SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Election Updates

October 18, 2012

CPA faces grilling at forum

Residents on both sides give their take on ballot question

(Continued)

CPA backers contend it is an opportunity to get matching funds from the state for projects the city has to do anyway. To vote it down, they say, is akin to turning down free money.

“It drives me nuts,” said resident Steve Dibble, a CPA supporter. “We don’t have funds here to pay for our own park improvements in Salem. ... Since 2000, how much (money) has Salem left on the table?”

Nobody had an answer to that question. But Peabody, a local CPA community, has received $3.9 million in matching funds over the past decade, according to a Peabody official.

There was sentiment among some that they might be able to support the CPA if it didn’t provide funding for affordable housing. Some said Salem already has enough affordable housing.

“The main objection I heard,” resident Mary Costello said, “is the affordable-housing element.”

Mickey Northcutt, executive director of North Shore Community Development Coalition and a panel member at the forum, explained that affordable housing doesn’t necessarily mean low-income housing. Families of four, he said, earning up to $65,000, which could include new teachers and firefighters, could qualify for what is now known as “workforce” housing.

He said only 10 percent of the funds would automatically go for affordable housing, and that a local CPA committee would make recommendations to the City Council on how to spend the majority of the funds.

CPA opponents said the surcharge is one more bill for families in a predominantly working-class city who can’t afford it.

“There are people in this city who are actually hurting,” said panel member Teasie Riley-Goggin. She said “$30 or $40 will make a difference.”

Ward 6 Councilor Paul Prevey, another CPA opponent, noted that the city budget has increased from $107 million to $133 million in the six years he has been on the City Council. He appeared to be suggesting that some of those funds could go toward the long list of potential CPA projects.

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