Kim’s Accomplishments in Office:
Kim took office at a time when Salem was in tough shape. There were record deficits, poor financial management, and a bond rating that tied the city’s hands. The city had to borrow money just to pay salaries for cops and teachers. Downtown Salem was characterized by empty storefronts and neighborhood parks and playgrounds were in desperate need of maintenance and care.
Using professional and sound practices, Kim managed to turn those deficits into record reserve funds and saved taxpayers’ money through the use of technology and finding efficiencies through regionalization, reforming municipal health insurance, and bidding public contracts.
The over-spending local retirement system was reformed, stabilizing its finances and protecting workers’ and retiree’s savings. Salem’s bond rating moved up to its highest levels in the city’s history. Politics was taken out of service delivery and replaced with professionalism. Hiring became about what you knew, not who.
Investments were made in schools, roads, and open spaces, and a new commitment was put in place to revitalize the downtown and Salem’s historic harbor and waterfront.
All spending was reflected transparently in a budget document that earned accolades from national government finance watchdog groups, a new website was launched that earned recognition from Common Cause, and new citizen boards such as the Neighborhood Improvement Advisory Council and the Salem State University Neighborhood Advisory Committee were formed.
Working collaboratively with other officials and local partners, the city was able to secure sizable private investments, including a new MBTA train station and a state courts complex.
The city has pursued responsible growth opportunities to address the growing need for housing – not just for those who want to move to Salem and share in this great city, but for those who grew up here and want to remain. Growth has also meant a vibrant small business community and local economy, with both larger employers and small companies thriving and contributing to the city’s resurgence.
Balanced growth, coupled with the city’s aggressive pursuit of grant opportunities – over $100 million over the last ten years – means that Salem taxpayers haven’t seen the same types of tax increases that other North Shore communities have. Over the last decade Salem has had the second lowest increase in the average single-family tax bill and it’s taxes have gone up 15% less than the state-wide average.
Salem has been forward-looking under Kim’s administration. With a commitment to quality of life and safe neighborhoods, both police and fire ranks have been bolstered, with new equipment and tools. An opiates task force, new addiction intervention program, and a specialized curriculum in the middle school grades are all working to combat the scourge of opioids.
The city adopted a climate change mitigation plan and took steps to lower its own carbon footprint – steps that also helped the city and residents save on their electric bills. A proud parent of Salem Public School children, Kim has also chaired the Salem School Committee in her position as Mayor, and helped push for collaborations and strategies to improve Salem’s schools and for added investments to support teachers and students.
From one of the first non-discrimination ordinances in Massachusetts and a 100% score on the Municipal Equality Index, to major investments in veterans benefits, to the first age-friendly action plan certified in Massachusetts and the long fought-for new senior center, Salem under Mayor Driscoll has been – first and foremost – about including and welcoming everyone.
Kim’s leadership has helped transform Salem into what Boston Magazine called in 2013 one of Massachusetts “Best Places to Live.”
While much has changed in Salem since she was first elected in 2005, Kim remains just as optimistic and hopeful about Salem’s future, and just as committed to leading this great city forward.