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Sighting a local hero and some curious political creatures at re-scheduled Ward 6 party

21 Jul

 

Sgt. Steve O'Hara, wife Jessica, and their children accept the Ward 6 "Heroes Among Us" award, flanked by Ward 6 Councilor Barry Sinewitz (left) and Mayor Ted Bettencourt

Sgt. Steve O’Hara, wife Jessica, and their children accept the Ward 6 “Heroes Among Us” award, flanked by Ward 6 Councilor Barry Sinewitz (left) and Mayor Ted Bettencourt. (Photo submitted courtesy of Doug Finnegan).

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

The re-scheduled Ward 6 Fourth of July party at Symphony Park this past Saturday featured a huge crowd, the traditional patriotic bike parade, the honoring of a local hero, and much more.

But it was also a day of some interesting sightings of local elected officials, and other political wanaabes.

Please read on, and we’ll get to the political stuff, but first it was wonderful to see a local hero honored for the work he’s done as a police officer.

West Peabody resident, and MBTA Transit Police Sgt. Steve O’Hara was acknowledged for his work in the areas of hostage negotiation/crisis intervention.

O’Hara, who received praise and a certificate from Ward 6 Councilor Barry Sinewitz and Mayor Ted Bettencourt, was recognized for talking a suicidal man out of jumping  from the top floor of an MBTA parking garage, and his work helping the family of a fellow officer, who was seriously wounded during the hunt for the Boston Marathon bombers.

When Officer Richard Donohue was shot, it was O’Hara who was charged with informing the fallen officer’s wife, Kim. Kim later, in an emotional Facebook post, talked about how O’Hara’s wonderful approach to informing her, brought great comfort to the family.

Honoring O’Hara was part of an annual tradition of honoring a local hero at this ward party. It’s an awesome moment at what is always a terrific, well-organized event hosted by the Ward 6 Councilor.

But as I wrote off the top, it wasn’t only about bike parades and ceremonies for heroes.

***

As local politicos know, Ward 6 these days has one of the largest voter turnouts in the entire city, and showing up at Symphony on July 4th (or in this case, July 19th), is a must.

Here were some of my observations and sightings …

  • The biggest battle for the hearts and minds of Ward 6 voters will come in the race for State Rep in the 13th Essex District, and it wasn’t surprising to see both Democratic incumbent Ted Speliotis and his challenger, Republican Tom Lyons, in attendance. Both men thoroughly worked the crowd. Speliotis, who didn’t make an appearance at this ward party last year, seems to suddenly be shifting into campaign mode. Lyons may have held a slight home park advantage on Saturday, since he lives in the ward.
  • Good to see Congressman John Tierney in attendance. I say “see,” since he wasn’t doing a lot of mingling, and it was definitely noticeable when he didn’t say hello to party host Sinewitz. Wonder if that has something to do with the Ward 6 Councilor endorsing Tierney’s opponent in September’s Democratic primary, war hero and Marblehead businessman Seth Moulton? Moulton, who had planned to be at the party on July 4th, couldn’t attend the makeup date because of a family wedding.
  • Even though it’s not an election year for city councilors, it was nice to see Councilor At-Large Tom Walsh come to the party.
  • State Rep candidate Beverley Dunne shows off her basketball skills

    State Rep candidate Beverley Dunne shows off her basketball skills

    It was also nice to see candidate for State Rep Beverley Dunne show up, especially when you consider she’s running in the 12th Essex District, which doesn’t include Ward 6. The long-time school committee member clearly thinks community first, but it’s a good thing that she’s running for state rep and not hoping for a career in the WNBA. Her performance in the women’s free throw shooting contest was, well … let’s just say that at least she didn’t do any worse than fellow school committee member Brandi Carpenter. They both tried their hardest, even if they didn’t win the prize.

