City Council Elections. V – Results of Preliminary Election

[Updated Sept 16 with numbers and percentages]

Too many candidates in the At Large Councilor and Ward 2 Councilor Elections necessitated a Special Preliminary Election September 12 yesterday, to prune the At Large candidate list from 9 to 8, the Ward 2 candidate list from 4 to 2. No other wards faced a Preliminary Election.

Results in order of highest to lowest
At Large:  15,696/4 = 3924 ballots
Domingo Dominguez –  1725 (44.0%)
Arthur Sargent (i) –  1511 (38.5%)
Elaine Milo (i) –  1461 (37.2%)
Jerry Ryan (i) –  1275 (32.5%)
Tom Furey (i) –  1268 (32.3%)
Liz Bradt –  1232 (31.4%)
David Eppley –  1169 (29.8%)
Jeff Cohen –  1100 (28.0%)
Brendan Peltier – 526 (13.4%) – out

Ward 2:  1175 ballots
Christine Madore – 495 (42.1%)
Mary Usovicz – 257 (21.9%)
Justin Whittier – 215 (18.3%) – out
Brendan Murphy – 191 (16.3%) – out

Unexpected was the first position of Domingo Dominguez, in his fourth run for City Council, who led the pack in nearly every ward. Did not see that one coming, but neither did any other local commentator. Fourth time the charm, apparently. Incumbents did better than challengers, unsurprisingly but disappointingly, as it was dearly hoped that a real scare could be put into some of the incumbents to get them to behave more in tune with what the Salem electorate needs and wants. It’s the same as the US Congress, which sports the lowest voter approval in history yet 90% of incumbents get reelected anyway. Brendan Peltier is the odd man out, but he is young, mid-20s, and more is expected of him in future contests.

The results of the Ward 2 race are mildly disappointing. Of the two McIntire District candidates Mary Usovicz was the less objectionable, and there is justifiable relief that Justin Whittier is out. Christine Madore is an excellent choice, received 42% of the vote in the Preliminary, and is almost certain to prevail in the Final Election. Brendan Murphy was hampered by his wife’s due date coinciding with the election date, limiting his effectiveness in canvassing, but he too is young with many good ideas and should try again soon. And time the delivery date better for the next child 😉

As fall days grow cooler City Council elections will only grow more heated.

Last Note: this blog is devoted to the Gallows Hill neighborhood, mostly in Ward 4 with pieces in Ward 6 and Ward 3, but no piece in Ward 2, but Ward 4 abuts Ward 2 across the Four Corners intersection so coverage of the race by this blog is justified by geography.


City Council Elections. IV – The Endorsements

With the Special Preliminary elections tomorrow here are this blog’s endorsements for the two offices on the ballot tomorrow in Salem, At Large Councilors (pick four from a slate of nine) and Ward 2 Councilor (pick one from a slate of four).

At Large Candidates

Of the nine candidates, three are incumbents who voted in dissent on the Sanctuary for Peace ordinance, both times: Elaine Milo, Arthur Sargent and Jerry Ryan. Given that the Sanctuary matter is paramount in this election season, spreading even to the elections for Salem School Committee, these incumbents can NOT be endorsed. All three, unsurprisingly given the consanguinity between the two paramount issues facing Salem, have voted against advancement of specific proposed development projects in Salem. The fourth incumbent, Thomas Furey, has consistently, and at times passionately, supported the Salem Sanctuary ordinance. He deserves your vote.

All of the five challengers – Liz Bradt, Jeff Cohen, Domingo Dominguez, David Eppley, Brendan Peltier –  have been motivated to run, wholly or in part, by the disheartening opposition to the Salem Sanctuary initiative. They all embrace diversity, all desire more development to protect diversity. They deserve your vote.

A conundrum: six candidates endorsed, just four votes possible. What to do?

This is the 4th time that Domingo Dominguez has run for City Council, coming up short on three previous campaigns. Salem desperately needs more minority voices on City Council, but Domingo may not be that voice, given incriminations of past tax fraud, and given his past and current inept runs for City Council. Besides, there are other minority candidates among the ward councilor candidates that would fulfill the need for diversity. It seems likely that he will be the odd man out in the cut from nine to eight candidates.

