Levine hits the jackpot as Peabody’s interim schools superintendent

27 Aug

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

File this under the category of things that make you want to scream as a taxpayer.

It has come to light that Peabody’s School Committee – on top of the $100K-plus fully loaded settlement with deposed superintendent Joe Mastrocola – is paying Herb Levine $158,400 to serve as interim super for the 2015-16 school year.

Herb Levine:

Herb Levine: “Mr. Interim Superintendent”

Not a bad take for Mr. Levine, a Peabody resident who has made a very nice living lately as an interim super. But, alas … there’s more!

According to his new Peabody contract, Levine, 67, will also receive 30 days paid vacation, up to 20 sick days, and a free trip (I say it’s a free vacation) to the annual superintendents’ junket in Phoenix in February.

But it gets even better! “Tell him what else he’s won, Don Pardo.”

Well, Herbie, of course, also gets to keep collecting his $118K a year taxpayer-funded pension as a retired full-time super.

And, then there’s a nice big piece of “cake” for Herb’s buddy, Charles Chaurette, who served as Levine’s second-in-command during their days together in Salem.

On Levine’s insistence, Chaurette – who already receives a $115K a year taxpayer-funded pension – will work three days a week and be paid $50,000 for the school year as interim school department human resources director.

Let’s face it, as jobs for retirees go, this certainly beats Levine and Chaurette having to collect the shopping carts at Hannaford, or hand out smiley face stickers at Walmart.

If you’re keeping score on this, so far the school committee’s decision to not keep Mastrocola for the final year of his contract will cost Peabody taxpayers — with all benefits and Chaurette’s salary included — almost $200,000 extra for the 2015-16 school year. Think about that the next time your kid says that the teacher needs you to donate boxes of Kleenex for the classroom because there isn’t enough money in the school’s supplies budget.

So why are we fleecing the taxpayers by automatically handing the interim job to Levine, a man who clearly has no concept of the phrase “hometown discount?” Well, by now, if you don’t feel that something stinks here, then maybe you should have your nose checked.

Peabody advertised the interim superintendent’s job this summer on an education job site, posted the job internally, and received 18 applications. But after this “nationwide search,” they interviewed no one while making Levine one of the wealthiest men in Peabody. The vote to hire Levine was 6-0, but Jarrod Hochman was the only member to vote against the odious contract everyone’s favorite educational hired gun eventually received.

The School Committee then sent out retiring member David McGeney, who no longer risks political peril, to do the dirty work of telling the Salem News that the application process was simply “procedural.” Apparently, none of the 17 other applicants were even worth talking to, since we all know that Mr. Levine has scary brilliance that makes him an overwhelming, without question, choice for this big pay day for he and his buddy.

Wonder why member Brandi Carpenter didn’t speak for the committee on this “brilliant” decision, which will now cost taxpayers an extra almost $200K this year? Wonder if that has anything to do with the fact that she’s battling for her life right now in an election year, and wants to run for cover from this decision that will have taxpayers — especially those seniors on fixed incomes — screaming for her political demise?

Brandi needs to realize that more than 80% of those who vote in every election are over the age of 60, and no longer have kids in Peabody’s schools. They are also the ones who haven’t exactly been thrilled to have their property taxes go up each year for the past 15 years.

But the voters shouldn’t ONLY blame her. Current school committee member Ed Charest is asking to be elected Ward 4 Councilor this fall. Great, just the type of fiscal irresponsibly we need on the City Council too!

The only saving grace for the taxpayers at this point is that at least two new faces will be on that school board come January, since two members are leaving. Hopefully, we the taxpayers can make it a clean sweep with three.

Has the phrase “time for a change” ever had greater meaning in a Peabody election?

Not in this lifetime.

Kinder Morgan’s deceitful propaganda campaign underway in Peabody

26 Aug

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Remember the covert campaign that Kinder Morgan launched to pay Peabody residents if they agreed to pose as fake pro-pipeline activists, and support its dangerous, disruptive and totally unnecessary high-pressure gas highway through our city?

Well, it looks like that campaign is now underway.

