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Update: All-Pro given yet another chance to clean up its messy situation

24 Jul

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

The saga continues in the case of All-Pro Landscaping, which — courtesy of Peabody’s good ole boy political network — got  treated with kid gloves again last night.

The Conservation Commission says it will give All-Pro Landscaping, which is polluting wetlands with asphalt and other debris, another 45 days to clean up its mess. While All-Pro has been ignoring  calls to clean up its mess, the city has allowed them to continue operating behind Latitude Sports Club.

For those keeping score, the Con Com issued the same exact edict on All-Pro at its June 11th meeting. But move along … there’s nothing to see here.

There was also a further smoke screen laid down last night by some Con Com members, who tried to deflect responsibility from All-Pro by asking  if they should instead fine the actual property owner. All-Pro is just a tenant on the property.

So why is the city dragging it’s feet, and  sitting on it hands here with what seems like a fairly straight forward set of violations?

A lot of people are wondering if it has anything to with the fact that the ALL-Pro owner and his family are as politically connected as it gets in Ward 5, where this situation exists. For months, the ward councilor has been working behind the scenes to ensure that certain city departments take it easy on All-Pro, and last night the same councilor was at the Con Com meeting trying to smooth things over again.

I guess that’s the type of personal constituent service you get for putting up hundreds of his campaign signs, and working behind the scenes to ensure that developers get on board and help elect a guy who will keep the good times rolling up on Route 1.  With this councilor, it seems like the rights of developers come first, and your quality of life isn’t really all that important. But we Ward 5 residents are used to it. After all, that kind of approach has been going on here for more than 25 years.

If you are a developer or a  buddy of the ward councilor, you get what you want. If not, it’s like a scene from Oliver Twist. “Please sir … I want some more.”

Last night, they even brought in another one of the ward councilor’s buds, a Pine Street neighbor, who told  the Con Com that the owner of All-Pro was a wonderful neighbor. Yeah, we hear he rescues cute little stray dogs in between spraying lawns with chemicals.

By now, feel free to say that my rant here is also politically motivated. You may be partly right, and that’s OK to say.

But then there are those pesky little things called the facts:

DelNegro  isn’t involved with Peabody politics, and is just trying to do her job, which is to protect our environmental health and welfare. She says that All-Pro is NOT in compliance with the law, and hasn’t been for several months. She seems frustrated over the situation, and who could blame her at this point? The woman is just trying to do what we pay her to do.

So now, All-Pro gets one more chance.

Who knows? Maybe in 45 days the Con Com will give them another chance, and another 45 days. And when they do, maybe they’ll tell the All-Pro guys this time we REALLY mean it!

I guess there really are two sets of rules in Peabody. One special set for those who are politically connected, and another set for the rest of us.

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?

 

Until company addresses environmental concerns, Mayor needs to request cease and desist order

11 Jul

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

At this point, if I were conservation agent Lucia DelNegro, whose job it is to protect Peabody’s environment from intrusive and excessive development, I’d be marching up to Mayor Ted Bettencourt’s office to ask him to explain again what my role with the city is supposed to be.

Time for Mayor Bettencourt to step in here

Time for Mayor Bettencourt to step in here

After all, obviously most city officials don’t seem to care about what she continues to, over and over again, say about a property known as 190 Rear Newbury Street. The small work yard, behind the Latitude Sports Club, is where a company called All Pro Landscaping stores equipment and other materials associated with its business.

But there’s an environmental issue, and Ms. DelNegro has been pointing this out for several months, her words falling mostly on deaf ears at City Hall. All she’s just trying to do is the job that we the taxpayers are paying her for.

First off, there are questions over All Pro not having all the proper permits to operate on the site it leases from an oftentimes slipshod, but politically connected developer.

But as Ms. DelNegro continues to point out, there are also concerns over the company potentially infringing upon the wetlands adjacent to the property, something that could pose a danger to Peabody’s drinking water supply, and something over which she has  issued an Enforcement Order (EO)

A few weeks ago, after her EO continued to be pretty much ignored, Ms. DelNegro presented her evidence before the Conservation Commission. Here’s some of what this city official — whose job it is to look out for Peabody’s environmental well-being — said on the record:

  • “I was just out there a couple weeks ago with Bill Manuell the wetland scientist. None of the punch list items on my Enforcement Order (EO), except for the fact that they filed an RDA, pretty much nothing has been done.”
  • “The asphalt is still in the wetlands. The guardrails are still broken and they are still in the wetlands. This is on both lots back and front. The front is the guardrails. There is still asphalt and all sorts of debris everywhere. It looks like the piles just keep getting bigger and closer to the wetlands.”
  • “I do not believe this is meeting stormwater standards. I also think there is debris buried under the parking lot. Looking at the edge where the pavement meets the earth you can see objects (car parts) protruding out. “
  • “I have a really big issue with what is possibly under the asphalt. I really hope I am wrong. I do not think it is meeting stormwater standards. They really have not been cleaning up nor doing anything with regards to the EO. There is one part that really bothers me on the front lot; the asphalt piles that were pushed into the wetlands. It looks like the asphalt that was used for this back parking lot.
  • “I am assuming what happened was in the winter the plows came and pushed it into the wetlands. Now that they never got the asphalt bits out it is going to be a Pandora’s Box. We have growth coming out of it. If you try to scoop all that up you are going to have an unstable bank. It is a pretty big mess.”

