No vacancy sign is up already at the new Peabody ‘hotel’

24 Mar

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

The land that time forgot (aka Peabody Square) now may be getting a makeover that has zero chance of revitalizing that maligned downtown stretch of our fair berg.

No room at the inn?

No rooms at the inn?

Remember that swanky “boutique” hotel we all got excited about when we heard it was coming to the corner of Main and Foster in the O’Shea Building? Well, The Eye has learned that the owner of that property wants to change his plans, and now join the housing unit developer pig fest instead.

Word on the street is that Middleton­-based firm Bandar Development & Builders are abandoning their plan for a hotel, and instead, are hoping to develop . . .

Wait for it . . .

Several dozen apartments!

Geez, usually, they build a hotel in an economically challenged area, wait for it to fail, and then convert it to low-income housing. But in this case, we might be cutting out that first stage.

The beautiful boutique hotel, perhaps with a nice restaurant, which might have actually given people at least one reason to visit Peabody’s downtown? It’s likely gone through sleight of hand while yet another developer cashes in and Peabody Square gets no better when it comes to revitalization. After all, we’ve been building thousands of apartment’s downtown for years now, and what has it gotten us?

A few more barber and beauty shops. A couple of new liquor stores. And a scene that makes downtown Lawrence seem like Venice by comparison.

But this tale of presto chango has another little sidelight. First off, it appears that – since the zoning is right – changing now from a hotel to apartments won’t require the developer to go before the Peabody City Council.

And . . . guess which developer owns the rights to that mysterious plan for building what the Mayor called a future “multi-use” development across from the disappearing hotel?

That’s right, Bander has won the right to also develop what is currently the city-owned parking lot on Foster and Main. The city says it’ll be mixed-use with apartments on top and trendy shops and restaurants down below. But who knows what we’ll get considering Bander’s sudden 180 on the disappearing hotel.

Maybe Bander will build a roller coaster instead!

None of this, of course, is funny if you’re a Peabody taxpayer.

We continue to have no serious, comprehensive plan for downtown revitalization, and that’s tragic.

I was reminded again this past Saturday night after spending some time in Salem, which even on a cold, windy early spring night was teaming with activity when it came to its shops, bars and restaurants. After enjoying what Mayor Kim Driscoll and the Salem City Council had managed to build, it was a sad ride back home through Peabody Square.

While Salem was bustling, downtown Peabody was a ghost town at 9:30 p.m. Even the “beautiful” barber shops were closed.

Happy Holidays! Your property taxes are increasing for 14th straight year

22 Nov

Community development shows no vision, homeowners take the hit

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Used to be, back when our phones weren’t smart and our current mayor was still draining 3s for Peabody High’s basketball team, annual property tax increases were about as frequent as snow storms in July. They just didn’t happen, and “la, la, la, la, la, laaaaa” all was well in the land ruled by Peter Torigian.

taxIt’s only too bad that, while we were enjoying the rule of a man dubbed the Emperor by a former favorite ink-stained columnist, everyone forgot to glance at those dark clouds on the horizon.

But it’s time to pay for all of that now, Peabody.

In case you missed it, Mayor Ted Bettencourt came before the City Council on Thursday night to get another annual property tax increase. For those of you keeping track, combined between the Bettencourt and Mike Bonfanti administrations, that’s now 14 straight years of increases.

This time, the average homeowner will, they say, pay just $164 more a year. Doesn’t seem like a lot on its own, but let’s add this all up, shall we?

With the average increase the past 14 years being roughly 4% annually, that means our property taxes have increased a whopping 56% since 2001.

Blame it on those dark clouds, if you want. After all, the Torigian years were all about keeping taxes low in the 1980s and 1990s, with no one really thinking about the future when it came to building schools, and re-building infrastructure.

But while Democrats in Congress continue to say “it’s Bush’s fault,” it’s time for Peabodyites everywhere to stop blaming Torigian.

The late, great Emperor walked away at the end of 2001, and there were people who voted in the past election who are too young to even remember him as Mayor.

