With the May 17 election for Salem Mayor and four City Council seats coming up in about ten days -- VOTE! It's so easy with vote by mail -- the campaigning is hot and heavy.
Well, with Mayor candidate Chuck Bennett let's make that hot, heavy, and seemingly untruthful. I've gotten reports that Bennett has been saying things that are factually challenged (a polite way of putting it). Like...
(1) Telling people that the 2008 Streets and Bridges bonds will be paid off soon. Reportedly Bennett said this in an attempt to put a positive spin on an $80 million or so bond measure for a new police facility that is expected to be on the November 2016 ballot.
If the Streets and Bridges bonds are about to be paid off, then maybe Salem voters would be more likely to approve a property tax increase for a Police Facility Bond.
Problem is, Bennett's opponent, Carole Smith, sent me this information:
Chuck Bennett told the Grant Neighborhood Association last night that the 2008 Roads & Bridges bond will be paid off soon (before the Police Station bond is sold).
Here is what the City Recorder said:
The Streets and Bridges general obligation debt was issued in three series; 2009, 2012, and 2013. The 2012 debt issuance has the longest repayment term and will mature June 2026. Information regarding each series can be found in the FY 2015-16 Adopted Budget in the Debt Service Summary - General Obligation Debt section (printed page number 209, or scrolling page number 310) at:
So, the first and third bonds sales will be repaid in 2024 and the rest repaid in 2026. That doesn’t feel “soon” to me! Also, the Fire Bond will be repaid in 2022.
Sure is. I dutifully looked at printed page 209 of the document linked above. Here's what I found:
Which makes Chuck Bennett wrong.
I'll send Bennett a link to this post so he can comment on this. Given that Bennett is touting his nine years on the City Council, so "I know what I'm doing," it's surprising that he would be so mistaken about when the Streets and Bridges bonds would be paid off.
(2) Telling people that City officials never wanted a 75,000 square foot new police facility. This is untrue. I've followed this issue closely for several years. I've read all the reports regarding a new police facility, including stories in the Statesman Journal.
Such as this October 2013 SJ story on the Salem Community Vision web site, which says:
Taxpayers soon will hear the city's pitch for a seismic upgrade and redesign of the Vern Miller Civic Center, headquarters for Salem's city government and police department. The estimated cost: $70 million.
...One of the biggest changes: Police headquarters would be in a new three-story, 75,000- square-foot space at the civic center.
...City officials maintain that plenty of public outreach has been done over the years. The city had a yearlong collaboration with the University of Oregon's Sustainable City Initiative in 2010-11, where architecture students worked with a local architect to determine the city's space needs.
Mayor Peterson, City Manager Norris, and Police Chief Moore promoted the 75,000 square foot police facility plan at many community meetings. So I don't get how Chuck Bennett could claim that a police facility of this size never was considered adequate by City officials.
Methinks Councilor Bennett is trying to rewrite history in an attempt to justify the current 150,000 square foot "supersized" police facility that, naturally, will cost taxpayers much more than the original 75,000 square foot proposal.
(3) Telling people that the City of Salem's contract with Salem Downtown Partnership was terminated because of poor performance. I can understand why Chuck Bennett would try to spin the Salem Downtown Partnership story this way.
But it's pretty clear that Bennett's tale isn't what really happened, which I described in considerable detail in "City of Salem took over Salem Downtown Partnership for lousy reasons." Here's how that 2014 post started off:
A few days ago I talked with someone in-the-know about how the Salem (Oregon) City Manager, Linda Norris, ended up controlling on her own $215,000 in Economic Improvement District funds paid by downtown businesses.
It was a lengthy conversation. This person asked to talk with me because he/she was so disturbed about how the EID was handled, and liked my blog-reporting on other downtown issues.
I was on the phone with this person for about 90 minutes. I learned a lot about how the City of Salem ended up cancelling the contract Salem Downtown Partnership had to administer the Economic Improvement District (EID) money.
The headline, so to speak, is this:
Norris and other City of Salem staff set up Salem Downtown Partnership to fail. Instead of working cooperatively and collaboratively with this duly-selected organization that represented downtown businesses, the City undermined its efforts in various ways.
Now, admittedly this is the opinion of only one person. But this person was in a position to be very well informed about what happened during the period Salem Downtown Partnership (SDP) had the EID contract.
And, no, this person wasn't either of the key businesspeople who got SDP up and running -- Carole Smith and Eric Kittleson. He or she prefers to remain anonymous.
Chuck Bennett made the crucial City Council motion that allowed the City Manager, Linda Norris, to take over the money that supported Salem's downtown organization -- making her the unelected/unchosen (by downtown businesses) Empress of Downtown.
Here's what I learned from another knowledgeable person:
In May 2014, disgruntled downtown property owners voted the Economic Improvement District out of existence, as I described in "Who killed Salem's First Wednesday? Clueless city officials."
Salem's downtown has a lot of untapped potential. A big reason why downtown continues to struggle is the cluelessness of City officials who have undermined promotional efforts in our town's Historic District core.
The first thing to know is this: in 2013 City Manager Linda Norris and her City Council cronies dissolved the Salem Downtown Partnership organization that had been responsible for First Wednesday, using Economic Improvement District (EID) funds supplied by downtown businesses.
...Not surprisingly, downtown businesses weren't happy with the City Manager waltzing in, imperiously taking over the duly-appointed downtown organization and the EID funds contributed by those businesses, then doing a horrible job promoting downtown.
in May 2014 the business owners voted the EID out of existence in a show of no confidence for City Manager Norris and her secretive band of hand-picked advisory committee members (astoundingly, Norris served as the one-person "board of directors" for the fake downtown organization she set up after usurping the EID funds).
So Chuck Bennett, the Ward 1 city councilor who represents downtown, was instrumental in killing three positive forces: the Salem Downtown Partnership, the Economic Improvement District, and First Wednesday -- the promotion that now is a shadow of its former self, since the EID funds are no more.