Friday, March 18, 2016

Guest Post - Jan Kailuweit, State of the City

By Jan Kailuweit, Salem City Council Candidate, Ward 1  

Thank you to Sarah Owens and the Central Area Neighborhood Development Organization (CAN-DO) for the invitation to share my view of the state of the City.

2015 saw exciting developments and big challenges for downtown Salem.
Downtown livability

Our downtown core saw a major step forward when ground broke for the Peter
The Bridge. Photo source:

Courtney Minto Island Pedestrian Bridge. This project is an example of dedicated individuals, government agencies, and local groups coming together over several years to make vision a reality. This bridge will connect Minto-Brown Island Park with Riverfront Park. Six years ago, Riverfront Park was linked with Wallace Marine Park via the Union Street Railroad Bridge, exclusively for pedestrians and cyclists. The two bridges will connect the three major downtown parks, with 20 miles of trails total. I applaud the incredible efforts that are making this project happen for our city.
While single-family, car-dependent subdivisions continue to crop up on the edges of Salem, I am excited to see new residential units opening in the downtown core. An example is the recent renovation of the Roth/McGilchrist Building (Gayle’s Italian Market) to include a dozen apartments—an excellent example of historic preservation. And the most recent development, South Block Apartments, has brought 115 new residential units. Those who know me know that I live in the Grant Neighborhood so I can get to work and downtown businesses without getting in a car. These new residences offer downtown employees the opportunity for a very short commute.
Unfortunately, most---if not all---of these new residences are not affordable for lower-income families and individuals, and the entire city is facing a housing shortage. The Statesman Journal recently reported that the Salem metro area has one of the lowest vacancy rates in the state, with housing prices here jumping 10% from spring to fall 2015. We need to promote affordable housing in the downtown area.
Those of us who live in and near downtown know that people are sleeping outside every night in our own neighborhoods. Salem Weekly reported in September that over 1,600 people are homeless in Marion-Polk county, often entire families. It is time for us to start looking at homelessness as a solvable problem and an intolerable situation. I am encouraged by the work of the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative Task Force—another example of diverse individuals and agencies coming together to solve an urgent problem in our community.
Public safety
I believe public safety is critical for a livable city. I am proud to have chaired the Salem budget committee in 2014, in which we added two additional police officers to the downtown beat after so many cutbacks to staff during the recession. Even with the added officers, there are still times when downtown has no police presence. We need to add back several more officers to reach the staffing levels we had before the recent recession.
As you know, a new police station has been front page news. I am pleased that the O'Brien site can easily be acquired without relocating private residences or tearing down historic homes. I recently took the initiative to request a tour of the current police facility, which was built in 1972 when Salem’s population was about half of today’s population. I was astounded at the cramped quarters for officers and staff, lack of storage for evidence, and the lack of space for locker rooms, interview rooms, and holding cells. The existing space is clearly insufficient for officers and staff to efficiently and effectively serve Salem citizens.
Public officials must be prudent in their expenditure of public funds. In my opinion, this does not necessarily mean aiming for the lowest possible acquisition cost. Other factors to take into consideration are life cycle cost (maintenance, lost opportunity cost, etc.) and eventual replacement cost. I want to ensure transparency as the city takes next steps.
Economic growth
There are a number of recent signs that Salem’s economic climate is somewhat improving, such as Garmin’s $14 million expansion in 2015 and NORPAC Foods’ recent addition of a $25 million cold storage warehouse. However, I believe Salem will need sustained economic growth to catch up with the rest of Oregon. Statistics indicate that the median household income in Salem in 2013 was $43,436--- for the rest of Oregon it was $50,251. Likewise, the median household income rose by 11.7% in Salem between 2000 and 2013, but it rose by 22.8% for the rest of Oregon.
In my opinion, there is a vibrant relationship between government (state, county, and city) and the nonprofit sector in Salem, especially in the social services arena. For instance, there are dozens of nonprofits in Salem serving inmates and their families alone. I believe if we saw similar cooperation and coordination between public and private sector organizations, we could improve regional economic conditions. In particular, we need to foster this relationship to attract higher wage jobs and capital investments, alleviate infrastructure deficiencies, and review possible regulatory barriers.
Local economies rarely prosper by chance. They require careful, realistic, long-term strategic planning. City Council needs to pursue strategies that encourage a business environment where local businesses can cooperate and create a competitive advantage for the entire region. This requires facilitating a process that builds trust and commitment. The process must include local government, the private sector, and non-profits. It’s a team effort; no one can do it alone.
What will 2016 hold for Salem? I am excited to see our city go beyond divisive politics to build a bridge to Minto-Brown, create hope for the homeless, and turn blighted lots into new communities. We are preparing to invest in our city infrastructure and public safety, and poised to develop our local economy. It will take some serious listening, thinking, and communicating. I’m ready to be part of making Salem a great place to live.

Jan (“Yan”) Kailuweit has lived in Ward 1 since 2000. Originally from Germany, he became a citizen 2004. Jan’s experience includes five years on the City of Salem Budget Committee, including as vice-chair and chair. He has also served on the board of the Grant Neighborhood Association and the Salem Public Library Advisory Board. He holds a Masters in Management from Southern Oregon University and has worked for the State of Oregon in various policy positions. He lives in Salem with his wife, Kim, and son.

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