It’s also shortsighted to keep blaming this on a big bill from the North Shore Mega-Voke, which our City Council unwisely voted for four years ago.

And … trying to sugar coat it by saying the tax increase is kinda a good thing since our property valuations have risen? That’s, as you say, so much cow fertilizer! Unless you’re selling your home to get out or Peabody, who cares?

The true reason for these ceaseless annual increases is that the two mayors since Torigian have offered little vision for dramatically increasing Peabody’s revenues, while taking  that burden off residents.

Peabody still has no long-term plan for expanding its commercial tax base by bringing more quality-of-life-improving businesses to town. We have no REAL plan for the revitalization of our downtown, and the Centennial Industrial Park remains an out-of-date relic of the way business was done back in the 1970s.

Instead of having a long-term strategic plan for growth, we continue along with community development department leaders who couldn’t spell innovation without a dictionary, and think that jamming more tiny apartments into the downtown is the answer.

Look. I like Ted Bettencourt. I think he’s a great guy with lots of passion and enthusiasm for the job of Mayor, and have supported him personally with my votes and my checkbook. But he needs to lead here. He needs to clean house in community development, and bring in people who can help him develop a real plan for expanding our tax base without putting more of the burden on homeowners.

He needs to find out how they are doing it in Salem and Beverley and other North Shore communities, who have actual vibrant downtowns. Hey Ted, let’s go to other communities, where they’ve done it right, and try and steal away those strategic thinkers to help Peabody. It’s time to stop with the “well, Peabody still has the lowest tax rate on the North Shore” BS, and realize that it’s only going to get worse if we don’t start executing on a real community development plan.

After all, unless you call billboards and jamming more low income apartments into downtown “community development,” there really is no vision right now.

I truly am getting tired of writing this each year at this time.

But here we go again …

Happy Holidays, Peabody homeowners. You’re taxes are going up.

This time, will Cole put Peabody before her own personal political ambition?

6 Nov
For Leah Cole will doing the business of the people come first?

For Leah Cole, will doing the business of the people become a priority in second term?

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

The post-election haze is subsiding, and now we contemplate which direction Leah Cole will head as Peabody’s newly re-elected representative in the Massachusetts Great and General Court.

Her victory on Tuesday over Beverley Dunne, in the election for 12th Essex District State Rep, was a surprise to some, and a moment of celebration for others.

As for those who think about Peabody’s future, we wonder which road Ms. Cole will take now that she is no longer an “accidental State Rep?” She won a high-turnout general election on Tuesday, and it’s undeniable that she’s earned the job.

But, like a lot of people, I continue to wonder if Peabody’s voters will get what they paid for here.

After all, during her first 18 months in office, and after winning the special election for the seat left vacant with the tragic passing of Joyce Spilliotis, Cole was more interested in positioning herself and her future as a Republican Party rising star than she was in taking care of Peabody’s interests.

Although neither would publicly admit this, since it would be “politically improper,” the other two members of our legislative delegation have picked up the slack for Peabody the past 18 months while Cole cavorted and conspired with right wing members of her party on ways to disrupt our state government. It was a strategy not dissimilar to what Republicans are doing in Congress, the only difference being that Rs on Beacon Hill remain badly outnumbered by the Ds, and thus are disrespected there like some fringe party.

But with future visions of “Governor Cole” or “Congresswoman Cole” dancing in her head, Leah has seemingly spent most of her time on Beacon Hill trying to improve her political capital with Republicans whom aren’t exactly moderates. My sources tell me it’s all starting to wear on Rep Ted Speliotis and Senator Joan Lovely, who are doing a lot of standing in for Cole while she tilts at windmills with lunatic fringe Reps such as Marc Columbo, Shaunna O’Connell, and Jim Lyons.

All of this leaves us wondering which way Cole will head now. Will she be an ambitious right wing Republican constantly in campaign mode, or like her predecessor, will she care only about doing the business of the people of Peabody?

It’s funny to see all the comments on the blog from Cole supporters, who insist that Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt only endorsed Dunne because the school committee member was a Democrat.

Oh sure, party loyalty, and the fact that Ted and Beverley have been friends and business associates for years, had something to do with the endorsement.