A Kinder Morgan-financed sign on Peabody city property

A Kinder Morgan-financed sign

The lawn sign image posted here is just one example. Someone planted it on Sutton Street. Well, I should say that — rather than revealing themselves by putting the sign on their own lawn — they put it on city property. It claims that the pipeline would lower energy bills, which is absurd in Peabody since our Peabody Municipal Light Plant uses very little gas to power its generators, and less than 40% of Peabody homes are heated by natural gas.

The website on the sign is financed by Kinder Morgan as part of Chief Propaganda Officer Allen Fore’s multimillion dollar plan to win hearts and minds with lies, damn lies and statistics when it comes to the Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline project. The proposed pipeline would carry fracked gas from Northeast PA to the sea, where it would be loaded on LNG tankers, and shipped to lucrative European markets to increase KM’s already obscene profits.

This is why the propaganda campaign by this company, which has become one of America’s worst corporate citizens, is so important to KM. After all, if KM can’t trump up fake support and fake demand for this gas on a local level, then getting its permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will be much more difficult.

I mean, imagine how it would look if it came out that this pipeline’s main goal is export, and that the people of Massachusetts and southern NH are being put at risk so French or British companies can benefit from cheap fracked gas, and so KM CEO Richard Kinder can increase his $8.8 billion net worth.

What we wonder now is how much they are paying a small number of Peabody residents to be fake pipeline proponents.  Or, should I say, pro pipeline dupes?

Need another example?

Check out this laughable Letter to the Editor by a “citizen,” .He talks about the wonderful tax benefit that KM will offer to the city. Wonder why he didn’t also talk about how much Allen Fore was willing to pay him to write the letter?

The letter’s purpose is not only transparent, but its point is also absurd. Tax benefits from a pipeline that would endanger homes, peoples’ lives and our environment?  While we’re at it, why don’t we also build a toxic waste dump next to Peabody High? That would give us lots of tax revenue.

Risk the safety of our water supply for tax revenue? Sorry, not the community I want to live in.

Besides, the tax revenue (an estimated $400K a year) is puny. Heck, we can get that from allowing someone to erect another couple of billboards, which are roadside eyesores, but at least no one’s going to die.

Beware, Peabody, this greedy Texas-based pipeline company is trying to win your hearts and minds, and it’s using our own misgusided citizens to help them spread their lies, damn lies and statistics

National Grid reports that there are 151 gas leaks in Peabody

23 Aug

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

As we unite to fight against the unnecessary proposed Kinder Morgan Pipeline, this shocking map emerges from local gas distributor National Grid. It shows 151 unrepaired gas leaks in Peabody, the oldest going back to 1992.  Click on the image below, and zoom in to see if there are any leaks in your neighborhood.

By the way, five of those unresolved leaks are in the Glen Drive neighborhood, close to the path for the so-called Peabody Lateral proposed by KM along the Independence Greenway bike path. Now that this map has come to light, it’s a given that this Peabody neighborhood has even more to worry about should a breach and explosion in the proposed KM line come in contact with these other unresolved leaks.

It was definitely a shock to me to see an unrepaired leak right outside my front door too.

If you haven’t already, please join the fight against this dangerous and disruptive new Kinder Morgan gas highway. None of this gas will be used in Peabody, making it even less worth the risk. Let’s continue to tell this Texas energy company that we won’t allow them to endanger resident safety, destroy property, and contaminate our water supply just so it can make an even more obscene profit.

MAP

Kinder Morgan is not being honest about its Danvers pipeline plans

21 Aug

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

If you have friends or family in Danvers, please let them know that they should call their selectmen immediately, and tell them to not be duped by Texas-based energy giant Kinder Morgan, which is now  threatening their community with its unnecessary and dangerous natural gas highway.

KMstopAfter all, the spin masters at KM – led by Chief Propaganda Officer Allen Fore – are at it again today. With their usual brand of half-truths, misinformation, and outright lies, a KM spokesman is using the Salem News this morning to brag about the riches the company will bestow upon Danvers.

“The estimated annual tax projection [for] Danvers … is $150,000 the first year after the project is in service,” KM spokes-weasel Richard Wheatley said in today’s Salem News, a number that probably came out of thin air. You see, the KM propaganda machine has a reputation for just making up numbers in an effort to lure communities into thinking that putting resident safety and quality of life into jeopardy is a good thing.

