Rehabs in Gallows Hill

A recent blog post covered the astonishing number of rehabs going on along a single street, Federal Street, stretching from the downtown district through the McIntire District to the doorstep of the Gallows Hill neighborhood. Gallows Hill, another vintage neighborhood with homes dating back to the mid-19th century, has not been immune to to the resurgence of rehabs in Salem.
8 Hanson StFirst up is 8 Hanson St, a small home left in deplorable state by an outspoken lifetime Salem resident. Bought by a conscientious rehab developer for the basement price of $120K, this went beyond a “back-to-the-studs” all the way to “back-to-the floor joists” and a rebuilt foundation. After a year of work the small home sold at almost 2.5 times initial price, deservedly so, and the home is no longer an eyesore on Gallows Hill.
12 Langdon StNext up comes 12 Langdon St, a two-family home steps from Gallows Hill Park on one side and a stone’s throw from Proctor’s Ledge on the other, which as can be seen in the photo started in better condition, so the rehab took a summer and not an entire year. Now restored to pristine condition and hosting new tenants.

15 Albion St

Further up Gallows Hill at 17 Albion is an ongoing rehab of a home so ancient it still had the original asbestos siding. Despite the deplorable condition and the long abandonment, this home at least had the benefit of being on a huge, albeit completely overgrown, lot, unlike aforementioned 8 Hanson hemmed in on all sides. So it sold for the comparatively reasonable price of $215K. Sale after rehab should take place in spring 2018.
20 Summit St And just as the Federal St post looked at forthcoming rehab, so too this post presents a depressed property now on the market and due for renovation. That would be 20 Summit St, long-whispered in the neighborhood as a drug den, but now emptied of sketchy characters and ready for its remake. Despite the bleached shutters, hanging fence gate and overgrown shrubbery, the home is in comparatively decent shape relative to other homes featured in this post, so should be a prime habitation in due time.

Why the wave of rehabs?

This question was considered in the earlier post, and as before does not avail of ready understanding. Properties have a way of festering for years, even decades, before a surge of rehab washes over. But how do they get into such deplorable states in the first place? Each case seems different (aging in place or bankruptcy or mere inattention), but let’s be pleased that eventually restoration comes to fore. Now about those remaining problem properties dotted through Gallows Hill…



Salem Election 2017 – What’s the Matter with Ward 4?

In the election for Salem City Council and Mayor progressive candidates won resounding victories throughout all wards in the city. Except in Ward 4, comprising the Gallows Hill and Witchcraft Heights neighborhoods. A disconcerting regressive outlier. Let’s examine the tapes.

In the race for At-Large Councilor the top four vote-getters win a seat on city council. The top four city-wide were newcomer Domingo Dominguez, and incumbents Elaine Milo, Arthur Sargent, and Tom Furey, with challenger David Eppley and incumbent Jerry Ryan finishing out of the running in a near tie. But ward by ward results show how far out of scale is Ward 4.

Election Results At Large Councilor

Domingo Dominguez was high on the leader board in all wards, especially his home base of W1-P2, The Point neighborhood (El Barrio el Punto), but did not place in Ward 4. On the other side of the ledger, Jerry Ryan ran middling everywhere in Salem except in Ward 4, especially Precinct 1 (Gallows Hill). If not for Ward 4 Mr. Ryan would not have gotten as close as he did. Then there is outgoing Ward 4 Councilor David Eppley, who ran strongly in most wards, especially Ward 2, but far out of the running in his Ward 4 home base. If not for Ward 4 Mr. Eppley would now be an incoming At-Large Councilor, instead of out of the running in 5th place. Indeed, Ward 4 is the only ward where the four incumbents placed 1st through 4th. The two other progressive challengers Jeff Cohen and Liz Bradt won respectable amount of votes everywhere except Ward 4, where they were well behind the pack.

For inclusion here are the individual ward councilor tallies.

Election Results Ward Councilors

The more progressive of the two candidates in each ward won handily, except in Ward 4 where the most regressive candidate, and proudly so, won handily.

In the mayoral election, Mayor Kim Driscoll handily won all wards by large margins, except Ward 4, which she barely won. If Ward 4 had followed the rest of the city the margin of victory would have been a 3-to-1 landslide, not the outstanding 2-to-1 reelection margin actually recorded. Similarly for the Yes on 1 ballot initiative, the misnomer ‘Sanctuary for Peace‘ initiative, which carried every ward by impressive margins, except again for Ward 4, where the ballot initiative was actually defeated. Not by much, mind you, but still.

All these data illustrate that there is something about Ward 4 antithetical to the remainder of Salem. But what could that be? In the seminal analysis What’s the Matter with Kansas (not to be confounded with WTF is the Matter with Alabama?) author Thomas Frank examines why Kansas went from one of the most progressive states a century ago to one of the more regressive state today (though Alabama does give Kansas a run for its money). In short, why do so many Kansans vote against their economic and social interests? Frank blames the transition thoroughly on the culture and religion wars, which in concert trump any economic self-interest.

Could a similar dynamic be playing in Ward 4? It’s unlikely that the culture wars have much resonance in local elections in a tiny ward. Maybe fear of recent immigrants, more properly expounded as fear of “The Other” (scare quotes intended), is what is at play here? Though Salem has historically been diverse, an estimated 20% non-white presently, closing in at 50% for school age children, but most of these reside outside of Ward 4. Gallows Hill and Witchcraft Heights, apart from a sliver of Latinos along Boston Street and a tinier sliver of Brazilians along Aborn Street flowing across the city line from the neighboring Brazilian district of Peabody, is nearly all white, many descendants of Irish immigrants of last century.

Fear of the Other seems too pat to satisfy this blogger. Salem has a long history of reaching out to The Other, from actually attacking and arresting Federal agents in town to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act before the Civil War (talk about sanctuary city), to the settlement house at House of Seven Gables to promote immigrant welfare at the turn of the 20th century and continuing even today. These efforts were city-wide, and it seems implausible that Ward 4 neighborhoods were excluded from these efforts. And after all, Salem’s claim to international fame is what happened when fear of The Other got out of hand 325 years ago.

For now, this blog bends towards a socioeconomic explanation, at least until it can be shown why the socioeconomic argument is flimsy. Ward 4, in Witchcraft Heights, contains the only large expanse in Salem of mid-20th century suburban sprawl homes in Salem. Though there are patches of spread out split-levels and raised ranches elsewhere in Salem, no where else is there such a mass of them but in Ward 4. Suburban voters tend to be traditionalist and highly resistant to change. After all, the suburban voter is the foundation of Republican hegemony. Witchcraft Heights was settled from the mid-60’s to the mid-70’s. There has been little turnover to new families. Instead the original dwellers have tended to age in place, well into retirement age, resistant to change and accordingly wary of newcomers from different cultures.

So that’s the explanation we’re going for now. A populace deeply ensconced in their expansive suburban homes on expansive suburban lots deeply wary of residents of the remainder of Salem, votes their feelings, not their humanity.





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.


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 what looks like imitation Federal style though others consider it (weak) Italianate, 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 Italianate style with Mansard roof, across the street into condos only began this autumn and units will not be available until Spring 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

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), 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.


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