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“Tyranny of the Majority…Wow!”

WSNA Meeting 6 19 17 1


Do Salem and our broader region need another bridge? Many think so, and are working with Salem Bridge Solutions, and have signed the petition at salembridgesolutions.org, to help focus support for getting it built. Not everyone agrees, however, as is to be expected within a diverse community. There are even a few in West Salem, who happen to be in leadership roles on the West Salem Neighborhood Association (WSNA), who are adamantly opposed.

Linda Bierly’s Guest Opinion on September 22 was revealing, and a great example of why there have been contentious moments during WSNA meetings over the past few months. In essence, her belief seems to be that WSNA should be like other associations, where a board makes the decisions rather than the members.

She talks about her fellow residents, who she thinks she should represent, as an uninformed, antagonistic “mob” who use fear, and even physical and verbal intimidation tactics to achieve their single-purpose agenda! It all sounds so sinister, so what’s really going on in WSNA?

In a word…change. Until recently, WSNA was a sleepy neighborhood association with about a dozen, mostly retired people, regularly attending. In May, the news came out that WSNA had declared itself to be “neutral” on building a bridge. Knowing the overwhelming majority of West Salem residents want the new bridge, a group of residents began attending WSNA meetings and requested a vote to support a bridge.

After promising a vote, the leadership of which Linda is a member, refused to put it on the agenda, stating repeatedly, “we don’t want to be run by a TYRRANY OF THE MAJORITY.” Residents were put in the position of having to overcome this attempt to disenfranchise them by their own “leaders.” They proceeded to have the biggest turnout in Salem neighborhood association history, with over 350 people attending to vote for the bridge! This did not sit well with the leadership, who continued to oppose their own community at every step.

As details came to light, including the Land Use Committee recommending confusing plans that happen to directly benefit themselves, using $3.6 million taxpayer dollars, their plans began to unravel. With the community now involved, the leadership turned to bully tactics with their Parliamentarian shouting in the face of a community member, as leadership refused to tell the community about the upcoming election process.

Fortunately, these mini-dramas are coming to a close as WSNA elects new leadership on October 16th. Our community needs leaders who listen and represent the will of the vast majority. That’s true at the neighborhood association level as well as at City Council. 

We need leaders who are not stuck in the past, but leading toward the future we want for our city. That means people who understand that we must build the infrastructure to serve our current and future needs, and leave a legacy for our children.

To become part of the solution, join over 2,800 local residents on the Salem Bridge Solutions Facebook group.