Mayoral candidates Chane Griggs, left, and Chris Hoy canvassing on Saturday, April 23 (Laura Tesler/Special to Salem Reporter)

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.

Mayoral races can be sleepy affairs in Salem, but the 2022 contest has drawn two candidates with extensive civic experience. Salem Mayor Chuck Bennett is retiring at the end of his third term, leaving the field wide open.

Chris Hoy, 56, city council president and a state representative, faces Chane Griggs, 67, the chair of the city’s planning commission and president of the Rotary Club of Salem.

Salem Reporter published an in-depth look at both candidates and their major donors and supporters here. Below are their responses to our Q&A for those seeking city office.

How long have you lived in Salem?

Griggs: I moved to Salem from Raleigh, NC in 1977 after graduating from Miami University. Jim and I have raised our families here and we are lucky enough to have two of our 12 grandchildren live in Salem. To be responsive to the question, I have lived in Salem 45 years.

Hoy: 22 years. 1983-1987 & 2004-present

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.

Griggs 

-Planning Commission – 2016 – present

-Planning Commission President 2019 (?)- present

-Salem Public Arts Commission – around 2015 (It was the year it began)

-Budget Committee – Chair – during Mayor Taylor’s term

-Historic Landmarks Commission – cannot remember dates, but after SPRAB and before PC

-Salem Parks and Recreation Advisory Board – a full term and a partial

-Climate Action Taskforce – 2021-22

-Our Salem – 2021-22

Hoy

State Representative – HD 21 – Appointed to serve remainder of term 2021-present.

House Committee on Behavioral Health, House Committee on Housing

City Councilor – Salem, Oregon, Ward 6. 2017-present

Elected member of Salem City Council. Elected 2017 Special Election, re-elected 2018. 

Elected Council President 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022

Chair, Salem Housing Authority Board of Directors 2019-present (member 2017-present)

Vice Chair, Mid-Willamette Valley Homeless Alliance Board of Directors 2019-present

Council Committees

Current:

Legislative Committee

Public Works Operations Building Council Committee

Water/Wastewater Task Force

Boards and Commissions Appointments Committee

Previous:

Police Facility Construction Council Committee

Library Renovation Council Committee

Transportation Committee

Congestion relief task force

Marion County Public Safety Coordinating Council,  2021-present

Center for Hope & Safety Advisory Committee, 2018-present

Governor’s Re-Entry Council, 2016-present

Describe one volunteer circumstance where you held a leadership position and used that position to accomplish a specific goal. We are looking for information on not only previous leadership but effective leadership.

Griggs: As a member of the downtown Rotary Club of Salem, I led the selection of the design for the Gerry Frank Amphitheater. I selected a committee of a few Rotarians, but also Hazel Patton who has extensive community involvement and Kasia Quillinan, who at the time was the Chair of the Salem Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee. 

We held many opportunities for community input at sites such as the Salem Art Fair and the Riverfront Summer Concert Series.

Following that outreach our team landed on the basketweave design to honor the Kalapuya Tribe.

I think this project was successful because of the broad outreach to many diverse populations in Salem.

Hoy: While serving on the Salem City Council, I used my position to introduce and pass rules and funding to ensure all city council meetings are translated into Spanish and American Sign Language to make city government and city council more accessible to more members of our community.

What motivated you to run?  What specific issue is a priority for you to address if elected and what steps would you take?

Griggs: Over a period of months, several community members approached me to ask that I consider running. It was not something I had ever anticipated. But I do have the time and I do love my community.

Addressing the homeless issue will be a top priority for me. I would take steps to increase the number of low barrier shelters and ensure that the programming and treatment we are using is proven effective. The micro shelters and tiny homes are great low barrier shelters and a good transition to other levels of independent housing.

