By Virginia Stapleton
I was born and raised in Salem and have lived in Ward 1 for twelve years. I’ve been married to my husband Isaak for eighteen years, and together we are raising two wonderful daughters.
Since we moved to Ward 1 Isaak and I have been committed to community service. We ran our Neighborhood Watch program and coordinated National Night Out for many years. I'm proud to have been a founding Board Member of the Englewood Forest Festival and President of the Englewood Elementary Parent Teacher Club. Today I am a member of the Salem-Keizer School District Budget Committee.
Now I'm running to become a member of the Salem City Council replacing my friend Cara Kaser, who is stepping down after four years of dedicated service.
As a full time mom raising two children in Ward 1, I believe I will bring a unique perspective not represented on our City Council. As I think about the "State of the City '', the issues that draw my attention are the things that affect young families like mine.
Salem is a much better place to live now than it was when I was growing up. There are so many things we can be proud of! I also see many areas that we can improve on.
I think investment in active transportation is a big need in Ward 1. We need to fix our sidewalks and provide safe crossings for everyone who chooses to walk. A few years ago I worked with Mayor Bennett to get the flashing lights installed at the crosswalk at 19th and Market which now provides a safer route to Englewood School. We need to do more. I would like to see many more cross walks installed around the city.
Currently our bike lanes are fragmented. We need to work on connecting them and expanding their reach. I would like to see the Winter-Maple Neighborhood Greenway completed, as well as more greenways installed to connect our different neighborhoods.
I feel strongly that more investment in our parks and other green spaces is needed as we become more densely populated. And, I will also work to create a tree canopy on every street.
We need to do everything we can to support a thriving downtown where we nurture small businesses and create a vibrant place for people to live, work, and shop. And speaking of downtown, West Salem needs a better downtown! We've made a start in the Edgewater District but there is so much more we could do to create a true "main street" for West Salem.
A long term goal of mine is to redevelop our riverfront north of downtown. I would like to create a linear park connecting Riverfront Park and Keizer Rapids Park. Can you imagine the kind of development we would have on Front Street with apartments and new businesses, restaurants and a brewpub looking out on the river north of downtown? There is so much potential to make Ward 1 the most livable ward in Salem and that's what I want to work on.
Over the past few years the topic of the third bridge has been really divisive for our city. I feel I am the person to help heal some of those old wounds. My family moved to West Salem when I was five and I spent most of my life living and working in and around the West Salem area. With this experience I feel I can relate to many of our citizens who are frustrated with this issue. We need short term solutions like the recommendations from the City's Congestion Relief Task Force, and we need a long term solution for another river crossing, working with ODOT and our regional partners. I plan to work diligently on both.
Finally, we need to address the number one concern in Salem, especially in Ward 1 given its proximity to downtown, finding compassionate and effective solutions to homelessness. The current situation is 30 years in the making, and it is a direct result of policies made at national, state, and local levels. There is no one silver bullet, this situation will take time but we must continue to move in a positive direction. Our most pressing need is to create one or more low barrier warming shelters that are open when needed. I fully support the creation of a Navigation Center to direct people to the services and support they desperately need, and would love to see the creation of a Sobering Center. We also need to continue to fund the Homeless Rental Assistance Program as a long term solution. I am greatly encouraged by the formation of the new Mid-Willamette Valley Homeless Alliance that promises to provide more resources and more collaboration to address the crisis. If we can coordinate all our resources — federal, state, county and city — I'm convinced we will no longer see the level of problems our unhoused neighbors have experienced this winter.
There is a lot more I could say about the state of our city and how I want to make it become even better, though I'll stop here and say that if you want to help me achieve my goals for Ward 1, I welcome your support; I'd love to hear from you. Please go to my website, ElectVirginiaStapleton.com, to contact me and to see how you can help.