City Council Notes–12 September

Good morning, Salem! The meeting last night was another marathon, so I will take a moment to once again lobby for efficient government, which is important for engaging citizens in local matters. Consent agenda: A consent agenda groups routine, uncontroversial matters into a single motion and vote; freeing up time for matters that do need discussion and deliberation. The Council should consider adopting this, seriously. On a related note, not everything needs discussion. When a matter has been thoroughly discussed for 18-months and details hammered out in committee, the body should ask any lingering questions (that the committee chair should be able to answer) and a vote should be taken.

Public testimony was mixed last night, with citizens airing their concerns or support on zoning, the municipal and reuse special permit, Columbus Day, and street changes.

Municipal and reuse special permit: The big news was that after about 45 minutes of chatting about all the same concerns, the council adopted the municipal and reuse special permit. Councilor Dominguez wanted deeper percentages on the affordability clause, which was discussed and dismissed in the Ordinances, Licenses, and Legal Affairs (OLLA) committee meeting last week. The city solicitor said the ordinance would not stand up to legal challenges, and if the city wants deeper affordability discounts, they should do so with a broader ordinance that would cover all of the zones. (This is coming! Watch this space for information about an Inclusionary Zoning ordinance.) Councilors Sargent and Flynn voted against the second passage.

Accessory Dwelling Units: This was sent to OLLA. We will keep you updated on when that will make the OLLA agenda. A lot was sent to OLLA, so they will have a very full plate the rest of the year.

Charlotte Forten Park was officially sanctioned and a fund was established to raise money for a statue or memorial for the space. If you would like to donate to the Forten Fund, send checks payable to “The City of Salem, Forten Fund” and mail to 93 Washington St., Salem, Massachusetts, 01970.

Flynn introduced a measure that would raise the Italian flag on Columbus Day. This sparked a tremendous amount of debate. No one on the council was opposed to honoring Italian heritage and culture, but there were several concerns about doing so on Columbus Day. Many cities have been adopting Indigenous Peoples’ Day, including our neighboring town, Marblehead. Despite efforts by Councilors Gerard, Madore, and Peterson to move the flag-raising to another month entirely, the body voted to raise the flag on 1 October for “Italian-American Heritage and Culture” month.

The last thing I will cover, for the rest was routine (and could have been voted on in a single, consent agenda), is a motion to adopt an ordinance about political signs. The clerk’s office has put forth rules and limitations to how long political signs can be up and where they can be placed, including restrictions on height. The ordinance allows signs no more than 60 days before the preliminary election and requires that they are all removed 10 days following the general election. This cleared 1st passage and was sent to the Committee on Government Services (chaired by Flynn).