EDITOR’S NOTE: Attend local Town Hall and consider where Salem is heading

Life in the community is the real issue on the ballot next month for Salem voters.

That’s not always clear in the debate over the controversial payroll tax.

If you’re paying attention, you’ve heard about the woes of Measure 50 and property taxes. You’ve heard about response times and FTEs. And you’ve listened to talk about tax rates and income equity.

But when you turn that all into plain English, here’s what’s at stake and why you should pay attention.

Two futures for Salem are being projected.

One is a robust city government, expanding again to spread more services to more people ­– for a price.

The other is that already-taxed citizens aren’t ready for yet another tap into their accounts, that they may leave Salem or their employers may do so.

Which vision is real?

The Town Hall being conducted by Salem Reporter should help you decide. The free event starts at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 11, at one of the community’s iconic locations – the Elsinore Theatre. There is no charge but you can get a ticket online so the fine people at the Elsinore can anticipate how busy a night they have ahead of them. (The ticket is easy to get – just click HERE.)

Let me assure you these questions will be direct and clear ­– no softballs.

– Les Zaitz, Salem Reporter editor

We carefully designed this Town Hall to provide an independent platform to consider this tax measure. Our news team will open with a just-the-facts overview of city government, with an interesting glance at history.

Then you can hear directly from activists. Salem Council President Virginia Stapleton has agreed to make the case for why you should approve a new tax. She’s speaking for the pro-tax campaign under the banner Save Salem. She’ll be followed by Preston Mann of Oregon Business & Industry, based here in Salem, who will tell you why the city’s tax is a bad idea.

This is no debate, but their cases will be tested. First, our news staff will quiz them about their positions. Let me assure you these questions will be direct and clear ­– no softballs. Then we’ll give Stapleton and Mann questions from the audience, submitted in writing so we don’t get bogged down in extemporaneous speeches.

For most of our readers, Salem is home.

You are here likely because you want to be. Maybe you love the city parks. Maybe you have a great job in state government. Or maybe you like the vibrancy of a community with live theater, eclectic restaurants and brew pubs, and bike paths that will take you just about anywhere.

For many, Salem has always been home. That carries tradition – and a special caring for the community.

But if you are in Salem, you more than likely hold a job. You pay your taxes on your wages. You pay your taxes on your home, even if indirectly in your rent. You make that paycheck cover expenses that seem to climb by the day. Check the price of gas today versus a year ago.

The competing values are this.

Each citizen has a duty to their own household. Your income, no matter the source, is likely unchanging. You have to house, feed and cloth your family first. That’s allegiance to the value of caring for your own.

Then there is the value of community. Salem exists because over more than 100 years, people have come together to build. They built streets, water lines, and bridges. They built a government to protect us from criminals and from fire. They built a community that gave us Bush’s Pasture Park and, more recently, Riverfront Park.

None of that happens unless we all join together, sometimes more willingly than others.

And the Town Hall provides an occasion for us all to gather together and again consider: What’s next for Salem?

You’ll get useful information. But you’ll also get what you can’t find anyplace else – a real gut check on those making the cases for and against. You can factor into your judgment what you sense in the tone of voice, the facial expressions, the gestures. They sometimes say more than words.

All this will cost you is a little bit of your time ­– and your attention.

For the sake of Salem, please join me at the Elsinore tonight.

Contact Editor Les Zaitz: [email protected].

STORY TIP OR IDEA? Send an email to Salem Reporter’s news team: [email protected].

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Les Zaitz is editor and CEO of Salem Reporter. He co-founded the news organization in 2018. He has been a journalist in Oregon for nearly 50 years in both daily and community newspapers and digital news services. He is nationally recognized for his commitment to local journalism. He also is editor and publisher of the Malheur Enterprise in Vale, Oregon.