  • Showing off some nice basketball skills in the free throw contest was a Bettencourt. No, not the Mayor himself, who once starred for the Holy Cross basketball team. Peabody’s First Lady, Andrea Bettencourt, used a smooth follow through to take second place in the women’s free throw shootout.
  •  Finally, for those who care, I did have a “reunion” with an old political foe. Ward 5 Councilor Joel Saslaw chased me down across the basketball court to say hello, and give me an indication that he’s a big fan of this blog. “Bobby, Bobby, just wanted to say hello, even though you keep taking pot shots at me (in The Eye),” said Mr. Saslaw.

…  Oh, did I also mention that Curious Creatures brought some snakes to show the kids?

 

Pulling voting from Peabody’s schools continues to be a silly, waste-of-time issue

14 Jul

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

As far back as anyone can remember, residents of Peabody have been voting in schools. And as far back as anyone can recall, student safety on Election Day has never been an issue.

VoteBut that can’t stop Brandi Carpenter from wasting more valuable Peabody School Committee time on an issue that just isn’t an issue at all. The School Committee member, after all, is on a quest, a crusade, a hunt for justice and enlightenment.

Since 2008, it has been her primary and defining issue as an elected official:  She wants to move some of the city’s polling places, currently and conveniently located in school gyms, to alternative locations. 

How about supermarkets?

Or the North Shore Mall?

Hey, I have an idea, maybe we can have people walk barefoot, five miles uphill in the snow just to vote. I mean, we have such wonderful voter turnout these days, so inconveniencing people on Election Day couldn’t possibly be a problem. Right?

This “Carpenter Crusade” surfaced again today in a Salem News article by John Castelluccio, who set out to write about the city’s need to temporarily move the Higgins Middle School’s Ward 4 polling place while the new middle school was constructed. But John ended up poking Ms. Carpenter again on one of the silliest issues in recent school committee memory.

“It’s a long uphill battle,” Carpenter told The News of her quest to take voting out of schools, again making us all wonder … when, exactly is another member of the school committee going to ask Ms. Carpenter to move on so they can focus on REAL issues concerning our schools?

Well, the fact is, according to Ms. Carpenter, she and her esteemed school committee colleagues are giving the city’s election commission a little time to work out the current Higgins polling issue, but then … watch out! We’re coming right back at you Peabody election officials on this bigger, more cataclysmic issue.  That’s right, Carpenter says the school committee – with member Beverley Dunne being the only responsible dissenter of the six —  will waste more time next year on trying to force the city to move polling locations to places such as Hannaford Supermarket.

I can just see the wording on the ballot now: Vote for three for school committee, and while you’re at it, make sure you pick up some apples. They’re on sale four for a dollar.

Of course, I am being a little silly about the apples, but then again, a silly issue deserves some silly commentary. And how ironic and silly is it that Ms. Carpenter has suggested that voting be moved from some public schools and into at least two churches and temples that have children onsite for their own preschool programs?

Look, in all seriousness, no one is against safe schools.  If there is a real safety issue in Peabody’s schools, then we should be addressing fixing that problem first and foremost. But if we’re going to say that voting in schools causes a danger, why don’t we just totally give up right now, and lock the little darlings in a bubble in their bedrooms? That’ll keep ‘em safe.

There has never been a safety issue with people voting in Peabody schools, and the odds against there being one in the future are slim and none. And slim just left the building. You could actually argue that Election Day is the safest day of the year in Peabody’s public schools. After all, it’s the only day of the school year where there is at least one police officer onsite, on duty from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

If you have any common sense at all, you come to the quick, frightening  conclusion that those sick vermin who seek to hurt children are not going to wait until Election Day to do so. Early in this debate over taking voting out of Peabody’s schools, the tragedy of Sandy Hook was inappropriately evoked during one debate. Was it a scare tactic? Perhaps. More likely, though, it was an over-reaction by school committee members who need to focus on real issues.

Aren’t maniacs  less likely to strike on a day when there are police officers and lots of law-abiding adults around to potentially stop them?

