To the editor:

Salem voters awoke the day after Tuesday’s election to read jubilant headlines on the front page of The Salem News proclaiming “Driscoll, Cahill Win Reelection” above a subheadline reciting “Landslide in Salem gives mayor 5th term,” and under that, “Beverly mayor lands 72% of vote.” (Note that Driscoll’s 58% of the mayoral vote total in Salem is a “landslide,” but Cahill’s 72% of the mayoral vote total in Beverly merits the less extravagant subheadline of a “land[ing].”)

Whatever the headlines, clearly Mayor Driscoll and her well-funded and well-honed political machine won big on Tuesday, and that she now has a dominant majority of the City Council composed of fervent (and beholden) acolytes, at least judging by how often her campaign signs were placed next to those of successful ward and at-large candidates throughout Salem during the election.

So much so that I am reminded of the old proverb “Be careful of what you ask for; you may get it.”

Indeed, the successful Salem political candidates may find it much easier to have gotten elected, especially with the support of the mayor and the Salem News, than to to now actually govern.

Many of us in Salem have been alarmed in recent years by the ever declining performance of Salem’s public schools, particularly Salem High School, and the alarming rate of increase in Salem’s real estate taxes, virtually in inverse proportion to the decline in Salem’s school’s, both tragic and ironic in the extreme given that the School Public School budget is the biggest line item by far in Salem’s annual municipal budget.

Many of us have been similarly alarmed in recent years by the increasing gentrification in Salem, the cynical lip service paid to affordable and senior housing while gentrification is concurrently running rampant, declining parking, and clogged major traffic arteries that seem to have less priority than bike lanes, to cite only a few of the issues that seemed to have gotten buried in the avalanche of support for the mayor and her cronies during the campaign.

No, Virginia, the most pressing issues in Salem are NOT colored sidewalks or rainbow banners proclaiming any number of laudable goals we are all striving for, be they racial and gender inclusivity, equal rights, and the like. They are, after all, only slogans, and like all slogans, they only tend to divert attention from the real issues and cheapen genuine political debate.

History teaches that where the executive and legislative branches are united, and where political orthodoxy will tolerate no dissent, and where a free press forgets its responsibilities and becomes an organ of propaganda, the results are not very pleasant.

I hope that in the jubilation and celebration of the moment, Salem voters, their newly elected officials, and even the Salem News, do not lose sight of the above.

John Carr

Salem

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