to forestall the favorite blocking tactic of the traditionalists, sending controversial items to the Committee on Ordinance, Licenses & Legal Affairs (COLLA), to keep them bottled up indefinitely. The recent Salem News article describing this tactic was too nice, describing the backlog of dozens of items as the outcome of a packed work load, when actually it is dedicated sophistry to block action on items that irk the traditionalists on the City Council, who as a minority on the council did not have the votes to twist matters their way. A feature not a bug, so to speak. Three of the five members of COLLA (Chair Jerry Ryan, Steve Lovely, and Arthur Sargent) were traditionalists, constituting a committee majority to make sure that anything checked into COLLA would not check out again. But Ryan and Lovely are now out, so maybe the backlog will be cleared out in 2018. Councilor Ryan has even promised to clean house before he leaves office.

So after a fractious year on City Council, where little of merit was agreed upon (recreation marijuana outlets still unresolved, guidelines for in-law apartments aka granny flats still unresolved, appointments to Salem Housing Authority still unresolved, among other matters), here’s hoping that City Council can move beyond the contentious election season and actually help Salem move forward.

 

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Rehab Resurgence on Federal Street

This summer saw not one, not two, but seven major rehabilitations of vintage homes along Federal Street, from downtown through the McIntire District. Now Federal St is not in the Gallows Hill neighborhood but it does empty onto Boston Street, the main street of Gallows Hill, so gets honorary consideration by this blog. And this post is antecedent to a planned post on rehabs in Gallows Hill.

Now one or even two rehabs in a year would be something for somnolent Salem, but seven along one street! To paraphrase Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant this Thanksgiving weekend, that would be a movement. And the number rises to eight if an upcoming rehab a block off Federal Street (River St) is included in the tally.

55-57 Federal59 Federal

Let’s start at the top in downtown with 55-57 Federal Street, a side-by-side duplex in the Federal style built in 1836. It underwent a back-to-the-studs renovation this summer and three new apartments are put up for rent this autumn. Next to it, and connected to it by an enclosed bridge, is 59 Federal Street, a single family house in Greek Revival style. It too underwent a back-to-the-studs renovation this summer by the same contractor / developer, and the resulting luxury duplex 2 bdrm 2 bath apartment is now listed for rent at only $2750. Both buildings once saw use as law offices, the courthouses being across the street, and explaining the bridge between the buildings. Conversion back to residences brings desired 24/7 life into downtown.

88-90 Federal

Proceeding down Federal Street crossing North Street into the McIntire District next up is 88-90 Federal Street, a large long-abandoned mansion in classic Italianate style. Listed as built in 1887 it complements the coeval Italianate Superior courthouse on Federal Street downtown, built 1861 but not given its Italianate tower and adornments until 1891. A back-to-the-studs conversion into luxury condos is nearly complete, and the condos will be listed soon.

128-130 Federal

Further down Federal Street on the same side is a side-by-side duplex in Federal style (six bays across two central doors) at 128-130. Google street view does not present the house well. Unlike the other Federal Street renovations this property was NOT back-to-the-studs, but did get new hardwood floors, new appliances, new paint, and such, and the six units rapidly returned to the rental market.

161 Federal162 Federal

Next up are two conversions of buildings in the large St. James Catholic Church complex, the former rectory at 161 Federal Street, and the former convent at 162 Federal Street, which housed the nuns teaching at the St. James School next door. Though St. James is in the McIntire District, there were few Catholics in the WASP-y district, and the church actually serviced the large Irish Catholic immigrant population of the adjoining Gallows Hill and Blubber Hollow neighborhoods.

The conversion of the rectory, built in 1890 in (weak) Italianate style, into four apartments was just completed and the apartments newly listed. The conversion was aided by Massachusetts Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits requested by the Salem Historical Commission.

Unbeknownst to many the rectory was the sight of recent notorious history. The first priest molestation of children brought to public attention, by St James priest Father Joseph Birmingham, took place in this building in the mid-60’s. A powerful scene in the movie Hand of God documenting the scandal has victim Paul Cultrera, now an adult, looking up at the rectory and noting that the molestation took place in the 3rd floor corner room. Will whoever gets that unit be aware of the notoriety? Given the proclivity of Historic Salem to put plaques on any building even faintly historical, perhaps a plaque to commemorate the scandal is appropriate.

