City News

What to know about the claims in mayoral campaign mailers

Salem voters have received a surge of campaign advertisements in their mailboxes related to the Salem mayor’s race that will be settled next Tuesday.

The race is between incumbent Chris Hoy, who is retired from law enforcement, and Julie Hoy, a city councilor and local business owner. The two are not related.

Salem Reporter collected mailers from each campaign and supporting groups over the past few weeks. Many reiterate topics and voting history both candidates have previously discussed, but Salem Reporter determined other campaign claims lack context.

Here’s how some of the claims compare to both candidates’ voting history and initiatives on council.

Chris Hoy Campaign

Chris Hoy told Salem Reporter Thursday that he uses his mailers to lay out the facts about his record.

“I’m proud of that record, and looking forward to leading Salem into the future. I have a track record of getting things done and I plan to continue to do that,” he said.

Mailers by Chris Hoy for Salem

A mailer from the Chris Hoy campaign that states he “Helped Salem Police implement community policing” (Courtesy/ Chris Hoy for Salem)

Claim: Chris Hoy “helped Salem Police implement community policing” and “Mayor Chris has supported Salem police in implementing a successful community policing model.”

The Salem Police Department is just starting to implement a community policing model, which would put teams in neighborhoods where they could work with citizens and business owners rather than just respond to emergency calls. Police Chief Trevor Womack said last year he would need over a dozen new officers to start the initiative. He would have gotten them with a new city payroll tax, but voters rejected that last November.

In January, Womack said he hopes to create a new team of officers dedicated to investigating shootings. To create the violence intervention team, Womack said he would need to shift officers from other duties or get additional funding.

On Thursday, Salem Police spokeswoman Angela Hedrick said of the community policing model that “it was only an idea that would be difficult to achieve especially in our current budget environment.” She said the agency’s priority is to maintain existing operations while addressing the issue of community violence.

Following a November report on Salem shootings, Chris Hoy has spearheaded the city’s Community Violence Reduction Initiative to bring together law enforcement agencies and community organizations to focus on preventing shootings.

Hoy and Womack led two town halls to discuss community violence and intend to develop a plan using community feedback. 

The city is also in the process of hiring a new, temporary “violence coordinator” position to run the program.

Questioned about his campaign claim on community policing in April, Hoy said there is momentum toward developing community policing. 

“A successful community policing model is not just being reactive but about being proactive and developing the relationships in the community, and I feel like the chief is doing a great job of doing that,” Hoy said.

“That’s how I measure success right now. It’s not like ‘Okay now we’re done.’ That rarely happens in government … you build the momentum toward it,” he said.

A mailer from the Chris Hoy campaign that claims that Julie Hoy has voted against police, fire, parks, library and homeless services (Courtesy/ Chris Hoy for Salem)

Claim: “Making hard choices to maintain city services.”

In his mailer, the mayor claims that he voted to fund police and fire, maintain parks, library services and homeless services while Julie Hoy voted not to.

Hoy on Thursday said that the mailer was referring to his opponent’s votes on the budget and payroll tax, which he characterized as votes against key services listed in his mailer.

Chris Hoy joined a majority of the city council In July 2023 in a vote that narrowly passed a payroll tax to sustain city police, firefighter and sheltering services, and fund more emergency service staff. Julie Hoy opposed the measure. Voters then overturned the tax in November.

Julie Hoy also voted against final passage of the city budget in June 2023 that pays for most city services. Chris Hoy said that not having a budget isn’t an option under state law.

In February, the council opted to cut over 33 vacant city jobs, which included four police positions, two park rangers and seven library positions to reduce the city’s budget. Chris Hoy voted to eliminate the empty jobs while Julie Hoy opposed the move.

In more recent budget action, Julie Hoy supported Chris Hoy’s proposal to use the city’s hotel tax to fend off proposed cuts at the library. She also supported his proposal to use $91,500 from the city’s savings to keep the police department’s graffiti abatement worker.

They were on opposite sides of split votes to pull $518,000 from the city’s cultural and tourism fund to keep splash pads, bathrooms and water fountains maintained and open this summer, and also to continue programs like the Salem Kids Relays, and movies and concerts in Riverfront Park.

Julie Hoy favored the move, while Chris Hoy opposed it.

“I’m not convinced that we can afford these things. I very much want to restore these things to our parks. I talked last time about how important the splash pads and other things are,” Chris Hoy said during the budget committee meeting. “I’ve wanted all along to be able to afford these things and have taken other actions to make sure we could. But the reality is, I don’t think we can.”

