Group drops plan to replace banners in downtown Salem

SALEM – Salem Renaissance won’t be going forward with plans for new banners in downtown Salem.

David Schwartz, a member of the nonprofit group, said the banner committee decided to step away at this time after learning that Mayor John Berlin had suggested changes to the latest design submitted to him.

Salem Renaissance is planning to return the $3,000 grant secured from the Pearce Foundation to pay for the banners, he said.

“We have gone the extra mile in trying to make the banner fit the strict requirements of the city,” he said, adding the banner was to be a gift for the community. “We’re simply not going to jump through any more hoops at this time.”

Berlin said he spoke with Schwartz on Monday and was told they were holding off on the project.

“If it doesn’t go forward, I’ll be disappointed, but that’s their decision,” he said.

Salem Renaissance paid for the original banners that were placed on the city light poles about 12 or more years ago and members thought it might be time to replace them since they were looking a little worn. The grant would have covered 115 banners.

After seeing the first design, which employed the colors red, white and green, Berlin asked for some opinions and requested a special meeting of the Design Review Board members to hear their thoughts.

The board and the mayor asked for changes in the color scheme, from red, white and green, to just red and green, asking that a line going through script Salem be removed and that the words Historic Downtown be placed in larger typeface above the word Salem. The original proposed design included three background colors, with red at the top, then white, then green. The word Salem was written in script across the middle, with part of it in the red and part in white, with the outline of a dove holding a branch of leaves underneath.

The design also included the round sun above Salem and trees below. At the top were the words “Historic Downtown Since 1806” and on the bottom were the words “The City of Peace.” Below that were individual words for three separate designs: Pride, Culture and Progress. A fourth banner had been added to say Historic with the words Downtown Salem below.

At the meeting, there was a lot of talk about the need to say Historic Downtown Salem, with Schwartz stressing the banners were representative of the entire city, not just the downtown. The general consensus was to keep the green section green and make the white and red sections all red, putting the words “Since 1806” in small type then “Historic” and “Downtown” in larger type, all stacked over script Salem. The bottom wording would remain the same, but they didn’t feel the need for the fourth banner with the word “Historic” at the bottom.

Schwartz said he was surprised by what he considered the total redesign of the banner. He took the information back to the committee and another design was sent to the mayor, with the same script Salem, dove, trees and sun, but still retaining three colors, this time with orange at the top, white in the middle and green on the bottom.

At the top above script Salem was “Est. 1806” and nothing else. The fourth banner remained saying Historic Downtown Salem, while the other three banners all said City of Peace and each of those banners had a separate word: pride, culture and progress. The lines separating the colors remained and the word Salem was slightly cut off on both sides, which Schwartz said was by design.

Berlin said when he saw the redesign, it appeared the line separating the top two colors was going through the letter “l” in Salem and made it look like a “t” and the “m” looked like an “n” because it was slightly cut off.

He said he saw “satan” and he wasn’t the only one when others were shown the redesign. He thought maybe they hadn’t conveyed their suggestion properly about removing the line before.

He again suggested removing the line, making the word Salem fit without cutting it off and eliminating the fourth banner and put Historic Downtown at the top on all the banners.

“To me it was perhaps some minor changes,” he said.

Berlin offered thanks to Salem Renaissance for all the hard work they put into the banners and for all their past support, saying he was looking forward to new things in the future.

“We’re really disappointed that we’re not able to assist the city with beautification at this time. We will look forward to helping in the future, but it’s just not plausible to do this at this time,” Schwartz said.

Members of the banner committee besides Schwartz included Lois Mountz, JeanAlice Fehr, Elaine Rousseau Kothera, Jack Kothera, Hope Theiss and Elizabeth Thatcher.