So, it was fascinating to attend a Ward 2 candidates forum a few weeks back and hear “experience” vs. “fresh and knowledgeable.” The very things that everyone applauds the city becoming were seemingly lost on the “experience” candidate. When asked how he liked what the city had become with all of these people living downtown, the lifeblood of the retail trade, he was opposed to that sort of “density.”
When asked about potential future projects that merely exist in the imaginations of some of his constituents, he was opposed to that, too. “Forever.” When asked to name his three top achievements after a decade of service, he was hard-pressed to come up with a third one.
Remember, we are a city. I know how cities thrive. People. Lots of them. Being attracted to what you have to offer that is better than all the other options they can choose from, makes it work. Our downtown had fewer than 500 people calling it home 25 years ago. Now it has more than 3,000 who are our neighbors and friends and shoppers. To outwardly oppose that “miracle,” as does the incumbent, is just plain shortsighted and dangerous. Our outdoor café seating became an issue because someone thought that it was unfair to offer unused city property to help better their business. In this case, our present councilor couldn’t get behind this. It is now a hallmark of our downtown’s vitality.
We have elections every few years to provide change. Change of thinking, change of knowledge, change of direction and, most of all an understanding of change that moves you forward. Hopefully, this, in time, becomes what we all want and enjoy. Like a recent letter writer, I, too, remember Old Old Salem, having lived on Liberty Street, roughly where the ticket desk of PEM is now. Over the past six years, 1970s Old New Salem has given way to New New Salem. It wasn’t the museum or the new road, or Salem State, though they helped. It was all the newcomers who brought life and businesses to downtown, through their personal effort, investment and, most of all, their love for the city. This attracted thousands of new residents (and their dogs) wanting to call our Ward 2 downtown “home.” We have all benefited, and this change has been good. We are no longer a “used-to-be city” with used-to-be thinking. We need people who understand this, who can work together to keep Salem moving forward on the course only just at its beginning. We don’t need someone representing them who finds this “density” troubling.