I'm a proud member of Progressive Salem, an organization out to get progressive candidates elected to local offices. But I disagree with the board of directors' decision to stay neutral in the upcoming Mayor's race.
Of the two candidates, Carole Smith and Chuck Bennett, Smith clearly seems to be the most progressive. (I couldn't find a web site for Bennett.)
I say this for some good reasons.
(1) Tom Andersen being on the short side of 8-1 votes. Chuck Bennett currently is a Salem City Council member who represents Ward 1, the downtown area. Tom Andersen was elected to the City Council in 2014 with strong Progressive Salem support. For good reason Andersen is featured on the home page of Progressive Salem.
Numerous times I've heard Andersen speak about the frustration of being on the short side of important 8-1 votes in City Council meetings. Naturally Bennett was one of the eight who opposed progressive policies.
For example, ending the push for an unneeded billion dollar Third Bridge that would require $1.50 tolls each way on it and the current two bridges, along with decimating homes and businesses in the path of this freeway'ish monstrosity.
Andersen can rattle off various other issues where Bennett and seven other City Council members stood in the way of progressive policies.
(2) Bennett's Chamber of Commerce endorsement. When Chuck Bennett announced he was running for Mayor, and an explicit Chamber candidate didn't emerge, it seemed obvious that Bennett was the Chamber's guy.
Now this is definitive. On March 21 the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce endorsed Bennett. Here's how the endorsement was prefaced.
Salem’s City Council is the single most impactful decision making body as it relates to economic growth and prosperity in our community, and is responsible for the governance that determines the rate at which Salem will flourish.
With a sound process that is inclusive to all candidates, the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce reached out to all candidates that filed to seek election to these offices as of late January to answer a questionnaire for endorsement by our organization. This endorsement process also included an interview with our Public Policy Committee, and a vetting by our Board of Directors.
The core of these endorsements surrounds job creation and economic growth, and it is our pleasure to offer endorsements to the following candidates:
Mayor: Chuck Bennett (current Ward 1 Councilor)
The Chamber of Commerce and progressive policies are like matter and anti-matter. They are unable to coexist. If the Chamber likes Bennett, it is because he has voted their way in the past, and they're confident he'll vote for conservative, pro-big business Chamber priorities in the future.
(3) What Bennett said on his Chamber of Commerce questionnaire. This was put on the Chamber's website. To an environmentalist progressive like me, it's ghastly.
Bennett opposes business taxes, such as a payroll tax for mass transit that other cities have successfully used to improve livability and economic vitality. Yet Salem suffers from no weekend or evening bus service, a major embarrassment for Oregon's capital. Bennett said:
The city has successfully avoided any new business specific taxes or cost increases other than the growth of the property tax or costs that are worked out with all interested parties.
Bennett favors the above-mentioned billion dollar Third Bridge and, one must assume, the local taxes and tolling needed to pay for this boondoggle.
It’s clear the city needs to continue to be a major driver in completing the EIS [Environmental Impact Statement] for the third river crossing. That process is near completion with land use decisions planned for this summer but it must be followed as quickly as possible with a design and cost planning program that allows the regional, state and federal partners an opportunity to engage the community on this issue.
Bennett supports a supersized $80 million, 150,000 square foot new police facility that is way larger and more expensive than is needed, and squeezes out much-needed funding for seismic upgrades to the Library and City Hall that will make them earthquake-ready.
The structure needs to be large enough to meet the city’s needs over the next 30 to 40 years and that appears to be about 150,000 square feet if it also includes the 911 center. I am concerned that we not make the same mistakes made at City Hall where the Police Department was already looking for space eight years after it was built.
Also, I know Carole Smith quite well.
I've socialized with her. I've worked with her on various community issues, including trying to save the U.S. Bank trees from being needlessly killed in 2013 after a backroom deal was made between Peter Fernandez, the City of Salem Public Works Director, and Ryan Allbritton, the bank president and incoming Chamber of Commerce president.
Chuck Bennett supported that backroom deal and the removal of the beautiful, large, healthy trees on downtown's State Street for no good reason. To me, this alone is plenty of reason to not support Bennett for Mayor.
