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.

Endorsement of Ana Campos for Ward 4 Councilor

The candidates for Salem Ward 4 Councilor met the Gallows Hill/Witchcraft Heights community at the AOH Hall on Boston St. in a candidate forum sponsored by the Ward 4 Neighborhood Assn. on Oct 17. The candidates present were Timothy Flynn, of 42 Sable Road in Witchcraft Heights, Robert A. McCarthy of 68 Valley St. in Witchcraft Heights, both ballot candidates, and write-in candidate Ana Campos of 17 Orleans Ave. also in Witchcraft Heights.


Unsurprisingly, the main issue was traffic congestion on roads through and neighboring Ward 4. Has there ever been a ward meeting anytime, in Salem or any other North Shore municipality, where concerns traffic congestion was not preeminent? All three candidates pressed for traffic solutions, but for Mr. Flynn it was the be all and end all, mentioned even in response to questions not immediately pertinent to traffic.

Bellowing about traffic is not going to do anything to ease traffic. Traffic is a regional problem. There is little a single city can do without cooperation from neighboring cities, except nibble at the edges of the problem. This is especially so for Ward 4, because the route that so infuriates Ward 4 residents, Swampscott Road to Highland Ave briefly then across to Marlborough Road, is no more than a “Pass-through”, routing vehicles from Lynn and Swampscott south of Salem up to Peabody and the malls and highways beyond north of Salem. It is likely that among the drivers ensnared in the backups at the Swampscott Road and Marlborough Road traffic lights few are Salem residents. However, those few Salem residents are most likely Ward 4 residents.

Mr. Flynn offered no concrete suggestions to alleviate traffic, nor did Mr McCarthy. Only Ms. Campos in the seconds allotted to answer brought up several of the innovative approaches now on the minds of city planners in Salem and elsewhere. Intra-city shuttle buses to and from shopping centers to downtown, improved pedestrian and bicycle accessibility, and transit-centered development are but few of the actions that work. None by itself can alleviate traffic. Only in the aggregate can imaginative and innovative actions, and possibly upcoming technological innovations, improve traffic.


The second most registered complaint was that taxes are too high. Really, has there ever been a ward meeting or campaign event where it was accepted that taxes were just right? And again, there was lots of bellowing that taxes need to be reduced, or at least tax increases abated. And again, apart from Ana Campos, none of the candidates offered knowledgeable and creditable solutions to the problem.

A standard statement made by many an ill-informed candidate, in Salem and elsewhere, is that “once I’m in office I’ll find wasteful items in the budget to remove”. Fat chance. The City of Salem budget is a public document, hundreds of pages long, prepared by dozens, closely examined by hundreds. The Salem budget has even received the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award multiple times. If there were substantial cuts to be found they would have been found.

When Steve Jobs took over floundering Apple Corp in the mid-90’s the advice he received was to save money by making massive cuts to the corporation budget. Jobs refused, stating that “we’re not going to get out of this by slashing expenses. We’re going to get out of this only by upping revenue”. Jobs implemented an enormous, and expensive, new research effort, which reached fruition with release of iPod, iPhone, and all the other products which have made Apple one of the largest and most successful companies in the world.

Transferring the Jobs lesson to the municipal venue, taxes will not be reduced by cutting spending (↓); taxes will only be reduced by increasing revenue (↑). That means more taxable property has to be built, in all areas of the city. There is no magic pill to do so. Pushing for smart development, reducing zoning restrictions, taking measures so that people can get around without cars meaning parking consumes less valuable real estate, somehow increasing housing affordability – these and more are all part of the mix. Only Ana Campos was knowledgeable about these, and made a commitment to constantly learn more. The other two candidates just railed without raising realistic proposals.


The last issue, development in Ward 4, encompasses both traffic and taxes, and cannot be considered apart from them. The knee-jerk reaction is to condemn all new development, professing to like Salem “just the way it was when I grew up, open and uncrowded.” Many seem to forget just how dire the landscape was even 20 years ago. It was open and uncrowded, fer shure, but only because businesses were closing, store windows vacant, homes abandoned. It’s hard to grasp just how far Salem has come recently, even if, like this blog reporter, you were here for it all.

