Archive | December, 2012

High grades in Year 1 for Mayor Bettencourt

28 Dec

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Among Mayor Bettencourt's accomplishments was the approval of a new middle school

Among Mayor Bettencourt’s accomplishments in his first year was the approval of a new middle school

There are challenges yet to come, but as we prepare for the ball to drop in Peabody Square in a few days (OK, not really), we pause to assess the rookie year for Mayor Ted Bettencourt.  

From where I sit as a taxpayer, I’d sum up the Mayor’s first year performance this way:

It hasn’t been perfect, but it has been very good.

Not an A-plus, but certainly a very high B, bordering on an A-minus. Look folks, even Ted, we feel, would appreciate it if we left in some room here for growth.

So here goes … a look at what just one taxpayer, this taxpayer thinks of Year 1 of the Bettencourt Administration. These are what I feel were his three best and biggest accomplishments:

1. Passing an early challenge on healthcare

With the city stuck in neutral when it comes to revenue growth, the Mayor gets an A-plus for his leadership when it came to reaching an agreement in June with the city’s unions to enter the state’s Group Insurance Commission (GIC). Going the GIC route could end up saving the city between $10 and $15 million over the next four years.

Just months into his first term, it took guts for this rookie mayor to first draw a line in the sand, and then bring all of the city’s unions to the table to work out a smart, commonsense solution. But some of the credit also goes to the unions too. In these days when stories abound about the greediness of some union leaders, Peabody’s unions proved that collective bargaining can be a wonderful thing when neither side acts exclusively in their own self interests.

2.  The Education Mayor

Bettencourt showed leadership again in the spring, getting unanimous support from both the city council and school committee on the construction of a new Higgins Middle School, as the city scraped its original plan for renovating the existing, dilapidated, sprawling facility.  The new school will cost Peabody taxpayers about $45 million after state reimbursement, but it’s definitely much-needed, and for Bettencourt—a young mayor with a young family—it shows that he is intent on becoming the Education Mayor.

Getting new schools built in Peabody the past 20 years has been a huge struggle, but somehow this one seemed easy, and it came with almost universal acceptance from taxpayers. I know it wasn’t all Ted’s doing, but he deserves a lot of the credit here.

 3. The Pro Business Mayor  

Understanding right from the start that Peabody has a revenue problem, Bettencourt made good on a campaign promise to make the city more business friendly in an effort to expand our commercial tax base. If we’re going to get the money we need to pay existing and upcoming bills, and also improve infrastructure and schools, the burden can’t keep landing on residential taxpayers. More businesses, mean more tax dollars. So, with that in mind, Bettencourt did the following in Year 1:

  • Made it known (and even cleaned house somewhat) that he wants those city departments that deal with businesses to make the process for setting up and maintaining shop a lot easier. In 2013 he is also establishing a business liaison position.  to assist businesses in this regard.
  • Established the Economic Development Council, which is looking at bringing business back to Peabody Square and Centennial Park.
  • Got city council approval on a 1.60 tax classification for businesses, meaning businesses will only pay 1.6 times higher than the residential tax rate. In many surrounding communities it’s 1.75.

As for Year 2 …

Not that he’s taking advice from me, but if I were Ted Bettencourt I’d start leveraging some of my “political capital” in 2013, something that I feel will make him unbeatable when it comes to re-election next fall.

What do I mean by that? Well, sometimes I get the impression that the Mayor doesn’t fully realize that there is power in his popularity. We saw this during the spring when he sat on the sidelines during the special election to replace Senator Fred Berry. Meanwhile, Mayor Kim Driscoll got every Salem elected official on board behind Joan Lovely, who is now our State Senator. Suddenly, when it comes to that very influential seat, the power has shifted to Salem.

Love him or not, you have to respect how former Mayor Peter Torigian would have anointed one of the two Peabody candidates, either John Slattery or Mary Ellen Manning, and strongly insisted that every city councilor, every school committee member, light commissioner and library trustee support that candidate to ensure we didn’t lose that seat to Salem.

Ted Bettencourt has earned some tremendous “juice” in Year 1. He is popular in Peabody, and has done the job. Now, will he use that “juice” to take it to the next level, and wield the type of regional clout we saw in the past from politically powerful Mayors Nick Mavroules and Peter Torigian?

