At-Large: Alice Merkl

My name is Alice Merkl, and I am a Salem resident, a homeowner, and a lifelong activist. I have lived in Massachusetts with my husband and daughter for over 20 years and made Salem my home in 2011. 

I attended Salter College for business and worked as an office manager in New York City before starting my own successful business as a music teacher. I currently teach in my community for a small, family-owned business. Additionally, I am a board member of my self-managed condominium association.

I am passionate about serving my community through my volunteer work. I have campaigned for Automatic Voter Registration and the MA Commission on the Status of Women Advocacy Day, and I volunteer for Common Cause Massachusetts, an organization dedicated to integrity in elections and transparency in government. I am a regular volunteer with the Salem Food Pantry and Mobile Market, also the Backpack Program for Salem children in need, The Community Life Center, Historic Salem Annual House Tours, and a supporter of organizations such as Salem's No Place for Hate and Voices Against Injustice, nAGLY, MoveOn, and the Sierra Club. 

Why are you running for Councilor and what particular skills can you bring to the position?

I am running for City Council because what affects our day to day quality of life, what we rely on the most, happens at the local level of government.  For me it’s about preserving our past, meeting the needs of our community members in the present, and planning responsibly for our future.  We are facing many challenges here in Salem, such as our housing crisis, keeping our schools strong and safe, the climate crisis, infrastructure and parking, and meeting the needs of our under-served residents to name a few.  It will take hard work, forward thinking, and a team effort to meet these challenges.  My life experiences, both personally and professionally, makes me uniquely qualified to be a strong advocate for the needs of our residents.  Having faced financial and housing challenges myself, I have the ability to “think outside of the box”, and come up with creative solutions for the challenges we face.  Also being a teacher and active volunteer here in Salem has given me the ability to recognize and advocate for the needs of all our community members.

What are some of your proposed solutions towards resolving the housing crisis in Salem?

Unfortunately there is no one solution that will solve our housing crisis. It will take strong leadership and a creative, aggressive approach to start creating more housing options for the 50% of Salem residents that are “rent overburdened”.  We must implement the broad range of tools/ideas at our disposal.  Some of the legislation and programs I support are as follows:

- Inclusionary zoning ordinance

- Accessory Dwelling Unit ordinance expansion

- Municipal and Religious Reuse Special Permit

- Proposal of a condo conversion ordinance to keep rental stock

- Utilize state programs for assistance (such as the proposed RAAP Rental Arrearage Assistance program, and RAFT Rental Assistance for Families in Transition)

- The North Shore CDC and Harborlight Community Partners’ efforts to create affordable housing

How do you see Salem impacted by the climate crisis and what new initiatives would you take to lead Salem's resiliency efforts?

We are not only facing a climate crisis, but being a coastal community we have an urgent need to address coastal resiliency.  People are facing flooding in coastal areas on a regular basis.  The Juniper Point neighborhood and Rosie’s Pond area both experience flooding, and other areas have flooding issues as well. Fortunately in Salem we have strong advocates for environmental protections working on numerous environmentally friendly initiatives.  As a City Councillor I will support the great work being done by SAFE (Salem Alliance for the Environment), SERC (Salem Sustainability, Energy and Resiliency Committee), our Recycling Committee, and Conservation Commission just to name a few!  I will advocate for any city buildings/projects to be as “green” as possible, and encourage any new developers to explore environmentally friendly options. 

There are so many great ideas being implemented by our community members involved with these impressive environmental groups!  I had the pleasure of being part of the planting of the Living Shoreline at Collins Cove by the Salem Sound Coastwatch to promote coastal resiliency.  It was an impressive project.  I also attended the Hazard Mitigation Plan Update at the Conservation Commission meeting on 8/8.  This plan assesses our risks and vulnerabilities to natural hazard events and develops measures to reduce or eliminate these risks. 

As with our affordable housing shortage, no one initiative is going to fix this crisis.  It will take a strong, forward thinking team effort to address our climate crisis here in Salem, and globally as well.

Please outline some ideas you have that can enhance civic engagement at the city level.

Civic engagement is something we do really well here in Salem!  I will continue to be involved in and enhance citywide efforts for neighborhood clean ups, “get out the vote” initiatives, and community food programs to name a few; and will support our neighborhood associations that keep our community members connected and involved.  As a City Councillor I will work on keeping our residents informed of community engagement opportunities through newsletters and social media. I will also seek out suggestions from our residents as they are our best resource for new ideas for civic engagement here in Salem.