If nothing is done under the Enforcement Order, the Conservation Commission discussed fining All Pro at the next meeting on July 23 “

And we REALLY mean it this time,” should have been the next line in the public record.

The site leased by the landscaping company in question

Google Earth image of the site leased by the landscaping company in question

If we really meant it, Mayor Bettencourt right this second (or maybe months ago) would be asking the building department for a cease and desist order, just like he once did with a notorious developer further along Route 1 near Winona Street.

All I know is that the owner of All Pro is the son of a guy who worked night and day on the campaign of the current freshman Ward 5 Councilor. Remember the hundreds of blue campaign signs on the properties along Route 1 during the last election? How do you think they all got there?

The family of the owner of All Pro was also a huge supporter of the former Ward 5 Councilor. The owner of the property All Pro pays its rent to is also a very active supporter of the last two ward councilors.

You think nothing being done here might be related to Peabody’s good ole boy political network, where there’s a “wink, wink,” and developers are allowed to run amok? Per usual, many of our elected officials could care less about your quality of life.

I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions in the comments section.

 

Giving unauthorized signs no latitude on bike path

8 Jul

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

POLEIt’s always rewarding doing this blog when we’re able to be a watchdog, and elicit change. It’s happened numerous times since we started here more than two years ago.

And today, we bring you the latest example. We helped stop some possible shenanigans on the bike path, where certain powers that be allowed a free ad on public property for the Latitude Sports Club. This sign, which got Latitude’s name in front of thousands exercise fans, who are all potential customers for the club, was attached to a PMLP light pole.

SIGNAfter seeing it exposed here, the power company has done the right thing, and removed the unapproved sign. Looks like who ever put  up that sign will have to blow kisses at the developer in question in some other way. Wouldn’t it be nice it they could actually get the club to pay the city for sponsoring a section of the bike path, with the money going to help up keep of the path? After all, the last thing we want is to risk anonymous envelopes landing in someone’s mailbox.

Call this one a victory for the people of Peabody.

Caption the photos on the right “gone today, here yesterday.”

 

Lovely and Cole don’t make us pay for their commute … Meanwhile, Speliotis is ‘King of the Per Diem’

1 Jul

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

We spend significant time in this space exposing elected officials when they don’t act in the best interests of “we the people.” So, it’s only fair that we also make mention when they do the right thing.

Leah Cole ... working toward the fringe?

Leah Cole: “We’re supposed to work for the taxpayers, and most people don’t get paid to drive to work.”

Those mentions come today as we tip our caps to State Senator Joan Lovely (D-Salem), and State Rep. Leah Cole (R-Peabody).  After all, it came to light last week that neither Mrs. Lovely nor Ms. Cole are bilking the taxpayers for one of the most-outrageous benefits received by most of the solons on Beacon Hill.

Neither Lovely, nor Cole take per diem (up to $18/day) for just commuting into the State House. According to state treasurer records, taxpayers gave lawmakers more than $300,000 in per diems last year. Think about that as you’re paying out of your own pocket to fill up your tank three times a week just to get to work.

So, thank you Senator Lovely and Rep. Cole …

But now, let’s consider the case of the “King of Per Diems.” The people of West Peabody are represented by a man who shamelessly took your money at a rate of $18 per day just to commute to work. Ted Speliotis, who never saw a tax increase he didn’t like, collected $3,510 of your money last year to make 195 trips into Boston. By the way, the solons get this reimbursement without needing to provide receipts. It’s all on the honor system. Of all of the North Shore lawmakers, Speliotis took the second largest overall per diem, but he was less than $80 out of first place!

With per diem, we essentially pay Mr. Speliotis, who faces a stiff challenge this fall from West Peabody resident Tom Lyons, more than $70K per year for what’s essentially a part-time job.

And just as an important aside here … this guy voted for the gas tax. Why wouldn’t he? We’re the ones filling his tank for free.

“We’re supposed to be working for the taxpayers, and most people don’t get paid to drive to work,” Ms. Cole told the Salem News last week. “But I only live about 20 minutes away, so it’s not a big deal.”

By the way, if you see Ted Speliotis in traffic on the way into work someday, make sure you don’t have any cash in your hands if you decide to wave. He might grab it.

 

Saslaw’s calls to Light Commissioners about meter reader job came while City Council was pondering commissioners’ raises

12 Jun

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Just an update to our last post on Ward 5 Councilor Joel Saslaw applying to become a meter reader for the Peabody Municipal Light Plant:

The Eye has learned that Mr. Saslaw applied for the job on May 6, 2014, which was during the time frame that the elected Light Commissioners were requesting that the City Council vote on a pay raise that would have  made the commissioners pension eligible, and eligible to continue their  health insurance after they retire.

Saslaw told the Salem News this week that he called two of the light commissioners to talk about the meter reader job. Those calls occurred during the time frame when the raise proposal was before the council.

