Most of my time is spent in downtown Salem. Thirty years of wanderlust has dissipated and it is my pleasure to say I am content to occupy my time in this small corner of the world.
When not spending idle time, I have been found employed by various local entities in the corporate, hospitality, municipal and fitness fields. If you see me sitting about staring at a computer screen, chances are I am working on one of my writing projects or opining for Patch.
As I walk the town and take in the sights, I see many of the same things you see. Your perspective and mine may differ on occasion. Once in a while we may see things the same way.
Salem has changed tremendously in the last 20 years. It has changed for the better. Not everything has improved and some things have become worse. I complain about the things I don't like, as do most of you. I try, however, not to be one those miserable creatures who complain about everything.
Here today I share the five things that I find to be dragging Salem down.
1. Intersection at Washington and New Derby Streets
This is the black hole of Salem traffic. Otherwise sensible folks drive into this traffic nexus and lose all common sense. Pedestrians cross willy nilly with or without the signals. Bicyclists ignore everything and everybody. On occasion, a certain colorful character will provide entertainment with his shopping cart and rum-fueled gyrations in search of a handout.
There is no fool-proof solution, but I would like to see an increased traffic enforcement effort there as opposed to traffic direction — less waving and whistling and more citations.
2. Lafayette Park
What really needs to be said here? Most of those spoiling this park on a daily basis have no real interest in being helped. I know most of them by name. They don't want work, and they don't want services. They want money to drink. There is no true system in place to handle these people. Arrest and release, arrest and release — same old story.
The law seems to favor keeping these lost souls on the street. At the risk of being called mean, insensitive and a few other things, I say get them in treatment or lock them up. How many times can one person get caught using a tree for a toilet before the system says "enough?"
3. Bus Stop at Walgreen's
This is another gathering point for those on the edges of society. Here they can mingle with those who use the bus service and also take advantage of pharmacy customers for short-term, no interest loans.
The police have recently stepped up activity in this area by arresting some aggressive panhandlers. That is exactly what is needed.
4. River Walk To Pickering Wharf
A recent sunny afternoon last week found me walking around Pickering Wharf and the River Walk. Peabody Park and the river walk were clean and populated mostly by neighborhood kids. It seems I caught it in a good day.
Pickering Wharf was another story. Empty booze bottles and other trash were lying around anywhere there wasn't a local business entrance. Nips, pints, coffee cups and cigarette butts all shared space under benches and in planters. There are some empty storefronts and lots of crumbling brick and mortar.
Rockett Realty has owned this property for a long time. Hopefully, their recent troubles have been resolved and they are back on top of their game. There are a lot of local merchants depending on them to hold up their end of the bargain. This spot is, after all, a critical component of our downtown business community.
5. Museum Place Mall/Parking Garage
There are changes taking place within the mall. There is some prime empty space available and a new restaurant opening soon where Asahi used to be. The mall building itself, and the city-owned garage need some serious attention. The entire building needs to be power-washed top to bottom. It is filthy with black dirt and a greenish buildup visible in many locations, especially at the garage entrance.
It is past time to give it a bath inside and out. Improved lighting and some cameras in the garage would also be a step in the right direction. Visible, active security personnel should be in both city-owned garages after dark every night. Marley Properties has taken some steps on their end, and the city needs to build on whatever momentum the recent art project on the garage wall has built.
This is our city. It belongs to those of us who work every day to make it our home. It belongs to those who care enough to be involved. It belongs to those whose parents were born here and to those who have just arrived.
Get mad as hell, stop complaining and get involved.