Linda Nishioka, 2022 candidate for Salem City Council, Ward 2 (Campaign photo)

On May 17, Salem voters will select four city councilors and the city’s next mayor.

Council candidates are running in ward 2, 4, 6 and 8. Voters must live in a ward to vote in that ward’s race. All Salem voters can cast a ballot for mayor.

Races are nonpartisan, which means candidates aren’t running from a political party and voters don’t need to be registered with any party affiliation. 

Salem Reporter sent all nine candidates for city offices the same questionnaire based on reader suggestions and major issues facing the city. We’re printing responses from candidates over the coming days, organized by ward.

Salem Reporter also reviewed records of campaign contributions, criminal and civil court records and voting histories to learn about each candidate. 

Linda Nishioka is the sole council candidate running unopposed. She’s seeking to represent south central Salem, ward 2.

The seat is currently held by Tom Andersen, who's now running as a Democrat for House District 19 to represent south Salem in the Oregon Legislature.

Nishioka, 70, is a retired dental hygienist who has largely self-funded her campaign, loaning her campaign $5,500 as of April 18, according to state campaign finance records. Her only listed donor is Heather Johnson of Salem, with a $250 contribution.

Q&A

How long have you lived in Salem?

Since 1998 – 24 years 

Please describe previous civic experience. This could include service on a board or commission, previous elective office, or work or volunteer service in a related field. Please include the year(s) for the work or service. 

City of Salem Downtown Advisory Board – Vice Chair (2019-present)

Salem Main Street Association, Design Committee (2017-22); board member    Fundraising/Finance (2021)

City of Salem Riverfront Park Committee (2018)

City of Salem Streetscape Committee (2017-18)

Board of Directors member, Vice President and President, Committee Chair for Green Awards Event of Friends of Straub Environmental Learning Center, Salem, OR (2009-14)

Salem Green Home Tour-my remodeled home was opened for viewing (2008)

Master Recycler Certified Marion County, Salem, OR (2007)

Member and VP of the Fine Arts Parents Group, Blanchet High School, Salem, OR (2004-07)

Medical/Dental Mission Trip to Havana, Cuba (2004)

Describe one volunteer circumstance where you held a leadership position and used that position to accomplish a specific goal. 

After becoming a Marion County Master Recycler, I strived to share the knowledge and educate others on discarded materials that could be recycled. At my workplace, Willamette Ear, Nose, & Throat, I recognized that there was a great deal of discarded materials that would be acceptable and desirable, at the time, recyclable materials. The draw back was the fear this material was contaminated. My goal was to create a recycling program at Willamette ENT that included general, as well as clean medical recyclable materials. This program required building trustful relationships with all involved included Willamette ENT staff, the janitorial service, our garbage haulers, and Garten Services. It required a great deal of education and training. After a few initial setbacks, perseverance paid off, and this recycling program went on for several years until major changes occurred when the buyers of recyclables materials no longer accepted most of these materials.  

What motivated you to run?

Running for City Council was not something on my radar. I am privileged to be serving on the Downtown Advisory Board and had intended to seek another 3-year term.  I was surprised, humbled and a bit terrified when I was asked to run for City Council Ward 2, first by one and then several others. Because others believed in me combined with my passionate desire to help Salem even more, I decided to run. 

What specific issue is a priority in your ward?

The big issue for all wards including Ward 2 is management of homelessness.

Homelessness remains a major challenge for the community. What action has the city taken in the past year that you agree with and support? What action in the past has the city taken that you disagree with and oppose?

Homelessness is complex because it has many facets and therefore will not be solved using a singular solution. Negotiating pathways to try and ease and ultimately end homelessness has been and will continue to be a formidable challenge. Difficult actions have been taken by the city to address seriously escalating problems, such as planned sweeps of homeless camps, which some objected to. While it is easy to criticize these or other actions, we are all in a learning process trying to find solutions specific to our community. Although hindsight garners knowledge, it can be an arduous path as well. We know there will be failures as we wrestle with this colossal problem but having a collaborative constructive mindset tempered with empathy will serve us best.

What would you propose to address encampments around the city?  