But the major reason why the Mayor endorsed Dunne was because he felt she had the experience, and would be focused always and only on Peabody. It is, after all, critically important that the Mayor have a partner who can get his city the funds it needs from the state to improve the quality of life of Peabody citizens.

Bettencourt’s endorsement had little to do with R’s and D’s, which brings me back to my original point here.

Will Leah Cole be able to put her ideology and ambition aside to effectively do the business of the people of Peabody? Will the voters truly get what they paid for this time?

We shall see.

Did Lyons show that Speliotis belongs on endangered incumbents list in 2 years?

5 Nov

Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Some observations on yesterday’s State Election now that  Martha Coakley’s personal hostage crisis has ended.

The most-interesting local result yesterday, and one that pretty much flew under the radar, came in the 13th Essex District State Rep race.

Ted Speliotis

Ted Speliotis

On one hand, incumbent Democrat Ted Speliotis won by a comfortable 779 votes over upstart Republican challenger Tom Lyons.

But on the other, it was really surprising to see how strong Lyons, a West Peabody resident with Danvers roots, finished against a guy who is the so-called current “Dean of the Peabody Delegation on Beacon Hill.”

Although Lyons ran a great campaign, it’s rare to see a newbie make it that close against such an entrenched incumbent. Most-impressive and telling for future potential candidates, who may run against Speliotis, is  how Lyons trounced the incumbent by a whopping 246 votes in Peabody’s Ward 6.

If Lyons can trounce Speliotis this badly in West Peabody, just imagine how badly the long-time State Rep would lose to Ward 6 Councilor Barry Sinewitz, who is a way more popular figure in the ward than Lyons.

If Speliotis runs again in two years, clearly he’s the most-vulnerable solon in the Peabody delegation, and maybe the entire state.

A power shift to the West in Peabody politics

Barry Sinewitz

Barry Sinewitz

Speaking of Sinewitz, outside of the candidates who prevailed yesterday, the Ward 6 Councilor was clearly the biggest winner politically during this campaign cycle.

Sinewitz, after all, gambled early on, and won big-time when newcomer Seth Moulton handily beat Republican Richard Tisei for Congress in the MA 6th District.

The gamble Sinewitz made was being the only Peabody elected official with the courage to strongly back Moulton over long-time incumbent John Tierney in advance of the Democratic primary. And now, the Ward 6 Councilor has a political star for a friend.

If you watched the television coverage of Moulton’s acceptance speech last night, it became clear how much the Congressman-elect appreciated Sinewitz’s support.  Right there behind Moulton, on a stage reserved for family and very close supporters, the Ward 6 Councilor smiled and applauded.

Although Sinewitz has already proven his strength as a candidate by routing all comers each time he’s run for Ward 6 Councilor, his association with the new Congressman clearly adds to his strength when it comes to electability. As of today, if I had to rank the most-popular/powerful political figures in Peabody, Sinewitz would move up to No. 3, just behind Councilor At-Large Tom Gould and Mayor Ted Bettencourt.

The fact is that Ted Speliotis shouldn’t look over his shoulder for a hard-charging Tom Lyons in two years.  He should worry more about born again Democrat Barry Sinewitz.

Suddenly, Manning is moving on up too

Another Peabody pol with improved cache following the State Election is Councilor At-Large Anne Manning, who jumped on the Charlie Baker for Governor bandwagon early. Manning also came out looking strong after she backed Rep. Leah Cole. While Sinewitz has a Congressman now on his side. Manning will have a Governor. That, in my opinion,  makes her the fourth most-powerful pol in Peabody.

Not perfect, but pretty close as usual

OK, so I was wrong about the State Rep race between incumbent Republican Leah Cole and Democratic challenger Beverley Dunne.

But give me some credit, will ya? I was right in predicting victories yesterday for Moulton, Speliotis and Baker. What’s the old Meat Loaf lyric about two out of three?

I was also right on ballot questions 1 and 2.

With an impressive batting average like this, I think I’m a candidate someday for the political pundit Hall of Fame. Don’t you?


