I am Kim Driscoll, Mayor of Salem, Massachusetts, America’s Witch City – Ask Me Anything!
Happy Halloween, Reddit!
I’ve been Mayor of Salem, MA for eight years. Our vibrant and historic city of 40k residents draws nearly 350,000 visitors in October, with 100,000 of them arriving today – Halloween!
While our month-long “Haunted Happenings” festival (www.hauntedhappenings.org) is a family-friendly celebration of fun, Fall, and Halloween, we’re also sensitive to the history behind our City and commemorate the legacies and lessons of 1692 at our historic sites, with the annual Salem Award for Human Rights, and through educational programs at our museums and theater.
UPDATE (1:13pm): Thanks for all the great questions! I have to sign off now. Have a happy and safe Halloween, everyone!
Believe me, I don't like it either. Most of these folks come from out of state just for the month of October to preach their offensive messages. Salem is a very welcoming City and that's what is so infuriating about folks coming from out of town and acting this way. Unfortunately, they have constitutionally protected free speech rights and there is not much we can do to stop it.
Hi, Mayor. I've been a resident in Salem for 5 years and we love this town! It seems like you are doing a great job administratively. In one of your replies on here, you wrote, "we also do not curtail private businesses or enterprises – as long as they are meeting all relevant building and fire codes, licensing requirements, etc."
I have been following the story of Fatima's psychic studio, which is across the street from me. As you know, the police have received numerous reports of tourists being scammed out of money (one foolish tourist paid them over $16,000??) to have "curses removed." I was surprised to hear that the studio's license was just renewed. What gives?
I don't like it. I'm looking into it further. My early "read" on it is that the licensee who the city received complaints about did not get her license renewed (but other readers in the shop did get probationary licenses) and that the folks who offered complaints, did not want to testify further. I have asked for a report from the Licensing Board and hope the bad press will hinder this bad practice from continuing.
Hey I live in Beverly! Internet high-five?
You're kinda famous for your snazzy pant suits. Where do you get them?
Very funny Geoff....I borrow Hillary's hand me downs. :-)
Given Salem's remarkable transformation into a happening place to be every night, and not just on Halloween, how can a city like Lynn, or like Fall River, and similar communities, help turn around their reputations as Salem has?
I think every community has their own unique strengths and weaknesses. Finding out what those are and developing a plan around them is key. I'm fond of saying that we "Plan the work and then work the plan". In that regard, we try to play to what makes Salem special (history, tourism, architecture, waterfront, hip vibe, etc.), rather than just doing what worked someplace else. Certainly, having people live downtown and working with great institutional partners in culture (PEM), higher ed (SSU) and health care (Salem Hospital) have helped us revitalize our Gateway City. We also are focused on improving our public schools and maintaining Salem as a safe place to live with lots of different types of housing and neighborhoods. Collaboration with key community stakeholders is key. We are fortunate that we have good bones, but so do many places in the Commonwealth and with a growing urbanization trend, cities are the new suburbs.
Hey Kim so what did someone need to do or say to be classified as a witch ?
In 1692, just about any out of the ordinary behavior may have classified someone as a witch. Thankfully, today we are much more receptive to people from all walks of life in our City, including members of the Wicca religion.
Don't you think it's a bit sick that Salem now trades on its reputation as a place with links with witchcraft, when the whole tragedy of the place is that completely innocent people who were absolutely not witches were killed there?
That's a bit of a loaded question, because it's what I think, but I was wondering what your thoughts were on it.
Salem has an amazing history that goes well beyond the witch trials. With regard to what happened here in 1692, we have a number of historically accurate – and sensitive – attractions and tours that share the important legacies and lessons from the witchcraft hysteria. The Salem Witch Museum, the Witch Dungeon Museum, the Witch History Museum, and the Witch House – the only building left in Salem with a direct connection to the hysteria – all offer genuine educational opportunities. The Salem Award Foundation (http://salemaward.org/) commemorates the lessons of the tragedy by awarding a high-profile human rights award each year, and the Witch Trials Memorial is a tasteful and popular site downtown for people to walk through and reflect on the inhumanity of the hysteria......All that said, there are no shortage of psychics, haunted houses, and other less historically-relevant attractions and businesses. While the City does its best to create events and activities that are family-friendly and/or historically accurate, we also do not curtail private businesses or enterprises – as long as they are meeting all relevant building and fire codes, licensing requirements, etc.
Keep in mind that Salem’s Haunted Happenings festival is a celebration of Halloween and Fall in New England . The haunted houses, attractions, and entertainment visitors to Salem find in October provide fun for all ages.
How do we know you aren't a witch?
You don't...you're just gonna have to trust me.
Hey Kim, you've been to my (family) restaurant Cafe Graziani on Washington Street, I didn't get to say hi because I was working in the back. But hey one question. Was the food good?
Love Café Graziani! The wine dinners there are the best. Owners, Paula and Giovanni, are terrific Salem ambassadors.
Mayor, Are you relieved that the Sox won last night and don't have to play tonight? I heard we had some officers down in Boston to help assist them.
Relieved, happy and tired! This way we can celebrate the Sox victory and not worry about any of any of our planned public safety personnel being diverted to Boston for the 7th game.
Hi! I've been a Salem resident for over 6 years. This city is beautiful and I feel so lucky that I get a chance to live and work here. I understand that October is a very important time for our city, but I cannot help but feel like many of our visitors do not treat the city of Salem with respect. I've seen tourists eating their fast food on headstones in our cemeteries and while others have drawn pentagrams on some of our historical landmarks. I've also seen so many sporting the "I got stoned in Salem" T-shirts which honestly should not even be sold because they are really disturbing considering the fact that a man got pressed to death during the Witch trials. I feel that many that visit see Salem as some sort of Halloween Disneyland, but it is not. I know you cannot control the actions of others that visit, but maybe there could be someway of stressing the fact that if tourists want to come visit that they need to respect Salem and treat it like their own hometown.