A second option would be the experience filter. Incumbent Thomas Furey has decades on City Council; Brendan Peltier is only 25 years old with no experience in city governance, and if he loses will have other opportunities to run. Depending on personal feelings about experience, one or the other can be declined a vote.

Ward 2 Candidates

All four are challengers: Christine Madore, Brendan Murphy, Mary Usovicz, Justin Whittier. Incumbent Heather Famico has declined reelection and will be deeply missed. Two of the four are residents of the McIntire District (Mary Usovicz, Justin Whittier) and so their pro-development bona fides are suspect. With Justin Whittier there is no suspicion. He is whole-heartedly anti F.W. Webb development. Heather Famico did not just complain of bullying in the F.W. Webb matter. She named names. Justin Whittier was one of those names. Justin Whittier should never be allowed anywhere near City Council. Mary Usovicz has run for City Council before. Since it is an election when fresh faces are needed, she also cannot be endorsed.

The two remaining challengers, Christine Madore and Brendan Murphy, are both young fresh faces, both reside outside the suspect McIntire District, both have strongly supported the Salem Sanctuary issue, and both understand the need for new housing, new development of all kinds. Both can be endorsed.

Again a conundrum: two candidates endorsed, just one vote possible. What to do?

Christine Madore is a minority voice, but that is not sufficient reason to endorse her solely. Brendan Murphy is working class, but that is not sufficient reason to endorse him solely. The hope is that both make the cut in the Preliminary Election, meaning that this blog can put off a single endorsement until the Final Election in November. If only one of these two and one McIntire District candidate makes the cut, then who to endorse becomes easy. If the worst possible scenario results, where both fresh faces lose and both McIntire candidates make the cut, then it is write-in time in the November election.

Other Ward Candidates

None of the other six wards have more than two candidates, and therefore are not represented in the Special Preliminary Election. Endorsements from this blog can be delayed until the November election, but given standing already on the paramount issues facing Salem, who this blog will endorse can be foretold.

City Council Elections. III – The Temperament

City councils primarily deal with traffic and parking, parking and traffic, in that order. As such city council elections are frequently somnolent affairs, few candidates running, incumbents unchallenged for years on end. Not in Salem. Not this year. So many candidates have filed for election for both Ward and At Large councilor positions that a special preliminary election is needed to prune the candidate list. Candidate forums months before the November election are packed with spirited attendees.

What explains the excitement?

Two issues: the Salem Sanctuary for Peace ordinance and the pace of growth and development. They may seem like two vastly different issues, but as will be argued they are one issue. Two sides of the same coin.

Salem Sanctuary for Peace

It is not the place of this blog to cover the ups and downs of the Salem Sanctuary issue. The Salem News has a long running series on the changeable fates of the sanctuary proposal. As both opponents and proponents agree, Salem had for years a sanctuary affirmation on record. The Sanctuary for Peace ordinance, voted upon twice and approved twice by the same 7-4 margin, would have merely publicized and particularized existing policy. Dissatisfied with the outcome of representative democracy, opponents managed to gather enough signatures to place the matter of Salem sanctuary on the ballot in November.

That something so innocuous would have riled up so much contention speaks of the temperament of the nation, not only of Salem. But after Charlottesville, how could anybody with a heart not support the Salem Sanctuary? Even Miss Texas Margana Wood affirms so: “…a statement should’ve [been] made earlier addressing [Charlottesville], and in making sure all Americans feel safe in this country. That is the number one issue right now.” In the nation and in Salem too.

The arguments of the opponents are specious. That such a matter should be “decided by popular vote” and not City Council upends the very essence of representative democracy. To see what could go wrong see Popular Vote, Brexit. That the ordinance places a “target on backs of undocumented immigrants” is meaningless. There is already a target on their backs. The whole point of the ordinance is to shrink those targets. That the ordinance feeds lawlessness – c’mon that’s just unmitigated racism and has no place in today’s Salem. Shame.

That the ordinance would “result in loss of federal funding” again has no substantiation. Teams of lawyers have concluded that “No provision of the Ordinance violates Federal or State law and, therefore, the measure does not impact federal funding for Salem.” (City of Salem web site). Ward 4 Councilor David Eppley was more adamant: “Let me be very clear about this: the ordinance that we passed does not violate federal law. It does not violate state law. It does not endanger a single dollar of federal funding.”

