A week ago last Monday at the West Salem Neighborhood Association, there were a series of totally inappropriate vocal and physical disturbances instigated by folks who support a new bridge, based primarily on emotions without much critical analysis. It was very disturbing, especially in light of what is happening nationally. I commented on it at length at Monday’s council meeting. I spoke from written notes which are reproduced below. Sorry for the length (especially without pictures!) but this issue is important.

One of the functions of Salem neighborhood associations is to receive and discuss information concerning city projects and proposed projects and to inform the council of the NA’s positions on any given issue, including any differences of opinion. It is expected that any NA discussion shall be civil, respectful, and allow all sides to have their say. Unfortunately this did not happen at last week’s West Salem neighborhood’s meeting.

While I was not there, I have spoken to seven people who were, including Councilor Lewis. While some may disagree as to the rationale for and history behind the actions taken, all agree that the meeting was disruptive, disrespectful and totally antithetical to how neighbors should behave, much less how human beings should behave. The co-chairs of the NA were interrupted, shouted at, talked over, accused of bad faith, had the microphone taken away after the chair had declared the meeting adjourned, and accorded absolutely no respect or civility.

The instigators of the majority of this behavior were persons in favor of the proposed Salem River Crossing, a matter which was not even on the agenda at the meeting, except tangentially with respect to a motion contained in the minutes of the previous meeting. While the NA’s parliamentarian, in an attempt to keep order, did inappropriately shout “sit down” at the people who were disturbing the meeting, he appropriately apologized to them for his actions.

I am certain that the proponents have deep felt and sincere beliefs as to the necessity of the proposed bridge. I believe that they have every right to their beliefs and every right to discuss the situation in a respectful and civil manner. What happened at the meeting is not proper behavior; not behavior that anyone should be proud of, and not behavior that should be repeated in any setting. This is not the type of behavior which should be allowed to pass unnoticed. It must be stopped now.

People, in spite of our differences of opinions, we should all treat others as we would wish to be treated. All sides should discuss city issues on the merits of the issues themselves without resort to ad hominem and personal attacks.

Neighborhood Associations are a microcosm for the issues we face as a community.

• We are all a part of Salem. We are all neighbors.

• Whatever our views, we can agree to disagree.

• We will always strive to be civil in our conversations with our neighbors.

To that end, councilor Lewis and I will be appearing on CCTV later this week to urge people on all sides of any given issue to follow these guidelines and to discuss the high value that the Council places on civic discourse in our community.

Tom Anderson is a trial lawyer and has served as Ward 2 city councilor since January 2015. This text was originally posted on his Facebook page: Tom Andersen – A Progressive Voice for Salem