In preparation for the upcoming elections, WSNA invited candidates for Mayor and City Council (Ward1), to address a number of questions on issues facing Salem and the WS community. On behalf of the WSNA, we’d like to thank the Mayoral Candidates, Mayor Chris Hoy and Councilor Julie Hoy (no relation), and City Council Candidates, Paul Tigan and Celine Colman, for their willing participation. Following are their responses:

Mayor Chris Hoy: Neighborhood associations are a critical interface between the city and residents. As a city councilor, I routinely attended all my association meetings and provided a written update when attendance wasn’t possible due to scheduling conflicts. As mayor, I visited every neighborhood association during my first year in office and intend to continue that tradition going forward. I also attend the neighborhood chairs meeting. I supported the motion last year to increase the outreach budget for neighborhoods to try to increase participation.

Councilor Julie Hoy: I believe neighborhood associations can provide a much-needed conduit for information sharing from the city to the public and also from the public back to the city. That said, I think we need to be creative about how to increase the accessibility of these associations. Few people can show up consistently to meetings like these, and so the voices represented, while important, are only a fraction of the entire neighborhood.

Mayor Chris Hoy: Revenue, Homelessness, Transportation System Plan update.

Revenue: Unless we solve this issue, our city is in big trouble. I have supported efforts to increase revenue to provide critical services. I continue to negotiate and lobby the state to pay their fair share to the city to support critical services we provide to state properties. Some people say that we just need to “take a hard look at the budget”. I can assure you, the city budget is lean. The only way to increase services in one area is to cut in another area.

Homelessness: We are making progress with our homelessness problem, but we have a lot more to do. We have created micro-shelter communities, a navigation center and permanent supportive housing. As the vice chair of the mid-Willamette Valley Homeless Alliance, I continue support regional solutions to this humanitarian crisis.

Transportation System Plan Update: The transportation system plan, which follows Our Salem, will guide how we develop our infrastructure for the next decade or more. It’s critical that we have a robust community engagement process so this plan can be created in a way that encapsulates the needs of every part of our city.

Councilor Julie Hoy: Public Safety. Homelessness. Trust.

Public Safety. If people don’t feel safe, it’s hard to live a thriving life. I am committed to funding our public safety system first, so from that foundation we can move on to address the other issues facing our community. One thing I know for sure from the time I have spent on council is that it is hard to get to the bottom on what the ACTUAL state of the city budget is, and if I’m struggling, the average person has no idea either.

To me, this is unacceptable. If elected, I will do my best to get to the bottom of what we are actually spending, what we are getting in return, as well as look at what reserves we are required by law to keep and where we have flexibility.

It is my belief that Salem has less of a revenue problem and more of a priorities problem. I have said consistently that we need to fund public safety first. If additional revenue is needed to accomplish what residents clearly say they want the city to do, then I would be open to that, but only if we can show the actual amount of dollars need. It is critically important to me that the voters are allowed to weigh in throughout this process.

Homelessness. Through a series of events, it seems like the city has come to believe it has an inflated role in solving homelessness, and because of that, resources are stretched too thin, and we are not seeing results. We spent well over 20 million dollars last year on homelessness and we have more homeless folks on our streets than before. This is unacceptable.

The City must work with the County, as the recipient of most government funds relating to homeless services, and also as the public health provider, to find creative ways forward. What we see on our streets and in our parks is not compassionate. While the reform to measure 110 works itself out, the city does have some things we can do right now. We can regulate camping and passing items to pedestrians in roadways. We can begin to shift our culture. We do not have to accept that what we’ve experienced over the past two years is our new norm. It’s not. We can offer help to those who want it, and also hold accountable those who are taking advantage of lax drug laws. It is nuanced, but we can do both.

 Also, fundamentally, while there are many reasons for folks experiencing homelessness, the bottom-line is that we need to build more housing. The city can help do our part to facilitate and prioritize that.

Trust. During my 18 months as Ward 6 city councilor and also as I am out campaigning, people are frustrated. They are tired of having a local government who refuses to listen, who tells them that “they” know what’s best, and who is just simply out of touch with the lived experience of most people in Salem. I want to change that.

As your next Mayor, I will show up, listen, get the right people in the room to find the solutions that we desperately need. People need to feel empowered again – empowered to feel like their city government is working hard for them, day in, day out, to make their lives better.

Mayor Chris Hoy: Our mental health and addiction treatment system is broken. Oregon ranks 50th in the United States in the availability of treatment services. It’s incumbent on the state and our counties to fix this system. Cities are left to deal with the impact of this failure. I continue to advocate for fixes on the federal, state and county levels.

Councilor Julie Hoy: As mentioned previously, the city’s capacity to solve a national/state level crisis is limited. So, we must lean into creative partnerships to solve this issue. The Counties need to be included as partners and the appropriate vehicles for providing the services our communities need. We also need better metrics to measure success.

