I like satire. I admire humorous writing. And I appreciate efforts to improve downtown Salem. Downtown Cherry Pits is a funny satirical newsletter that hits on all three cylinders for me.
The March 2019 issue has a great cover.
There's a lot of good stuff in the other eight pages also. Check out the issue via this PDF file of a scan I made of it.
Download Downtown Cherry Pits March 2019
Or if you're lucky, there will be some free copies left in a box hanging on the wall outside 363 Court Street NE in downtown Salem (next to Lullu's).
Carole Smith is the creative force behind Downtown Cherry Pits, which was born last December as I reported in "Downtown Cherry Pits debuts as Salem satirical newsletter." Each issue has improved, in my decidedly personal opinion.
Here's the January issue if you want your brain to munch on another Cherry Pits.
Download Downtown Cherry Pits January 2019
The March issue features both humor and some serious examination of how the City of Salem has been managing -- or rather, mismanaging -- a Downtown Parking District tax that originally supported a downtown association and maintenance of parking garages.
Here's a story in the March issue that talks about how that money has been frittered away on other budget items by Mayor "Chuckles" Bennett and other city officials.
A chart on page two of the March issue shows that after 32 years of parking tax money going to funding for downtown projects and support of a downtown association, from 2012 to 2017 the City Manager kept all of the funds.
This happened during the reign of City Manager Linda Norris, with the willing connivance of then City Councilor Chuck Bennett. I reported on this debacle in a couple of blog posts. I'll share an excerpt from each.
Should Salem City Manager be known as Exalted Emperor Linda Norris?
It deeply bothers me when "public servants" are pleased to suck up taxpayer money for their often-lofty salaries, yet fail miserably at their core job -- choosing to lord it over the people they should be serving.
Case in point: Salem (Oregon) City Manager Linda Norris.
A recent Statesman Journal story, "Will latest downtown group succeed?," only tells part of the sorry tale of how Norris did away with the existing downtown association so she could personally rule over how funds provided by businesses are spent.
...The SJ story by Michael Rose reveals that City Manager Exalted Emperor Linda Norris rules without the usual open government transparency demanded by Oregon's public records law.
After taking control of the EID money contributed by downtown property owners, Norris doesn't allow anyone to know what is going on with her and the "hand-picked" yes-people she has chosen to be her lackeys.
...This is amazing. Amazingly disturbing.
The top non-elected city official dissolves a duly organized downtown organization so she can take control of the group's money. Then chooses to keep records of her Imperial Pronouncements secret. I can't believe this would be tolerated even in Tony Soprano's New Jersey, much less in supposedly squeaky-clean Oregon.
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.
Downtown Cherry Pits isn't enamored with a wanna-be, but isn't really, "downtown association" that goes by the name of the Salem Main Street Association or Salem Lame Street Association. Here's how the January 2019 issue describes the group.
It does indeed seem strange that a private group with a self-selected board of directors is acting as if it were a genuine downtown association -- which it clearly isn't. I wrote about the drawbacks of the Salem Main Street Association, and past downtown association follies by city officials, in "Here's why Salem needs a genuine downtown association."
Salem no longer has a downtown association. We need one. What happened at last night's City Council meeting is only one of many reasons why.
But before I explain what transpired at the meeting, a bit of relevant history about how downtown lost its downtown association is in order. I wrote about this in a couple of blog posts.
...So here we are in 2017.
A new group, Salem Main Street Association, was formed in April, as I discussed in "New Salem Main Street Association debuts with questions and concerns." Among other things, I noted that the Association doesn't really deserve its name, since it doesn't have any members.
Rather, it is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization with a self-selected board of directors. Meaning, the board established by the founders chooses new board members. Since there aren't any members -- such as downtown business owners -- Salem Main Street Association isn't at all like a real downtown association.
...I get the impression that Salem Main Street Association is angling to be treated like a downtown association without actually being one. I also have a suspicion that Mayor Bennett and other City officials want to have parking meters installed downtown, and they see the Salem Main Street Association as a willing accomplice in helping to make that happen.