A guide to Peabody’s July 4th ward celebrations

1 Jul

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Fourth of July ward parties. They’re not exactly on the same scale as Boston’s Esplanade celebration, or fireworks on the National Mall in Washington. But Peabody’s unique celebration of our nation’s independence is as local, and as all American as it gets.

flagsEach of the city’s six wards will again play host to parties that continue to be idealic throwbacks to a simpler time in our nation, and they’ve been going on now for more than 50 years. I even participated in the Ward 6 bike contest as a 6-year-old, while my kids later enjoyed the party in Ward 5.

They are all unique, and well worth some of your time on Friday morning,

Here’s a quick look at the schedule for Peabody’s ward parties on the Fourth of July:

Ward 1: Takes place at Raddin Road Park at approximately 9:20 a.m., and will include music, games, face-painting, foot races, and a pie-eating contest. Lunch will include free hotdogs, chips and drinks.

Ward 2: At the Welch School. Registration for a parade of decorated bikes, scooters, wagons and carriages starts at 9:15 a.m. There will also be foot races, a performance by the band Sea Bees, raffles, and a pizza lunch.

Ward 3: Will take place at Connolly Park. There will be a horribles parade, races and egg toss, hot dogs, cotton candy, popcorn and drinks.

Ward 4: At Emerson Park. There will be a horribles parade of costumes, and a doll carriage, bike and wagon parade, and a pie-eating contest. There will also be a 1.2-mile road race. Lunch includes hamburgers and hot dogs. Activities get underway around 9 a.m.

Ward 5: Takes place at Lt. Ross Park (Cy Tenney). The bike and doll carriage parade kicks iff at 10 a.m. at the Rosewood Nursing Home. There will be a DJ, games, races, hot dogs and pizza to follow at the park. There is no truth to the rumor that there will also be a balloon ride tour of the new billboards on Route 1, and the meter reader relay race has been canceled. :)

Ward 6: At Symphony Park. Ward 6 Councilor Barry Sinewitz is your host for West Peabody’s most-popular ward party. Registration for the traditional doll carriage, bicycle and tricycle parade begins at 8:30 a.m. Entries should be decorated with a patriotic theme. The parade starts at  9 a.m. Other activities include face-painting, moon bounce, basketball free throw shooting, and an appearance by Curios Creatures. Pizza is on the menu for lunch, which will be served at 11:!5 a.m. If you can help out, Councilor Sinewitz is also still looking for volunteers. Give him a call at 978-535-2283.

Peabody tax and water bills on rise as city tries to pay for new voke school boondoggle

19 Jun

Mayor calls for $5.4M budget increase; $3M assessed to pay for new voke school

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

If you supported those wasteful, big-spending elected officials – especially State Rep Ted Speliotis — who pushed for Peabody to join in the taxpayer screw job called the new North Shore Technical school, then please, bend over right now and scream out “thank you, sir! May I have another?!”

Call this horror show The MEGA VOKE that ate the Peabody Taxpayers!

Artists rendering of MEGA VOKE!

Artist rendering of MEGA VOKE!

Because of this opulent and overly ostentatious new voke school in Danvers – which will only serve around 150 of Peabody’s roughly 6,000 students – not only are your property taxes going up in 2015, but get ready for an increase in water and sewer rates too.

 

Mayor Ted Bettencourt submitted his FY2015 city budget to the City Council, and it’s calling for a $5.4 million increase, of which roughly $3 million will go to offset our share of next year’s piece of the North Shore Voke pork pie.

The mayor, in a letter to the city council obtained by The Eye, says that roughly means an average tax increase of $189 per homeowner, and a likely, yet to be determined increase in Peabody’s traditionally reasonable water and sewer rates. For those keeping score, that’s 13 straight years of property tax increases in Peabody.

And … this is just Year 1 of this Disaster in Danvers. This state of the art, $133 million school in Speliotis’ hometown, is the “gift” that will keep on giving for Peabody taxpayers now and forever.

