So today is Halloween and like every year I will blog about how bad it is here in Salem. Evidently, my neighbors are beginning to agree. Starting with the first weekend in October, the traffic congestion on Saturdays and Sundays grows and grows until by the end of the month, you just don’t bother going out on the weekends. On Halloween, nearly the entire center of the city is shut down so that tens of thousands of people can come in and wander around the streets in costume. Not that there’s anything for them to do: the bars fill to capacity nearly right away, the restaurants are packed as well, and the haunted houses have long, long lines. And so they wander around. While public drinking is forbidden, that doesn’t seem to stop many folks.
Our city leaders claim that we need Halloween as our city’s economic engine. I doubt it provides the dollars they think it does. For one thing, many of the businesses that set up for the month are operated by out-of-towners who take their cash, come November 1, and head for warmer climes. Yeah, the restaurants and bars make money and the kid working the haunted houses for minimum wage. But what about the costs? How much business is lost because folks are scared away by the milling and sometimes rowdy crowds? How much money is spent on the suffocating police presence? This year they’ve set up a mobile command center and put up video surveillance around town. They say they don’t want a repeat of last year’s stabbings. Unfortunately, there’s been a warning of possible gang activity. Oh joy.