Hoy: Salem is at a crossroad. And we need leadership to see our way forward. The current city council has made significant progress on homelessness, climate, equity and important infrastructure projects such as a new police facility, seismically retrofitting the library, modernizing our water treatment facility, and constructing a new public works building. We need to build on the momentum we’ve created and continue moving forward. With 4 new councilors, a new mayor and a new city manager, now is not the time for on-the-job training. We need someone who is ready to lead on day one. I’ve spent the past 5 years preparing for this new role and I am ready.

Homelessness remains a major challenge for the community.

What action has the city taken in the past year that you agree with and support?

Griggs:  I agree with the decision to partner with Church at the Park to manage the micro shelter sites. This approach has positive outcomes because there is 24/7 supervision and accountability expected from the individual. I agree with the Navigation Center because it’s an additional approach for low barrier housing with wrap around services.

Hoy: As the city council president, I’ve been involved with all the policy level decisions in the past year, and I’ve not only supported them but have been involved in crafting them. Specifically, the managed micro-shelter communities are providing a solid pathway out of tents and into permanent housing for many people. This program took overcoming many barriers and obstacles to implement, but we were able to do so through effective leadership and advocacy.

Our Safe Park program, which I introduced, has helped people living in their vehicles do so in a managed, organized and dignified way.

What action has the city taken in the past that you disagree with and oppose?

Griggs: I think the city is doing their best to address the very complex issue. The inability to enforce the sit lie ordinance was a disappointment. I understand that the Federal District Court’s interpretation was that a city can not enforce a sit lie/vagrancy ordinance unless there are available beds. As a leader I would have worked with our partners, (Arches and Church at the Park) to ensure we kept a certain number of low barrier beds in reserve so that we could enforce it. No individual should have to live outside and endure the unhealthy and at times dangerous environment.

Hoy: Not everything turns out the way you’d hope. We were faced with a horrible choice at the beginning of the pandemic – allowing homeless people to remain in congregate settings with significant risk of contracting COVID or allow them to reside in 2 of our parks. I supported the decision to allow camping in our parks at the time with great hesitancy. That decision had many unintended and difficult consequences. I wish we had had better options at the time.

What would you propose to address encampments around the city?

Griggs: I realize there is quite an effort during the sweeps to align the individuals with other options shelter. It is important that every individual have that opportunity to improve their lifestyle and that work will be ongoing.

Once we have enough micro shelters in place, it will be easier to move communities together to a managed site. My understanding is that often in encampments, groups are formed and when asked to move, they don’t want to break up their group. 

The key to success is to find housing options that are managed and supervised. The options for these low barrier shelters will increase as we bring on more micro shelters and the Navigation Center is operational.

Hoy: We need to open the Navigation Center to provide a low barrier shelter in Salem – something we do not have currently. That, along with the Arches Inn, Mosaic, and UGM will provide capacity so people will not be left with the difficult choice of sleeping in camps. We need to continue outreach to the camps to engage individuals in hopes of bringing them into services.

We recently initiated a response team to be able to address situations where public health risks exist and to hopefully prevent them from developing them in the first place.

What additional collaboration or partnership do you propose the city expand or initiate to address the reasons people are homeless in Salem?

Griggs: I would look for opportunities to expand the work we currently do with our county partners. Marion County has four mobile crisis units and Salem receives two of them. This approach works because it entails a county behavioral health specialist paired with a Salem police officer. My understanding is that the county person takes the lead, and the Salem police officer is there only to ensure that the situation is and remains safe.

I don’t believe that we have that same program with Polk County but would be interested in that opportunity.

Marion County’s LEAD program is another approach that should be expanded to address the low-level offenders and moving them into programming.

Hoy: Through our work with the Mid-Willamette Valley Homeless Alliance, we have strong collaboration working on the homeless situation in the Marion-Polk region. We need to continue to work together to solve this problem together. We hope to engage other entities to join our alliance so that every community in the region is participating and contributing to the solution in a meaningful way.

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?

Griggs: It is a fact that we are running out of buildable land, but I think the code changes stemming from the Our Salem project will help in providing more flexibility in how we can use our limited land. As mayor, I would work closely with the city’s Planning Department to look for additional code changes that will make development more feasible.