The conversion of the larger 1878 convent, in more readily discernible Second Empire style with Mansard roof, across the street into condos only began this autumn and units will not be available until Autumn 2018. The conversion includes taming the long abandoned and overgrown backyard stretching all the way to Bridge St into parking and gardens, blending that property with the Senior Center ahem Community Life Center going up next door on Bridge St.

2 Griffin Place

Last up is the conversion of 2 Griffin Place into three condos. Despite the address it is not a separate street at all but an alley to the rear of 165 Federal Street. It has no discernible architectural style at all besides “boxy building”. Its position behind the rectory and same date of construction (1890) makes it possible that this building was once the carriage house for the rectory, before an early 20th-century conversion to apartments, followed by an early 21st century abandonment.

23 River St

23 River Street Foreclosure

As a bonus there is the coming rehab one block off Federal St of a two-family at 23 River Street. Despite the prestigious River St address the property is actually on downscale Bridge St, next to an auto repair shop at 331 Bridge St, and across Bridge St from the mysteriously maintained Blubber Hollow Planters. The reported construction date of 1800 cannot possible be correct, as Bridge Street was under the North River in 1800, and besides the style just screams early 20th century double-decker, with an ill-considered later enclosure of the front porches and addition of unbecoming aluminum siding. Deadline for bids was November 9, so shortly it will be seen what is to become of this foreclosed property. This is not to be a gentle rehab, as the home was last occupied by a serious hoarder, but several full dumpsters later the property is empty and ready for new doors, new windows, new flooring, new everything. Though there remains an arbor in surprisingly good condition in the backyard worthwhile to retain.

Why Now?

All this rehabilitation and renovation and restoration along Federal Street beggars the obvious question: why now, in 2017? Excepting 128-130 Federal these properties lay fallow for years, decades for some. Perhaps all this activity coming together bodes well for the Salem economy, and promises addition of more housing to come. Likely not a harbinger of a real estate crash as in 2008, as that crash was due to excessive new construction and criminal mortgage financing, not excessive renovation. Most likely all the simultaneous activity on one street is a fortunate coincidence.

Still, Salem, as does the entire Boston metropolitan area, desperately needs new housing of all types. The recent conversions and updates alleviate that need by introducing some 22 new housing units, but renovation can only update existing units, not produce new ones. At some point soon, massive numbers of new units will be demanded. The piddling amount of new building started in 2017 is not enough.

Salem Stop and Shop Eludes Salem Plastic Bag Ban on a Technicality

GOOD NEWS UPDATE 1/2/18: Stop and Shop entered the new year by adhering to the plastic bag ban.

On Jan 1 2018 the Salem plastic bag ban goes into effect. All plastic bags distributed at checkout by all retail establishments are banned. Replacement by paper bags (a la Trader Joe’s) or by cloth reusable bags brought in by customers is mandated. Salem joins 53 other Massachusetts communities in the plastic bag ban, including neighboring Marblehead, but not neighboring Beverly (although a ban is under consideration there), or vitally neighboring Peabody.

This ban is an unalloyed good measure. Walk through Gallows Hill streets and note plastic bags impaled in tree branches unreachable; plastic bags covering sewer drains puddling rainfall; plastic bags billowing in side yards jamming mower blades.

But the large Stop and Shop supermarket on the Salem / Peabody line, who passes out thousands of plastic bags daily, is exempt. While the bulk of the store is in Salem, the front of the store, where the cash registers are and where plastic bags are handed out, is in Peabody. Examine the maps below.

Stop & Shop mapStop & Shop map 2

In the top map screen captured from Google maps the city line is difficult to discern, so the city line has been “enhanced” in the bottom map.

While the parking lot is entirely in Peabody only the front fifth of the store is in Peabody; most of the store and the loading docks are in Salem. Also note at bottom the city line passing between the odd conjunction of #179 Peabody and neighboring #179 Salem.

Expectations that Stop and Shop management would observe the ban regardless of the escape technicality are not to be realized; management has doubled down on plastic by replacing the end ramps of each cash register with plastic bag carousels. Packing paper or reusable bags on these carousels is well-nigh impossible. Cashiers and store managers have complained, but (so far) corporate is obtuse to all entreaties of customers, employees, and Salem Recycles alike. Damn, who handles PR at corporate?! A Peabody plastic bag ban, or a state-wide ban preempting local bans, cannot be enacted soon enough.

