Charter, candidates to take stage in Salem

SALEM — Salem area voters can learn more about the charter commission issue during a public forum at 6 p.m. Oct. 25, then meet the candidates for city government, school board and Perry Township offices at 6 p.m. Oct. 30.

Both pre-election events are sponsored by the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce and its Legislative Affairs Committee, with the charter forum being held at the Salem High School auditorium and the candidates’ night located at the Salem Community Center.

“The chamber’s Legislative Affairs Committee often provides applicable business information pertaining to local, state, and federal government issues to its membership. For many years, the chamber has been the organization that has sponsored election forums with the local candidates, giving the citizens of Salem the opportunity to hear from those individuals running for office. We are looking forward to providing these two special election events and hope that our citizenry will come out for both meetings,” chamber Executive Director Audrey Null said.

With 32 candidates running for office (that includes 16 running for charter commission), she explained the decision was made to conduct the candidates’ night a little differently than what’s been done in the past. Each candidate will have the opportunity to introduce themselves with their name and a short speech that’s under 2 minutes. After all the candidates have been introduced, they’ll mingle with the crowd, giving those voters in attendance a chance to ask questions one-on-one or with a handful of people at a table.

“We’re making it more of a networking event,” she said.

There will be no formal question and answer session or prepared questions given to candidates in a lecture-style presentation, which in the past took a lot of time. This gives the public a chance to ask their own questions informally. Null said not all the candidates will show up, but all can expect to receive an invite. The chamber was sending out letters to each candidate to personally invite them to attend the event.

There are contested races for city treasurer, city council-at-large, charter commission, school board and Perry Township township trustee. Invitations were also being sent to the unopposed candidates, which include the president of council and the unexpired term on the school board.

The public forum regarding the charter commission issue will be presented by Jock Buta and Dave Nestic, who serve as co-chairs of the Legislative Affairs subcommittee for the charter. The event is actually being hosted by the chamber’s Political Action Committee for the charter.

Null estimated the presentation will last 30 to 45 minutes, leaving lots of time for questions from the audience.

The issue failed in an extremely close vote last fall, prompting city council to try again, stressing that people are not voting for or against a charter — they’re voting on whether or not the charter commission should be formed to frame a possible charter form of government for Salem. Out of 16 candidates for the commission, 15 will be selected. They’ll only get to serve if voters say yes to the charter commission question. If voters say no, the 15 selected for the commission won’t get to serve.

This will be the only Salem issue covered in a forum.