By Bethany Bray
---- — SALEM — From questions about city schools and taxes to meeting attendance and pothole-riddled city streets, candidates for councilor-at-large were in the hot seat last night at a forum organized by numerous city neighborhood groups.
More than 100 residents came to last night’s forum and submitted questions for the seven people running for the four at-large positions on Salem City Council.
Candidates kept the discourse civil throughout last night’s event, and — for the most part — kept their answers within the allotted two minutes for each question.
Incumbent at-large Councilors Tom Furey and Arthur Sargent are running for re-election, as well as Bill Legault, who was elected by the City Council to fill an at-large vacancy in January.
Ward 4 Councilor Jerry Ryan is also running for an at-large position, as well as former School Committee member Norene Gachignard, perennial candidate Ken Sawicki and Elaine Milo, a newcomer to city politics.
The election will be Nov. 5; Salem voters will decide races for School Committee, city council and mayor.
Last night, the candidates all took a stance against the 1.5-megawatt wind turbine city officials hope to install on Winter Island. While most said they favor renewable energy in general, none said they’d support putting a turbine on Winter Island, a popular recreational spot.
The one exception was Furey, who said he was in favor of the idea but didn’t feel it would be built because “too much emotion” surrounds the project.
“This is the right idea, wrong location,” Ryan said. “(A turbine on Winter Island) would change the atmosphere of the whole island.”
Legault said he’d never support putting a turbine anywhere in the city, because Salem is so densely residential.
When asked how they’d keep city taxes from increasing, most of the candidates talked of encouraging businesses to move into Salem, to share the tax burden.
The seven candidates were each given two minutes for opening and closing remarks; most mentioned wanting to serve or “give back” to a city they love and have lived in for most, or all, of their lives.
Milo and Gachignard both pledged to bring consensus-building and common sense to a committee that often does not see eye-to-eye.
“It’s time to stop the bickering and make progress,” Milo said.
Held at the Moose Family Center on Grove Street, last night’s forum was sponsored by the Mack Park Neighborhood Association and numerous other neighborhood groups from across the city. Organizers provided a spread of food and coffee for the many attendees, who sat at round tables in the lodge’s function hall.
Resident Sophia O’Brien served as moderator.
Last night’s forum was recorded and will be rebroadcast on Salem cable access television.
Bethany Bray can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.
Sound bites: Salem councilor-at-large candidate forum
If elected, what causes would you champion?