But that’s not the only concern for Danvers residents.

It also appears that the KM propaganda machine is working to fool Danvers residents and town officials into thinking that the pipeline will not put any Danvers homes in danger, since it will stop near the old landfill and behind Rosewood Drive.

“We haven’t had any calls from residents because it’s at the landfill,” Town Manager Steve Bartha told selectmen Tuesday night as he brought them up to speed on the project.

But based on this company’s reputation for half-truths, outright lies, and obscene thirst for profits, I guarantee you this isn’t stopping at the landfill.

KM’s ultimate goal is to get this pipeline to sea, from where it can put this gas on LNG tankers and ship it to lucrative foreign markets in Europe and South America.

It’s time now for Danvers to prepare. KM won’t stop at Rosewood Drive. They’re heading across Danvers to the Port. Make no mistake about that.

It’s what they always do: Get a small foothold in a community, and then expand further. Think about it. How does it make any sense that they’ll just stop at Rosewood Drive when they could run their line to Danversport, from where it could be extended out into Salem Harbor, where the infrastructure for an LNG terminal already exists.

There is no need for any of this gas in any of our local communities. Kinder Morgan knows this, and we shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that these so-called eastern laterals, off their main Northeast Energy Direct pipeline route, are anything other than a ruse to get this project approved. After all, they’d never get approval if they told the truth, which is that all of this gas is destined for foreign markets, and that we’re simply fodder along the route.

It’s time for the Danvers town officials and residents to get organized. Kinder Morgan, with its horrendous safety record, is using the town just like it uses all other communities in an effort to increase its own profits.

They won’t stop at the landfill, and the measly $150K carrot they’re dangling in front of you is the product of the KM propaganda machine.

Sign up and join the fight with Peabody, and we’ll help you keep this Texas-based company from wrecking quality of life in your community too.

These 5 only candidates worthy of your school committee votes

20 Aug
School Committee candidates (from left) Brian Addesa, Joe Amico, John Olimpio, Andrew Arnotis and Travis Wojcik

For School Committee: Brian Addesa, Joe Amico, John Olimpio, Andrew Arnotis and Travis Wojcik

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Officially, there are seven candidates running this fall for one of three seats on Peabody’s School Committee.  But in my opinion, only the five shown here are worthy of one of your three votes.

Why?

Well, each of them came on the “You Make The Call” cable show last night, and made themselves accessible to the voters of Peabody. It’s an important point, considering that the current school committee members haven’t exactly earned high grades lately for their communication skills.

As for the two who didn’t show, and didn’t make themselves accessible to the voters, it was their loss. And it could be a very big one. One of the no shows was this race’s only incumbent, which made us all wonder whether she needs to develop a thicker skin. Thankfully, most of Peabody’s elected officials understand that part of the job includes maturely being able to deal with the slings and arrows of public comment.

The five who came on last night are an impressive group, maybe the most-impressive I’ve seen when it comes to being at ease with answering questions and handling themselves under the lights.

Each of the five was totally at ease, and I’d personally feel comfortable voting for any of them.

If you missed it and would like to see these guys in action, we’ll re-run the program next Wednesday (Aug. 26), 8-9 p.m. on PAT Channel 99.

There’ll be a primary election on Sept. 29th to trim the field from seven to five. Just my opinion after last night, but the only candidates you should consider that day for your three voters are Brian Addesa, Joe Amico, Andrew Arnotis, John Olimpio and Travis Wojcik.

Candidates for school committee vie for your vote tonight in TV forum

19 Aug

‘You Make The Call’ show will air at 8 p.m. on PAT Ch. 99

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Brian Addesa

Brian Addesa

After a decade, we’re finally on the verge of an era of new ideas and independent thinking.  The upcoming city election will ensure that change is inevitable for Peabody’s School Committee.

Joe Amico

Joe Amico

By January, we’re guaranteed to have two new members of that board, and maybe three should current member Jarod Hochman win his race for Ward 4 Councilor.