 

Odd Address Conjunction on Salem City Line

At the very end of the Gallows Hill neighborhood, on the Salem – Peabody line, where the last ridge of Gallows Hill recedes into the flats of central Peabody, the last house in Salem is #179, Boston Street. At the very beginning of the Gallows Hill neighborhood, on the Peabody – Salem line, the last house in Peabody is #179, Main Street. Same street. To the consternation of delivery trucks and taxi drivers , they are NOT the same house, but neighbors, the city line passing through their side yards. Salem has odd street numbers on the left heading out; Peabody has odd street numbers on the right heading out, hence the odd conjunction (pun intended).

179 Boston St Salem

To the Right of #179 (Salem) is #179 (Peabody)

#179 (Salem) is about to undergo a rejuvenation. Formally the Hilltop Manor SRO (single resident occupancy) boarding house, it has been purchased by the non-profit Harborlight Community Partners for redevelopment as a boarding house for the 21st century. Plans call for a reduction in number of units from 17 to 14, with individual bathrooms in each unit replacing the current shared bathrooms, more comfortable for residents. There will be an on-site office staffed by councilors from Lifebridge of Salem to provide needed supportive services to the homeless who will occupy the units.

Updating Hilltop Manor is one part of a two-part project by Harborlight designated Boston Street Crossing. Hilltop Manor catered to the homeless, but perhaps because it is situated atop a crest set way back from busy Boston St. police were rarely called to the house. Not so the 43 Boston Street rooming house, long a drug den and center of criminal activity around the Proctor’s Ledge area of Gallows Hill, frequently visited and raided by police while in operation, closed down by the city and reopened several times before Harborlight purchased it and closed it permanently, in time for the opening of the Proctor’s Ledge Memorial on Pope Street just behind the house. The top of Proctor’s Ledge was long a homeless encampment, drawn perhaps by the nearby rooming house.

43 Boston St

43 Boston in its prior rooming house days. Proctor’s Ledge is behind to the right.

Fifteen years ago 43 Boston St was also the location of a notorious dive bar, perhaps the last dive bar in Salem, the kind of place where patrons went to pickle themselves into oblivion. Today the building is in the midst of a back-to-the-studs rehabilitation, with reduction from 20 SRO units with shared bathrooms down to 12 studio-style SRO units with individual bathrooms and kitchenettes, and again with on-site counseling by Lifebridge of Salem.

Much needed, and respectful, affordable housing coming to Gallows Hill.

Endorsements. VI. Mayor

It’s getting late. Only hours to go before polls open. This blogger is tired. There is nothing this blog that hasn’t already been covered by local traditional and social media, or in previous posts on this blog.

So

Go Kim Driscoll. We love you and need you and want to reward you for the fine progress Salem has made under your administration.

Stand back Paul Prevey. You’ve given absolutely no reason to endorse you.

That’s all folks.

Endorsements. V. School Committee

Normally School Committee elections stay on the back-burner, little noticed. In 20+ years of Salem residency this blogger is embarrassed to confess never having voted for school committee, because never took the trouble to research the candidates. That has to end this year.

There are four candidates for the three opening for School Committee, all newcomers: Ana Nuncio, Mandy Cruz, Amanda Campbell, Andrea French. By a fluke all incumbents retired or otherwise moved on, leaving opportunity for fresh faces. There is a fifth candidate on the ballot, Jean Martin, who resigned for health reasons but not soon enough to be removed from the ballot.

There is little to differentiate these four fine candidates. All four candidates are strong proponents of the Salem Sanctuary initiative. All four are strong proponents of diversity and inclusion to all students, regardless of background. All four are knowledgeable and experienced. It’s sad that only three can pass through, but whoever comes last will have had a great learning experience to run again in two years.

This blog endorses all four candidates. Flip a coin, throw a die, flip a card to pick the three names that you will select on the ballot.

Endorsements. IV. At-Large Councilors

The Endorsements this blog posted for for the Preliminary Election in September have only been reaffirmed by subsequent events

The At-Large candidates exhibit the same oppositional dynamic as the Ward Councilor races: “between old-timey candidates trying to throw back the winds of change, holding rheumy-eyed memories of “Olde Towne” Salem, versus new-timey candidates wanting to keep Salem moving forward and embracing diversity and innovative thinking.”

