Letter’s to the Editor Salem News May 6, 2019

To the editor:

Boy, no wonder Americans are taking a populist stance nowadays against the political swamp. How offensive to the Salem City Council was the April 24 Opinion column (“Bill critical to adding housing in Salem, beyond”) from our governor and mayor! Let me point out that Ms. Driscoll and Mr. Baker are full-time politicians and naturally driven by objectives that will advance their political careers. But our Salem councilors are just regular citizens who are sacrificing their personal time to represent us residents and protect our quality of life from everyone who wants to use Salem as a political experiment or make some fast cash developing it. And, that’s a soulcrushing job. Let me also point out that Salem has been redeveloping vacant schools and other municipal buildings into housing for decades through use variances and can probably continue to do so without rezoning the entire city. Truth is, the proposed overlay ordinance was not thoughtfully conceived and was submitted to the council without a decent legal opinion to support it. The City Council is already engaged in a lawsuit because they supported the mayor’s request to spotzone a lot to industrial use, right up against a historic residential neighborhood. Not surprising that their level of trust for rezoning is low. And, don’t support Housing Choice legislation. While you’re eating cookies and watching “Game of Thrones,” they’ll be in City Hall rezoning your whole neighborhood.

And, it was disingenuous for the governor to shame Salem over affordable housing. Salem has one of the highest percentages of affordable housing units in the Commonwealth, at over 14%. His hometown of Swampscott has one of the lowest at around 3%. The average price of a house in Salem is around $340,000. The average house price in Swampscott is over $550,000. I actually think all 135,000 of the new units the governor says we need by 2025 should be built in Swampscott. Easy solution! Maybe I should run for office… Furthermore, political partnering with the Beverly mayor at a local brewery is a red flag because we all just read in the Salem News last week that Beverly is proposing to tear down a block of historic buildings in the center of their city to build another monolithic, multi-family housing development . That’s terrifying to us Salemites because it’s a revival of the disastrous Urban Renewal movement of the 1960s that almost raised Salem’s entire downtown. I guess the beer helps numb the fear.

Honestly, our Salem city councilors work hard for us residents and are on the right track. Yes, a few are driven by political objectives, which creates skirmishes. But most are there to selflessly serve us, their constituents. Likewise, we’re very thankful for them because they defend us against a lot of crazy to ensure that the swamp doesn’t submerge our most wonderful city. But, it might be good to prepare the lifeboats just in case.

JENNIFER FIRTH Salem