Travis Wojcik

Travis Wojcik

But don’t dismiss the possibility that we could change four of the six seats this year, as several very viable and competitive challengers seek to not only fill the two currently vacant seats, but also go after incumbent Brandi Carpenter this November.

Tonight, on our “You Make The Call” television show (8-9 p.m., PAT Ch. 99), co-host Dick Jarvis and I will introduce and quiz the challengers for school committee. Five of the seven candidates for the three seats this fall will appear, as you the voter get to hear from Brian Addesa, Joe Amico, Andrew Arnotis, John Olimpio and Travis Wojcik.

Andrew Arnotis

Andrew Arnotis

John Olimpio

John Olimpio

If you ask me, the above five gentlemen should be the only ones you consider worthy of your three votes. After all, each has enthusiastically accepted this opportunity to speak to you, the voter.

Meanwhile, Carpenter has declined to appear on the show, and challenger Michel Bonbon has neither accepted nor declined the invitation. Make of that what you will.

But we hope you can tune in to what will be an excellent opportunity to hear from candidates who will change – hopefully for the better – the way Peabody’s School Committee operates.

School Committee candidate forum on ‘You Make The Call’

17 Aug

election-2015

The seven candidates for Peabody School Committee have been invited to appear Wednesday, 8-9 p.m., in a forum on the “You Make The Call” show on Peabody Access Telecommunications Channel 99.

The format will include each candidate briefly introducing themselves, followed by a Q&A from co-hosts Dick Jarvis and Bob Croce, and ending with each candidate presenting a closing statement.

The seven candidates, Brian Addesa, Joe Amico, Andrew Arnotis, Michel Bonbon, Brandi Carpenter, John Olimpio, and Travis Wojcik, will square off in a primary election on Tuesday, Sept. 29th.

The top six vote getters in the primary will meet in November’s final election, where they will vie for three seats on the board.

Update: So far, the only candidate to not reach out to say if he could make it on Wednesday is Mr. Bonbon. Meanwhile, Ms. Carpenter — the only incumbent in the race — has officially declined the invitation to come on the show to talk to the Peabody voters.

Kinder Morgan releases maps of homes that could be incinerated should its pipeline rupture

16 Aug

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

They call it the “incineration zone,” and it’s a phrase used for the area near a high-pressure gas pipeline that would face total devastation should the pipeline rupture.

Well, Peabody, we now know which specific homes are directly in harm’s way should the 24-inch line proposed by Texas-based energy giant Kinder Morgan rupture.

KM, which has a notoriously horrendous safety record, has released drawings showing the homes along Glen Drive that would be most-effected by its disruptive and dangerous project, which will transport gas that won’t be of any benefit to Peabody residents. The maps show homes that are located within 25 feet of the proposed easement, and I’m told the maps may be missing several homes. And even if homeowners aren’t concerned about an accident, think about this: Heavy machinery and equipment will be disturbing your peace from 25 feet away while they do the construction.

See the drawings below. I count more than 20 homes directly affected. These maps don’t show hundreds more Peabody homes in the Glen Drive neighborhood, which could be impacted too.

Here are the homes closest to the proposed pipeline path from Google Earth. Click on the photo for a larger view:

Glen

For residents who live in other towns along the so-called laterals, here’s the link to all of the maps released to show where homes lie in harm’s way. ALSO, for Peabody residents, maps display a lot larger if you click on the link and scroll down to the Peabody maps.

IF YOU LIVE IN ANY OF THESE HOMES on Glen Drive, please continue to deny access to your property to Kinder Morgan surveyors. Send a copy of this form to the company and one copy to the Peabody Police Department. If KM tries to come on your property after that, the advice is that you have those surveyors arrested, and that you press charges for trespassing.

Peabody1

Peabody2

Peabody3

Peabody4

KM propaganda can’t hide that the gas in their NED pipeline would be destined for foreign markets

13 Aug

(Note: Please join us in our fight against the Kinder Morgan Pipeline by signing up here)

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

A dude named Allen Fore—who essentially serves as Chief Propaganda Officer for the Texas-based company seeking to profit at the expense of the health, safety and quality of life of Massachusetts and NH residents—continued his tour of lies last night at a FERC scoping meeting in Lunenburg.