Threats made by the president’s administration to take away funding for sanctuary cities are Not Even Close to Constitutional. If all municipalities stand together to resist arrant lawlessness and unconstitutionality the administration will back down. See Travel Ban, Muslim. Stiffen your spines, you weak-willed wussies.

The only argument less than specious is that the sanctuary ordinance “dragged Salem into a national debate.” And what is wrong with that? Salem has for centuries [love writing that; hyperbole anywhere else but truth in Salem] considered itself part of the national debate. Consider this passage from native son Nathaniel Hawthorne:

“It would make you laugh to see how the game of politics…is here played in miniature. Burning Ambition finds its fuel here; here Patriotism speaks boldly in the people’s behalf … here the Aldermen range their senatorial dignity around the Mayor’s chair of state, and the Common Council feel that they have liberty in charge. In short, human weakness and strength, passion and policy, Man’s tendencies, his aims and modes of pursuing them, his individual character and his character in the mass, may be studied almost as well here as on the theatre of the nations.” — The Sister Years (1838)

The burning issue in Salem in the time of Hawthorne was abolitionism. It’s disappointing that nearly two centuries later [again “for centuries”] still Salem is debating the intrinsic worth and dignity of all individuals.

Unable to withstand any longer a debate that should not be debated, many candidates for councilor jumped in deliberately to square off against incumbent councilors that did not support the Salem Sanctuary ordinance (Jeff Cohen, Liz Bradt, Brendan Peltier, and most especially David Eppley who led the charge for the ordinance from the beginning). Thankfully and not surprisingly, several recent immigrants, feeling their family and friends threatened by the disheartening opposition, have entered the Councilor races (Christine Madore in Ward 2, Ana Campos in Ward 4, Domingo Dominquez for At Large). Voices are being raised.

There you have it, a synopsis of the Salem Sanctuary issue. There will be more in later posts on this blog, with this is enough for now with the Special Preliminary Election on tap.

New Development in Salem

Many of the proposed developments in Salem fall along the vast swaths of land left empty by post-industrial decay, once-thriving tanneries and mills long since closed. None has drawn more antipathy in the last year than the proposal by F.W. Webb, a plumbing supply company at 295 Bridge St in Blubber Hollow, to expand into the empty space next door at 297-305 Bridge St, now a hardly-used parking lot for the T Station up the street and once the contaminated Universal Steel site.

It is not the point of this blog to cover in this post the ups and downs of the Webb proposal. Salem News again has provided admirable coverage. The McIntire Privilege series of this blog will eventually get to the matter in all its writhing detail. For now, let it be acknowledged that after unending, vehement and inconsiderate opposition by McIntire District neighbors, more precisely the Federal Street Neighborhood Association, the original proposal has been withdrawn, and the modified plan, greatly reduced, is “on pause”.

Looking into the downturned faces of Webb management as they and their company were demeaned and impugned by resident after resident in the interminable City Council hearings, it is the expressed opinion of this blog writer that F.W. Webb and Salem are not long for each other. Another leftover of Salem’s industrial age will be abandoned.

It may seem like an isolated case, but it’s not. Over the last few decades ANY AND ALL development within eyesight of the McIntire District has been vigorously opposed. A short list would include the Salem Suede site on Flint St, the Salem Courthouse expansion on upper Federal St, planned repurposing of the old District Court on Washington St, the apartments on the Parker Brothers site on Bridge St. now Bell Apartments, even the proposal to place the Salem Senior Center on the land vacated by St. Joseph’s Church across town in The Point neighborhood. All have been rebuked, several permanently.

The argument tendered is that opponents are not anti-development, but that development has to be “appropriate”. But really, to this crowd nothing has been, or ever will be, appropriate. A query of development that has been favored by the neighborhood would return the null set. Even news coverage of the groundbreaking last week for the new Salem Senior Center on the former Sylvania site briefly noted long-standing opposition to the development of the site by the neighborhood.