I'm trying to learn more about why Progressive Salem is sitting on the fence when it comes to the Mayor's race, which will be decided in the May 17 primary election. Hopefully they'll decide to jump onto the side where Carole Smith is waging a vigorous battle to be a genuinely progressive Mayor.
I'll keep this simple. You have mischaracterized my views on the police facility. You failed to mention that Tom Andersen has endorsed me for Mayor. You failed to mention in your inaccurate comments about trees downtown that I led the council to approve a new tree ordinance that completely changes how publicly owned trees are delt with. It allows appeals of decisions to or not to remove them and sets objective standards. That was missing before.
I'm proud to have received endorsements from a whole range of people. Yes, the chamber and also the city's two major unions (so far) Firefighters and AFSCME. Tom Andersen, Mayor Peterson, and councilors Diana Dickey, Jim Lewis, Brad Nanke and Steve McCoid have endorsed me. Community activists like Hazel Patton (historical preservation and the Carousel), Betsy Belshaw (parks) and John Lattimer and Michael Livingston (neighborhood groups). And the list goes on.
I'm not asking for you to support me. Heavens no. But please refrain from the Trumpism you like to retreat to when you disagree with someone.
Posted by: Chuck Bennett | March 27, 2016 at 06:17 AM
Chuck while your intention is good. You still are corporate pro anti tax. Not the kind of Representative for the people. This is the capitol city and you and your councel have failed us. I have lived here since 1958. Look at our bus system. We are the laughing stock of the nation. Look at Corvallis or anyplace and their are many that are capable to manage a very well working system. You and your kind have had your chance and have done nothing but waste millions of dollars. This new police station is a joke. We need you people to let the people have more say and less of your corporate crap. Every day in this city I see brand new vehicles from small cars to highly specialized equipment. You carelessly spend OUR money. More, more and then some. And you want to continue the same stagnant thinking and ineffective management of our city.
Toot your horn all you want. You may be a very nice person, Just not what we're looking for. More public input and less mismanagement.
Posted by: Scott Whelden | March 27, 2016 at 08:35 AM
Chuck, how could I have "mischaracterized your views on the police facility" when I simply copied in your position on the police facility that you gave on the Chamber of Commerce questionnaire? You said you believe about 150,000 square feet is the right size for the police facility, which means the cost is going to be about $80 million.
I spent quite a bit of time on Google last night looking for your web site, because I wanted to see what your positions are on various issues. As noted in this post, I couldn't find a web site for your current Mayoral campaign. All I found was a parked URL with no content, and web pages related to your previous failed attempts to be elected Mayor. If you want people to clearly understand your positions, I'd like to suggest that you make your positions clear.
Do you now disavow what you told the Chamber of Commerce before the Powers That Be there endorsed you? If so, fine. Just be sure you tell your Chamber buddies how your positions have changed. That might affect how much money their special interest PAC pumps into your campaign.
Regarding Salem street trees, you didn't deny that you were complicit in a backroom deal to have the US Bank trees removed before an application to do this was even submitted to the City of Salem. Soon I'll be providing more details on this shady action so voters can be better informed about what you did in 2013.
Changes to Salem's tree ordinance came about because of the sleazy behavior you, Peter Fernandez (Public Works Director), Ryan Allbritton (US Bank President), and other officials engaged in when the US Bank trees were cut down for no good reason. I exposed this in my "Outrage" report. See:
So you ended up supporting changes to the tree ordinance that came about because of outrageous backroom deal-making you and others engaged in. Being an ex-Catholic (very ex), maybe this falls into the "atonement" scheme of things.
However, I'm also acquainted with the notion of confession. I'd be more impressed if you publicly acknowledged that you were wrong to be complicit in City officials making a deal with the US Bank president to have the trees cut down before the Shade Tree Advisory Committee had even issued a recommendation (which turned out to be, "save the trees").
Lastly, don't accuse me of Trump-like untruths when I've actually presented accurate facts. This isn't becoming of a candidate for Mayor. I get this crap all the time from City officials who like to talk trash about me, but can't back up that talk with facts. I'm always pleased to have errors in my blog posts corrected. So far, you haven't shown that I said anything unfactual.
