Jokes can have a serious side. So when I heard Mayor-elect Chuck Bennett laughing about the need to pass a law to ban negativity about Salem, I didn't think this was very funny.
Bennett, who currently is the Ward 1 City Councilor, was being interviewed by KYKN talk show hosts Gator Gaynor and Denise Nanke. (She is the wife of Ward 3 City Councilor Brad Nanke.) Someone sent me this audio clip.
I've made a transcript of the last part of the interview, which followed a discussion of how absolutely wonderful downtown Salem is.
It's pretty clear that Bennett, Gaynor, and Nanke viewed anyone who thinks the downtown area could be improved in some way obviously is a naysaying boo-bird who should keep their mouth shut.
Then Mayor-elect Bennett launched into a criticism of citizen activists in this town who dare to raise questions about the wisdom of current policies being pushed by City officials like himself.
Lack of safe bike paths... unneeded billion dollar Third Bridge... supersized over-priced police facility -- people need to keep their damn mouths shut about this stuff and just do what City officials and the Chamber of Commerce tell them to do!
After Gaynor and Nanke chimed in about people needing to leave Salem if they believe other cities like Eugene or Portland are doing better than we are in some regard, Bennett laughingly agreed with them that a law should be passed to ban negativity in this town.
Which, again, I don't find funny, because citizen involvement in City Hall goings-on already is pathetic.
The current right-wing Mayor and City Council majority favor a top-down approach to governing. The only time they reach out to the public is when they want people to grab on to whatever poorly thought-out scheme they're currently pushing.
So what you'll read below is a discouraging preview of what the Bennett Administration will be like in 2017, when Chuck Bennett takes over as Mayor -- being the hand-picked successor of current Mayor Anna Peterson and her Chamber of Commerce allies.
I've color-coded the words of the interview participants. Chuck Bennett is in red. Gator Gaynor is in green. Denise Nanke is in purple. I couldn't understand a few words, but omitting them didn't affect the meaning of what follows.
BENNETT: And there are, as you pointed out, a small group who will say something negative about just about anything, if they can identify what it is.
You know what’s interesting? It’s the same people, all the time, who talk about this, about their police station, bike paths, they want to talk about a Third Bridge.
But they can’t talk positively about any aspect of their community. And you kind of get to the point of… what’s the problem here? You know, is it your problem, or is it this entire and really wonderful community?
GAYNOR: I have a not-so-secret campaign, Chuck, to get all of these people to move to the cities they so desire us to be like.
NANKE: Exactly. Portland, Eugene… move, off you go.
GAYNOR: I mean, if you want us to be like that, why don’t you just go to the source?
NANKE: Why would you want to live every day in just angst and agita, that you live in this city. If it’s so horrible, then move. Move to Eugene!
BENNETT: I think sometimes it’s a habit, of just kind of being negative. That’s all it is.
GAYNOR: Well, they need to stop it, Chuck.
BENNETT: Well, they should.
GAYNOR: Pass a law.
BENNETT: Yeah, I’ll pass a law. I’ll pass a law to “stop it.”
NANKE: Ban the negativity.
GAYNOR: And there you have it. Chuck Bennett, Salem city councilor for Ward 1 and Mayor-elect.
I get it that Bennett, Gaynor, and Nanke were joking around. However, I've heard Mayor-elect Bennett say similar things in other settings. He is thin-skinned, wrongly viewing constructive criticism as destructive complaining.
What's strange, of course, is that Chuck Bennett is so negative about negativity. If everything is perfect here in Salem, then aren't this town's citizen activists also part of that marvelous harmony?