Josh Turiel Answers Our Questions
Civility & Decorum In Meetings, Neglected Brick Sidewalks, Our Shoreline & Rising Tides
This is a tough one. It pretty much requires either everyone to play along, or no one to play along. I’m in my eighth year, and for the first four years that I did this we generally did a pretty good job of keeping meetings in order and running well, without the battles getting too heated. In 2016 (the year I was President), there were some significant personal issues between some of the members and that started us on the current path we’ve been on. A lot of members are playing their own “meta” games with their own agendas, and we have frequent clashes because of it. It’s harmed our ability to function.
One thing that’s on me and all of us is that we need to be self-aware all the time of the bigger picture. I think we all lose sight of that, but it takes everyone to get us back to the right place as a body.
Question 2 – The brick sidewalks on the west side of Lafayette Street are some of the most treacherous city. Tree roots and a lack of maintenance have created a difficult terrain for everybody, but especially for those who live with physical disabilities. What can be done to make these sidewalks safer and more accessible?
The city has a lot of activism behind trees, and it’s justified. But decades ago, someone thought Norway Maples were a good idea for ornamental trees and that decision has caused a lot of damage. One of the worst sidewalks in the city is from Fairfield to Gardner Street. A magnificent tree there has grown to the point where the sidewalk’s utterly ruined – but the tree has a constituency as well!
I’ve been able to get a lot of our sidewalk issues addressed over the last few years, and quite a bit of the brick sidewalks on Lafayette repaired to the point of being safe again (if still imperfect). My own opinion is that the worst of the Norway maples should be removed (including the aforementioned) and the roots dug out – and then we should restore what sidewalks are practical and re-do the rest in concrete.
Infrastructure issues like this are hard, but necessary. We are still paying for decades of poor decisions and neglect (but low taxes!) and there are financial and logistical limits to how much can be made up for in a single construction season. I’ve been advocating for years to put as much as possible into this in addition to the state funding we receive, and we have been slowly getting the backlog dealt with. Just as a note, state-funded and managed projects like the Canal Street reconstruction are separately driven from our city infrastructure.
Question 3 – Ward 5 features a significant portion of our Salem shoreline extending from Glover Street to the Marblehead line. Is the City doing enough to to address the rising sea levels?
Don’t forget Pioneer Terrace and the south side of Leavitt Street as well. The short answer right now is that yes, we’re doing what can be done. We’ve rebuilt seawalls, we’ve been addressing the South River drainage problems with a massive public works project that’s not done yet, and we’re in the process of taking the above-ground sewer line between Glover and Glendale Streets and burying it. Those local efforts continue and we’ve had substantial help from state and federal government in mitigating these costs.
The Gulf of Maine (which Salem is a part of) is seeing the highest seal level increases in the world. Ultimately, sea level is what it will be and our seawalls can only do so much to protect us. I hope we can, as a planet, slow down or stop the trends that make it exceedingly likely that we’ll have a new shoreline in a few decades. I live on Lafayette Street, and I don’t want that to be waterfront property.