Speliotis, who faces an election year challenge from Peabody Republican Tom Lyons, not only got this Taj Mahal of a school for his hometown of Danvers, but I’m sure he made big labor happy with the building’s bloated construction costs, which are already over budget.

Then there’s the hacks-at-the-trough process they’re using in hiring administrators. The new school’s superintendent, a guy named Daniel O’Connell, will make $197,000/year. That’s about $50K more a year than what we thought was a big contract for Peabody Schools Super Joe Mastrocola. Looks now  like Joe was a huge bargain when you consider that he manages a system with roughly 5,550 more students than will attend O’Connell’s school.

And, it gets ever worse. Not only will Peabody need to pony up millions more to send a handful of students to this new school, but because we’re transferring students from our system to this regional voke system, Peabody is set to lose $504K additional when it comes to state aid.

Next time you complain about the conditions in Peabody’s public schools, think about this: It’s only going to get worse while we as a city figure out a way to pay for a school that will service less than 3% of Peabody’s total student population. And we haven’t even talked about the costs associated with our own much-needed new Higgins Middle School, where huge construction bills are in the mail.

At this point, I should add a disclaimer for those screaming that I’m anti-vocational education. This space supports vocational education as much as the next blog, but we’re just not seeing the practicality or fairness of bilking the taxpayers in this particular situation.

Here are the facts, ladies and gentlemen: An estimated 200 Peabody kids, who we could have given a valuable vocational education had we only – for a lot less cost – re-vamped our on Peabody Vocational High School – are now going to watch helplessly as 150 of their classmates hit the lottery and are allowed to attend this educational palace on the hill in Danvers.

So, please bend over today, and thank Ted Speliotis, and those Peabody City Councilors who voted for this disastrous “gift” that will keep on giving for us the taxpayers.

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.

A victory for company that flouted the rules: City admits that it cut deal to remove Lowell Street billboard

9 Jun

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Cutting deals. I know, that’s what lawyers do, and these days — as my co-host Dick Jarvis often likes to say on our “You Make The Call” television show — Peabody is indeed being run by lawyers.

billboardBut maybe our city councilors should tone it down a bit when it comes to celebrating what they’re calling a victory over the giant billboard on Lowell Street.

As was reported in this space way back at the end of March, and FINALLY reported today by  Salem News, Total Outdoor Corp is removing this monstrosity. Like we told you back before Easter, though, there’s a stipulation.

Back in the early spring, our city attorneys cut a deal with Total Outdoor Corp. The company, which obnoxiously put the billboard in the wrong place to begin with would agree to drop its court challenge here and remove the misplaced sign if the city would agree to, wait for it …

Give them another location to erect another ugly billboard.

That’s right, the city council agreed to the in a backroom session several months ago to give Total Outdoor another location if it dropped it’s court challenge and removed the sign on Lowell Street.

In other words, and even though Total Outdoor had blatantly violated the terms of its original permit, our city lawyers and our city councilors folded.  They essentially rewarded Total Outdoor for its bad behavior. Peabody was clearly in the right on this one, and while some lawsuits are just worth fighting, our path instead was to back down and allow this company to simply move the problem further down Route 1.

Hey, wait. I thought we had a so-called “moratorium” on erecting anymore billboards?

Don’t be fooled, folks. this is not victory for quality of life in Peabody, especially for those people who live in the neighborhoods along Route 1, where developers come first, and elected officials could care less about the property rights of residents.

D-Day 70 years later: Thoughts for those who made the greatest sacrifice for our freedom

6 Jun

DDAY

“Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force. You are about to embark upon the great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you.”

– General Dwight D. Eisenhower

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

It’s something I tell my kids to consider each time they’re stuck in traffic, behind a very elderly gentleman, who might be driving annoyingly slow. Before you feel the urge to wave your arms and lay on your horn, consider that the gentleman causing you some minor inconvenience might deserve a lot of the credit for everything you hold so dear.

