City News

Hoy pushes for more money for Salem in State of the City address

Mayor Chris Hoy zeroed in on the impact of understaffed city services in his second State of the City address Wednesday while sharing an optimistic vision of Salem’s collaborative future.

The speech, at the Salem Convention Center downtown, focused on the threat a lack of funds poses to the city’s recent investments into public safety and homeless services, often by using one-time grant money. Last year’s State of the City, “A New Beginning,” had a more optimistic tone celebrating those investments.

Hoy’s call to support city services comes as the city seeks ways to fill its multi-million dollar budget shortfall. A lack of funding has already led to reduced hours at city libraries and cuts to vacant police and fire positions.

”I promise to continue to fight for the revenue that we need to deliver the services our residents demand,” he said, which drew some applause.

The speech also emphasized private investments into the city, efforts to address homelessness and the recently unveiled Community Violence Reduction Initiative that launched earlier this month.

“While we have had some amazing successes, our persistent revenue challenges threaten our ability to support these critical services and threaten our hard-won success,” he said.

Hoy’s speech comes two months before voters will determine whether he stays in the position. He was elected in 2022.

Salem city councilors and City Manager Keith Stahley sat at a raised table in the front. Councilor Julie Hoy, no relation, who is campaigning against the mayor, sat at the far end of the table.

The Sprague High School String Quartet serenaded around 100 diners at the event with Mozart and Coldplay before the speeches.

Russ Beaton, president of the Salem City Club, opened the event, followed by a blessing from Delores Pigsley, chair of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians Tribal Council.

The mayor’s speech mainly focused on the need to fix the city budget.

“This crisis wasn’t created by city management, city council or by any of you. It’s a math problem that needs a statewide fix, and until the state fixes it, we will live under a broken revenue system that doesn’t keep up with the rising costs of the basic services like police officers, firefighters, and librarians,” he said.

Hoy pointed to Measures 5 and 50, which in the 1990s put a limit on how much property tax revenue cities can collect. Those measures have left the city two choices, he said: “find additional revenue, or reduce services.”

He did not name the unpopular payroll tax, which city councilors narrowly approved last year to bring in more revenue for emergency services. Voters then overwhelmingly rejected the measure in November. 

Hoy instead urged the community to accept the solutions forthcoming from the recently formed city revenue task force that will recommend in July how to sustain city services.


Much of Hoy’s speech focused on the city’s work on homeless services. Salem has tripled its number of emergency shelter beds and added thousands of affordable apartments  in the past five years.

He said that while homelessness has long been the top issue the community asked the council to address, the issue goes beyond the infrastructure and public safety services which cities were set up to offer. Social services are the job of the county, he said.

“But cities like Salem are the first and last line of defense, and when the problem is on Liberty Street and not Cordon Road, our residents expect action from us,” Hoy said.

Hoy said resident expectations pushed city leaders to develop new partnerships and strategies since 2017, including the creation of the Mid-Willamette Valley Homeless Alliance which provides community-wide resource coordination, the opening of the Navigation Center which offers 75 beds and accompanying support, and partnering with Church at the Park to establish three micro shelter villages.

In response to Salem’s housing shortage, Hoy said the city sought to eliminate barriers by offering homeowners a guide to building accessory dwelling units for renters on their properties, and streamlining its permit process to address frustrations from housing developers.

He said that those changes enabled the Salem Housing Authority to exceed its goals for getting people back into housing quickly and under budget, allowing it to extend the service to more people, which drew applause from the audience. The program sets people up with apartments and provides short-term rental assistance and services to give them the tools and case management to stay housed. 

He highlighted affordable housing developments coming throughout the community, including hundreds of homes and apartments at East Park, 405 apartments at Hazelgreen in northeast Salem, 313 apartments at Mahonia Crossing in the South Gateway neighborhood and 436 at Titan Hill in west Salem.

“All in all, there are thousands of apartments, single-family homes and affordable housing units coming online,” he said.

Violence reduction

Hoy said the city is “laser focused” on responding to rising violent crime. He said the Community Violence Reduction Initiative, which launched early this month with a public meeting, will seek solutions. The forum came less than 24 hours before a shooting in Bush’s Pasture Park left a teen boy dead and two others wounded. 

Hoy said the city doesn’t have enough officers to address violent crime, and doesn’t have enough community programs to prevent children from getting involved in such crime.

“Law enforcement is only one piece of the solution. The rest must come from the community. As we have done to address our housing challenges, we need to forge partnerships and enlist our residents, not for profits, service organizations and businesses in strategies designed to help prevent violent crime,” he said. 

Private investment

The cover of the printed State of the City program, waiting for attendees on their seats, featured a photo of the takeoff of the first Avelo Airlines flight in October. The flight came after years of effort from business and tourism groups to return commercial air service to the city. Hoy spoke about the airline’s recent expansion, adding a flight to the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport in the Bay Area.

He said the city is seeing industrial development and job growth at the Mill Creek Corporate Center and Salem Business Campus, along with new commercial investments at the Willamette Town Center.

Downtown, he highlighted the Rivenwood Apartments, Holman Hotel and the upcoming Block 50 development, which will bring over 200 apartments, affordable housing and retail space to a vacant city block.

North of downtown, a developer plans to transform the Truitt Brothers Cannery on Northeast Front Street into a major resident hub with homes for 900 people, dining and shopping. 

What’s ahead

Hoy closed by returning to the city’s budget, and said the city will continue to pursue revenue.

“We’ve been successful in obtaining grants and one-time funding to benefit the city, but we continue to wait for those same leaders to deliver results to our residents through a payment in lieu of taxes,” he said.

That’s a city effort which seeks payment from the state to compensate Salem for the high amount of tax-exempt state-owned land in the capital. An effort by Salem legislators to arrange a state payment to the city annually died in the legislature this year.

“We continue to wait, and wait and wait to address the ongoing costs related to homelessness and the revenue reform that will provide us with sufficient public safety infrastructure to keep you safe,” he said. 

He said that the road ahead will be challenging, with an unclear destination. But, he said the city has faced challenges before, and citizens stepped up to support one another during Covid, this summer when a fire burned St. Joseph’s Church and another burned Jory Hill, and recently when passersby ran to help shooting victims at Bush’s Pasture Park.

 “Our community responds to adversity with strengthening. Our community responds to challenges with perseverance. We will protect what we must and we will find solutions together,” Hoy said.

The room broke into applause, and a few stood. 

READ IT: Mayor Hoy’s full State of the City speech

Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-575-1251

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Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.