While a new obnoxious billboard lights up our life, we wonder how it got approved

20 Sep

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

For more than a year, we’ve wrung our hands over the giant billboard monstrosity hard by the Subway restaurant, just yards from Lowell Street. But now, as we wait for promises to be fulfilled, and for that massive misplaced sign to be removed, a sequel plays out just a couple of hundred yards away.

billboardCall it “Son of Giant Billboard,” if you like, but have you noticed the obnoxious electronic sign that now towers over the Hess gas station, making that stretch look more like Las Vegas Blvd. than Lowell Street?

I know that ugliness and obnoxiousness is in the eye of the beholder, but this Hess billboard seems even more intrusive than the one next to Subway that they’re promising to take down.

Not only that, it appears that we have a problem here, Peabody.

I recall  the Peabody City Council giving approval at this location for a less intrusive static sign.  Seems to me  that the Hess sign is technically not adhering to the terms of the city council’s vote. How does this happen?

If you know the answer, please let me know.  But it appears that the “billboards gone wild” era continues here in Peabody.

If she found a new mentor, I might admit I’m wrong about Leah Cole as a State Rep

18 Sep

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Since lately, I’ve enjoyed the wrath from both right wingers, and well-meaning fiscally conservative friends, I felt it was time to maybe show my softer, more sensitive side, and admit something rare.

I might be wrong this time about it being impossible for Leah Cole — because she is an out-numbered Republican  — to develop into an effective State Rep for Peabody.

But … before you get too excited, understand that my proclamation comes with an asterisk.

You see, before I can be proven wrong, Ms. Cole needs to stop hanging out with the wrong element on Beacon Hill.

If Cole wants to succeed, Reps such as Brad Jones should be her mentor

If Cole wants to succeed, Reps such as Brad Jones should be her mentor

Cole needs to change mentors, and start learning a few things from Rep Brad Jones (R-North Reading). The House Minority Leader is an excellent example of how a Republican can get things done for his district at the State House, despite being out-gunned 5-to-1 by Democrats.

Knowing that he’s outnumbered like Custer at Little Big Horn, Jones wisely picks issues on which he knows he can get consensus with Democrats. It’s  how Jones and the other 20 other pragmatic Republicans in the Great and General Court get things done for their districts.

But right now,  since Leah Cole would rather follow those more interested in obstruction than bi-partisan solutions, there’s a problem.

Cole’s mentor is a right wing ideologue from Andover named Jim Lyons. Lyons, whose handed Cole a few juicy checks for her campaign war chest, is the King of Chuckleheads on Beacon Hill. If you’ve ever heard him on the radio show of hack newspaper columnist Howie Carr, you’d realize how out there on the fringe Lyons is when it comes to issues. Like Carr himself, I’m talking tinfoil hat crazy, and an always angry-at-the-world demeanor.

Instead .. Cole follows Rep Jim Lyons to the lunatic fringe

Instead .. Cole follows Rep Jim Lyons straight  to the lunatic fringe

Not only is Lyons an obstructionist, but earlier this year he marshaled his handful of extremist lunatic pals, and tried to oust Jones from the position of Minority Leader. Why? Well, they don’t like it that  Jones is willing to find consensus with Dems, and make government work for the people of the Commonwealth. Thankfully, there weren’t enough wing-nut votes to get the job done. By the way,  Jones got overwhelming support from the Republican caucus, which voted 21-0 to keep him as Minority Leader.

And guess what?  Knowing his coup was going to fail big. Lyons had his merry band of right wingers, including Ms. Cole,  not show up for the vote.

“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist, and obviously Rep. Lyons isn’t, to realize that you need some support on the Democratic side of the aisle to get issues advanced, whether they’re policy or parochial,” said Jones, during a time when Lyons and his goons failed to oust him. “That’s just a mathematical reality, as much as I may not or he may not like it to be the case.”

Brad Jones is a Republican rep who gets it.

And if Leah Cole would only listen to the wise Rep from North Reading instead of a crackpot from Andover, even I might change my mind about her potential future effectiveness as Peabody’s State Rep.

Follow Bob on Twitter @eyeonpeabody

New voke school is the ‘gift’ that keeps on giving for Peabody taxpayers

17 Sep

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

It’s the “gift” that keeps on giving, and now there’s reason to believe that Peabody taxpayers might be further fleeced because of an oversight when it comes to the new, totally ostentatious North Shore Technical School.

taxesYou see, the genius political movers and shakers, who built this Palace of Versailles of voke schools, forgot about a “little” obligation owed to the retirees of Essex Aggie, which was merged with the new voke.

Turns out that no one figured into the already over-inflated cost of the new school an additional $375,000 owed annually to pensioners. What that means is that Peabody, which wasn’t even part of the old district that included Essex Aggie, might be on the hook for a big chunk this oversight.

