To the editor:
Dear councilors: First of all, thank you for your service. I know what it takes to put your name on a ballot and stand for re-election. I know how much work, much of it thankless, goes into public service. I am among those who consider public service a noble and honorable calling, and I salute all who work to improve our community by spending time in government.
However, I’m writing to let you know how disgusted I am with the recent behavior of the Salem City Council. As a regular voter in city, state and federal elections, I must tell you, the council is an abject embarrassment. I covered local, state and national politics for 12 years as a newspaper reporter and worked for senior elected officials in the Statehouse for four years. I have been a close observer to some of the most ridiculous political fights. This one, by all appearances, tops them all.
I am concerned by the quotes I read in the paper and that, with some notable exceptions, this group appears to want to keep going the way it is going, remain hopelessly deadlocked and not find a path forward in the interest of our city. I hope you realize that is not a smart path forward for anyone who intends to ask for votes this fall.
You need to understand that I, and many people like me, do not care about the factions within the council, I do not care about the personalities and do not care who is with the mayor and who isn’t. I care about our city’s legislative body working together with the mayor to get through their differences and find ways to compromise in the interest of our city. If you are not prepared to do that — and to show us you are doing that, do not expect my vote in the next election.
There is, it seems, a simple path forward — find a new batch of candidates or sit down with the other side and hammer out a deal. If Congress can do that over something as important as the fiscal cliff, the tax rates of millions of Americans and billions of dollars in programs for the poor, elderly and our military, surely the Salem City Council can manage to find another member of its august ranks.
My wife and I are raising our children here, we pay taxes here, and we are deeply involved in our school, neighborhood and the broader Salem community. I am telling everyone I see this weekend how disgusted I am at the behavior of you and your colleagues. I’m sure there are reasons, but, now that it has gone to 300 votes and until 2:30 in the morning — long after any appropriate time for a public body to be deliberating, there are no excuses. It is time for a plan B, C or D.
Please consider this letter an attempt at productive and constructive criticism. If there is a way the public can assist — other than urging us to tell the other side to cave in — I urge you to tell me, tell other people, tell the media and tell the public. Otherwise, I urge you to get back to work, join those who say it is time to find a batch of new candidates or find another path to compromise. It is time to show the people of Salem you are willing to put the interests of the voters ahead of whatever petty politics is driving you now.
Good luck and thank you again for your service. I’ll be watching.