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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.

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, 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.

Competitive field already shaping up in race for Peabody School Committee seats

20 Jun

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Since giving voters multiple candidates to choose from is always a good thing, it was both distressing and disappointing two years ago when all three Peabody School Committee incumbents ran for re-election unopposed.

Incumbent Brandi Carpenter

Incumbent Brandi Carpenter

But now, with two of the three seats open on the November ballot, suddenly a large field of contenders is emerging. Long-time school committee member David McGeney is retiring, and Ed Charest’s decision to run for Ward 4 Councilor opens the two seats. Brandi Carpenter, meanwhile, is the only incumbent running for re-election.

Eight candidates have so far picked up their nomination papers to get the required 50 signatures to run. If all bring back their signed papers by August, there will be a primary in September to narrow the field to six.

The challenger field so far includes all men, many of whom have kids in the Peabody Public Schools, and have never run for office before. This could give Carpenter an edge when it comes to retaining her seat, not only because she is the lone incumbent, but because lone women candidates on a ballot traditionally do very well in Peabody elections where voters can make multiple choices.

The rest of the field, though, is fascinating for political junkies like myself to handicap. I’ve participated — either as a candidate, campaign worker or wiseass pundit – in dozens of Peabody campaigns the past 20 years, and this is the first time I don’t see any clear favorites beyond the one incumbent.

Right now, I see several challengers with legit shots to get one of the two remaining seats, and I can’t ever recall that being the case at this stage in any Peabody School Committee election. Although there are a number of candidates in this race with the “right stuff” to do the job well, none of them right now have much in the way of all-important name recognition.

All of that will change in the coming months, and whomever manages to run the best campaign is going to prevail. For now, you can’t tell the candidates without a scorecard, so maybe my take here will help:

Joe Amico has been out there working longer than anyone else in the field, having been one of the first to pull papers. He’s even already held a successful fundraiser, and has lawn signs out. He’s personable, a good family man, and has experience in the Revere Public Schools as an educator.

School committee Brian Addesa and family

School committee Brian Addesa and family

Brian Addesa is the newest candidate in the race. For the sake of full disclosure, I’m already helping Brian with his campaign, since I feel he has some great, commonsense ideas for improving Peabody’s schools, while also being mindful of the tax concerns of young families, empty-nesters and seniors. Brian decided to run after being a leader of the parents group that fought and won to preserve the For Kids Only (FKO) afterschool program. He’s not only a noteworthy family man and father, he’s also an educator.

john

John Olimpio

John Olimpio, is an attorney, CPA and family man from West Peabody, who has run before for school committee. I don’t know John well, but I hear positive things about his character, and will attempt to learn more about his ideas as the campaign unfolds.

Andrew Arnotis and Travis Wojcik are both college kids running for the first time. Neither has the professional or life experience of the previous three candidates, but I’m always encouraged and happy to see young people get involved.

The other two candidates who have pulled papers are Michael Bonbon and Neil Papamechail. Michael has been active in the Peabody Democratic City Committee. Other than the fact that he pulled papers last time to run and then didn’t bring them back, I don’t know much about Neil’s background.

More to come, but this should definitely be an interesting year when it comes to the school committee ballot.

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.

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.

Who will benefit from recent negative campaigning, Moulton or Tisei?

21 Oct

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Is it the case of a candidate just “playing defense” in the wake of his opponent’s recent negative TV ads? Or, has the race for Congress in the Massachusetts 6th Congressional District simply turned nasty on both sides?

Well, I will say that — if Democrat Seth Moulton is just playing “D”  — he appears to have chosen a rugged style that would make Zdeno Chara smile.

Just days after Republican Richard Tisei’s campaign released an attack trying to portray Moulton as being in the pockets of Wall Street bankers — in other words, making him look more like a Republican than Tisei himself — the Democrat’s campaign released the ad below.

But both candidates are definitely guilty at this point of taking one of the nasty pages out of John Tierney’s playbook. As you might recall, Tierney two years ago tried to paint the moderate Tisei as an agent of the “evil” Tea Party, and it almost cost the incumbent Congressman the election.

By the way, with two weeks to go, polls are pretty much showing that this race is a dead heat, so negative campaigning at this point is most-definitely a risky venture.  The tactic sometimes isn’t bad for catching up, but most people deplore crazy attacks, and the strategy has a tendency to backfire with polls showing the final outcome within the margin of error.

You’ll recall that Moulton had an 8-point lead a few days after the primary, so maybe the negative tactics by Tisei are working. But for Moulton, I feel that going negative is a much riskier proposition. Tisei is a likable guy, and isn’t seen as a crazy right winger by most of those voters who live their lives in the sensible center.

Here’s the negative Moulton ad to which I refer. Let me know what you think in the comments section.

Which candidate for Congress has the better strategy in his latest ads? Let me know

20 Oct

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Interesting approach here by both campaigns as we close in on Nov. 4th, and  the final election for Congress in the Massachusetts 6th Congressional District.

Looks like Seth Moulton’s campaign is going with the more positive approach, while Richard Tisei — who this space has always seen as more of a nice guy than a pitbull — is going in the opposite direction after two pretty negative ads.

Take at look at the latest ads from each of the campaigns, and let me know what you think. I’m going to hold my fire for now, and then weigh in based on your comments.

Here’s the latest Moulton ad:

Here’s the latest Tisei ad:

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