Helena, We'd love to work on instilling some respectful protocols, especially in the Old Burying Point and at the Witch Memorial, for visitors who are here. Members of our tourism community could help us support and promote this message. Email me at [email protected] if it's something you would like to try and help us strategize on.
Is there anything that can be done about the abandoned and abandoned looking buildings along the northern part of Bridge St? A lot of work was put into freshening the area, but there are still large blighted buildings marring the landscape. One building has had a large plywood window for years and I only recently found that the building was not actually abandoned. The building across from Coffee Time is in a horrible state of disrepair and I believe is vacated. Is there anything to be done with these buildings? Any ways to attract commercial businesses that could thrive in these locations?
Now that the curb to curb enhancements along the new roadway are completed, we think this area is ripe for investment. We have formed a Bridge St stakeholders group and recently completed a master plan for this corridor. You can check it out at www.salem.com (under Planning Dept. studies and reports). New zoning has been proposed and we are bullish about new investment in this part of the City. There is interest in some of the very buildings you mentioned, so stay tuned!
Are you dressing up for Halloween?
Yes, I'll be dressed as the Mayor
Hi Kim. Thanks for all the work you've done with the city. You have a bright career in politics ahead of you (though I hope we don't lose you anytime soon.)
I'm a resident of the Salem Willows area. With Footprint's lease expiring in 2015 there has been a lot of talk about replacing/repurposing the land where the large coal power-plant currently exists. What are your goals with this area, and what is currently in place moving forward?
With the closing of the current coal fired power plant, we have an opportunity to do something transformational on this 65 acre, waterfront site. I support Footprint's proposed development of a smaller, more efficient, cleaner natural gas power plant on the site. This will remediate this site and free up approximately 25 acres on the site for public access, some compatible waterfront development activity, along with use of the deep water port for cruise ships. The permitting is wrapping up, but not completed for the new natural gas plant and we have spent a considerable amount of time on conditions and permitting aimed at limiting the impact from the demo and construction activity. Overall, it's an exciting time for some transformational new development on this parcel.
hello, mayor Kim,
can you give people an idea of how much work goes in to planning the festivities and security for Haunted Happenings.
Our public safety planning really happens all year long for Haunted Happenings. We'll do an after action assessment in early November with our public safety and inspectional services folks, as well as businesses, residents, etc. Our Police Department leads the effort each year and while there are similar operations, each year's plan is different and has to address a myriad of issues. We start formal talks in August and Police Chief Tucker, Capt. Gilligan, Fire Chief Cody and their staff do a great job trying to address every potential scenario and remain flexible to address things out of our control - like weather, 7th games of world series, etc.
Welcome, Mayor Driscoll! As a fellow Salemander, you don't need to worry about any ridiculous witch questions from me. ;)
My wife and I have been living in Salem for the last 4-5 years, and we've seen the city grow in a lot of really wonderful ways. The downtown restaurant scene is getting better and better, the city's handling of the recent minor parking meter reset fiasco was just perfect. Kudos for a job well done!
My biggest problem with Salem is the traffic. Washington St. is a disaster by mid-morning, and there aren't any good alternatives for getting from south to north, or vice-versa. Taking my wife to work in the afternoon - from Canal St. to north Salem - takes 10-15 minutes for a 2 mile trip. With the planned development on Dodge St. and the new apartment complex on Lafayette adding traffic to an already-backed-up Washington/Derby intersection, the situation is only going to get worse.
Does the city have any plans to address downtown congestion in the near future?
Thanks for the question. As a former planner, we are always trying to balance new growth with our infrastructure challenges. In a city as old as ours (meaning we have roads that were built for horse and buggy), managing today's flow of vehicular traffic can be difficult. We also know that a key to the downtown revitalization has been having more people live downtown to help support the growing retail and restaurant establishments. So, the trick is how to have some amount of density, but not so much where it's a complete stranglehold on traffic. We have approached this in a couple of ways. One, is improving existing corridors like North St., Bridge St., the new ByPass Road (Sgt. Ayube Memorial Drive) and Canal St. which is currently under construction. Look for improvements in the Blubber Hollow Neighborhood and the Highland Ave corridor next. Certainly, the Boston St corridor and the final piece of the Bridge St (Flint to Wash) need attention. Any new development is usually tapped to help support ($) new transportation/access/circulation plans. We also want to support more pedestrian activity via complete streets models and new bike/walking paths. After that, we strive to promote alternative means of getting around downtown-from the free Salem Spins bike share program to free Trolley rides that loop downtown for Salem residents. We are not growing new roads, so it's hard to think about creating an entire new roadway system, but improving what we have and making it easier to use alternatives modes of transport top our list.
Hi Kim. Do you have any endorsements for councilors in the upcoming elections?
I like a lot of what the SNEWS had to say in today's paper....http://www.salemnews.com/opinion/x1909754372/Our-view-Voting-for-change-in-Salem
What is your favorite thing to do on Halloween?
People watching....no better place to see and be seen than Salem on Halloween. Although, it's pretty much a working holiday for me!
I can hear a street preacher shouting into a megaphone. Breaking noise ordinances. SHOUTING INTO A MEGAPHONE!!!!eleven.
I can hear him from my home in Salem, MA. Over a box fan and a loud TV. I don't want to equate Hallowe'en in Salem with these berks.They threaten people, target and antagonize people, and practice hate speech (equating gays with paedophiles). What are you going to do about it?
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