VETSeventy years ago today, he might have been an 18-year-old kid, seasick and terrified as he waited for the gate to drop on his landing craft. He might just be a member of the Greatest Generation, young men who charged onto a Normandy Beach, and fought for freedom’s foothold while watching their buddies die all around them.

He may have not only courageously fought to save the free world, but then come back home to help build the United States of America into the greatest republic on Earth.

Today is the 70th Anniversary of D-Day, arguably the most-important date in the history of the Free World. It was the beginning of the end for tyranny in Europe, and today should be a moment of reflection on the immense sacrifices that took place on blood-stained beaches called Omaha and Utah.

I heard somewhere that 20,000 World War II veterans are now dying each day as the years cause the inevitable.  But it’s not too late to still thank them for your freedom.

To the still surviving  “Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force,” thank you for what you did to give my family and I the opportunity to live without fear, to live  free, and be able to follow our dreams. And to those who made the ultimate sacrifice, you’ll always be in our prayers.

Godspeed to a guy who defined everything a local weekly newspaper should be; Tom Grelish, dead at 63

2 Jun

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

He was the perfect old-school local newspaper publisher, equally comfortable with posting Little League scores as he was with taking on powerful politicians. He believed in a mix of community news, pictures of Brownie troops and senior citizens at a dance. But also wouldn’t hesitate to take on any politician, who deserved a swift boot in the butt in the pages of the Peabody Citizen, a weekly newspaper that became ingrained in Peabody’s cultural fabric.

Tom Grelish: Legendary Peabody newspaper man

Tom Grelish: Legendary Peabody newspaper man

When Tom Grelish, editor, publisher, friend, devoted father and husband — and the last of the great local “characters” — passed away unexpectedly Saturday night, an era ended for our burg and for local newspapering. He was only 63.

I’m not sure what the future holds for the Peabody Citizen, a weekly through which Tom Grelish defined the phase “local newspaper,” but with his passing things will never be the same when it comes all the Peabody news that’s fit to print.

If Tom could speak to us now, he’d probably say, in his legendary self-deprecating style:  “Big deal. The village just lost its idiot.” He once proudly showed me a key chain he had with something similar written as a slogan.

It was something that showed off his sense of humor, but make no mistake, Tom Grelish was a serious, and well-respected journalist.

Peabody has lost a journalistic watchdog. I’m sure there are plenty of places still left to post bake sale announcements, local sports scores, and other community news. But there will never be another Tom Grelish to tell it like it is while holding many a political scoundrel accountable.

In doing so, Tom never discriminated. You could be a close friend and an elected official, but if you did something really dumb as an elected official, he let you know about it in his weekly and much-read “Just Thinking” column. Before opening The Citizen in 1993, Tom had been a legendary local sports writer for the old Peabody Times.

But, perhaps, this local guy with ink in his veins, earned legendary status in the 1990s when he used his small, but mighty weekly paper to take on one of the most-powerful politicians in Peabody’s history.

Just when Mayor Peter Torigian had managed to control all of the local media spin, and totally influence every editorial written about Peabody in the Salem News, along came Tom Grelish. At first, Tom was just telling the truth about Powerful Pete, and his very controlling ways, even dubbing him the “Emperor.” And when Torigian got his revenge by not allowing The Citizen to benefit from a lucrative legal notice ad business, it become Grelish vs. the City of Peabody.

When local businesses and residents come before the City Council for special permits and variances, they are required – at their own expense – to publish a legal notice in any local newspaper of their choosing. But during Torigian’s rein, the city wouldn’t offer residents and businesses the option of posting their ads in The Citizen. What it meant too was that residents would be forced – at a higher cost – to publish their legals in the Salem News, a paper that always painted the Torigian Administration in a very positive light.