Nowhere is this dynamic between old and new, between recalcitrance and progress, more apparent than in the so-called Salem Sanctuary for Peace initiative. The history behind this has been reviewed here. At-Large candidates Jeff Cohen and David Eppley stepped out in front, initially wanting more but settling for accepting existing guidelines but changing the enforcement of those guidelines from “should” to “shall”, meaning city employees must follow those guidelines now, where previously they were only a recommendation.

Even that trivial change got many so upset that despite losing two City Council votes on the matter, they managed to get this matter subject to a ridiculous referendum vote on Election Day. The ferocity of the opposition has bewildered Cohen and Eppley and many other proponents, since nothing but enforcement has changed. Opponents don’t dispute that policy is not changed, but then raise the question: why is it needed if nothing is changed? Naturally, that interrogative can be readily inverted: If nothing is changed then why oppose it?

More seriously, the change in enforcement from conditional to imperative means a lot to immigrant communities most fearful of too zealous city employees over-reaching their mandate. Actually there has been no report of a city employee violating the guidelines, but still. Before if a city employee – police, fire, school –  overreached, no action could be taken against them. Now action can be taken, alleviating a small part of the terror that many immigrants, documented or undocumented, feel living in today’s America.

The three At-Large incumbents who are strong opponents of the Sanctuary Initiative – Elaine Milo, Arthur Sargent, Jerry Ryan – are clueless about how necessary is even this trivial change. Elaine Milo considers herself against discrimination but doesn’t like to hear about anti-discrimination efforts: “Why is it that some of us feel the need to continually remind ourselves that we are against discrimination?” As if coming from the script of a made-for-TV drama, shortly after raising that question racist graffiti was painted on sport fields of Salem State University. Everyone is shocked, shocked, that there is still racism in Salem. That’s why, Ms. Milo.

Arthur Sargent goes even further in his fatuity, with his condemnation that proponents just want to “Re-adjudicate the last election”. Damn straight. That’s what democracy is about, Mr. Sargent, always moving, always replaying, always shifting. This is a new election, Mr. Sargent, not last year’s election. To fix the results of the “last election” in stone, that is authoritarianism, Mr. Sargent.

That Mr. Ryan has mostly managed to keep his foot out of his mouth, unlike his compatriots, does not absolve him of fatuity in the matter. He has to go.

The remaining incumbent running for re-election, Tom Furey, has been passionate in his support, bringing listeners close to tears with his eloquent words in favor of Sanctuary for Peace. Mr. Furey is an old-timer, on City Council for years, but he’s definitely not old-timey. Though he is an old-timer in not keeping any social media presence, which puts him at a severe disadvantage for reelection.

That leaves two candidates, perennial challenger Domingo Dominguez and newcomer Liz Bradt. Ms. Bradt is an easy endorsement, a strong proponent of the Sanctuary initiative and is, like this blogger, fed up with the abysmally slow pace of development in Salem, as reflected in her campaign slogan Make It Happen. Let’s make Liz happen.

Mr Dominguez is a special case meriting further reflection. He far outreached other candidates in the Preliminary Election, so he seems certain to at last be elected to City Council after many tries. As a minority candidate he would fill the longstanding minority vacuum on City Council, but that is not reason enough to support him. He has tried to play the Sanctuary issue too fine, not openly supporting it but not disowning it either, playing both sides against a middle that is not there. Strange that he would do so. Most distressing are the past accounts of tax fraud. He argues that the matter is 10 years old, but it went on for years before that, despite multiple attempts from the IRS to stop him. Now there is information of hanky-panky with campaign finance reports, and accusations of being a slumlord. It seems that once in love with financial shenanigans always in love. There are other finer minority candidates running who could fill the minority slot on City Council. Let’s get them elected instead of Mr. Dominguez.

Vote For:
David Eppley
Jeff Cohen
Liz Bradt
Tom Furey

Do NOT Vote For:
Domingo Dominguez
Jerry Ryan
Elaine Milo
Arthur Sargent

Endorsements. III. Ward Councilors

The Gallows Hill neighborhood mostly falls into Ward 4, but there are slivers of Gallows Hill / Blubber Hollow that fall into Ward 6 (North Salem), Ward 3 (central Salem) and Ward 2 (McIntire District / Downtown), all abutting the recently recognized Four Corners intersection, putting this blog in position to endorse Councilor candidates in those wards, besides an endorsement already given for Ward 4.