Follow Bob on Twitter @eyeonpeabody

Congrats to Moulton on his win, and Tisei for being a class candidate until the end

4 Nov

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Richard Tisei

Richard Tisei

Seth Moulton

Seth Moulton

Not a lot of free time to write tonight, but I have to say that I have even more respect for Richard Tisei after just watching his concession speech on NECN.

No doubt it was a tough result to swallow for Richard, but his concession speech was as gracious as it gets.

Congrats to Seth Moulton on his victory.

But like I’ve written in this space before: We would have been well served in Congress no matter which man won this election.

I’ll have a full recap and more commentary on the results both locally and across the state tomorrow.

In the local State House races, Ted Speliotis won by a comfortable margin over hard-working challenger Tom Lyons, and Republican Leah Cole upset Peabody School Committee member Beverley Dunne for the second time in the 12th Essex District.

Official results from City Clerk Tim Spanos on the 12th Essex race:

Cole 7,264

Dunne 6,829


Observations early on this Election Day; Please let us know what you’re seeing

4 Nov

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Some observations so far on this Election Day . . .

VoteConstant Companion and I voted at the Kiley School at 8:15 this morning, and once again it was nice to see a professional and courteous poll worker crew on duty. Hats off to the city and Clerk Tim Spanos for cleaning up what had previously, in the case of some workers, been a bad scene in Ward 5 …

Just got a robo call from some women who said she used to live in Michigan, and if we don’t vote against casinos by voting “Yes” on Question 3, there’s a chance that Massachusetts could become as bad as Detroit. After hearing this silliest robo call ever, it made me question my voting Yes this morning. I voted to roll back the casino law for more common sense reasons.

We won’t become Detroit because of casinos, but Peabody will lose a big chunk of change when MA lottery sales dwindle because of big-time gambling alternatives . Right now, Peabody gets about $6 million from lottery sales at stores and restaurants within our borders.

For the record, I voted: YES-NO-YES-NO on the ballot questions. I left that ridiculous “moonbat” Question 5 blank. . . .

Quiet morning for sign holders at the Kiley. All I saw were two sign holders for State Rep Ted Speliotis, and one lonely sign holder for his opponent Tom Lyons.  . . .

Secretary of State Bill Galvin is predicting a healthy 53% voter turnout across MA today. When we voted this morning, we were No. 87 and 88 in Ward 5, Prec. 2. Not bad, considering the polls had only been open for a little more than an hour. . . .

Let me know in the comments section what you’re observing as you vote today.

If you haven’t gotten out yet, or are confused as to where you should go to vote, you can use this handy tool from the Secretary of State’s office to find out where you should vote.

State election: And the winners are … Speliotis, Dunne, Moulton and Baker

3 Nov

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

No need to stay up late tomorrow night waiting for election results. Utilizing my superior knowledge of politics, I bring you this evening a rock-solid, 100 percent accurate prediction of what will happen in the races we care most about in tomorrow’s state election.

These predictions (or should I call them a guarantee of what will happen?), are not being made with my own personal bias. I’m not telling you here whom I want to win, or whom is most-deserving of victory.

I’m simply calling upon my undeniable, sometimes scary talents to tell you what will happen. No crystal balls, no time machines or flux capacitors. Just talent on loan from God. :)

So here goes …

State Representative in the 13th Essex District

(Danvers, West Peabody, and part of Middleton)

 Ted Speliotis will win by at least 10 points

Ted Speliotis

Ted Speliotis

Republican Tom Lyons is a good guy, and the type of sincere new candidate that we like to see get involved in politics. But even though he’s worked hard during his campaign, long-time Democratic incumbent Ted Speliotis won’t break a sweat in winning re-election. Lyons will lose by a significant margin, even in West Peabody, his own home part of the district.

I live in the West Peabody, and electorally have done extremely well here in each of the two times I ran for citywide office. I know the people and the neighborhoods. I have lots of friends and family in Ward 6 particularly, yet no one I know is talking about Lyons or his campaign at this stage. It’s the hard, cold reality of being a first-time candidate, I guess.