Mayor Chris Hoy: We need additional revenue to adequately address this issue. We don’t have sufficient park rangers, police officers or parks personnel to provide the level of service our residents desire.

Councilor Julie Hoy: Our city government must lead, instead of turning a blind eye to the struggle happening in our public spaces. As a community we can say we want to help those in need, and also to say we will not tolerate certain types of behavior. Other communities are figuring out what laws/codes are appropriate to make public spaces just that – available and safe for everyone. The mayor needs to lead.

Mayor Chris Hoy: Cost escalation and decreasing gas task exacerbates the challenges facing our transportation system. We have started to build the projects provided in the Community Livability Bond the voters passed in November 2022, but increasing costs are limiting the projects we can build.

Councilor Julie Hoy: If our city is going to continue to grow, we must invest in the infrastructure needed to efficiently move goods and services and keep people safe as they go about their lives. I was disappointed that previous councilmembers vetoed the third bridge. Forward thinking investment is critical to our future, both from a safety perspective but also from a resiliency perspective.

As more homes are built, the city’s role must be to invest in the infrastructure needed to facilitate that growth. We need increased bus service to reach those new homes.

There is also a huge gap in our pedestrian safety. Many of our corridors are dangerous for those walking and seeking to cross. We should improve the walkways through lighting, additional crosswalks and again, in the interest of protecting folks, preventing the transfer of items from vehicles to pedestrians in the roadway.

We have an aging infrastructure, and we will not have all the funding we want for the improvements we need. We need to approach this gap through pursuing all the efficiencies we can within the city. For instance, why is there a bike lane for one block in downtown Salem. It goes nowhere and isn’t helping anyone. That kind of waste must stop. I’ve heard from friends who are avid cyclists with safety concerns.  They would prefer the city sufficiently maintain our existing bike lanes rather than spending money on new ones. We should also look for creative ways to partner with other government entities. The state has funds available for projects, and the city needs to aggressively pursue projects bringing outside funds to our community. I would lean on groups like yours to help identify what projects are the highest priority for the city to invest your resources in.

Paul Tigan: I started attending my local neighborhood association (Grant NA) the month I moved to Salem and spent the better part of eight years on the board and as Land Use Chair.  And while the city provides the NAs with a small amount of help, they are not technically part of the city government.  It’s a key point because their independence is a source of strength, I think.  And perhaps sadly we’ve had to be even more independent because the budget for staff to support NA activity has dwindled greatly. In short, the NA’s are a great way for residents to connect to the city and neighbors and I fully support them!

Celine Colman: Neighborhood associations are conduits for bringing communities together, meeting new and old neighbors, and fostering relationships with other neighborhood associations albeit through community events that cater to all residents in that area and beyond. One recommendation is sharing the importance of the neighborhood association with residents. That could be via a boosted Facebook post which can be more cost-effective than a mailer, or other methods. West Salem is a unique neighborhood association as I believe it represents the largest number of residents compared to the other neighborhood associations in Ward 1. West Salem has also had many new residents that may not know about the neighborhood association or may have other priorities. Another recommendation is visibility, participating at local events occurring in West Salem and even at the Riverfront offer low-cost opportunities for residents not involved to find out more about the neighborhood association.

Paul Tigan: The largest responsibility of the Salem City Council in the next four years will be to maintain as many city services as possible while meeting our obligation to have a balanced general fund. West Salem has a unique place in this conversation because there are some city services that are very West Salem-focused, including the city’s one branch library and emergency services provided out of Fire Station 5 and 11.  The first year on the budget committee we voted to reopen one of the West Salem fire stations.  Without additional revenue, we will have to make significant cuts to the budget, and I think that West Salem’s position on the other side of the Willamette has to be given consideration, especially for emergency response.  

Celine Colman: By attending your meetings and listening to the needs that are unique to Salem. I would also welcome meetings with the Polk County commissioners to see how to best address the needs in the West Salem community. I’ve had to balance running for City Council, working for the county in-person, in addition to building relationships with those within the community. There are quite a few West Salem that work in Salem thus I ask them particularly those that have recently moved to West Salem what attracted them to that area and what concerns (if any) they have

Paul Tigan: What I offer to the residents of West Salem, that my opponent cannot, is more than 8 years of service to the entire city through the Budget Committee, the Planning Commission, and service to my own neighborhood through the Neighborhood Associations.  As mentioned above, I have already taken votes on ensuring sufficient resources for emergency response in West Salem.  My opponent moved to Salem less than 2 years ago and is still learning about our city, which I certainly commend.  I have recreated in West Salem’s parks, had my bike stolen from the West Salem Roth’s, and checked out library books from the West Salem library with my kids.  