Is there a true safety issue in our schools that we don’t know about? And if so, why don’t we address that instead of finding bad people amongst Peabody best citizens, who are only trying to conveniently exercise their ultimate right as Americans?

In these days when voter turnout continues to drop at an alarming rate, moving voting from our schools will only further confuse and inconvenience voters. The city’s election commission, including Peabody City Clerk Tim Spanos, is against uprooting voters, and so too are most of the city’s election officials.

It’s time for Ms. Carpenter to drop this silly crusade and move onto more important issues. Maybe the voters will even thank her come her own re-Election Day when they’re not inconvenienced by traffic trying to get to the mall to vote . 

Too bad Ward 3 residents, who voted for Moutsoulas, can’t ask for their votes back

10 Apr

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

If I were a Ward 3 resident who voted to elect Jim “Demo” Moutsoulas Ward 3 Councilor last fall, I’d be knocking on City Clerk Tim Spanos’ office door this morning to ask him … “where do I go to get my vote back?”

Why?

Jim Moutsoulos ... running on empty.

Moutsoulas: running on empty.

Well, apparently Demo doesn’t really want the job he’s held for just four months. Word is out that the current Ward 3 Councilor, who some refer to as the “bad penny of Peabody politics,” is planning to announce next week that he’s running for State Rep.

Then again, maybe this is just Demo being Demo. We’ve seen this from him in the past, so perhaps, we’ll hold fire – a little at least – until he ACTUALLY brings back his nomination papers. After all, this guy has a habit of pulling papers for an office, and then finding some bizarre reason in the end NOT to run.

But if he is serious this time, clearly this is a slap in the face of those who supported him in his Ward 3 run against Bill Toomey and Tom Serino last November.

What is Demo saying here?

He never really wanted the job to begin with?

It’s like accepting a new job in January, and then telling your boss in April that you were giving your two-week’s notice. Some commitment, eh?

Or, is Demo hoping to “double-dip” here?  That is, hold both the state rep and his Ward 3 seat so he can someday collect TWO taxpayer-funded pensions?

I mean, it’s not like the state rep seat just opened up this time, like it did with the untimely passing of Joyce Spilliotis, which promoted a special election a year ago. This time, it’s a regular cycle election, which all of the candidates for office knew when they pulled papers to run in the city election.

If Moutsoulas gets into the state rep race, he’ll join Democratic challenger Beverley Dunne and Republican incumbent Leah Cole in a three-candidate field.

And if Demo is in, would he run as a Democrat?

Who knows? He’s capable of anything.

Maybe he should be the candidate of the “Rent’s Too Damn High Party.” Or, better still, the “Mickey Mouse Party.”

Is Leah Cole following the Mass GOP toward the lunatic fringe?

26 Feb

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Leah Cole ... working toward the fringe?

Leah Cole … working toward the fringe?

At the end of the day, and even though I personally view “marriage” as something that government should leave only to religious institutions, I don’t get why some politicians continue their fight against same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. After all, since becoming law in 2004, God hasn’t sentenced the residents of the Commonwealth to eternal damnation. Nothing bad has happened, and the Red Sox have even won three World Championships.

People who are devout when it comes to their personal religious beliefs have a right to be against gay marriage, and we should respect their beliefs.  But it’s also time for us to all admit that, after almost 10 years, same-sex marriage has become one of those big whoopty-do type of things. Most people don’t really care either way, and want their elected officials to focus on REAL issues such as the economy, schools, and improving our crumbling infrastructure.

It’s time for our politicians  to finally realize that the war is over on the issue of same-sex marriage, and that it’s time to move on.

That’s why it was so puzzling to see that the Mass State Republican Party has submitted a 2014 party platform with the following language in it’s “values” section:

“We believe the institution of traditional marriage strengthens our society. There should be no infringement on the rights of the people of Massachusetts to vote on ballot initiatives..”