While Tom Grelish was hailing Torigian as the Emperor, Salem News editorial page editor Nelson Benton was throwing roses at the mayor’s feet.

Tom Grelish fought this legal ad injustice in court, and not only won the right to run the ads, but also took the city for thousands of dollars in damages.

“It was a very big moment not only for The Citizen, but for small newspapers everywhere. We got national attention for that one,” Tom told me last fall. “As a newspaper guy it was a pretty proud moment for me. The citizens of Peabody also got a much less-expensive choice for their legal ads.”

And local, small-town newspaper publishers everywhere could thank him for being a champion of the little guy.

It was an all  glorious,  all-American journalistic run that ended much too soon. This space definitely owes its “chutzpah” to Tom Grelish, who will continue to inspire us to hold elected officials accountable to the people who put them in office.

My sincere condolences to Patti, John, and Jackie, and the entire extended Grelish family.  

I’m positive that Tom’s up in heaven right now getting ready to pen his latest “Grelish’s Goulash” sports column, or a “Just Thinking” column where he’ll poke the “Emperor” once more.

– 30 –

… my friend

 

If you would like to attend Tom’s services, here is the information:

 (Relatives and friends are kindly invited to gather on Thursday at 9 AM from the Conway, Cahill-Brodeur Funeral Home, 82 Lynn St., Peabody, followed by a Funeral Mass at 10 AM in St. John the Baptist Church, Peabody.  A visitation will be held on Wednesday from 4 – 8 P.M. in the funeral home.  Burial will be in Cedar Grove Cemetery, Peabody. His family suggests those who wish make a donation in his name to a Peabody Youth Sports group, or Peabody High School Athletic Department. )

 

Update: Here’s the reason why we don’t need an ordinance against street-side basketball hoops

24 May

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Although I appreciate David Gravel being a responsive At-Large Councilor, and bringing the issue of  “dangerous” basketball hoops, hockey nets, and other sports equipment to the Peabody City Council, it might be time for him and the other 10 members of our burg’s legislative body to focus on more important issues.

City Councilor David Gravel should have read the city code first

City Councilor David Gravel should have read the city code first

After all, we don’t need a new ordinance of any kind to address the issue, which put Peabody’s name up in lights this week following a report on Boston news station Fox25.  It’s already covered.

Courtesy of one of this space’s frequent visitors, I bring you what already exists in the City Code, Section 27-3:

Sec. 27-3. Removal of obstructions in streets and sidewalks.

Any fixture, structure or property as referred to in section 27-1 which has been erected, placed or left illegally in any street, highway or sidewalk may be moved by or under the direction of an officer and at the owner’s expense.

Street obstructions are also addressed in Massachusetts State Law as well. Before the TV cameras show up again, me thinks that city councilors should always check first to see what’s on the books before causing a knee-jerk tsunami.

From what I’m hearing, Dave these past few days has needlessly had his head slammed over this by pro-street-ball zealots, and fresh-air kid movements from Lake to Lynnfield Streets.  Maybe if he had read the city code, he could have had an officer take care of the situation in his neighborhood without Maria Stephanos making him look like the old guy who sits on his porch and screams “You kids betta get outta my yard!”

Overall, I still believe this is NOT a big issue on Peabody’s streets. We need to let the kids play, and then – using already existing city code – address these issues case-by-case using common sense.

If any object, whether it be grandpa’s favorite lawn chair, or the kids’ basketball hoops, should pose a risk to public safety, the cops should simply have it removed under Section 27-3. Most hoops and hockey nets are not causing any problems at all. It’s like saying, just because some city councilor might not be bright, then ALL city councilors  must be dumb too. We all know that would be untrue. And unfair! Dave is definitely an intelligent man, and a gentleman of course, too.

Simple. To the point. Easy peezey!

Instead of discouraging all of Peabody’s kids to go out and play, how about we use this common sense approach instead?

There you go, Dave, just saved you and the other councilors some time to focus on more important issues.

