A few days ago Salem Mayor Chris Hoy gave his first State of the City address at the Salem Convention Center. You can read what he had to say by clicking on the "continuation" link at the end of this blog post.
Hoy's talk was well-written and informative. I came away impressed by the rundown on what has been accomplished in Salem.
The homelessness section made me think that maybe, just maybe, we're finally making a dent in the number of people without a place of their own to call home. The micro shelters are helping with this. The Navigation Center to be opened in a few months sounds like a terrific addition to our homeless services.
I noticed in the section of the speech below that Mayor Hoy failed to mention that a big reason why the homeless person wasn't arrested for methamphetamine use is Measure 110, which decriminalized the possession of small amounts of illegal drugs like meth.
I'm a supporter of Measure 110, so I wanted to point out that it facilitates addicts asking for help, since now they don't have to worry about jail time. Hoy said:
In fact, an officer recently contacted an individual living on the streets who was an admitted methamphetamine addict. He told the officer he was ready for help. The officer knew it was critical to get the person into help right then. Through his contacts with local service providers, they were collectively able to get him into substance abuse treatment. Previous approaches would have resulted in the individuals arrest, but now he is getting the intervention he needs that will hopefully help him break the cycle of addiction.
Mayor Hoy says that paid on-street parking in the downtown area is inevitable. Well, maybe. I just hope that before the City Council approves downtown parking meters, doing away with the current 3-hour free on-street parking, there's a genuine attempt to gauge public opinion on this.
City officials shouldn't assume that the people pushing for parking meters, which I suspect includes the Salem Main Street Association, truly represent a broad cross-section of downtown visitors, business owners, and residents.
Given that I strongly suspect the push to bring back commercial passenger air service to the Salem airport is doomed to fail like previous attempts have, the laudatory mention of this effort by Mayor Hoy may not age well when looked at in a few years.
Since air travel is one of the biggest ways individuals contribute to increased greenhouse gas emissions, it's perplexing that Hoy, who strongly supported the Salem Climate Action Plan, is so positive about bringing commercial passenger air travel to the Salem airport.
My biggest problem with Mayor Hoy's talk was his unabashed support for adding 70 new officers to the Salem Police Department and 111 new firefighters to the Salem Fire Department. Those departments already suck up the majority of general fund tax dollars, about 60% to my understanding.
Crime rates in Salem are stable. Salem has about the same number of police officers per 1,000 population as other Oregon cities our size. So adding 70 new officers seems wildly out of place.
Fires are a small proportion of calls to the Fire Department, since it mostly is a "Medical Department." It's crazy that giant fire engines are used to respond to medical calls, that all of those engines need to be replaced at considerable cost, and that there's an effort to add 111 new firefighters to the Salem Fire Department without first looking at ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the department.
Mayor Hoy began his talk by saying "It's a time of fresh ideas." OK, then let's explore fresh ideas for the Police and Fire Departments that don't involve massive tax increases to pay for many more officers and firefighters who, apparently, would be doing the same un-fresh things.
You can read Mayor Hoy's talk below.
Continue reading "Good and bad of Mayor Hoy's 2023 State of the City address" »