^^^ seeking a fourth term : Mayor Kim Driscoll, as commanding a figure as any Mayor in America

The present tack that the City of Salem is on cannot continue. No City in America should ever be remade as an emporium of junky quality, box-unit, elephant-big apartment buildings. Yet that is what Salem is fast becoming, with much more of it on offer if present policy continues.

Salem, of all cities, deserves differently. Here, history oozes from the bricks of sidewalks, screams from, the clapboarding of ancient houses. The bodies of falsely accused persons — hanged as witches — lie in Salem cemeteries. Nat Hawthorne and his Custom, House, in which he wrote The Scarlet Letter, are commemorated there ad all around the City. 15 houses from the First Period remain in old Salem, some of them still lived in. THESE are what plans for Salem’s future should imitate and bolster. Instead, the big plan is to create a city of featureless residential warehouses, overpriced as well — more Amazon, airport hangar, and Walmart than Nat Hawthorne, 1692, and sea captains.

Mayor Driscoll talks of “affordable” housing and the necessity for it. The opposite is happening. The junk being built, or planned, is and will all be overpriced, way overpriced. Affordability in it, there is none. Instead, the more junk boxes get built, the higher that rents and sale prices go. Why that is the case would require a lengthy economic analysis not useful in this endorsement article. Suffice for now to assert the illogical fact of it.

So the question arises : how do Salem voters turn back this wave of price-gouging junk ? Some say, “replace Mayor Driscoll, whose plans these are.” I disagree.

Driscoll does want one change which we enthusiastically endorse : making Salem’s long waterfront overwhelmingly residential rather than industrial, as most of it has been for 125 years and more.

Most of Driscoll’s other building plans deplore : but she is also a stalwart of what we now call “inclusion”, a very thorough administrator (some would say “too thorough”) and has the confidence of Governor Baker. These are not attributes and advantages Salem should just cast aside. How about, instead, voting to keep Driscoll’s diligence, her savvy, her civil rights idealism, and the State respect which she so clearly has, and instead, give her a City Council whose majority will require her to change direction ? This is what our endorsements intend.

For Mayor : we endorse Kim Driscoll for a fourth term for the reasons given.

For City Council : there are many, many great and independent candidates, although one of the most independent, Arthur Sargent, is not running for re-election. That saddens us, yet there are other candidates who will do Salem proud. Voters will elect FOUR. We offer five recommendations to choose from, some of whom support Driscoll’s plans, which we justify because the Mayor is entitled to a voice even in an independent Council :

Our five at Large recommendations are Domingo Dominguez, seeking re-election to a third term; Conrad Prosniewski, former Police Department community engagement officer, seeking a second term; Alice Merkl, a supporter of Mayor Driscoll, who ran last time and missed election by only 100 votes; Melissa Faulkner, who also ran last time; and Juana Fernandez, a promising newcomer.

Salem also elects seven Ward Councillors, one from each of the City’s wards. Our recommendations :

Ward One : Belle Steadman, who ran citywide last time. Definitely an independent voice.

Ward Three : David Freni, who is challenging a Mayor Driscoll loyalist in a ward deeply impacted by junk-unit box ruination.

Ward Four : Stepanie Rodriguez is not only independent, she is also this year’s most engaged outreach campaigner with a confident and affable personality to match., We enthusiastically endorse her.

Ward Five : Steve Kapantais seeks the seat being vacated by Josh Turiel. Steve has long been a leader of those who seek an independent Council.

Ward Seven : Francis Riggieri seeks the Council position being vacated by Steve Dibble, who is challenging mayor Driscoll. he faces a strong supporter of Mayor Driscoll making a second run at this Council seat.

Were all of our recommendations to win election, Salem would have a Council with four votes Mayor Driscoll can count on and seven which she would have to try to convince. We like such an outcome. It would be a Council of persuasion and debate, upon issues which will decide if Salem becomes a livable City of history and residable waterfront or a dense hive of featureless, junk-constructed, overpriced “units.” As we see it, the matter is absolutely existential.

— Mike Freedberg, for the editors of Here and Sphere

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