At the end of May, the Light Commissioners withdrew their raise proposal before the City Council could take a vote, and to date Saslaw hasn’t been given the job. What affect Saslaw’s calls to the commissioners might have had on the raise request,and on him potentially getting hired as a meter reader  (with full benefits and pension) remains unknown.

But this story continues to place a spotlight on the potential for political patronage hiring when it comes to city jobs.

I’ll leave it up to our readers to formulate their own opinions on these these latest details, so please let me know what you think in the comments section.

Saslaw admits he applied for meter reader position, called two Light Commissioners about the job

11 Jun

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Just a quick update on an issue we first broke here in The Eye. Ward 5 Councilor Joel Saslaw confirmed in an article in today’s Salem News that he has officially applied for a second city job as a meter reader at the Peabody Municipal Light Plant, and has called two Light Commissioners about the position.

The well-plmpwritten, well-balanced article, written by John Castelluccio, brings up the questions of whether it is legal and ethical for a sitting city councilor to hold an additional city job. In the article, Saslaw admits that he called two of the Light Commissioners, but insists he was not “lobbying for the job” with those fellow elected officials. Who knows? Maybe he was just checking with these commissioners to see if the PMLP was a cool place to work. :)

Light Plant General Manager  Glenn Trueira confirmed in the article that there are additional candidates on the list for this unskilled position.

Since we first broke this story, the issue of political patronage in city hiring has come to the forefront in Peabody.  Saslaw applying for this meter reader job, which pays $50,000/year with full benefits and a pension plan, put the spotlight on this issue, and sources tell The Eye that city officials are now being careful when it comes to hiring other current and former elected officials.

Stay tuned. We’ll update you as more info becomes available.

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.

On bad plow jobs, signs of our times, and Democratic justice

19 Feb

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Cleaning out the Rolodex of the mind today while wondering when we’ll ever see the grass again …

Wanted to start by thanking two neighbors who last week helped push out my car after I slid into a snowbank at the corner of Curwen and Jordan Roads.  The reason I got stuck? Well, despite six inches of snow on the ground, the city’s DPW still hadn’t deployed any plows.

Of course, just as they pushed me out, a plow did come by and almost run over the female neighbor who was helping me.  Fortunately, she got out of the way just in time. But when we looked up to curse at the driver, we noticed he was texting on his phone and couldn’t see us flipping him the bird.

If you haven’t noticed, city snow removal hasn’t exactly been stellar this winter. Many of the city’s side streets are in deplorable condition, and there are dug up lawns everywhere. Might be time for the city to evaluate some of these private contractor plowing clowns, and not offer them anymore work.

Sign us up for the moratorium!

Mayor Ted Bettencourt

Mayor Ted Bettencourt

I have to laugh when I hear city councilors, and even Mayor Ted Bettencourt now talking about putting a “moratorium” on special permits for new billboards. I mean, these are the same guys who got us into this problem with billboards in the first place, right? Most recently, the mayor sent a letter to the council saying enough was enough and that we should now stop approving these special permits. Of course, he sent this letter after begging the council for two more billboards on city land that netted us a cool $50K in permitting fees.

By the way, if the mayor and the city council wants a “moratorium” on billboards, they’ll likely need to go back and change the zoning again. And, just for the record, the reason we’re being overrun with these roadside eyesores is because the city council and the mayor worked together to change the zoning in the first place to allow unlimited billboards on Route 1 and elsewhere. Don’t blame the billboard companies for this getting out of control. As Bill Shakespeare once wrote, “The fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

Bring on the clowns … there have to be clowns

We hear that Stonewood Tavern owner Sal Palumbo will go before the city council on Monday night to not only renew, but to expand his entertainment license. Now he wants comedians and clowns for kids birthday parties to go along with the 8-piece R&B and classic rock bands. It seems that these days Stonewood wants every form of entertainment. Well, short of strippers and … 3-piece jazz bands, we guess.

Sweet caucus justice by a legendary Peabody Democrat 

Mr. Democrat, Dick Jarvis

Mr. Democrat, Dick Jarvis

Hats off to my “You Make The Call” partner Dick Jarvis for holding some scoundrels accountable at last week’s Democratic city caucuses. City Dems met to elect delegates to June’s Democratic State Convention, and Jarvis managed some justice when it came to those Democrats who refused to support the ONLY Democrat on the ballot last spring in a special election to replace the late, great State Rep Joyce Spilliotis.

When the name of someone who openly supported unenrolled candidate Dave Gravel in the special election over Democrat Beverley Dunne was put into nomination as a delegate from Ward 3 last week, Jarvis opposed the nomination, and his claim was backed up by  “Rule 20″ in the state Democratic Party charter. Essentially Rule 20 states that you can’t be a delegate if you openly work against the party’s nominee in a previous election. her name was taken out of nomination.

File this one under sweet revenge. It was very interesting too that once Jarvis blocked this particular delegate wannabe, no one dare put Councilor At-Large Tom Gould’s name into nomination. Gould, as you’ll recall, also supported Gravel.

Dick and I will be discussing these and other issues on tonight’s live “You Make the Call Show,” 8-9 p.m., on PAT Channel 99. Please join in and give us a call.

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