Want to let us know how you feel Mayor Bettencourt has fared in his first year? Let us know by taking our poll.

Help support Peabody’s Fire and Police Memorial

21 Dec

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

When most people are running away from a dangerous situation, the brave men and women of our police and fire departments are running toward it.

I think of this adage in a huge way each September 11th, a day when hundreds of brave first responders made the ultimate sacrifice. And, we were reminded of it a week ago today when police and fire departments responded to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.

Peabody Fire and Police Memorial

A look at what the new Peabody Fire and Police Memorial might look like

Closer to home, and in just two days, we’ll memorialize the loss a year ago of one of Peabody’s finest, firefighter James Rice , who died as the result of injuries he sustained while fighting a blaze on Peabody’s Hancock Street.

Why am I bringing this all up today?

Well, it’s time for us to come together as a community and honor our own local heroes. It’s time to support the construction of the Peabody Fire and Police Memorial.

A joint effort between representatives from Peabody Fire and Police, and the Mayor’s office is underway to build a memorial that would look very similar to the photo posted here.

PFD Captain Dale Kimball is one of the organizers of the effort, which includes being able to raise $100,000 in private donations.  The city will donate land on Perkins Street.

What I’m asking all Eye readers to do today is click through to the website and consider making a donation to these efforts, or sponsoring a brick that will be placed around the memorial.

It’s a great way to saying thanks and show that you appreciate these people who keep you safe each and every day.

Nice video report in Patch on Peabody’s vigil for Sandy Hook

21 Dec

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

patch

Click on the image to be taken to the video report from last night’s vigil in front of Peabody City Hall for the Sandy Hook school shooting victims.

In case you couldn’t be there, here’s an excellent video account from the Peabody Patch of last night’s vigil in front of Peabody City Hall for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy.

Hats off to Patch Editor John Castelluccio for reporting on this, and posting this video. Very well done, John. This is how all mainstream media should act in situations like these. Chronicle important events, but don’t be part of the story or sensationalize.

This video simply shows you what you missed, if weren’t able to attend.  No more needs to be written by me: the video tells the story.

Update: Officer Wojick indicted by grand jury on indecent assault and battery charges

21 Dec

By Eye on Peabody

Frederick Wojick

Frederick Wojick

Just to update an earlier post here on the Eye, an Essex County  grand jury on Wednesday found enough evidence to indict Peabody Police officer Frederick Wojick on nine counts of indecent assault and battery, and two counts of disseminating obscene material to a minor.

Wojick, 48, is on suspension from the police force and is now living in Danvers. An arraignment date has yet to be set. He has previously been arraigned on these charges in Peabody District Court on Nov. 30th.

If convicted, Wojick could face up to 10 years in prison on each count.

To read more details about the case against officer Wojick, check out our earlier post.

Being business friendly is the way forward for Peabody; way to improve quality of life

19 Dec

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

ted

Peabody’s business-friendly mayor

Those who follow this blog know how strongly I feel about the fact that Peabody can’t get the revenue it needs to rebuild infrastructure, schools, and improve overall quality of life, unless we adopt an aggressive plan to expaned our commercial tax base.

The one over-riding theme here is that Peabody needs to start openly embracing the concept of business friendliness. Although our city the past 10 years hasn’t exactly been hostile to business, we also haven’t gone out of our way to encourage businesses to “Make it in Peabody.”

Suddenly, though,  you can feel the attitude toward business changing.  That’s because there’s a new sheriff in town, and his name is Mayor Ted Bettencourt.

It’s the first time since the days of Peter Torigian that we have a mayor who is out front showing his cards, and making it known that expanding the commercial tax base will be a major focal point as long as he occupies the corner office at Peabody City Hall.

Mayor Bettencourt has shown in the first year of his first term that he gets it: Peabody just can’t pay all of its bills, and improve quality of life by putting more of the tax burden on residents. He’s showing too that he understands how business development can lead to major civic improvements. including a hopeful revitalization of Peabody Square.

The surge in business friendliness is seen in many of the moves the mayor has made in his first year, including getting the city council to recently approve a new position for a business liaison. The person in this new position will be charged with not only helping businesses navigate red tape, but will also be a cheerleader for the city when it comes to business development. Here’s hoping the person who takes this new position has some authority, some “juice” to truly make it easier or businesses to set up shop and operate in Peabody.