The races for all three wards have a similar oppositional dynamic, between an old-timey candidate trying to hold back the winds of change, holding rheumy-eyed memories of “Olde Towne” Salem, versus a new-timey candidate wanting to keep Salem moving forward and embracing diversity and innovative thinking. That sentence tells all of where the sympathies of this blogger lie, so composing the rest of this post becomes straightforward.

Ward 6

This race pits old-timey challenger Nadine Nastasi-Hanscom against new-timey incumbent Beth Gerard. Yes not all the old-timey candidates are hoary incumbents, nor middle-aged white males. Development is the premier issue in this ward, as it is all over Salem, with the proposed Juniper Point development to replace a mean-ass unsightly (to put it gently) junkyard on Franklin St the specific matter. It’s too early in the presentation to come out for or against Juniper Point, and accordingly Beth hasn’t made up her mind but seems willing to think and listen. Nadine instead is so last century with her endorsement of single family homes for the site. Can you be feckin’ serious? A couple of single family homes on a toxic site along a state highway (Route 114) adjacent to the Salem commuter rail and bus depot. Who knew Levittown thinking, the antithesis of smart growth, was still alive? Yeah a developer is going to build two homes and gladly undergo the multimillion dollar expense for site remediation. When Salem needs hundreds, possibly thousands of new housing units, two McMansion Hells are not going to fulfill the need.

In contrast, Beth Gerard has already done the hard study, measuring walking distances to the Salem Depot from proposed development sites, promoting Zagster bike rentals, exploring expanded intra-city shuttles for seniors, and more, all intended to alleviate the bugaboo of increased traffic congestion accompanying new development that causes non-thinking candidates like Nadine Hanscom to get up in arms. Beth Gerard offers solutions; Nadine Hanscom wants another traffic study. To make matters worse Nadine Hanscom has gone on the warpath against all proposed developments, proposals that she supported in her time on the Planning Board.

That kind of bass-ackwards thinking is not what Salem needs. This one is easy – if you live in the Ward 6 area of Gallows Hill fill in your ballot for Beth Gerard.

Ward 3

This race pits old-timey incumbent Stephen P. Lovely against new-timey challenger Lisa Peterson. That Mr. Lovely was the one who engineered the opposition to to the so-called Salem Sanctuary initiative now on the ballot tells all that one needs to know. The kind of nativism that he represents reflects darkly on Salem. Another one that is easy. If you live in the Ward 3 area of Gallows Hill fill in your ballot for Lisa Peterson.

Ward 2

This race has no incumbent, current councilor Heather Famico having been pushed out by bullies in the ward. But the oppositional dynamic remains as in other ward races: old-timey Mary Usovicz, who has run unsuccessfully for city council before, against first timer new-timey Christine Madore. Christine Madore won the preliminary race handily, gathering nearly 50% of the vote in a four-way race, and should have no problem coming out ahead again, but the viciously anti-development zealots backing Ms. Usovicz cannot be dismissed lightly.

Adding humor to the race is the sheer ineptitude of Ms. Usovicz’s campaigning. A preliminary palm card handed out to potential supporters contained multiple misspellings, including that of her husband’s name. At the Candidate Forum a couple of weeks later the name card in front of her misspelled her surname again. This from a woman who promotes “attention to detail” on her campaign resume. Then came an doggie-embossed invite card to a doggie-themed campaign event, with doggie treats and gifts to be distributed, but with the proviso in fine-print “No Pets Allowed’. This stumble gathered national attention on Reddit.

Then there is the descent of Ms. Usovicz into Fantasy Land with her repeated assertions that the City Council did not listen to citizens in the F.W. Webb project, a false assertion echoed by Nadine Hanscom in the Ward 6 race. This blogger went to several of those hearings, and City Council members listened, and listened, and listened for hour after hour, meeting after meeting, month after month, way past the point of angelic patience. Opponents got their way through shear exhaustion (the decent Webb proposal is on pause and likely will never come to pass), yet still complain about not being listened to.

Between ineptitude and bass-ackward thinking and stands on issues inimical for the progress of Salem, Mary Usovicz should be allowed nowhere near City Council chambers. Another easy endorsement call. If you live in the Ward 2 area of Gallows Hill fill in your ballot for Christine Madore.