Salem aches for new development. Salem needs more affordable housing, Salem needs more middle class housing, Salem needs more small businesses of all types, Salem needs additions to its tax base. No serious candidate for City Council would deny this. Yet when a development proposal comes along, of any type, more often than not it is consigned to oblivion.

The antipathy expressed around the F.W. Webb hearings is the true yet unspoken reason why Ward 2 Councilor Heather Famico is not standing for reelection. The bullying she endured during the Webb hearings was more than any elected official should have to withstand.

Famico, the Ward 2 councilor,  described a pattern of unacceptable neighborhood bullying. “A self-appointed ringleader in this neighborhood has attempted to bully me since before I was elected,” Famico wrote, adding that included things said face-to-face with neighbors, delivering letters door-to-door and sending around memos that were the definition of bullying.

Her withdrawal from the Salem City Council is perfectly reasonable. The enduring antipathy goes a long way to explaining why there are now four candidates to replace Famico, to be pruned to two candidates by the special election Sept. 12.

Another argument tendered often is that development is too much, too fast. Are you fecking serious!? Alpine glaciers advance with greater alacrity than Salem development. The first serious proposal for the Sylvania site was 25 years ago. The Flynn Tan plant burned down in the early 70’s and only this year has construction started on new apartments. Nearly all of former tannery sites in central Blubber Hollow are still undeveloped decades after closings. The block along Church St bulldozed by a misbegotten urban renewal plan nearly 50 years ago is still a parking lot, development plans for the site long turned into dust. As noted, the former Universal Steel site is going nowhere.

Antipathy to Salem Sanctuary ≈ Antipathy to Development

The opposition to the Salem Sanctuary for Peace is being driven by, let’s face it, fear of the other, xenophobia for the more literate among us. And the arguments against development  – protecting property values, attracting the right kinds of residents – are merely a mask for, let’s face it, fear of the other. No wonder that councilors who voted against the diversity embraced by the Sanctuary initiative are often the same set that repeatedly vote against the diversity engendered by new development.

It is indeed time for fresh faces, for fresh initiatives, for fresh hope. In that light, endorsements to follow in the next post.

What a cruel, sour place is today’s America” Helen O’Rahilly, Irish television executive.


Four Corners in Salem

At the groundbreaking for the Mayor Jean Levesque Community Life Center (a.k.a. Salem Senior Center) today, it was pointed out by a candidate for ward councilor that the site where the senior center is getting built, to be part of the long-awaited Gateway Center, actually represents the Four Corners of Salem, where four wards of Salem come together. As seen in the map below, a screen capture of the Salem Ward & Precinct Map, it is where Ward 2 (McIntire District), Ward 3 (central Salem), Ward 4 (Gallows Hill and Witchcraft Heights), and Ward 6 (Mack Park neighborhood) all meet. Blubber Hollow, roughly the area within the dotted line, impinges on all four wards. Consequently, any development at or near Four Corners is a matter for nearly the entire City Council (four At Large Councilors + four Ward Councilors; three Ward Councilors possibly feel sidelined).

When Salem is viewed this way, it also gives insight into why Proctor’s Ledge was chosen for public Executions in 1692 – it overlooks substantial chunks of what was then a small town. Central and accessible, long ago and today.

Four Corners




Yet More on Mayoral Forum last week

The At Large Councilors Candidate Forum last night brought a packed crowd to the Moose Hall in Blubber Hollow (one of the few operating organizations in Blubber Hollow). Thanks to the Mack Park Neighborhood Association  for sponsoring the event. And for providing a full dinner to attendees, not just the usual refreshments. Much appreciated.

Candidate Forum Mack Park

L-R. Incumbent Arthur Sargent, incumbent Jerry Ryan, challenger Brandan Peltier, incumbent Elaine Milo, incumbent Tom Furey, challenger David Eppley, challenger Domingo Dominguez, challenger Jeff Cohen, challenger Liz Bradt

The questions asked of candidates in the round robin format reiterated nearly all the questions put before the two Mayoral candidates at the Hawthorne Hotel last week, with the exception of the Salem Sanctuary matter, the preeminent issue in elections this fall. It came up only indirectly in candidate responses to other questions. Serenity reigned, at least for a brief interval.