But this mayor’s positive attitude toward business hasn’t stopped there. Last week, the Mayor got the city council to go along with a 1.60 tax classification when it comes to the commercial tax rate. Essentially what that means is that businesses will be taxed at no more than 1.6 times what residents are taxed at. The 1.6 is down from where it had been at 1.61. In some of the surrounding communities that ratio is 1.75, making Peabody an attractive place to do business from a tax standpoint.

This Mayor is also open to additional tax incentives for certain businesses.

Then there’s the Economic Development Council, of which I’m member. Late today, we met at the Peabody Marriott to discuss strategies for revitalizing Centennial Park, which has lately struggled with vacancies, and a lack of competitiveness with other area business parks.

We are most definitely on the right track when it comes to all of this, and the Mayor deserves credit for getting it, and making this a priority.

Peabody holding vigil in honor of CT school victims

19 Dec

By Eye on Peabody

hookMayor Ted Bettencourt is inviting the public to take part in a candlelight vigil tomorrow night (Dec. 20) in memory of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. The ceremony will take place,  6 p.m., in front of Peabody City Hall.

“As we struggle to come to terms with such a senseless loss of precious life, we may find comfort in the company of fellow members of our community,” Mayor Bettencourt said in a statement released to the Eye.  “I invite all those who wish to honor the memory of the 26 victims of this tragedy to join with us in solemn vigil.”

If you would like to donate to the Sandy Hook Support Fund, please click here.

A night of honor for six of Peabody’s firefighter heroes

19 Dec

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

FFIt was an evening of honor for the Peabody Fire Department last night at Mechanics Hall in Worcester, as several of our brave firefighters were honored at 2012 Firefighter of the Year Awards,

Firefighter Jim Rice, who made the ultimate sacrifice when he lost his life a year ago while battling a fire on Hancock Street, received the Medal of Honor, the highest honor presented at the awards ceremony. Jim’s wife Amy, on behalf of Jim and their children Alyssa, Katelyn and Ryan, accepted the award last night from Governor Deval Patrick.

But it was also an evening to honor five additional Peabody heroes:

  •  Deputy Chief Eric Harrison, who was a captain last December, received a Medal of Valor for his actions while going into the building on Hancock Street with his team in an effort to save Firefighter Rice, who had become trapped.

The Peabody Patch today does a really nice job with full details from last night’s ceremony. You can check it out by clicking here.

Jim Rice to be honored at Firefighter of the Year Awards

17 Dec

Rice

By Eye on Peabody

Fallen Peabody firefighter James Rice will be posthumously bestowed with an award for bravery and excellence in fire service tomorrow night during the annual Firefighter of the Year Awards at Mechanics Hall in Worcester.

Firefighter Rice, 42,  died a year ago after inhaling toxic fumes while battling a three-alarm fire.

Since then a memorial scholarship fund has also been established in his name.

It’s definitely nice to hear of the latest honor for a Peabody fallen hero.

Peabody kids to wear green and white to support Sandy Hook

16 Dec

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

greenJust a quick post to let people know of this very nice tribute tomorrow in Peabody’s Schools to the victims in Newtown, CT.

The Peabody Patch reports that the citywide parent-teacher organization, Peabody PTC, is asking all students, parents, faculty, staff and the community at-large to wear green and white for the day. Green and white are the school colors at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Very nice idea.  Can I also suggest that everyone else wears green to work tomorrow?

All is calm, all is bright: Watch these and feel better

16 Dec

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Nice tribute from the Pats today

Nice tribute from the Pats today

OK, Peabody. I’m calling an audible on this NFL Sunday, and bringing you something a little different.

Here a few videos from social media that are bound to make you feel better at the end of a very sad week. Enjoy these happy videos by clicking through on the links below:

 This dog loves Gronk: Louie the dog, who belongs to the niece of one of my Facebook friends, posted this to show everyone that Tom Brady isn’t always dog’s best friend.

Baby, baby, stick your head in gravy: This one is a classic. I challenge you to keep from laughing along with this video.

And finally today …

All is calm, all is bright: Nice job here by these talented youngsters, and hats off to the producers of Saturday Night Live.

Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah and Happy New Year!

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