Sounds to me like the Mass GOP is encouraging crazy people to attempt to put a referendum on the ballot that will seek to ban gay marriage. And what’s most bizarre here is that Peabody State Rep Leah Cole, who is up for re-election this fall, appears to be an ardent supporter of this plank in her party’s platform. That’s right, Ms. Cole’s own  legislative aid is on the Mass GOP platform committee, and voted for this anti-same-sex marriage language.

So what’s up with this? Has the Mass GOP decided to cozy up to lunatic right wing Republicans elsewhere?  And if so, how do socially liberal-to-moderate Republicans such as Charlie Baker and Richard Tisei feel about their party’s new platform? Tisei is openly gay, and supports same-sex marriage. Wonder how he feels about this platform language?

I haven’t talked to her, but certainly the actions of Ms. Cole’s aid speak volumes here, since he does work for her. I never really viewed her as a far right crazy, and really like her opposition of the big pig tax policies of the Patrick Administration.

But if Cole is going to start working stances on social issues into her playbook, good luck to her getting re-elected in the 12th Essex. Peabody is most definitely a fiscally conservative community, and it’s a big reason for Leah Cole’s success in last spring’s special election. It’s also the reason why, in the past 5 years, Scott Brown, Baker, and Tisei have also won here. But while we Peabodyites like to protect our hard-earned money, we also have a phrase for politicians who adopt far right stances on social issues:

Welcome to the lunatic fringe, Ms. Cole.

Dunne’s in, are Cole and Gould out when it comes to Peabody State Rep race?

20 Jan

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

We know Beverley Dunne is in, but who will join her in the race for State Rep?

We know Beverley Dunne is in, but who will join her in the race for State Rep?

I thought we’d have some Peabody political insider fun this afternoon, and talk about what the Eye is uncovering in what could become another very interesting race for the State Rep seat in the 12th Essex District (Peabody Wards 1-4, Ward 5 Prec. 1 & 3).

Less than a year after Republican Leah Cole’s stunning special election upset win over Democrat Beverley Dunne and unenrolled candidate Dave Gravel, candidate names are being floated as the seat gets contested again this November.

Dunne has told several people that she’s going for it again on the Democrat side, and we’ve heard speculation that Ward 1 Councilor Barry Osborne is contemplating a run as an unenrolled candidate.

But here’s what else The Eye is learning …

Incumbent Cole is leaning away from running for re-election to focus on her nursing career, and another source tells us Councilor at-large Tom Gould is leaning against running too. Gould considered running last year for the open seat after Joyce Spilliotis passed away, but then decided against it to focus on his business.

The Cole thing could change quickly, though, once the Mass GOP gets wind of it and starts doing whatever it can to convince its Golden Girl to run again, including a promise to help her build a campaign war chest north of $100K.

It all does make you wonder, though, if the Peabody Democratic City Committee is going to step up this time and support the Democratic candidate. Osborne is really a Democrat, and so too was Gravel last time. But the party insiders were divided, and with Dunne and Gravel splitting the vote, it made things much easier for Ms. Cole to pull off the upset.

Let me know in the comments section what you think will happen here.

Lyons making credible challenge for state rep seat held by Ted Speliotis

26 Dec

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

spel

Can Ted Speliotis overcome at tough, new challenger?

With a very active 2013 for local politics just about over, 2014 is already shaping up as an even more interesting year.

Come fall, we’ll have another highly contested race for State Rep in the 12th Essex District as rookie state legislator Leah Cole goes for re-election. Meanwhile, Congressman John Tierney faces a tough primary battle against centrist Democrat Seth Moulton, and then maybe another down-and-dirty battle with Republican Richard Tisei.

But also emerging is another interesting race for State Rep in the 13th Essex. Tom Lyons, a very credible candidate on the Republican side, says he will challenge long-time Rep Ted Speliotis, whose district covers all of Danvers and West Peabody.

