Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll took part in an 'Ask me Anything' session on Reddit Thursday afternoon and fielded questions from users about a number of hot topics in the city. You can view the complete transcript here.
linfeste: Hi, Mayor. I've been a resident in Salem for 5 years and we love this town! It seems like you are doing a great job administratively. In one of your replies on here, you wrote, "we also do not curtail private businesses or enterprises – as long as they are meeting all relevant building and fire codes, licensing requirements, etc."
I have been following the story of Fatima's psychic studio, which is across the street from me. As you know, the police have received numerous reports of tourists being scammed out of money (one foolish tourist paid them over $16,000??) to have "curses removed." I was surprised to hear that the studio's license was just renewed. What gives?kimdriscoll: I don't like it. I'm looking into it further. My early "read" on it is that the licensee who the city received complaints about did not get her license renewed (but other readers in the shop did get probationary licenses) and that the folks who offered complaints, did not want to testify further. I have asked for a report from the Licensing Board and hope the bad press will hinder this bad practice from continuing.
exclamation11: I can hear a street preacher shouting into a megaphone. Breaking noise ordinances. SHOUTING INTO A MEGAPHONE!!!!eleven. I can hear him from my home in Salem, MA. Over a box fan and a loud TV. I don't want to equate Hallowe'en in Salem with these berks.They threaten people, target and antagonize people, and practice hate speech (equating gays with paedophiles). What are you going to do about it?
kimdriscoll: Believe me, I don't like it either. Most of these folks come from out of state just for the month of October to preach their offensive messages. Salem is a very welcoming City and that's what is so infuriating about folks coming from out of town and acting this way. Unfortunately, they have constitutionally protected free speech rights and there is not much we can do to stop it.
IsWhackingDayOver: Hi Mayor, Given Salem's remarkable transformation into a happening place to be every night, and not just on Halloween, how can a city like Lynn, or like Fall River, and similar communities, help turn around their reputations as Salem has? Happy Halloween!
kimdriscoll: I think every community has their own unique strengths and weaknesses. Finding out what those are and developing a plan around them is key. I'm fond of saying that we "Plan the work and then work the plan". In that regard, we try to play to what makes Salem special (history, tourism, architecture, waterfront, hip vibe, etc.), rather than just doing what worked someplace else. Certainly, having people live downtown and working with great institutional partners in culture (PEM), higher ed (SSU) and health care (Salem Hospital) have helped us revitalize our Gateway City. We also are focused on improving our public schools and maintaining Salem as a safe place to live with lots of different types of housing and neighborhoods. Collaboration with key community stakeholders is key. We are fortunate that we have good bones, but so do many places in the Commonwealth and with a growing urbanization trend, cities are the new suburbs.
Development of the Salem Harbor Power Site
ConcernedSalemRes: Hi Kim. Thanks for all the work you've done with the city. You have a bright career in politics ahead of you (though I hope we don't lose you anytime soon.) I'm a resident of the Salem Willows area. With Footprint's lease expiring in 2015 there has been a lot of talk about replacing/repurposing the land where the large coal power-plant currently exists. What are your goals with this area, and what is currently in place moving forward?kimdriscoll: With the closing of the current coal fired power plant, we have an opportunity to do something transformational on this 65 acre, waterfront site. I support Footprint's proposed development of a smaller, more efficient, cleaner natural gas power plant on the site. This will remediate this site and free up approximately 25 acres on the site for public access, some compatible waterfront development activity, along with use of the deep water port for cruise ships. The permitting is wrapping up, but not completed for the new natural gas plant and we have spent a considerable amount of time on conditions and permitting aimed at limiting the impact from the demo and construction activity. Overall, it's an exciting time for some transformational new development on this parcel.
Haunted Happenings Logistics
tabbycatartist: hello, mayor Kim, can you give people an idea of how much work goes in to planning the festivities and security for Haunted Happenings.
kimdriscoll: Our public safety planning really happens all year long for Haunted Happenings. We'll do an after action assessment in early November with our public safety and inspectional services folks, as well as businesses, residents, etc. Our Police Department leads the effort each year and while there are similar operations, each year's plan is different and has to address a myriad of issues. We start formal talks in August and Police Chief Tucker, Capt. Gilligan, Fire Chief Cody and their staff do a great job trying to address every potential scenario and remain flexible to address things out of our control - like weather, 7th games of world series, etc.
Salem's Witch Trials LegacyJackXDark: Don't you think it's a bit sick that Salem now trades on its reputation as a place with links with witchcraft, when the whole tragedy of the place is that completely innocent people who were absolutely not witches were killed there? That's a bit of a loaded question, because it's what I think, but I was wondering what your thoughts were on it.
kimdriscoll: Salem has an amazing history that goes well beyond the witch trials. With regard to what happened here in 1692, we have a number of historically accurate – and sensitive – attractions and tours that share the important legacies and lessons from the witchcraft hysteria. The Salem Witch Museum, the Witch Dungeon Museum, the Witch History Museum, and the Witch House – the only building left in Salem with a direct connection to the hysteria – all offer genuine educational opportunities. The Salem Award Foundation (http://salemaward.org/) commemorates the lessons of the tragedy by awarding a high-profile human rights award each year, and the Witch Trials Memorial is a tasteful and popular site downtown for people to walk through and reflect on the inhumanity of the hysteria......All that said, there are no shortage of psychics, haunted houses, and other less historically-relevant attractions and businesses. While the City does its best to create events and activities that are family-friendly and/or historically accurate, we also do not curtail private businesses or enterprises – as long as they are meeting all relevant building and fire codes, licensing requirements, etc. Keep in mind that Salem’s Haunted Happenings festival is a celebration of Halloween and Fall in New England . The haunted houses, attractions, and entertainment visitors to Salem find in October provide fun for all ages.