But Speliotis is safe this time. Maybe we can convince a much stronger challenger to come out in two years by begging Ward 6 Councilor Barry Sinewitz to take on Speliotis in the next Democratic primary. Now that would be an interesting contest.

State Representative in the 12th Essex District

(Peabody Wards 1-4, Ward 5, precincts 1 and 3)

 Beverley Griffin Dunne wins 13 of 14 precincts

Beveley Dunne

Beveley Dunne

I’ve written plenty about my thoughts on this race, so at this point, all I will say is that Dunne wins this one easily. Why? Because popularity counts most in Peabody elections, and Dunne has topped the ticket each time she’s run for school committee. In the special election for this seat 18 months ago, Dunne only lost because she split the vote with unenrolled candidate Dave Gravel.

The fact that Mayor Ted Bettencourt enthusiastically endorsed Dunne last week will help turn what was going to be a comfortable victory into a total landslide. The only place Cole will win, and by a narrow margin, is Ward 5, Precinct 3, one of the more conservative precincts in the city.

It also appears that, this time, Cole has been pretty much abandoned by the incompetent Mass. Republican Party, which has seemingly focused all of its limited resources on the governor’s race.

Congress in the MA 6th District

Seth Moulton by six points

Seth Moulton

Seth Moulton

After a couple of weeks of nasty ass campaign ads from both sides, it appears that Democrat Seth Moulton, who upset incumbent Congressman John Tierney in the primary has managed to hold off hard-charging Republican Richard Tisei.

I actually think that Tisei is going to win Peabody, but Moulton will run him over in Salem and Lynn, thanks to a superior ground game on Election Day in those cities.

The two will split Beverly and Gloucester, while Tisei wins the small towns in the district, which are Republican strongholds.

Governor of Massachusetts

Charlie Baker by five points

Charlie Baker

Charlie Baker

Martha Coakley has allowed Baker to take it to her in the final two months of this campaign, proving once again what a horrible candidate she is when running against a strong opponent. Call this Scott Brown Part II.

Baker has made himself a likeable Republican in Blue Massachusetts with his sappy TV ads and his weeping over the now infamous fisherman story during a recent debate. Half the voting populace is female, and Charlie showing what a sensitive male he is playing well on the distaff side.

Once again, the Commonwealth will have a state legislature dominated by Democrats, but a Republican in the corner office.

So there you go. Bet the kids’ college fund, if you want. But this is how it’s all going to come out tomorrow. Guaranteed. 

Bettencourt endorses Dunne in Rep race; should make her the favorite on Tuesday

2 Nov

“Beverley shares my vision for Peabody and we agree on what has to be done to make that vision a reality,”

- Mayor Ted Bettencourt

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

For a guy who doesn’t like to take sides, and likes to seek consensus with everyone, Ted Bettencourt is making a bold move in an effort to not only control his political environment, but to do what he feels is best for Peabody.

Peabody’s Mayor is endorsing Beverley Dunne for State Rep in the 12th Essex District.

Beveley Dunne

Beveley Dunne

Mayor Ted Bettencourt

Mayor Ted Bettencourt

“Today I am enthusiastically endorsing Beverley Griffin Dunne for State Representative from the 12th Essex District,” Bettencourt said in a prepared statement. “Beverley will be a strong and effective State Representative and that’s what Peabody really needs fighting for our city on Beacon Hill.”

Seemingly, Dunne now has ALL the advantages in this race against Republican Leah Cole. Dunne is the more well-known candidate, has a huge edge in experience, and now she has the enthusiastic blessing of Peabody’s most-powerful politician.

This could also be an indication that Bettencourt learns from the past, and doesn’t want to repeat it.

“Beverley shares my vision for Peabody and we agree on what has to be done to make that vision a reality,” Bettencourt said.

One of the reasons for Cole’s fluke victory 18 months ago over Dunne and Councilor at-large Dave Gravel was that Bettencourt remained publicly neutral during that special election. When Cole slipped into office as a freshman member of the overwhelmingly minority party on Beacon Hill, it left Peabody with ineffective representation at the State House. It was a huge drop off from former legendary Rep Joyce Spilliotis.