The encampments sites have caused considerable damage to our parks.  Opening parks for the homeless was necessary to lessen the sidewalk camping especially during the pandemic.  The Sit/Lie ordinance only works if there are places for the homeless to go.  The city is working with the County and State in locating sites for housing opportunities in many forms and formulas, as well as necessary funding of social services. The shelter sites should be the range from highly managed low barrier shelters to managed transitional housing with small individual shelters.  Each site must be managed to maintain a safe secure environment for all, plus guidelines for occupancy and transition to self-sufficiency with other supportive pathways are needed. There will be individuals who will not want to vacate encampments or transition to shelter sites, and this will need to be discussed with actionable options.

What additional partnerships do you propose the city expand or initiate to address the reasons people are homeless?

Reasons people become homelessness are many but poverty, medical and mental health issues, aging out of foster care or preexisting dysfunctional home situations are just a few and the road to homelessness can be multifactorial. Efforts to diminish these roots causes through funding of existing local, regional, and national governmental social services and non-profit organizations can help reduce the rate of homelessness. It will be critical to ensure there is adequate funding for the social services that are necessary in both the short and long term.

Salem is continuing to grow and has a shortage of both rental housing and homes. What should city government do to address this shortage beyond what it is now doing?

The projected population in 30 years is a half million. We need to be plan for this growth using a variety of housing options. Responsible development with an eye on climate action and transportation plan that encourages affordable housing and neighborhood hubs. We will also need to support business development that serves long term community well-being. 

City leaders have developed a Climate Action Plan to guide city efforts to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions, including a proposal to ban natural gas hookups. How ambitious should the city be with its climate goals?

Salem’s climate action plan is more ambitious than Oregon’s climate action plan which is commendable. We need an in-depth road map in how to accomplish each of the goals and they must be feasible to be doable. Regarding natural gas (methane) it is evident we must try and transition off, but it will be difficult given its many interconnections with other areas of the climate action plan. 

For starters: How do we structure a plan to replace existing methane gas powered home appliances with electric appliances? Will there be financial support? Should it be mandated versus letting it occur by attrition. Should the focus be on reducing leakage of these appliances when off, since 75% of leakage occurs when off? Should there be a moratorium on methane gas hookup for new homes and buildings? Can renewable and non-GHG producing electric production achieve the needed power for electrification of homes and building?  Can the electric grid system support this transition off methane gas? Should gas companies be forced to use existing technology to stop or reduce flaring, intentional venting, leakage, and loss from gas and oil drilling activities? As daunting as this all seems we must press forward to find workable ways to answer and solve these questions. 

Police Chief Trevor Womack has said his department has had to scale back certain services due to being short-staffed and identified increasing the size of Salem’s police force as key to implementing his strategic plan. How would you assess such a proposal as a councilor? 

The community needs law enforcement and law enforcement needs the community for a safe and secure environment. Regarding the police department staffing shortage I support Police Chief Trevor Womack efforts in achieving this goal which should be combined with finding high quality candidates, top tier training to include effective interfacing with the community, transparent police policies, expedited management of police misconduct, and programs to optimize a respectful close mutual relationship with the community, among other things. Overall, I support Police chief Womack’s 2022-2024 strategic plan.

The police department has reported an increase in murders and weapon offenses from last year as the agency prioritized responding to an uptick in shootings at the beginning of 2021. What action, if any, would you propose the city take to reduce gun violence or otherwise improve public safety?

Support common sense gun control measures. Support measures for strict background checks including point to point sales. Support weaponless free zones - city parks, municipal buildings, schools.

What, if anything, should the city do to attract good living-wage jobs to Salem?

All employed people should have a living wage. A living wage could be calculated for the greater Salem metro area and efforts to implement this can be supported. Having a living wage versus minimum wage can help prevent severe poverty and reduce the risk of homelessness. Minimum wage workers are the workers at most risk and form the foundation upon which society rests. Ongoing efforts to attract companies which provide good paying jobs is instrumental.   

 

Should the city be taking steps to recognize and serve Salem’s increasingly diverse population? If so, what steps?

We are a diverse population, and we need to promote and celebrate our uniqueness. The city has and continues to recognize our cultural and social diversity with decrees, activities, and celebrations. The city and its citizens should continue to work together to promote diversity within a safe, secure, and supportive environment.  

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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