Today, thousands want to move to dynamic, rising Salem, but there’s not enough homes of any type for them, so prices get horribly inflated, and only those with the greatest assets can afford to move here. That is a problem, a problem not healed by grandstanding against any and all development. To their credit all three candidates understood, in one way or another, that new development is needed, but Ana Campos went further in describing the kind of smart development – pedestrian friendly, transit-accessible, environmentally safe – needed to address the problem. The proposed cineplex complex on Highland Ave near Swampscott Road does NOT meet those criteria. In posts on her campaign Facebook page Ana Campos has gone much further in her analysis of what makes smart development.


This post has endeavored to explain why Write-in candidate Ana Campos is by far the best choice for Ward 4 / Gallows Hill. She thinks, she learns, she’s open to new ideas, she’s dedicated to making the Gallows Hill neighborhood a better place to live for all. Please write in her name on your ballot on November 7.


It was finally arrived at why Robert A. McCarthy is a phantom candidate – no social media presence, no neighborhood canvassing, no campaign appearances. Before drawing papers for candidacy he suffered a severe accident which rendered him able to walk and stand only with great difficulty. Still he drew papers, giving wonder to his purpose. Some purpose may be discerned in his consistent remarks at the Forum about wanting to improve Salem schools. If sincere, perhaps his better move would have been to run for a position on the Salem School Committee. The City Council has negligible influence on education policy. It approves the school budget yes, but does not draft the budget nor appoint personnel nor determine curriculum nor anything. That Mr. McCarthy might be seriously confused about what he is running for was given substantiation by his honest acknowledgement that not only had he never attended a meeting of the Ward 4 Neighborhood Association, but until the Candidate Forum did not even know the association existed.



Diversion on Salem City Elections

While preparing endorsement posts for City of Salem elections, encountered a new type of inequality, beyond economic inequality and spatial inequality – address inequality. The population of Ward 4 is roughly equally divided between hoary Gallows Hill at the top of the ward and contemporary Witchcraft Heights beneath, yet all three Ward 4 candidates come from Witchcraft Heights. And among the candidates for At-Large Councilor from Ward 4, incumbent Elaine Milo resides on Marlborough Road, again in Witchcraft Heights, with only challenger David Eppley of Boston St in Gallows Hill. And both mayoral candidates, incumbent Kim Driscoll (Glenn Ave) and challenger Paul Prevey (Freeman Rd) have in recent years relocated to Witchcraft Heights, from Ward 5 (South Salem) and Ward 6 (North Salem), respectively. Wherefore art thou Witchcraft Heights?


Local candidates predominantly from lower half of map; local history (markers) predominates in upper half of map


McIntire Privilege. VI. Who Let the Dogs Out?

Time to return after a hiatus to the regular series on McIntire Privilege. To reiterate, McIntire Privilege is the thesis that residents of the McIntire District of Salem gain benefits, to the detriment other neighborhoods in Salem, without ever being conscious of said benefits.

Today it is the case of competing dog parks. In August at Gallows Hill Park a new sign was posted.


In almost 20 years of walking my dogs around Gallows Hill Park (first a Dalmatian and then a rat terrier) never saw such a warning sign at the park before. Leash laws are unenforceable and as such are a waste that serve only to aggravate neighbors, much like resident parking zones. The threat of coyote attacks from a coyote den resident behind the Gallows Hill water tower is way more effective at keeping all dogs leashed. My poor rattie survived becoming a coyote appetizer just steps from this sign, so lesson learned.


Meantime across town in Leslie’s Retreat Park abutting the McIntire District there is no leash law sign. There used to be one but vandals from the neighborhood tore it down. The city replaced the sign, which survived a couple of years before it was torn down again. A third time replaced and removed. Someone there is that does not like to be reminded of leash laws. The city surrendered, and as can be seen in the photo there is no longer a warning sign, though there is a doggie poop bag dispensary.

The leash law in this park is routinely violated, unlike in Gallows Hill Park. Despite the gate to the dog park  being but 100 feet from the parking area, dog parents routinely let their dogs off leash to run free. Such an incredible inconvenience perhaps to leash dogs for such a short distance ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Dogs being dogs, they are prone to chase whoever else passes near, be it bicyclists, commuters walking to the train station, stroller moms, or joggers, despite entreaties of doggie parents to not do so.

Now not all users of the dog park are residents of the McIntire District, but most are, and the ones who established the dog park resided in McIntire. Not having a leash warning sign and letting dogs run free of the leash – symptoms of McIntire Privilege?

Construction Bubbles in Blubber Hollow

Two new building projects in Blubber Hollow in front of Gallows Hill, the first major developments in Gallows Hill since early 20th century (really) are progressing rapidly.