Hoy: We need to continue to incentivize housing development at all levels, but especially at the lower income levels. Salem has a few levers we can and do pull to help defray costs when there is a public benefit. We recently changed the zoning code to incentivize housing construction near the core transit network. This will help significantly in the long run.

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?

Griggs: I think the city should be realistically ambitious in our goals. As a community we need to do our part to lower carbon emissions and the plan has number of strategies that range from the ‘easier to initiate’ to the ‘harder to achieve’ – typically because of the cost entailed. It is important that in our effort to achieve carbon neutral status, that we do not overburden our working-class families with decisions that have unintended consequences. Having served on the Climate Action Plan taskforce I helped craft the strategies including electrifying our city’s fleet – over time. Another great example is the requirement for new housing to be EV charging ‘ready’.

Hoy: We really have a series of strategies but not an actual plan. We recently established a plan to review and prioritize those strategies into a plan. We need to implement many of the strategies as soon as possible and consider others that may take a longer approach and more community conversations before being ready for consideration.

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? 

Griggs: The city’s chief responsibility is to keep its citizens safe in an accountable and transparent manner. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with Chief Womack to discuss his strategic plan to ensure public safety and trust from the community. As a mayor, I will ensure he has the resources needed to put that strategic plan into place, staff his department adequately, and always have a cooperative partnership with the mayor’s office. I will encourage that both police and fire to be top priorities during our budget funding cycle.

Hoy: As a 30-year law enforcement professional, I understand this issue at a very deep level. We need to consider the proposal in light of the other requirements facing the city along with available revenue. Of course, public safety needs to be at the top of the priority list. Our tax system is broken and the city’s revenue has not kept pace with demand. City Council implemented an operations fee on utility bills to help stabilize the budget and that goal has been achieved. But to actually increase staffing levels we need additional revenue. That’s why I introduced a bill in the last session of the legislature that would require the state to pay the city of Salem a payment in lieu of taxes to help offset the significant demand the state places on our public safety services.

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?

Griggs: Many shootings in Salem involve stolen guns and so the emphasis should be how can we encourage safe storage of guns. Gun owners are within their rights to properly carry and use their weapons, but we need to stress the importance of safely storing their weapons. 

Although shots fired in any neighborhood is frightening, we should encourage residents to call in when an incident occurs. At a minimum, that allows police to collect evidence and to track the activity.

Hoy: We need to fund the police department at a level where they can effectively engage in community policing strategies that have been proven effective in reducing gun violence.

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

Griggs: I would continue to meet with SEDCOR and the Chamber to see what the city’s role can do to encourage new businesses to come to Salem. The city should be supportive of a commercial airline coming in Salem which would be an asset for businesses wanting to locate in Salem. Additionally, we need to create better partnerships with our business community to make sure their struggles, needs and ideas are heard by our city government and addressed. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with dozens of small businesses throughout this campaign and look forward to continuing building those working relationships. As mayor, I seek to make Salem a place that serves and strengthens our local business community and is an attractive place for new businesses to open doors.

Hoy: We currently work with SEDCOR to provide the important economic development work in Salem. That work should continue. The city council should do all it can to help create an atmosphere where Salem is a desired destination for such employers, including creating a vibrant downtown.

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

Griggs: The city should constantly be looking for ways to engage all residents from across the city and across all economic levels. It can’t be achieved by sitting back and waiting for individuals to come to us. I think we should model engagement much like we do when we are seeking input for various projects, like the Our Salem. With that approach, we go to different communities and meet them where they are. Salem is a diverse community and rich in backgrounds and talents.

Hoy: Absolutely. All city services should be available in multiple languages without having to make a special request. We need to ensure that decisions are made using an equity lens so that historically underserved populations have an opportunity to engage with the city like others can. We need to continue to remove historical barriers for people of color.

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

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