What’s going on with this site behind Latitude Sports Club on Route 1?

23 May

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

We’ll bring you more details as they develop, but for now I just wanted to give you a heads up on another quality of life, and potential public safety issue that’s brewing on Route 1.

landscape

Latitude Sports Club is to the upper right. The triangular paved area to the left is the property in question. Pine Street runs across the bottom of the image.

The developer who owns the land on which the Latitude Sports Club was developed, has leased a parcel behind the club to a landscaping company.

We hear that the landscaping company has a conditional permit from the city to operate, but that there are some serious questions about what affect this operation will have on the extensive wetlands adjacent to the site.  There are also additional public safety concerns around the fact that there is no fire hydrant on site, yet there is potential for flammable chemicals, such a fertilizer. Mulch, as we’ve seen, is also flammable. The site runs parallel to Pine Street, where there are several homes.

It also sounds like city officials, including the current ward councilor for this area, are trying to keep this quiet until a proper permit can be worked out. For example, no elected official has asked the building department to slap a cease and desist order on this company until the concerns can  be addressed. They continue to operate, which sounds like business as usual on Route 1 when it comes to developers.

We’ve also learned that people who work for departments whose job it is to protect residents and our environment, have voiced their concerns to city officials, and have been told to stand down for now.

More to come, but if anyone in our audience knows more, please send me a confidential message.

 

 

Let the kids play: Basketball hoop, hockey net ban would be ‘wicked stupid’

22 May

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

When we were young, not that long ago, the streets of Peabody this time of year were filled with kids playing street hockey, games of “twenty-one” on a basketball hoop hanging from a telephone pole, or killer games of “cell block” and “hide-and-go-seek.”

hoopParents actually encouraged kids to go outside, and “blow the stink off ya,” and you were happy to oblige once winter shuffled off its mortal coil, and the air on these late spring nights filled with the scent of lilacs and fresh-cut grass. The thrill of that grass, which you would roll around in while wrestling with friends, before setting up a killer three-on-three game under that street lights until being called home for some homework.

Other than the sound of early evening lawnmowers, today the streets are pretty much quiet. Void of laughter. Void of kids debating whether their line drive off the shed was fair or foul.

Despite our still very safe Peabody neighborhoods, kids, for the most part, stay indoors now.

What’s changed?

Well, certainly high-tech fun is winning out over the low-tech fun of our youth. Video games have replaced games of HORSE, and water balloon fights in the backyard.

But that’s not the only reason.

You can also blame it on the adults.

First we condition our kids to believe that it’s not worth playing if you don’t have a coach or a fancy uniform, or well-polished basketball court. We don’t let them experience the joy anymore of sacrificing the skin on their knees to invent new moves to the hoop on the Peabody’s well-worn asphalt streets.

And now comes even more lunacy when it comes to the adult killjoys.

In a move that would further discourage kids from playing outside, the Peabody City Council is considering creating an ordinance that would ban street-side basketball hoops and street hockey games.

Why?

Well, Councilor At-Large David Gravel brought the issue to the council after one of his grouchy neighbors on Tara Road began constantly complaining about a MAJOR “crime” in her neighborhood. That’s right, balls were inadvertently bouncing into this woman’s yard

To his credit, Gravel responded to a resident’s concern, but maybe what he should have done instead was tell her to calm down, and be a better neighbor. Of  course, since this story broke, we’ve heard from other Nitwit NIMBYs, who are now citing child “safety concerns” over curbside baskets and street hockey nets. Good Lord! Why don’t we all just give up already, and have our kids live in plastic bubbles?

Gravel has done his job and responded to a resident. Now the city council should do the right thing, and not even bring a formal motion on this to the floor. It is, after all, in the words of Peabody’s kids, “wicked stupid.”

Let the kids play.

Here’s how Boston TV news station Fox25 covered the story:

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 30 other followers