The foundation and utility access and elevator tower for the Salem Community Life Center (which despite the renaming will forever be the Salem Senior Center) on the east side of Bridge Street are all done, and framing is set to commence. Perhaps even the building can be “buttoned in” before the “harsh winds of January” slow down construction.


On the other side of Bridge St, between Goodhue and Boston streets, work on a 50-unit apartment complex to replace the former FlynnTan leather factory at 80 Boston St is also progressing rapidly. The much larger foundation, needed to accommodate underground parking, is not yet completed, so framing is still some ways off, but should be ongoing by the time the “harsh winds of January” blow in. The factory burned  and was closed in 1976, and for 40 years the Gallows Hill area had to live with the derelict site.

Watch this blog for monthly construction updates.

Updates to Proctor’s Ledge Memorial Just Keep Coming

Every week it seems there are new changes to the nascent Witchcraft Trials Memorial at Proctor’s Ledge on Gallows Hill. This week it’s a new surveillance system.


To the right of the Memorial

Not sure if it’s really 24 hr surveillance, or if there is even a need for 24 hr surveillance. Apart from a skull prank on opening night, the scene in the neighborhood around the memorial has been demure. No large crowds, just two to three visitors at a time. It remains to be seen what Halloween itself brings.


Looking around you can finally spot the surveillance camera, high on a pole to the left of the memorial, under the light itself, with a field of vision encompassing both the street and the memorial. Let’s hope that nothing ever happens that forces detectives to check the tapes. Even the perpetual homeless have vacated the premises, though they may be due more to the loss of their star base with the closing of the rooming house at the corner of Pope and Boston down the street. Though from the discards of “fine” spirits it does seem like an auxiliary homeless base has opened in Gallows Hill Park up at the far end of Pope St.

The “Wilds” of Highland Avenue in 1920

In the last century Salem has had no growth. Let’s unpack that assertion. The population remained the same, undergoing a long dip then recently swinging up to return to population levels of 1910. That population was with only half of Salem developed. Everything south and west of a line through the city roughly coincident with Jackson St (see map below) was undeveloped. No Castle Hill neighborhood, no Witchcraft Heights subdivision, no Bertram Field, no strip malls by the dozen, no Salem State University, no Vinnin Square. Over the last century Salem’s population has not changed, but the developed area has more than doubled.

How empty Salem was a century ago is underscored by an old aerial photo of Salem Hospital uncovered by Salem Digest. The original Salem Hospital, along Derby St downtown where the Halloween Alley concentration of tawdry tourist attractions now sits, burned down in the Great Salem Fire of 1914. Hospital trustees decided that a “rural” location would be safer and more pleasing, and in short time a new Salem Hospital was built on Lookout Hill on Highland Avenue.

Salem Hospital 1920

Salem Hospital has grown into the present North Shore Medical Center, engulfing the middle building in the photo, the Axelrod Building at top in the photo surrounded by newer buildings but still recognizable, leaving only the Highland Hall building at the bottom of the photo free of the main structure.

Most striking is the extended emptiness around Salem Hospital. Apart from a few homes along Highland Avenue in front of the hospital, there is … nothing. And of those homes, all along the hospital side of Highland Ave have been razed and replaced by asphalt for hospital parking. And several across the street as well. As the song relates, pulled down for a parking lot.

1891 Salem Map Annotated

For reference repost here a map of early 20th century Salem. The new Salem Hospital would be just to the left of the dotted red line just below Gallows Hill. Between the map and the photo the immensity of open space is impressive. The land has been filled in, but it is ridiculous that Salem has grown no larger.

Rare photo of Hygrade Lamp Co in Blubber Hollow

After searching high and low for months for an image of the former Sylvania plant at 50-60 Boston Street in Blubber Hollow, the front end of Gallows Hill, been able to uncover just one, hiding in the Nelson Dionne Collection in the Salem State University Archives Flickr collection. Nelson Dionne is a local amateur historian, whose recently donated his collection of thousands of photos, restaurant menus, postcards, and other bric-a-brac to Salem State University, where they are slowly getting scanned and digitized. Some 450 items scanned so far, so SSUL still has far to go, meaning that further images of Gallows Hill and Blubber Hollow may yet turn up online.