All candidates, councilor or mayoral, concur that Salem has been making progress since the doldrums of the late 20th century, when tanneries and mills closed. The distinction being whether Salem is making great progress versus making fine progress. Empty downtown storefronts filled with new quirky businesses, condos opening all over downtown, restaurant options once meager now virtually unlimited, a dismal waterfront partly restored, houses empty for decades rehabilitated and reoccupied up and down vintage streets. Mayor Kim Driscoll has been forward to taking credit for this resurgence, but left unanalyzed is whether the renewal is due more to actions taken by the mayor and city council, or whether it is due to the great urban resurgence, the Great Inversion, resurrecting nearly all American cities since the millennium (even Detroit to some degree) and accompanying decline of suburbs.

Whither and why will be left unanswered by this blog for now, but as the elections season proceeds it may become clearer whether specific action or just good fortune has led to Salem making great / fine progress.


At Large Councilor Candidates Forum Tonight + More on Mayoral Candidates Forum last week

For those who, like this blog reporter, missed the At Large Councilor Candidates Forum two weeks ago (August 22) sponsored by the Salem Chamber of Commerce, there is another opportunity tonight to hear the Nine Candidates debate the issues. The Mack Park Neighborhood Association is holding a Councillor-At-Large Candidates Forum Tuesday September 5, 7:00 pm, at Moose Hall, 50 Grove St., Salem. The Moderator will be Peabody Councilor-At-Large Anne Manning-Martin. This will be the LAST chance to hear the candidates before the Special Preliminary Election Tuesday Sept 12. Despite late notice high attendance is anticipated, so arrive early.

The Mack Park neighborhood runs roughly from North St down to Boston St and from the North River across to the Peabody City line. As mapped it includes a slice of Blubber Hollow and as such overlaps with the Gallows Hill Neighborhood.

The report on the Mayoral Forum on August 31 neglected to mention the huge attendance. Every seat in the ballroom of the Hawthorne Hotel was taken, with standees some 15 deep across the back of the ballroom. This for an event months before the election, and just before the Labor Day weekend when many leave town, or as it known as in these parts, Allston Christmas. Another reflection of the extraordinary, yet exciting, election season.

At the Mayoral Forum the opening statement by Mayor Kim Driscoll, generally the opportunity to herald accomplishments, there was no mention of the completion of the Proctor’s Ledge Memorial on Gallows Hill, already a must see historic site. The accomplishment reaches greater significance given the history of past attempts to commemorate the Witchcraft Trials execution site. In the late 19th century, in the period when Civil War memorials were going up all over New England, an attempt to raise a large stone memorial on Gallows Hill came to naught. Nor did the report by Sidney Perley in 1920 marking the site as Proctor’s Ledge lead to any memorialization, although it did cause the City of Salem to purchase the vacant land on Proctor’s Ledge that is now the location of the Proctor’s Ledge Memorial. Perhaps the Great Depression ripped apart any impetus to build a memorial? At the Tercentenary in 1992 a Witchcraft Trials memorial was built, but it sort of missed the boat, as it was downtown at a site with NO ties to the Witchcraft Trials, and its design lends it to heavy use for al fresco picnics, a bastardization of what should be a somber memorial.

So here’s to Mayor Driscoll and the City Administration circa 2017 – you completed what other mayors across centuries could not.



1950’s Salem Comes Alive

An old musty book deep on the shelves of the reference room in the Salem Public Library, and long out of print, has proven a trove of information on the history of mid-20th century Salem:  Community organization: action and inaction / by Floyd Hunter, Ruth Connor Schaffer, Cecil G. Sheps. University of North Carolina Press, 1956.

In the early 1950’s, when the study for the book was carried out, Salem still had many tight-knit ethnic communities, organized about dedicated churches.