We don’t currently know a lot about Mr. Lyons, but the thing that instantly makes his candidacy interesting is the place where he grew up, and the place where he now lives.

He’s a Danvers native, who graduated from Danvers High in 1981, and he now makes his home with his family on Glen Drive, West Peabody. One street over from him is the town of Middleton, which is also in the 13th Essex. But the real impact of his candidacy will be felt in conservative West Peabody (Ward 6 and Ward 5, Prec. 2) and Danvers.

In recent years, Ward 6 has been one of the best voting areas in the city, and is also known for its vast number of independent, more-conservative voters. Speliotis is considered one of the more liberal members of the Great and General Court, and seemingly has never seen a tax increase that he didn’t vote “yea” on. Speliotis’ “progressive” style has cost his problems in his own town of Danvers too, where a few years ago he almost lost to Republican Dan Bennett.

More to come on all of this, but it looks like West Peabody voters will definitely have a choice for state rep come November.

Democratic City Committee Chair Mike Schulze resigning

20 Dec

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Some Peabody political insider news a few days before Christmas, but it looks like the Peabody Democratic City Committee will be seeing new leadership in 2014.

cole

Republican Leah Cole’s win in last spring’s special election for State Rep may have been aided by a divided Democratic City Committee

Mike Schulze, who some feel helped Republican Leah Cole get elected State Rep during last spring’s special election because of his lack of support for the Democratic candidate, has resigned as chair of the city committee.

Although Schulze technically declared that the PDCC was endorsing Democrat Beverley Dunne  in her effort to fill the seat previously occupied by the late Joyce Spilliotis, his own actions spoke volumes to the contrary.

It wasn’t that Schulze himself had a direct impact on the outcome, but as leader of the PDCC he did nothing to help to avoid the schism that developed after Councilor At-large David Gravel left the party and ran for state rep as an unenrolled candidate.

Let’s be honest here, the endorsement of Dunne was half-hearted at best, since Schulze clearly supported Gravel.

Many feel that Gravel’s decision to run as an unenrolled candidate split the vote between he and Dunne,  which allowed a previously unknown, 24-year-old Republican to pull off the upset by 73 votes.

But then again, Schulze certainly doesn’t deserve all (or even most) of the blame here for Dunne’s defeat. There were other so-called Democratic movers and shakers,  whose endorsement of Gravel, or total lack of action, also led to Cole pulling off the upset.

And a Republican winning this seat held by a legendary Democratic public servant such as Joyce Spilliotis, was a local equivalent  to Scott Brown winning the US Senate previously held by Ted Kennedy.

In an email to city committee members today, vice chair Deb Ryan told PDCC members that she will serve in the interim as acting chair. Ryan will convene a meeting on Jan. 11 for the full committee to make some go-forward decisions.

Tom Grelish: ‘Croce has a right to be miffed’

22 Nov

(Editor’s note: The following “Just Thinking” column, written by Peabody Citizen Publisher Tom Grelish, appeared in this week’s edition of that newspaper, and is re-published here with permission.)

By Tom Grelish, Publisher, Peabody Citizen

VoteJust thinking as usual this week and offering the thought that Bob Croce, who recently lost the Ward 5 city council race to Joel Saslaw, is well within bounds to be more than slightly disgruntled concerning the shenanigans that transpired in the polling place during the election.

Malfeasance in the polling place is never acceptable, and make no mistake about it – what transpired was flat-out malfeasance carried out by a couple of birdbrained poll workers. The height of stupidity, no two ways about it.

For those of you who may have missed it, here’s what took place: the poll workers, while on duty as representatives of the residents of Peabody, saw fit to post massages on Facebook urging residents to scamper to the polls and vote for Saslaw.

You gotta be kidding me. Some folks have said that the incident was tantamount to no big deal, but I vehemently disagree with that assessment. It was a very big deal and borders on voter fraud. We cannot tolerate that type of stuff. End of story.