Hygrade plant Boston St

Sylvania Employees Watch Salem Soldiers March off to World War I

The plant was built in 1916, on land left barren by the Great Salem Fire of 1914, and was then the Hygrade Lamp Company, the first firm to apply principles of assembly line manufacture to the manufacture of incandescent light bulbs. In 1931 Hygrade merged with Sylvania first forming Hygrade Sylvania, becoming in 1942 simply Sylvania Electric Products, then after a 1959 merger with General Telephone becoming GTE Sylvania. Sylvania née Hygrade was once among the largest employers in Salem, surpassed only by the Pequot Mills textile plant on the other side of Salem in The Point neighborhood.

The plant closed in 1993 following the buyout of Sylvania by Osram GmbH of Germany, and was demolished several years thereafter. After lying empty for 20+ years, construction of the Gateway Center of apartments and a new Salem Senior Center has finally begun this year on the former Hygrade site.

Returning to the photo, the orientation of the plant is along Boston Street, with Bridge Street just visible hooking off at the left and Federal Street out of view to the right, with roofs of several homes of the McIntire District partially visible beyond. The Hygrade plant would have only been a year old at the time of the photo. Hundreds of new employees hang out of windows and even stand on the roof, filled with patriotic fervor and waving to the soldiers marching along Boston Street.

The photo had to be taken from atop Proctor’s Ledge, looking east towards downtown. Most telling are the ruins in the foreground, all that remains of the Korn Leather Co. factory at 55 Boston St., the ignition site of the Great Salem Fire of 1914. Eventually replacement tanneries would fill the site, but at the time the photo the terror of the fire would have been fresh in the minds of the soldiers and all those waving them on. In their own turn the tanneries would go defunct, replaced in the 21st century by a Walgreen’s super-pharmacy, the Great Salem Fire Memorial in one corner of the Walgreen’s parking lot and the Proctor’s Ledge Witchcraft Trials Memorial in the opposite corner.


Salem City Councilor “Gets It” on Development

This blog has stated, and will continue to state repeatedly, that what Gallows Hill, the whole City of Salem, the whole North Shore actually, needs most is more housing, more development. This runs counter to the feelings of many neighbors, who would like nothing more than to encase the neighborhood in amber for perpetuity.

The Ward 5 Councilor Josh Turiel gets it, and has been posting lengthy essays on his campaign Facebook page explaining why more development is needed. Too bad he represents Ward 5 (South Salem up to Salem State University and southerly and westerly portions of The Point neighborhood), across the city from Gallows Hill neighborhood mostly contained in Ward 4. We’ll let his words speak for themselves:

We need more housing. We do. Why do we need it? Because Salem has become a very desirable place to live. That genie is out of the bottle and the only way it could go back in would be to reverse everything that’s happened in the last decade. We could have the empty storefronts, no restaurants, no ferry, a shuttered power plant, old, unsafe parks, no improvements to entrance corridors, no train station/garage … Those things could have happened, but over the last decade plus Salem has chosen to improve. … Because of this and the growing local economy, Salem has become a place people want to live. There’s competition for rental housing and ownership. That is driving up home values and prices … I am not a fan of the rapid increase in home pricing.

Having laid out the problem, Josh then covers the possibilities to moderate home prices:

But there’s only three ways out of this inflationary spiral. One is for the economy to crater like it did in 2008 … NO
[The second] is to simply make this city unattractive to would-be residents … NO
The third is to manage things smartly. Smart development.

Having zeroed in on the only choice, Josh goes further by actually laying out some real options for smart development:

Build in places where you can leverage the train to direct commuters there instead of to outlying areas that would generate a lot more auto traffic [transit smart]. Encourage more walking and cycling by improving that infrastructure [health smart]. Modernize traffic signals to be smarter and handle flows better [technology smart]. Enforce existing laws better to deal with overcrowding in college neighborhoods – removing incentives for landlords to maximize profit by renting to big groups of kids and instead to rent to families [zoning smart]. Keep fixing the major corridors to keep the cars we do have moving [traffic smart].

His list of smart options is by no means complete. Not included: removing archaic zoning regulations that ban in-law apartments and infill development, encouraging more to live near family and jobs and not to have to move to distant areas and to spend more time in cars. Not included: consideration of technology advances in transportation (autonomous vehicles, Uber/Lyft, short term rentals like Zip cars) that already have reduced dependency on personal vehicle, which has to be parked somewhere, taking up valuable real estate that could be better used to house people, not cars.

Kudos to an elected representative who is actually thinking through the issues, not spouting rote ideological positions. Others like him are needed.