To Salem came the Irish and settled…in the old, time-worn section near the harbor. With much industry and the passage of time they acquired entry into local politics from the domestic and industrial jobs previously delegated to them…the French came from the far-distant Canadian cities of Quebec and Montreal. At first they partly replaced the Irish and competed with the later for the inexpensive housing in the old sections. Finally the French Canadians settled in an area above the harbor about the mills [The Point]…To Salem more recently have come the Italian and the Pole.
In the town where for many years only one church and one manner of worship were tolerated and where the reaction to Catholics and Catholicity were attested by law, temples have been erected whose names speak volumes. There are the Church of the Immaculate Conception and St. James Church, both predominantly attended by Irish Catholics; St. Mary’s for Italian Catholics, St. Joseph’s for French Catholics; the Church of St. John the Baptist for Polish Catholics; St. Johns Ukranian Church for Greek Catholics, and St. Nicholas Russian Church.
Approximately 80 percent of the city’s population is Catholic, 16 percent Protestant, and 4 percent Jewish.
The Salem of 1953 consisted of an area of 8.2 square miles and a population of 41,880, of which approximately one-third were of French Canadian descent and one-third were of Irish descent. The next largest ethnic group was of Polish descent.

The great migration to the suburbs that dispersed these ethnic centers in Salem and elsewhere was just underway, a migration the book hints at: “Because of the land poverty of the city in terms of desirable new residential areas some had moved their homes to nearby communities in which such sections were available.” [Land poverty – what the…?].

The great mills of the Naumkeag Steam Cotton Factory had just closed. Other industrial firms were struggling to remain open and stay put, and the authors foresaw the ultimate futility of those efforts: “For a longer time than the city fathers care to remember they have attempted to retain the mill interests in Salem. The continued movement of plants throughout New England predicted the futility of their attempts. Salem, like other New England communities, has a stranded population of unemployed mill workers.” The post-industrial age, which Salem is still struggling to get past, was upon the city.

The most striking aspect of the book, to this observer, is its florid language, of a style rarely witnessed in a dry academic tome.

Sixteen miles above Boston, along the North Shore Between Boston and Gloucester, Massachusetts, lies a restless community. Situated around an old and atrophied harbor, Salem is a study in contrasts of the old and new, the beautiful and drab. By-passed by the major trunk highways [ed. note: thank goodness], served by the antiquated Boston and Maine railroad, strangled by growing suburban satellites, fighting a rear guard action for the retention of commerce and industry, and wracked by growing internal problems of an ethnic and religious character, Salem retains a proud, if somewhat unreal, independence as a community. …contrary to the wishes of many in Salem it is a part of the nerveless, sprawling, amoeboid, metropolitan area of Boston.
     As Salem declined in the nineteenth century as a shipping port, Boston grew. As Boston grew, it never politically captured and absorbed the satellite cities growing at its outer borders…today it is tightly hemmed in by a ring of cities expressing civic independence within the metropolitan area of which Salem is now a part.
     Between the historical boundaries of Salem and Boston, and linking them, lie the independent community of Lynn and suzerainty of Swampscott. Surrounding Salem, in a land and population vise, are the communities of Marblehead, Beverly, Peabody, and Danvers. In this complex, urban situation the mounting costs of congestion, the competition for land, labor supply, water resources, and the struggle for markets are grossly apparent. The difficulties of trying to meet problems on a community-by-community basis are obvious and almost insurmountable.
The Salem of Hawthorne’s youth was a different Salem. The freedom which typified the shipping era had gone…Social mobility became more rigid. With the passage of time industrialization encroached upon the dignity of Salem. By the end of the nineteenth century it had become a city of factories huddled about the glories of antiquity.

Highlighted in colored italics are the many quizzical turns of phrase. “Suzerainty of Salem”, “glories of antiquity” – sounds more like an analysis of the Roman Empire. Despite the language, the Introduction of the book is an educational and worthwhile read. And its summary of the political vexations of the time still hold true today.


Mayoral Political Forum August 31

The two candidates for Mayor of Salem, incumbent Kim Driscoll and challenger Paul Prevey, met last night in the ballroom of the Hawthorne Hotel downtown and debated the issues. Don’t despair if you missed it; the special Preliminary election is not until Tuesday Sept. 12 and there will be more forums afterwards.

To this observer it was remarkable how little daylight separates the two candidates. Apart from the city sanctuary issue, which will be ignored here and left for later posts, the two mostly echoed each other. According to Driscoll Salem is making great progress but certainly can do better; according to Prevey Salem is making fine progress but will make great progress under his administration. Both were well-spoken and knowledgeable. Given the powers of incumbency Driscoll is likely to get reelected, but Salem benefits from having two worthwhile and likeable candidates competing.

