Salem council candidates talk city, national issues at forum | Govt and Politics


With early voting beginning later this week, incumbents and candidates for Salem’s only elected governing body took the opportunity to differentiate themselves on Tuesday afternoon.

The four candidates running for two vacant seats on the city council spoke about their goals for the city at a public forum hosted by the Kiwanis Club of Salem at the Civic Center.

Randy Foley and John Saunders are both running for re-election, with Foley for his fifth term and Saunders for his second, while challengers Anne Marie Green and Hunter Holliday hope to shake things up on the five-seat council.

Citizens, whose names were drawn at random from a basket by Kiwanis members, had the opportunity to ask a question that each candidate had to answer.

Local issues took up much of the hour-long event, although national party issues also crept into the conversation.

People also read…

When asked about the status of Salem’s economic development, Green and Holliday said they believe more needs to be done, particularly on empty building sites like the old General Electric facility and the mostly empty shopping mall that houses the Food Lion on Apperson Drive found .

Green said the city needs a concrete plan going forward to attract businesses.

READ:  Importance of argument in politics

“I think we have to be creative and look at what kind of businesses are a good fit for the city,” she said.

Green said that while she doubts a major manufacturer like GE will ever occupy the building again, she said she can see it being used by multiple companies at once, like the old Allstate building on Electric Road in Roanoke County

Holliday said he thinks manufacturing could be an economic driver in the city and said he will work tirelessly to attract businesses to Salem.

Foley and Saunders said businesses have come to the area, noting the improvements to Main Street Downtown and other facilities that have come to Salem over the past four years.

While noting that there is still work to be done, the two incumbents also noted the recent hiring of a director of economic development, Tommy Miller.

Foley also said that while the city can do things to facilitate development, it’s ultimately up to private developers to invest in projects they believe will be viable.

Saunders echoed Green’s argument that manufacturing is unlikely to be the answer to filling empty commercial buildings around the city.

He also said Miller needed time to get his “feet wet” and that Saunders had complete confidence in him to get the job done for Salem.

READ:  Why critical thinking is important in politics

All of the candidates agreed that some of the city’s most important buildings, including the administrative center, which is in need of a major refurbishment, need significant improvement as most parts of the building have not seen many improvements over the last few decades.

The civic center, along with the city’s athletic facilities, has long been a way to attract a variety of events, including concerts, youth and college sports, and the annual Salem Fair.

The four candidates also agreed that filling vacancies and retaining city employees was an issue in Salem, just as it was at the regional and national levels.

In addition to salary increases that have been granted in recent years, the candidates discussed improving employee benefits.

The weakening of Virginia’s pension system by the General Assembly in recent years is an example of these dwindling benefits, according to some in attendance.

When asked what the candidates thought of teachers who advocated “transgender hype” and teaching critical race theory and “transgender education in elementary schools,” all opposed the idea that they were part of the curriculum.

READ:  911 center looks at massive upgrades | Government and Politics

Foley said CRT is not taught in the city’s schools and teachers do not encourage students to be transgender, as the person who asked the question suggested.

CRT instruction in K-12 schools has been a national conservative talking point for over a year and something Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin cited before his election last November.

A question to Holliday about why he chose to run as a Republican rather than an independent put him at odds with the other three candidates, who claimed partisan politics had no place in local government.

Holliday said he wanted everyone to know where he stood and said the days of “picking the fence” are over in the US

Saunders said he is running to help all citizens of Salem, “Republicans and Democrats,” not just people he agrees with, which Green and Foley also echoed.

Early voting starts on Friday and lasts until November 5th. It will take place at the registrar’s office at 19 E Clay St. The last day to apply for a postal vote is Friday 28th October.



Source link