Claim by mailer from Progressive Salem: “Julie Hoy and her special interest developer megadonors are trying to BUY the mayor’s seat.”

Donors have contributed $283,803 to the Julie Hoy campaign as of Friday, May 10. Though she lists over 250 donors, over half of her total comes from large donors representing real estate and business interests, both locally and statewide.

Salem Reporter reached out to seven of her top donors, those who contributed over $6,000, to ask what was behind their support for her.

Only her top contributor, Oregon REALTORS PAC, spoke on the record and answered written follow up questions. Marion + Polk First, a conservative political action committee which has sent out mailers on her behalf, provided a written comment. 

Two other top donors declined to comment and three did not respond. Zach Fischer, president of the Mid-Valley Association of REALTORS, said that the mayoral race is a top priority for the group because of worsening housing affordability in Salem.

“Julie Hoy has had conversations with our organization about this and reached out to engage with our organization, whereas Mayor Hoy hasn’t. He did not even participate in our endorsement process at all,” Fischer said, and that she’s asking good questions like which housing sector they should focus on developing.

In a Thursday email to Salem Reporter, Julie Hoyy said she believes people have donated because they are ready for something different. 

“I am definitely different, not driven by agenda or the past,” she said. “Those who have given to my campaign know me. They are a broad spectrum of people from a variety (of) walks and financial abilities..”

Julie Hoy Campaign

In an emailed statement to Salem Reporter on Thursday about her campaign mailers, Julie Hoy said “I have been consistent in my messaging and am looking forward to the 21st when the voters of Salem get to decide on the future of this great city.” 

Mailers by Julie Hoy’s campaign,  Friends of Julie Hoy PAC

A mailer from Julie Hoy’s campaign stating that “When Chris Hoy tried to levy a payroll tax on Salem families, she led the effort to put it on the ballot for voters to decide” (Courtesy/ Friends of Julie Hoy)

Claim: “Julie led the effort to put it on the ballot for voters to decide.” And “When Chris Hoy tried to levy a payroll tax on Salem families, she led the effort to put it on the ballot for voters to decide.”

Julie Hoy was one of several councilors who spoke against imposing the tax, and failed to win council support to send the tax to voters. She was not a leader in Oregon Business & Industry’s effort that referred the tax to voters last November.

Julie Hoy said Thursday she was referring to being outspoken against the tax as a councilor, and making motions to refer it to voters.

“I did everything I could along the way,” she wrote. “Unfortunately, four councilors and the mayor… had their minds made up all along… and refused to think outside their original intent, more money.” 

Last May, the city Budget Committee, which includes city councilors, voted 13-5 in favor of implementing the wage tax without taking it to voters. Chris Hoy voted in favor, while Julie Hoy voted against it.

On July 10, 2023, the council voted 5-4 to implement the tax. The mayor was in favor, Julie Hoy was opposed. During the meeting, Julie Hoy led an unsuccessful effort to refer the tax to voters at the next general election.

Julie Hoy’s subsequent proposal to repeal the tax ahead of the November election failed 6-3. 

Oregon’s largest business group, Oregon Business & Industry, conducted an initiative effort that put before voters a measure to repeal the tax. Through its political action committee, the group orchestrated the campaign for the repeal.

Claim: “We can fund public safety first, and we don’t have to cut the library or summer family fun in our parks to do it.”

Julie Hoy has no plan to accomplish that.

“Unfortunately I’m going to have to wait until this election is finished to begin making changes,” she said Thursday when asked about the claim.

In April, Julie Hoy said the city needs more revenue, but she wants it to assess its forecasting. She said she hasn’t gotten a clear sense on the dollar amount the city needs.

“The cliff has been predicted for so long, and it’s never come. And now you hear people talking about, ‘Everybody else just kicked the can down the road, and now we have to do the hard work.’ Well … we have to do it openly so that the community can buy in,” she said.

Claim by mailer from Marion + Polk First PAC:  “Chris Hoy’s Agenda for Salem:… increase utility bills for families.”

With a footnote, the claim cites a City Council meeting. But it does not disclose that during that meeting, Julie Hoy and Chris Hoy voted for the utility increase. 

Utility providers like Portland General Electric and NW Natural set rates for water and gas, which the Oregon Public Utilities Commission approves.

Last June, both Julie Hoy and Chris Hoy voted to approve the citywide fee schedule, which included an increase to the city operations fee paid on monthly utility bills. The fee goes toward existing city services including emergency response, the library and parks.

Asked about the claim, the PAC provided no support that the mayor plans to propose utility increases.

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.