There's no need for more gas in Peabody, or anywhere else in Massachusetts

There’s no need for more gas in Peabody, or anywhere else in Massachusetts

As residents inside spoke in opposition of Kinder Morgan’s proposed gas highway to hell (e.g., the Northeast Energy Direct pipeline), Fore talked to reporters about how the company is benevolently building this pipeline to save us from high electricity rates, the result of a so-called natural gas shortage.

If you listen to Fore at these meetings, you’d think we were living in a Mad Max movie, and that any day now people are going to start killing each other over a cup of methane.

Fore told the Sentinel and Enterprise newspaper last night that the only reason KM is expanding its pipeline here is because they want to alleviate high energy prices for consumers.

“Remember: gas is used for more than home heating,” Fore said, noting that it also can be used to produce electricity. “It’s an electricity issue. It’s a gas issue.”

Oh, really?

Then why did ISO-New England, the entity that oversees the region’s electrical grid, just come out with a report that showed our demand for electricity continues to decline. That’s right, the wholesale price for electricity in June was 1.96 cents per kilowatt hour, down by nearly 50 percent over June 2014. And the decline, ISO said, continued in July, dropping by more than 27 percent over the previous year.

People are conserving and prices are dropping, dramatically, which leads us to this question:

Is Allen Fore simply uninformed, or … is he liar?

Considering that the company he works for stands to make an obscene profit off the NED project, I’m going to place my bet on the latter.

It’s also becoming clear to us now that, since ISO’s numbers are proving that we obviously already have more than enough gas capacity, Kinder Morgan has motives here other than heading off what is a fraudulent New England gas crisis.

Make no mistake, the gas that will flow through this destructive line, threatening homes, pristine conservation lands and public drinking water supplies, is destined for foreign markets. Kinder Morgan is trying to get to the sea, from where it will load this this fracked Marcellus Shale gas onto LNG tankers for sale in gas-starved Europe and South America.

In fact, we believe that the so-called laterals, which KM says are being installed off the main line to supply the needs of eastern Mass. communities – including Peabody – are a clever ruse to get FERC to go along and approve its permits.

Think about it. Why were the laterals added so late in the process? Could it be that KM wanted to alleviate suspicion that this gas was headed overseas, and we were just a pass through?

Could it be that KM knew that it would have been a public relations nightmare to have people think that none of this gas would benefit the people whose lives they are disrupting with this project?

Well, consider this, it has been reported that the current Spectra (Maritimes & Northeast) pipeline that goes through Peabody’s Independence Greenway bikepath, and on into Salem, is currently running at about half of its capacity. That’s right, the demand is so low, that they can’t give away the gas running through an existing pipeline in that area.

No matter what garbage spews from the mouth of Kinder Morgan’s Chief Propaganda Officer, make no mistake, the Peabody lateral is a ruse and totally unnecessary when it comes to meeting energy demands in our community.

Time for this company to fess up to this, and cancel all of these unnecessary laterals. Time for Allen Fore to spread his propaganda somewhere else. We’re just not buying it.

School Committee, Wards 1, 4 on city council races to watch in fall’s Peabody election

8 Aug

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

The deadline for pulling nomination papers for Peabody’s city election came and went at 5 p.m. on Friday, and it appears that the most-competitive races this fall will be for School Committee and in Wards 1 and 4 for the City Council.

election-2015Here’s a quick August analysis of how the field shapes up in the ward races, for councilor at-large, and on the school committee. Incumbent Mayor Ted Bettencourt was the only candidate to pull papers in that race, and for the second straight term, he’ll run unopposed.

City Council ward races

Incumbent councilors in Wards 2, 3, 5 and 6 are each unopposed.

 Ward 1 Councilor

It’s a three-way battle for an open seat between Jon Turco, Anne Quinn and Brian Barrett, which will necessitate a primary on Tuesday, Sept. 29th.

What’s interesting here is the race between Turco and Barrett.

Turco’s very active in the South Peabody community, and was instrumental in helping then city councilor Ted Bettencourt carry Ward 1 when the Mayor first beat Sean Fitzgerald for the chief executive seat in 2011.

Barrett, who was once Peabody’s assistant city solicitor, comes from an old South Peabody family, and his dad was a long-time city councilor.

