The following are the responses to the Candidates Questionnaire for the position of City Councilor – Ward 6. The Create Jobs PAC has endorsed Daniel Benjamin.
Responses are listed in alphabetical order by last name. Responses are complete and have only been edited for spelling and grammar.
Work continues to move forward on the “Salem Alternative” bridge project to help improve transportation options, decrease traffic congestion and provide an updated seismically sound river crossing. Do you support or oppose the building a third bridge in Salem? Please explain your answer.
I support the building of a third bridge based on the need for more efficient transportation for both commuters and business. Understanding our bridge requires seismic upgrading for the safety of the citizens, I feel the building of the third bridge would have positive effects on the community.
1. Create private-sector jobs and help grow Salem’s economy
2. Increase safety for citizens
3. Allow Salem to be transportation efficient in both citizen travel and freight transport
Voters passed the $99.8 million Streets and Bridges Bond in 2008 to help repair bridges and roads, ease traffic congestion and build sidewalks. Due to favorable economic conditions for contracting costs, the City of Salem expects to have a remaining balance in the millions of dollars. In your opinion, how should remaining money as part of the bond be spent?
Allowing a process where citizen input from both neighborhood associations and City Councilors is key to addressing needed transportation projects throughout the City, whereby improving safety and the livability of various areas around the city. I have already been a part of the process in regards to representing the North Lancaster Neighborhood Assn (NOLA). I was able to get funds earmarked for sidewalks on Brown Rd., which was a necessity for the safety and livability in the NOLA and in the end, everyone felt listened to and the project was one we could all agree needed to be done. Having neighborhood associations and City staff work together to come up with a list of projects to be completed with the remaining balance is a good starting point.
The City Council recently considered a proposal to implement a streetlight fee in Salem to help raise revenue for the City budget. Citizens spoke out passionately against the fee and the City Council decided not to pursue it. Based on current City of Salem budget numbers and projected shortfalls, do you believe the City has a revenue problem, a spending problem or a combination of the two? Please explain your answer.
If you ask the average citizen they would most likely answer “spending problem” and in fact, there are problems with increasingly high labor costs including PERS, health insurance and regular increases in staff wages. At this point, the City has taken to cutting services rather than raise additional revenue. The problem with this approach is as we continue to lose services but pay higher costs for the same essential labor, our tax dollars can only stretch so far. However, recognizing Salem’s unique and challenging revenue systems such as the high number of government and non-profit properties not currently paying property taxes, a good case can be made with regard to a revenue problem as well. I would say it is a combination of the two and in order to find a solution, government transparency and efficiency as well as citizen involvement are critical.
The State of Oregon is working to sell the northern 44 acres of the Oregon State Hospital. This is a unique opportunity to take land that runs a deficit for the City of Salem and transform it into a space that generates tax revenue. There will certainly be an element that will be vocal about wanting as little change as possible. What is your opinion on the best use of this property?
To be sure, more investigation and citizen involvement is needed to effect the best solution. In my opinion, non-subsidized affordable housing in conjunction with retail, medical, or office space seems like a good solution. However, keeping in mind anything located on said property will be adjacent to a mental institution, there may be serious challenges to attracting such types of businesses. One incident involving the Oregon State Hospital or the prison will cause a negative chain of events.
One option I would like to investigate involves building City Hall as well as the new Police Department on that site. This has the advantage of making available prime retail and living space in the downtown corridor right next to the new Boise Cascade development which includes housing. It also makes it unnecessary for the City to pay for seismic upgrades as they would be building a new facility. This also means minimal disruption to City services since the new facility could be built while staff is still serving customers at the current location.
One of the needs of the police station is secure parking, be it underground or fenced. The OSH site would accommodate both plans. Moving the police station out there would also open up the current parking areas for SWAT and other police vehicles across the street from the current City Hall. Plus, with the police and City Hall at the OSH site, there would still be ample room for a park, which as I understand it, is desired by the neighborhood. There would also still be room available for other private sector investment and revenue and since the former City Hall location would become private development, there is no loss of property tax revenue and should in fact, be a gain by locating some private development next to the new City Hall.
I can only imagine the possibilities for the old City Hall location for private development being located so close to downtown, the new Boise Cascade development, the new Minto Island Pedestrian Bridge and the library. Restaurants, retail and office space, even investments by Salem Health or Willamette University are possibilities.
What do you consider to be the most pressing issue facing Salem and how should the issue be addressed and solved?
The most pressing issue facing Salem in my opinion is the lack of family wage jobs. We need to encourage positions in manufacturing, material moving and construction just to name a few industries. To address the issue, areas throughout the city should be identified as being ideal for industry beyond what we have already established. Creating more areas like Fairview Industrial or Mill Creek Corporate Center in places like Ward 6 would help encourage job growth and may make it easier for people in those areas to live and work nearby. Once we have established those additional areas, we need to actively and aggressively make it known, “Salem is open for business!” Salem needs to “find a way to say yes to jobs!” Then, make sure we as a city, staff and elected officials, back up our words with actions by helping businesses to grow, locate or re-locate here and help create jobs.
Ward 6 Specific Question
What is your current position on annexations adjacent to Ward 6? Do you believe annexations should take place within Salem’s Urban Growth boundary or not? Please explain.
I believe the densely populated areas adjacent to Ward 6 could be better served should they be annexed. The effect would have two positive outcomes. 1. The city would increase needed revenues. 2. The resources of the city would be better utilized. Services are already used to some extent in these areas (fire, police and others) by those not currently paying for these services. Of course citizen involvement is key and I would recommend bringing all parties involved together including residents, city and county governments as well as Marion County Fire District #1 to listen to concerns and come up with a fair solution.
Mr. Lor did not respond to the Candidates Questionnaire