Posted by: Brian Hines | March 27, 2016 at 08:58 AM
wow based on that list of endorsements it seems like a campaign slogan should be:
"Chuck Bennett: more of the same shit"
Posted by: Salemander | March 27, 2016 at 12:10 PM
Salemander, my feelings exactly! Insider politician Chuck Bennett has the support of the people who love what insider politicians do for them. What I'm hoping is that all the people who are fed up with insider politics as it is will realize than Carole Smith, an outsider businesswoman, is the far better choice to be Salem's Mayor.
Posted by: Brian Hines | March 27, 2016 at 12:51 PM
If I was a progressive in Salem contemplating who to endorse, I know I'd be hesitant to support Carole Smith just based on the fact that she is/was a landlord/real estate developer. Not that those in real estate or those who are landlords cannot be progressives but I think there's a fundamental difference between the class interests of a real estate developer/business owner and a worker in Salem. I am uncomfortable with a real estate developer being the "progressive" choice for our city.
Posted by: Micah Davis | March 28, 2016 at 09:54 PM
So let me see if I have this correct: you like Carole Smith for mayor because she likes trees?
When you look at the accomplishments she lists on her website for Mayor, it's all about downtown. That's not the emphasis I want in a Mayor.
I worked with Chuck Bennett for years when I was chair of the Northeast Neighborhood Association and I have continued to work with him over the past 10 years on many neighborhood projects. He doesn't just represent downtown but most of the Englewood area and has made our neighborhood much more livable. While I don't always agree with him, or vice versa, he listens, asks questions and explains his decision. Maybe this blog is more about sour grapes than politics.
Posted by: Alan Scott | March 29, 2016 at 04:06 PM
Alan, I assume you read this blog post, which contains positions Bennett holds that I disagree with. Carole Smith holds the opposite positions, which are reasons why I support her over Bennett.
Bennett favors a billion dollar Third Bridge that would be paid for by local taxpayers in various ways, including a $1.50 each way toll on the two existing bridges and the new bridge. Smith opposes this boondoggle.
Bennett favors a supersized 150,000 square foot, $80 million police facility that squeezes out money for making the Library and City Hall earthquake-safe. Smith favors a smaller and less expensive police facility, and making the seismic upgrades to save lives when the Big One hits.
I could give other examples from my own experience. Unfortunately, Bennett doesn't have a web site, so it is very difficult to figure out what his positions are, other than from his Chamber of Commerce endorsement questionnaire.
Oh, one more example: Bennett was among the City officials who were on the way to imposing parking meters on downtown without talking with downtown businesses and those who visit/shop in the Historic District. Parking meters may be needed at some point, but the highhanded way the City went about it impelled Smith to gather 9,000 signatures so citizens could have a say on whether parking meters should be part of downtown.
Posted by: Brian Hines | March 29, 2016 at 06:29 PM
Well Brian, all I see on Carole's website is her downtown accomplishments. Nothing about the positions you claim she has. I find it interesting that you slam Chuck for not having a website but praise Carole for having one that says nothing. And five trees ! I can see how that would bother someone who's only goal for Salem is to save trees, not help people, which is exactly what Chuck has done for NEN and other neighborhoods. And I've had no problem with the City Council and city staff listening to me.... But then it may be more about the presenter.
Posted by: Alan Scott | March 30, 2016 at 03:50 PM
I'm really pleased to announce I have received the endorsement for Mayor of Salem from the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, the state's and Salem's leading environmental advocacy organization.
Posted by: Chuck Bennett | April 16, 2016 at 05:20 PM
Well, the Oregon League of Conservation Voters endorsement didn't work out for Sheronne Blasi in 2014, when she lost her City Council race against Tom Andersen and Bradd Swank. See:
Back then I contacted OLCV and asked them how someone could support the hugely anti-environmental Third Bridge (which you also support) and still get the OLCV endorsement.
I never got a publicly-shareable answer back from OLCV. Their endorsement process is unpleasingly secretive.
It's interesting that Mayor candidate Carole Smith's policy positions on environmental matters are virtually identical to the views of City Council candidates Cara Kaser, Matt Ausec, and Sally Cook -- all of whom got an OLCV endorsement.
Posted by: Brian Hines | April 17, 2016 at 10:33 AM