Four Corners

Ward Map Of Gallows Hill area

Vote Yes on 1

Now an endorsement for the so-called Salem Sanctuary ballot issue. This is a matter that should never have been submitted as a ballot question, having been resolved, and resolved again, and resolved again. Yet here it is.

Some history. Last winter Jeff Cohen, chair of the No Place for Hate committee and now a candidate for At-Large City Councilor, and David Eppley, Ward 4 City Councilor and now also a candidate for At-Large City Councilor, put their heads together and endeavored to update existing guidelines for how city personnel, police and fire primarily, treat undocumented immigrants. Such guidelines have been around for decades, so long that no one can quite recall when they were instituted. These include reporting undocumenteds arrested for serious crimes to federal immigration officers, but not reporting those who report crimes or turn in felons, such as spouses and children. This is simply standard police work. If witnesses to a crime do not report to the authorities because they fear deportation, then crimes do not get reported or solved.

After much back and forth, Cohen and Eppley decide to leave the the guidelines in place, only making the guidelines enforceable, whereas previously they had only been a suggestion. In the words of School Committee member Brandon Walsh, all the Sanctuary issue does is change the resolve from “should” to “shall”. From the conditional to the imperative mood, so to speak. That’s it. Everything remains the same as it has been for decades.

The proposed ordinance went before the Salem City Council and was approved by a 7 to 4 vote. Later it went up for a second vote and was approved by the same 7 to 4 vote. Representative democracy at work. The votes were Heather Famico (Ward 2), Beth Gerard (Ward 3), Thomas Furey (At-Large), Stephen Dibble (Ward 7), David Eppley (Ward 4), Josh Turiel (Ward 5) and Robert McCarthy (Ward 1) in the affirmative; Stephen Lovely (Ward 3), and At-Large councilors Elaine Milo, Arthur Sargent and  Jerry Ryan against.

Much like a child on the playground who does not his way and storms off with the only ball, the four losing Councilors on the initiative suffered a hissy fit and with help of affiliates managed to gather enough signatures to put the matter to a ballot vote. For reasons that despite much effort completely elude this blog reporter and any reasonable citizen. It is just ugly cussedness, and puts a black mark on the long and precious history of Salem to defend the humanity of neighbors.

So now there is an unnecessary vote on the ballot initiative next Tuesday. Salem may have many problems that could be addressed by the ballot process, but this is certainly not one of them.

Among the specious reasons that opponents give is that the issue has proven very decisive. True, it has been decisive, but it brings to mind the apocryphal story of the teenager who murders his parents then begs the judge for clemency since he is now an orphan. If you bring divisiveness into Salem, then you cannot complain about that divisiveness.

 

Yes on 1

Perhaps there is a silver lining. The initiative has galvanized many to take part in local politics, including this blog reporter. Many immigrants and women, notoriously reluctant to participate in politics, have been roused so strongly by the Sanctuary issue as to run for city offices. These include Ana Campos (Brazil) write-in candidate for Ward 4 Councilor, Christine Madore (Thailand) for Ward 2 Councilor, Ana Nuncio (Mexico) and Manny Cruz (Dominican) for School Committee, as well as perennial At-Large candidate Domingo Dominguez (Dominican) The Salem City Council, long dominated by middle-aged white males, could sure use some diversity, and this election promises to bring some. Not that there is anything inherently wrong about middle-aged white males, says this blog reporter, himself a middle-aged white male. 😉

The last word from Salem citizen Nancy Gilberg:

The Sanctuary for Peace ordinance does something: It heals, it reassures, it unites us with our neighbors, it strengthens neighborhoods, facilitates safety, and encourages those in learning environments to relax and focus. It is fully legal and is neither an immigration policy nor an invitation for illegal activity.

Salem Municipal Elections Nov. 7

Less than a week to go before Salem voters elect a mayor, four At-Large City Councilors, seven Ward Councilors, and three School Committee members, as well as vote on a ballot question, in municipal elections. It’s about time this blog start making endorsements for the candidates that will herald the Gallows Hill neighborhood into a rising and inclusive future.

Endorsements will be published in this order: 1: Ward 4 Councilor (Gallows Hill is mostly contained in Ward 4); 2: the ballot initiative; 3: Ward Councilors for wards that include pieces of Gallows Hill (Wards 3, 6, and 2); 4: At-Large Councilors; 5: Mayor.

View the official list of candidates here.

Election Bonus: a silly diversion.