^ Paul Prevey (l) lost his bid to defeat Mayor Kim Driscoll (r), 4194 to her 7982.

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Last Tuesday the city of Salem’s voters delivered the most definitive electoral verdict, one that forever makes Salem a different city than it had been. More than 12,000 voters cast a ballot — well more than half of all registered — and Mayor Kim Driscoll defeated her challenger, Paul Prevey, by almost two to one, winning every one of Salem’s 1r4 voting precincts.

You can read all of the actual numbers here :

Though Driscoll carried every Salem neighborhood, the dynamics of her campaign spoke a different story, one reflected in the location of her largest precinct victories :  she is Downtown Salem’s Mayor, and it is the residents of downtown — most of them newcomers typo the city — who now control its politics, its economy, its social settings.

It is Downtowners who have created Salem’s new voice — the city where there is “no place for hate,” a city open for business in which the symbol of unity is a gorgeously tall drag queen, Gigi Gill, who calls herself — with much justification — “Duchess Gigi. Official Queen of Salem.”

It is these same Downtowners — many of them owners of small businesses and technology start ups — who, supported by Mayor Driscoll, have established the city’s openness to all LGBTQ people, very much in line with the takeover of “pride” events and marches by business progressives — in one city after another.

That story is the same in Salem as in so many American cities : downtown has become the beehive of activity economic, social, industrial, and political. Rents rise, house prices rise, condominiums abound, single people fill bistros with eager and well heeled young faces. They set the tone, mark the tempo, make the music of today’s Salem.

As for long-time residents, living chiefly in neighborhoods away from Downtown, the results of this election made absolutely clear that they have two choices : get with the expansionist program, and move to the techno beat, or be defeated opposing it.

It was also the city’s business community that made significant a proposal offered by City Councillor David Eppley, to declare Salem a Sanctuary City — a movement that has taken hold in many booming American cities, by which the city asserts it will offer no help at all to Federal immigration officers trolling for undocumented residents to arrest. Businesses know well that undocumented residents are potential customers just like everyone else. In keeping with their desire to attract LGBTQ customers, these businesses want undocumented residents to know that their patronage is requested and respected. Thus the Sanctuary ordinance.

No sooner had the ordinance been approved by the City Council, by a seven to four vote at a hearing attended by hundreds of contentious activists, than opponents mounted a successful drive to place a referendum of the ordinance on the election ballot. The heated controversy over the sanctioning of “law breakers” (as an opponent called undocumenteds) stoked the large election day turnout throughout the city. Support for the Sanctuary matter was strongest, however, in Downtown Salem neighborhoods. Long-time Salemites dominate the three outlying precincts that voted “no.”

Sanctuary received 1700 more votes than the “No,” and that vote, plus its location, corroborated the current state of Salem politics : Downtown dominates, its dominance spearheaded by Mayor Driscoll and financed by its businesses and customers. The rest of the city takes on the attributes of a suburb, going about its very different affairs at a much slower and less noisy pace, in streets with outdoor swimming pools and lawns, trees and spacious homes on cul de sacs.

This is a common story in American cities today. I doubt there is any going back, for any of them, to the cities they were barely 30 years ago, with dead or dying downtowns and families moving to the suburbs as fast as they could leave; nor is Salem likely soon to revert to the silent, undynamic burg that was, a Salem as finished and gone as any version in its long and often scandalous history.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

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