When the results were in on that election night, I personally watched a visibility upset Bettencourt come to the AOH, and offer consolation to Dunne. You could tell at that point that he regretted not having endorsed the long-time Peabody School Committee member.

“We really need Beverley on our legislative team. Peabody competes with cities and towns from across the state for state funds that we need to help pay for our schools, senior services, public safety protection, and economic development,” Bettencourt said. “Beverley Griffin Dunne has the intelligence, experience and maturity to become a strong and positive part of Peabody’s (legislative) team.”

Congrats and thanks to the Mayor for doing what’s best for Peabody.

Can you say, “game, set, and match” when it comes to this race?

Assclowns R Us: It’s the new slogan for the Mass. GOP

31 Oct

By Bob Croce, EOP Publsher

Not sure if this is a case of Richard Tisei running his campaign for Congress in the MA 6th District in total desperation mode, or if it’s simply further evidence that the Mass Republican Party is run by a bunch of assclowns.

I’m sure some of you received a series of mailers this week that flat out lie about Democratic candidate Seth Moulton, and his record on women’s issues.

At first, when I saw these mail pieces, a couple of which insinuate that Moulton is anti pro- choice, and even against birth control, I just assumed they were put out by some lunatic far left group still bitter over their lefty icon John Tierney getting clobbered  by the Clean Marine in the primary.


Mass GOP hits a new low with this totally dishonest mail piece.

But in a bizarre, making you scratch your head moment, there it was in the corner, on the back of the mail piece:

These mailers were brought to you by the Mass. Republican Party in advance of Tuesday’s final election.

Say what?!

Now, I wasn’t shocked that these Republicans who support Tisei were lying. After all, I believe dishonesty is actually one of the planks in the Mass GOP state platform.

But if the ads were true, I would think that misogynist R’s everywhere would be on the Moulton bandwagon.

But then again, I guess in this 6th District race, up is down, down is up, and desperate, Mass. Republicans will do anything to win at least one Congressional seat.

After all, the leaders of the Mass. GOP want to win this seat so badly that they have even momentarily put down their Bibles, and checked their homophobia at the door to support Tisei, who is gay and married.

Anything to win. What’s next, will the Mass. GOP put out a mailer that says Seth Moulton was seen drowning puppies in Salem Harbor? Don’t laugh. It might be coming.

Like I said, what a bunch of assclowns.

Question 1: The Road you should take is to vote yes

29 Oct

(This is the second in a series of posts bringing you the The Eye’s view when it comes to the state ballot questions in Nov. 4th’s election. Today, we look at Question 1, which if passed would keep the state’s gas tax from rising with inflation.)

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Opponents of Question 1 try to make the argument that inflation means less buying power, and in a few years — if this question passes — we might need to rename the Tobin … London Bridge.

Tobin Bridge is no London Bridge

Tobin Bridge is no London Bridge

Settle down there Question 1 opponents. If this thing passes, which it’s likely to do in Tuesday’s State election, Tobin Bridge is not falling down.

For those still unaware, a yes vote on Question 1 will over-turn a vote taken by our solons to tie or index the state gas tax to inflation. In other words, if inflation rises, the gas tax automatically does too.

I’m sure you’ve all seen the scary TV ads put out by AAA about how a yes vote will create some sort of roadway apocalypse from Stockbridge to Boston. It’s ridiculous, since if Question 1 passes, 24 cents of every gallon of gas you purchase will still go toward exclusively paying for roadway construction, repair and maintenance in Massachusetts.

Look, I don’t think many people are arguing against a much-needed gas tax to pay for these repairs. What we object to, though, is allowing our elected officials off the hook when it comes to raising our taxes.

If Question 1 fails, our representatives on Beacon Hill will be free to wring their hands and say how it wasn’t they who raised your taxes. If was that nasty ole inflation!

Let’s keep holding those who consider raising our taxes accountable. If they need more money for roads and bridges, let them stand before we the people and justify that while voting on the record.

Let’s not keep this index, which is essentially a form of “taxation without representation.”

Vote YES on Question 1.


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