Emergency room doctor, real estate broker enter Salem City Council races

Trevor Phillips, left, and Jose Gonzales both filed for Salem City Council this month. The two will seek to represent Ward 3 and Ward 5, respectively. (Courtesy/Trevor Phillips, Jose Gonzales)

Two more people have announced they will seek seats on Salem City Council.

Trevor Phillips, a Salem Health emergency room doctor, and Jose Gonzales, a real estate broker, both recently filed to represent their neighborhoods on the council. They are filing in Ward 3 and Ward 5, respectively.

Voters will decide in May who will represent their neighborhoods on council.

Phillips is the first person to file to succeed Brad Nanke as the council representative of Ward 3, which encompasses much of south and southeast Salem. Nanke said he’s retiring after two decades on council to spend more time with family.

At Ward 5, Gonzales could be poised to face-off with Matt Ausec. Ausec, who won the seat in 2016, told Salem Reporter he has not yet decided if he will run for re-election.

Salem Reporter reached out to both Gonzales and Phillips to ask more about their goals and political hopes for the seat. Below are their written responses to questions, which have been edited for clarity.

The arrivals of Gonzales and Phillips to council races brings the total number of candidates to at least five.

Besides those two, Reid Sund and Vanessa Nordyke will race for the Ward 7 seat. Sund is finance director for Salem Health, while Nordyke is an attorney for the state Department of Justice. Nordyke is currently holding the seat after council appointed her serve out the remainder of Sally Cook’s term, who resigned Oct. 1. Adam Lansky has also filed to run for mayor.

Why did you decide to put your name forward?

Phillips: The 2016 election gave me an appreciation for the importance of local government. It’s the place where regular people stand the best chance to build a community that fits their values and beliefs. It’s also the place where we can find common ground across partisan divides. As a doctor providing care to this community, and as a husband raising two children in this community, I wanted to step up and help shape the future of my neighborhood and my city.

Gonzales: I feel ready to serve at that level and have the support of my family. There isn’t one reason why I’m entering the race, but primarily it’s because I feel as a city we aren’t going in the right direction. Salem will always be my home, I love my neighborhood and want to be part of the solution.

What do you feel to be your qualifications to represent your ward?

Gonzales: I will bring my experience as a father, local business owner and volunteer to this position. I’ve spent over half my life in Salem and see so much potential. My strength is bringing people together and I’m positive we can get a lot done if we set aside our differences.

Phillips: I’m confident I can represent Ward 3 well. I know the community. My wife Michelle and I have organized the Cambridge neighborhood’s Fourth of July parade and potluck for the past 8 years. We’ve hosted and participated in numerous neighborhood gatherings and events. I serve on the Board of the Morningside Neighborhood Association.

Like many residents of Ward 3, I’m a homeowner and parent. I bring my perspective as an ER doctor, as well as a strong scientific background with me. When it comes down to it, I care about this community and I want it to be safe, healthy, and successful.

Homelessness has been a dilemma for Salem and many governments on the West Coast. Do you feel this is an issue local policymakers can play a role in fixing? What should or shouldn’t be done?

Phillips: Yes, I do. As a member of the Downtown Homeless Solutions Task Force, I strongly believe that the city needs to adopt and enact all of the recommendations made by the task force. At a minimum, I would prioritize the recommendations made by the Salem Police Department.

1.) Sobering Center

2.) Safe secure storage, restrooms and shower facilities

3.) 24-hour access to local service providers.

I recognize the city doesn’t have the resources necessary to solve this problem alone, but we can find the resources to treat everyone with dignity while also ensuring our downtown is welcoming for all.

Gonzales: Salem can play a big role, but it can’t do it alone. As I write this there are 1,900 homeless people in Marion/Polk Counties. Everyone reading this can help, even if you think you can’t. The power is in the people’s hands, not the policymakers, we are only here to be the voice of the people. 

My goal will be to engage as many people as possible because in the end the laws we implement will be the result of those people who stood up.  

When do you think it’s appropriate for a city government to raise taxes or institute new fees? In the face of rising expenses, are there any services in Salem you think should be cut?

Gonzales: Raising taxes or fees should be a last resort. I would like to see, as procedure, city staff look for ways to be more efficient. I served on the budget committee several years ago, when cuts had to happen, and they did. Those recommendations came from staff and it meant a lot because they’re the actual city employees who have to do the work.

Phillips: What I’m hearing from my friends and neighbors in Ward 3 is the need for continued and improved city services for young families like mine. We need safe streets, sidewalks and crossings. We need more support for public green space.

As an ER doctor, I’ve cared for too many pedestrian-related injuries. If people really don’t want to raise revenue, they need to come clean on what services they’re willing to lose. Fire? Police? Not on my watch. Parks or libraries? I’m hearing the opposite. The bottom line is that, as a councilor, I plan to be thoughtful, careful and responsive with how the city raises and spends its tax dollars.

Today, should a Climate Action Plan — which helps track and plan for ways to curb emissions — be a priority for the city of Salem? Why or why not?

Phillips: We absolutely need a climate action plan. The city needs to play a leadership role in helping our communities, businesses, infrastructure, and natural resources adapt to hotter, drier summers, warmer winters, and more intense storms. The recent water crisis shows us that this is not just a theoretical issue, but a local issue that needs to be addressed.

Gonzales: Taking care of our planet should be a priority for all of us. Even just planting a tree is a step in the right direction. For example, just one large tree absorbs carbon dioxide and provides one day’s supply of oxygen for four people. I’m looking forward to learning more about any potential plans or ideas but I better see real action in it and not just adding another layer to our government.  

Where did you stand on Salem River Crossing? Why?

Gonzales: In the end, after seeing all the negativity, I had a hard time knowing what to believe. It got ugly, it was sad to see Salem go through this. I’m not sure where we go from here.

I’m open, because I know we have to address not only the bridge but also the traffic congestion I’m seeing in my neighborhood. In the last several years, my street has gone from super quiet to cars driving way over the speed limit. It’s now become a short cut and I worry about my kids playing in the front yard. I didn’t have that worry before.

Phillips: We need a regional solution to the challenges of our divided geography. Our community is expected to grow by tens of thousands in the next 10 to 20 years. We need a regional solution to address through-traffic and improved community resilience.

Marion, Polk, Yamhill and other levels of government need to lead on the solution, and not let it rest solely on the shoulders of Salem residents. I grew up in Grants Pass, when a third bridge was built across the Rogue River. It wasn’t a controversial issue there. It had broad community support. As a city councilor, I’m going to make sure we have a broad community consensus on any solution before I cast a ‘Yes’ vote on a very expensive project.

What, if anything, is missing from your ward?

Phillips: We need more family-friendly services in our neighborhood. This includes improved and expanded library services and more public green spaces like a developed park and dog parks.

Getting people outside will help improve health outcomes and build community. We need better communication from the city and more opportunities to provide input into plans that impact our neighborhood. And I would really like to see a community pool that young families like mine could enjoy.

Gonzales: It’s a great ward. I’ve met a lot of nice, hard-working people but we need more economic opportunities here. There’s a lot of untapped potential and I want to take that energy to the city council.

Have a tip? Contact reporter Troy Brynelson at 503-575-9930, [email protected] or @TroyWB.