Celine Colman: I don’t have any community involvement in the West Salem community. One thing I can offer residents is not having an outside-in perspective. I have not been on the budget committee and was not involved in any of the prior conversations that have led to Salem’s current financial state. The conversation about the budget was similar to the ones that occurred a short 5 years prior. I’m willing to learn, engage, and understand what City Council policies will have an effect on West Salem and share that with residents in addition to working with the other councilors to continue improvements in West Salem. I’ve worked with various levels of government from city up to federal in addition to multiple organizations in Salem, Albany, and Lebanon. I’m open to compromise and seeing what ideas lead to the best outcomes for residents and the community as a whole. I want true sustainability that benefits the current citizens and our future generations. I’m also willing to see what has/hasn’t worked, listen to residents, ask questions, and adequately represent my constituents. I live in Salem in the Highland neighborhood and work for Marion County just east of downtown on Center St. I’m present whether that be at City Council, volunteering, or attending a community event. I’ve spoken to residents that live within Ward 1 in addition to those in neighboring Ward 8. There are residents in the Ward with concerns about Wallace Marine Park, parents that exercise downtown early in the morning when the bridge traffic is nonexistent, residents that love the interconnections between the city parks, schoolteachers with concerns for their students and themselves, and retirees wondering what the future holds for themselves in term

Paul Tigan: The city faces a serious situation with funding for many housing solutions ending at the end of the next fiscal year.  Both the city council and staff need to work cooperatively to identify additional funding sources, whether from the federal government, state, or counties.  Ensuring that these solutions (micro shelters, navigation center, etc.) are maintained (or expanded) is very important. Unlike my opponent, I lived here in 2018 and 2020 and have very personal memories about what our parks and downtown looked like, whether biking through Wallace Marine or passing Rite Aid on the way to West Salem.  Wallace Marine is still in a very difficult place, but we will never get it addressed if we don’t – at the very least – maintain current levels of service. 

Your question seems to imply that there is more that the city could be doing to address our addiction and mental health crisis.  It’s important to remember that the Federal, State and Counties are the primary providers of health services from a government perspective.  Our general fund at the municipal level was never designed to bear the cost of these very expensive and needed services.  We are in less of a place than ever – financially – to carry any more of the burden.  The City Council needs to work with Marion/Polk Counties and the State of Oregon to ensure there are enough resources in our community to help people as they navigate these challenging situations. We can’t continue to be the government of last resort with the resources we have available.   

Celine Colman: Housing first works for some individuals; however, it doesn’t address the root causes. In simple terms it is a method of intervention rather than prevention. Addiction and mental health at times can be intertwined and can cause homelessness. These are just 2 known root causes that can be addressed with the assistance of Polk County. We can also have conversations with the many community-based organizations that are connected with the state to be conduits of getting residents into services whether they are homeless or not. Conversations can only go so far; we need to take action. Marion County Sheriff’s Office has provided the blueprint for other counties to follow with their law enforcement assisted diversion (LEAD) program as an alternative to incarceration for those suffering from addiction. We are very fortunate that they have a working relationship with Polk County, and I would like to strengthen their relationship with the city of Salem so that West Salem may remain the beautiful, prosperous city that it is and reduce the amount of individuals regularly in mental health crises and/or overdosing.

Paul Tigan: You said it. The number one transportation issue in West Salem is traffic and periods of high congestion.  I want the city and state of Oregon (who manages the highways through the city) to work together to reduce bottlenecks within the system while also helping prioritize efforts to connect West Salem with the rest of Ward 1.  In my mind “central Salem” includes Wallace Marine, the Glen Creek Crossing area, and Edgewater. I want these places to feel connected as well, despite having a state highway bisecting them.  Part of that is making the state highway as efficient as possible (as well as departing the state highway), another is strengthening alternative modes of transportation (walking/biking) as a way to reduce total trips.  The existing traffic issues in the city are certainly something to consider if/when the City decides to even modestly expand the UGB as provided in the Governor’s recent housing bill in the short session. 

Celine Colman: First, I would ask the citizens what areas of traffic congestion are the most concerning. One of the biggest areas of concern is getting to/from West Salem during rush hour periods. As the population of cities such as Independence, Monmouth, and Dallas have grown, so has the traffic across the bridge. We need to find a solution to reduce the traffic as there are times that one waits 15+ minutes at stagnant intersections. There are roughly 40,000 trips across the bridge daily with the majority of traffic continuing along Wallace Rd or route 22 in West Salem. On the other side in Salem the majority of cars go south on Commercial or continue on Center St. Many residents would like a third bridge, others would not so one thing I would love to do is have conversations with members of the community, with the Citizens advisory traffic commission, the county, and ODOT, in addition to businesses that have been impacted by the increased traffic congestions alongside the other councilors.