This one is a battle of new Peabody (e.g., those who “emigrated” from places such as Revere, East Boston, Everett and Chelsea) vs. the “old Peabs,” who think anyone whose family hasn’t been here for 100 years is a “carpetbagger.” What’s interesting about that dynamic is that – these days — there seem to be just as many new arrivals as there are old families.

If Turco can get the newer arrivals out to vote in massive numbers (which is always challenging) he’ll win. If not, the Barrett name will be tough to overcome.

Ms. Quinn could also have an impact here. She’s the only woman on the ballot, and half the voting population is female. Typically, that dynamic has more of an effect on the councilor at-large and school committee races. But in a three person ward primary, it could be a factor.

Ward 4 Councilor

School committee members Ed Charest and Jarrod Hochman compete for the seat being vacated by long-time Ward 4 Councilor Bob Driscoll.

This one is too tough to call at this point, and neither one of these candidates has ever run a one-on-one race. We’ll see what develops between now and Nov. 3rd. But it will likely come down to whomever runs the most-effective campaign.

Councilor At-Large

Incumbents Anne Manning-Martin, David Gravel, Tom Gould, Tom Walsh and Michael Garabedian are all huge favorites to win re-election at this point. The old adage that councilor at-large incumbents just never lose will likely hold true again this time. The last time a councilor at-large incumbent lost was in 1998, when then sitting school committee member Jim Liacos beat Bill Toomey by less than 100 votes.

Challenger Peter Bakula, making his second run for an at-large seat, faces very long odds here.

Russ Donovan, a South Peabody resident and frequent candidate for office, has pulled papers, but as of Friday at 5 p.m., hadn’t brought back the required 50 signatures. Donovan has until Tuesday, the deadline for returning papers, to decide whether he’s in or not.

School Committee

For the first time in a while, Peabody has a wide-open race for a citywide office that is filled with new candidates. That will make this the most-interesting race of this election cycle.

Two of the three seats are open, and Brandi Carpenter is the only incumbent. There are eight candidates overall, with seven bringing back the required number of signatures to be on the ballot.

At this point, here’s this pundits view on how things are shaping up:

Carpenter should be an odds on favorite for re-election, since she is not only an incumbent, but also the only woman on the ballot. Traditionally in Peabody elections, where voters have more than one vote, there’s a huge advantage to being the only female name on a ballot. But it has also been a rough year for the sitting members of the school committee, who have felt the public’s wrath over the FKO afterschool program issue, and the debacle of sticking the taxpayers with a large separation agreement settlement for departed superintendent Joe Mastocola.  Brandi should win back her seat, but it’s definitely not as big of a lock as it would have been in most other years.

As for the rest of the field, here’s how I feel it shapes up:

Based on who I feel are the most qualified candidates, educators Brian Addesa and Joe Amico and attorney and CPA John Olimpio should be considered the odds on favorites to compete for the two open seats.

Throwing in Peabody’s penchant for wanting to always vote for candidates with deep roots in the city, also throw Andrew Arnotis into the previous mix. My feeling on Andrew, who comes from a well-connected South Peabody family, is that he’s a bright young candidate with a great future in Peabody politics. But I also feel that he’s not ready at this point. He’s a college student, and my fear is that he’ll be manipulated too easily by the existing school committee members, who haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory this year.  It’s not a knock at Andrew, who I feel is a good guy. It’s just that I honestly feel it’s not the right job for any 22-year-old.

At this stage, I really don’t see the rest of the school committee field as being all that competitive.

Michel Bonbon has over the years been very active in the Peabody Democratic City Committee. But I see the key members of that committee supporting Arnotis in this election. Travis Wojcik is another young candidate who could have a bright future in Peabody politics, but his lack of name recognition and inexperience will hurt him this time.

The only other candidate to pull papers is Neil Papamechail, who has until Tuesday to bring back his signatures and get on the ballot. Papanechail pulled papers two years ago, and didn’t bring them back. If he gets on the ballot this time, I feel he’ll be the longest shot in the field of eight.

The school committee candidate field will be trimmed to six following the Sept. 29th primary.

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