The only matter that gives Prevey any note of optimism is that, Menino-like, Driscoll is running for a fourth term as mayor. When in office so long resentments are likely to accumulate. Long thought of as jumping for higher political office, Driscoll seems to have gathered herself and settled into the Mayor’s Office for the duration. Perhaps holding back her elevation is the association with the notorious losing campaign of Martha Coakley for senator in 2010:

“As opposed to standing outside Fenway Park? In the cold? Shaking hands?’’ she fires back, in an apparent reference to a Brown online video of him doing just that. “This is a special election. And I know that I have the support of Kim Driscoll. And I now know the members of the [Salem] School Committee, who know far more people than I could ever meet.’’

Now Coakley swallowed her foot all by herself, and it was just unfortunate that she did so in Salem, but whenever that quote appears there is the name of Kim Driscoll, giving pause to the Massachusetts Democratic establishment.

So many of the questions debated concern issues that Salem cannot manage alone. Traffic congestion, opioid crisis, marijuana dispensaries, homelessness, parking, climate change and potential flooding, affordable housing, even the school crisis – all these are too big for Salem to manage on its own, too big to be resolved by any mayoral administration, so big they will require regional, state, even national intervention (okay never mind national help given the current administration). Many of the bland responses by both candidates seemed to realize that these matters go beyond Salem.

Such realization goes way back. Some 60+ years ago the authors of an obscure study on community organization in Salem wrote: “In this complex, urban situation the mounting costs of congestion, the competition for land, labor supply, water resources, and the struggle for markets are grossly apparent. The difficulties of trying to meet problems on a community-by-community basis are obvious and almost insurmountable.” Somewhat disheartening to note that the issues of today (congestion!) resonated even decades ago.

Even the rare debate question solely concerning Salem led to non-controversial responses. A question on attracting and keeping businesses in Salem specifically evoked the FW Webb controversy. Neither candidate took the Webb bait in their flat responses. Too bad. There could have been sparks.







McIntire Privilege. IV.

Picking up where the last post of this series left off, here’s another head-scratcher in the McIntire District. To refresh, McIntire Privilege is the thesis that residents of the McIntire District of Salem gain benefits to the detriment other neighborhoods in Salem, without even being conscious of received benefits.

On Essex St near the Salem Public Library underneath the futile Quiet zone signs are signs demarcating resident parking only. This isn’t odd, as useless resident parking zones are all over Salem. What is odd but are the inexplicable restrictive hours of 7 am to 9:30 am. Hard to see, as the signs have been up so long the lettering is faded.

Quiet zone signs

No clue why these hours. There’s no commuter drop-off or school or business in the resident parking zone that could possible justify it. Those hours would be when residents are leaving for work or appointments and so opening parking spaces, not arriving from work or appointments and so looking for parking spaces. Makes no sense, but forget it Jake, this is the McIntire District. Worse, the parking signs affect the Salem Public Library and the Grace Episcopal Church down Essex St, as they discourage patrons of those institutions from visiting.

More seriously, this one cannot be pinned solely on the McIntire District, as senseless resident parking zones proliferate all over Salem. More then senseless, they are actually inimical to neighborhood amity. As they are unenforceable, since police have better things to do than cruise sidewalks looking at parking stickers, the only enforcement is when a neighbor calls police on another sticker-less neighbor, The inevitable internecine conflicts can only tear neighborhoods apart. The prudent resident never makes the phone call, and the parking problem that may have initiated implementation of a resident parking zone festers.

You would think that resident parking zones are established after careful study of number of spaces, number of registered vehicles, proximity of public parking, and the like, but you would be wrong. Residents who want a parking zone on their streets need only to gather a sufficient number of signatures on a petition, the petition gets affirmed by the City Council, and voila, resident parking signs go up on poles. Nor is there any systematic review of when the perceived need for restricted parking should be relinquished. Once established, a resident parking zone is permanent.

One day, hopefully, the Salem City Council will establish a systematic review of all parking zones and eliminate the worst violators of public trust. Or better yet, scrap all resident zones and re-establish some only after fair and careful study. But until then, all residents need to live with this evil, whether they drive or not.


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.