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Platform

As your City Councillor, I will work tirelessly to maintain Salem's identity as a city rich in history, culture, diversity, and the arts.  I will bring my passion for community and public service to this office and work hard as we continue to recover from the Covid crisis, focusing on economic development/recovery, affordable housing, health/quality of life, racial and social justice, infrastructure and sustainability, historic preservation and thoughtful development.  

Economic Development

Strong economic support for our businesses and responsible fiscal planning are critical to building and maintaining our economic recovery.  It will take a collaborative effort working with the Economic Development Recovery and Revitalization (EDRR) Task Force, the Salem Chamber of Commerce, and our city leaders to provide the needed support and assistance for our small businesses and restaurants here in Salem.  I will work with Destination Salem and Salem Main Streets to responsibly rebuild our tourism industry.  I will also prioritize fiscal responsibility and push to secure grants and other outside funds to lessen the need to rely on taxpayers.  
 
I will advocate for a path forward to repurpose properties no longer in use and push for affordable housing options for these properties.   Buildings that sit empty and are deteriorating have a negative effect on the surrounding businesses and the community, and the continued lost revenue for our city increases our tax burden.  They become more costly and less desirable to developers, and the city has fewer options for reuse.  I will work to develop responsible legislation that will allow for reuse, either by a public or private entity, which will best serve the community and will minimize the impact to surrounding neighborhoods. 
 
Another obstacle to addressing issues and city business in general is the length of time taken for legislation/ordinances to go through the City Council process.  I support a time limit for city business to go to a "subcommittee" for review.  When this happens, important issues tend to sit in committee for extended periods of time and can result in no action at all.  There needs to be a definitive amount of time allowed for a subcommittee review, then action should be taken by the City Council.  I will also advocate for responsible and timely permitting and licensing processes to promote a business friendly community.
 
Housing

The cost of housing in Salem, as in many cities and towns, has become increasingly unattainable for too many.  And with the Covid crisis, the need for affordable housing will be even more critical in the near future.  Young people working two jobs while going to school, seniors and veterans on a fixed income, people with disabilities, our unemployed community members, and many others are at risk of not being able to stay in their homes.  We need more affordable housing for our low and middle income community members.  We are also in urgent need of housing for our homeless community.  As your City Councillor, I will fight to create more permanent, supportive housing to help homeless individuals achieve independence and stability.  I had the honor of touring a new development for this purpose on Boston Street last year with 26 units of permanent housing which was the result of the City of Salem working with Harborlight Community Partners and other agencies.  It was impressive, and I will push for similar housing options to be initiated. 

I will also support an inclusionary zoning ordinance to increase the number of affordable units required in new developments, without allowing for an automatic option to opt out of the requirement by paying a fee.  I will work with the Dept of Planning and Community Development, the Affordable Housing Trust Fund Board, and the North Shore CDC to develop ideas and options for affordable housing, and make every effort to pursue any state and federal grants/incentives available.

Health/Quality of Life

Supporting programs and initiatives that improve the health and well-being of our Salem residents is a top priority.  I will advocate for additional funds to support programs at our Community Life Center that serve our senior community members' needs.  I am a volunteer for several food insecurity services (3 days/week) and the Backpack Program in our schools (Backpack on hold with Covid), and will push for continued support of these programs.  I will work to increase services tailored to underserved communities such as LGBTQ people, our BIPOC community, veterans, immigrants, and seniors.

Racial and Social Justice

We all have an obligation to educate ourselves and address the legacy of systemic racism that exists in our society.   I will work with the Salem Race Equity Task Force and our city leaders to evaluate our city policies and services, and our organizations and institutions as well.  I will continue to listen and learn so I can effectively advocate for the change we need, and I welcome the opportunity for personal growth.

Infrastructure and Sustainability

Especially here in New England, it is critical to maintain a strong, resilient infrastructure.  As your City Councillor, I will focus on the quality, integrity, and maintenance of our parks, public spaces, sidewalks and streets.  I will work with the Traffic and Parking Commission to implement their ideas/initiatives, without unnecessary processing delays in the City Council.  I will push for new and existing buildings to maintain the highest "green" standard possible.  In December 2018, Salem received a "Leading by Example" award for clean energy and sustainability leadership.  I will work with the Sustainability, Energy and Resiliency Committee, SAFE, Salem Sound Coastwatch, and the Conservation Commission to proudly continue Salem's commitment to coastal resiliency, and to reducing the environmental impact associated with municipal operations.  I also support and advocate for bringing the off-shore wind industry to Salem.

Historic Preservation and Thoughtful Development

Of all there is to appreciate and treasure here in Salem, our extraordinary history is at the top of my list.  I will focus on maintaining the beauty and integrity of our historical buildings and structures, and will seek out and welcome the input and advice from our city boards/committees and community members to make that happen.  I will work with the Salem Redevelopment Authority, the Community Preservation Committee, the Historical Commission, Historic Salem Inc, and the Dept of Planning and Community Development to ensure every effort is made to keep our rich history intact for many generations to come. 

I look forward to earning the opportunity to be your City Councillor and working as a team on our City Council with our city boards/commissions and our community members!

 

 

Committee to Elect Alice Merkl
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