SALEM ELECTION : ZONED OUT

Arthur

^ targeted by the Mayor : Council dean Arthur Sargent III, whom we endorse

— — —

Because Mayor Kim Driscoll is one of the most powerful Mayors in Massachusetts, and because she has harnassed the “progressive” activists without necessarily being one herself, she holds all the aces in the City Council election that happens next Tuesday. She has demonstrated time and again that, when her bets are on the line, she can turn out a two to one a majority on election day. Add city employees and their families to the “progressive” voters, and you’ve amassed serious vote totals. Include a majority of Salem’s business community and there you are. Two to one.

All of which means that most of the Councillors who voted “No” on the Mayor’s small-adjacent-unit zoning ordinance face defeat. Driscoll has called for voters to oust the five : at-Large Councillors Domingo Dominguez, Arthur Sargent and Elaine Milo, and Ward Councillors Steve Dibble and Tim Flynn. Nor is her demand vain. The at-Large Councillors face four very strong challengers : Conrad Prosniewski, newly retired from the Salem Police, who took top spot in the primary; Alice Merkl, Ty Hapworth, and Jeff Cohen, all of whom are rock-solid “Yes” votes on the adjacent-unit ordinance as well as — most likely — on anything else the Mayor wants. Hapworth and Merkl took third and fourth in the primary, and Cohen wasn’t far behind albeit in sixth spot. (Sargent came in fifth, Elaine Milo seventh.) As for the two threatened Ward Councillors, they’re in less difficulty. Steve Dibble from Ward Seven, looks likely to win — but not by a lot. And Tim Flynn, from Ward Four, almost certainly wins. His ward is the Mayor’s weakest in the city.

Can the Mayor defeat her three at-Large marks ? I think she can definitely defeat one, maybe two. Only Domingo Dominguez, who finished second in the primary, looks in good shape — but not safe. The difference between his vote and Cohen’s, in sixth, is only 300. Arthur Sargent may also have the advantage. In the primary, few voters voted in his Ward Seven, but the contest between  Dibble and his challenger will likely increase turnout by a lot. Which leaves Elaine Milo, a council veteran who has a lot of ground to make up. (Also running is George McCabe, the son of a former Councillor and a former Councillor himself. McCabe finished eighth and while not  target of Mayor Driscoll’s wrath, is not on the “progressive” team either.

All this by way of analysis and history. Now to our endorsements :

Domingo Dominguez : he’s the hardest working Councillor, an all-around nice guy who campaigns ceaselessly, does favors for people, and votes carefully. His Community Conversations are a model for future Councillors. He voted “No” on the small-unit zoning ordinance and explained his reasons publicly and at length. He;s also the City;s only Hispanic Councillor, which gives him the kind of ethnic base that used to be the identifying feature of Massachusetts City elections. There’s no other Councillor anything like him, nor any challenger. He brings distinction and personality to City governance.

Arthur Sargent : some call him silent, others discreet. With his deep roots in the City, its school activities and the old power plant where he worked for decades, if re-elected, “Sarge” will be the Council’s dean; he’s already its and encyclopedia. He’s also most knowledgeable on all Salem goings on and issues, and he’s often the voice of long-time Salemites who don’t see the benefit in the grand, bold, huge developments going up all over Downtown and up Highland Avenue. Right now that sort of skepticism is badly, badly needed on the City Council. Sargent has it.

Elaine Berard Milo : In a City still almost 45 percent of Quebecois origin, Milo is the only Councillor of that origin on the present group and will be the only one still if she is re-elected. Heritage, however, is not the reason for our endorsement,. Milo gets our nod because she represents the many, many Salem voters who think the vast development of Downtown, which has remade the City’s business district these past 16 years, badly needs a time-out so that the City can assimilate all that newness.

Alice Merkl : The Mayor is entitled to a voice in Council affairs, and Merkl will be a good one — always upbeat, a master of community outreach, Merkl is a true believer that the future of Salem is assured as long as it seeks diversity and a kind of unstoppable party atmosphere both at play and at work. Probably not: but if personality can make it happen, Merkl’s the one.

Ward Councillor endorsements : 

Ward One : James Willis

Ward Two : Christine Madore

Ward Three : Bob Camire

Ward Four : Tim Flynn

Ward Five : Josh Turiel

Ward Six : Jerry Ryan

Ward Seven : Steve Dibble

It’s a diverse group, which is as City government should be. Mayor Driscoll will have to compromise with this sort of Council : a thing she has always been loath to do. She should try it sometime.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

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