Candidates for office must remain at least, I believe, 150 feet from a polling place so that voters are not unduly influenced by them. That’s a good rule. Then we have a couple of pinheads violating that rule from inside the polling place?

Only in Peabody could this type of baloney go on. And Croce should be streaming about it – all he asked for was a clean election, and he didn’t get it.

Let’s not be naïve about this. Those Facebook postings did not alter the outcome of the election – Saslaw took home the prize by almost 90 votes, a safe enough margin of error even if a couple of voters did heed the efforts of the harebrained poll workers.

But that doesn’t detract from the seriousness of the situation.

City Clerk Tim Spanos is handling this mess the right way – he’s turned the entire ball of wax over to the office of Secretary of State Bill Galvin, as well as the Ethics Commission, to figure this thing out and what should be done about this quagmire.

The worst thing about the polling place game-playing is that it casts Spanos, Mayor Ted Bettencourt, and Saslaw, in a very bad light. And none of them deserve to have that black light focused on them, because none of them did anything wrong but will get swept into this kerfuffle nevertheless.

I have particular empathy for Spanos, who is a top-shelf city clerk and always does his utmost to run clean elections. Then to have a couple of poll workers stab him in the back like that just isn’t right.

Spanos has no culpability in this fiasco. All he can do is hire the parties he thinks are the right people to man the polls – then, he has to trust them to do the job properly. He can’t be everywhere, all the time, on the day of the election, and was completely blindsided by those poll workers.

Saslaw, too, receives a black eye for this and he hasn’t even taken office yet. The renegade poll workers were, after all, obviously supporters of his. But there is no way that Saslaw should take guff for this – he didn’t tell those pinheads to do what they did. No way, no how.

As for Bettencourt, he doesn’t need this malarkey. He had nothing to do with it but will nonetheless be held somewhat responsible because it was city workers involved in the transgressions. He has bigger fish to fry in his efforts to run the city, and can easily live without this nonsense.

As for Croce, he has apparently retained an attorney to assist him with this election disgrace. I don’t blame him – Bob Croce has to look out for the best interests of Bob Croce. No one is going to do it for him.

That being said, I’m not sure how an attorney will be able to bolster his case, short of demanding a new election, a scenario that is highly unlikely to unfold.

The lawyer will easily prove that malfeasance took place, but that’s not going to change the outcome of the election. It’ll be very interesting to see where the lawyer takes this matter.

If he is successful in getting a new election – which, as stated, if highly unlikely – all bets are off. Croce could win it the second time around.

Wouldn’t that he something?

No matter what the lawyer does, this is for sure – the city of Peabody should reimburse Croce for his legal fees.

It would be the only decent thing to do. After all, Bob Croce did not initiate this brouhaha. A couple of city workers did.

And the rest of us are responsible for making good on the missteps of city workers. It’s lousy, but it is also reality.

So I hope the city council walks the proper path on this and gives Croce his money back. All he ever asked for was an unfettered election, and he did not receive that.

Again, some people are of the mind that all this is no big deal. Let me reiterate – it is a very big deal. No two ways about it.

Poll: How do you feel about taking voting out of the schools

14 Nov

Some members of the Peabody School Committee, citing student safety and disruption of the educational process, would like ban the city from using schools as polling locations on Election Day.

How do you feel about the issue?

Please join us tonight for live ‘You Make The Call’ show

13 Nov

SAMPlease join my partner Dick Jarvis and me tonight as we discuss the Peabody issues of the day on a new, live “You Make The Call Show,” 8-9 p.m., on PAT Channel 99.

This is our first new show since the election, and on our list of topics tonight will be the latest with the expansion and entertainment license of the Stonewood Tavern in South Peabody, the issue of using public schools for voting, and much more.

It’s always open lines on YMTC, so we’ll entertain and comment on whatever is on your mind.

Please tune in and give us a call. You can also follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/calldickandbob

- Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

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