Oops! Maybe State Rep Ted Speliotis, a champion of this over-priced  educational edifice should simply throw up his arms and say … “sorry, the dog ate my homework.”

The new school, which will serve fewer than 200 of Peabody’s 6,000 students, is already taking a $3 million bite out of Peabody’s budget. This year, it was the primary reason for Peabody being forced, for the 13 straight year, to raise taxes on homeowners.

The problem now is that no one wants to own this mistake when it comes to the pension obligation, and no one seems to know how or why the oversight happened in the first place. Of course, the answer is simple as to who will “own” it. It belongs to us, and the taxpayers of all of the other communities who joined in here.

It’s too bad, since I’m sure the movers and shakers behind this over-the-top luxurious school building could have easily swept it under the rug when it came to the overall budget. Heck, no one would have even noticed. Right?

But now, we likely own it, and the question is, how much of it will be the obligation of Peabody taxpayers, whose kids never milked one cow at the old Essex Aggie?

Follow Bob on Twitter @eyeonpeabody

Choice should be Joyce-like when it comes to the race for Peabody State Rep

16 Sep

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

It’s been almost two years since the passing of Joyce Spilliotis, and each year at this time I think about her when campaigns heat up. That’s because, in my opinion, the former State Rep and Peabody City Councilor was a model of what we should expect from all of our public servants.

We need a rep who went about the job just like the late, great Joyce Spillotis

We need a rep who went about the job just like the late, great Joyce Spillotis

A lot of what Joyce got for Peabody while on Beacon Hill was because she was a Democrat, who was in step with the major themes of those who ran her party. But first and foremost, she always strived to do what was right for Peabody, and the people she represented.

If that meant tangling with the Speaker, so be it. If it meant cutting a deal with members of her party, and even wooing some Republican votes to get what she needed for Peabody, she knew how to negotiate.

At the end of the day, she was certainly a Democrat, but it was always people over party.  It was always Peabody first.

People have asked me lately why I’ve been so rough in this space on our freshman Republican State Rep Leah Cole, and the first thing I usually say is that it’s definitely not personal. Although I’ve met Leah only a couple of times, I think she’s a nice person. I also think it’s admirable when people in her age group get involved in community service, and that we need more 25-year olds running for office, especially when it comes to Library Trustee, school committee, and city council.

But I don’t think her being part of the minority party on Beacon Hill, and her lack of business, leadership and life experience are good qualities for Peabody’s State Rep. to have.

There’s something else, though, and this is where I think about the job done by Joyce.

Many times, I get the impression that Leah Cole is on Beacon Hill to be more of a foothold for the dysfunctional Mass GOP, than she is there to represent the residents of Peabody. I cite her rhetoric during the special election, during which she managed to get about 6% of the district’s roughly 28K voters to fill in the oval next to her name.

During that campaign, and while defending the acceptance of donations from outside of Peabody, she sometimes talked about how State Reps don’t just represent their districts, but also make decisions for the entire state. I don’t think I ever heard Joyce Spilliotis worry about anything other than the people who needed here most back her in Peabody.

“I believe her platform will be different. I am interested in hearing what she has to say. … So much of her support comes from outside of Peabody; I would like to know what exactly she intends to do for the citizens (of Peabody),” Beverley Griffin Dunne, Cole’s Democratic opponent on Nov. 4th ,told the Salem News yesterday.

And Beverley is right. While Joyce Spilliotis was all about Peabody and constituent services, Leah Cole seems more interested in pushing forward with the state Republican Party’s agenda, and wooing support from OUTSIDE of Peabody. She’s worked on a number of fiscally responsible tax issues, which I feel most Peabody people would agree with, but it’s all been rhetoric rather than action, since Republicans on Beacon Hill have very little influence.

Money is not only the “mother’s milk of politics,” it’s also the major thing that ends up influencing the decisions of most elected officials.  This is why my eyebrows are raised when I see that a majority of the money in Cole’s war chest coming from non-Peabody people.

When Cole talks about more responsible tax policies and not bilking the middle class, most of us stand up and cheer. But then we peel the onion, and see that she received $22K in in-kind contributions from the uber right-wing Marlborough Republican City Committee, which is in lock-step with the far right nationally when it comes to social issues. Heck, we all want lower taxes, but I believe that the majority of Mass. voters are live and let live when it comes to same-sex marriage. I also believe that, while most people are not pro-abortion, they certainly aren’t – like most Republicans – against a woman’s right to choose.

This is indeed going to be one of the more interesting Peabody State Rep races in recent memory. All I suggest is that people peel the onion, and ask themselves the following before making a decision:

Which of these two candidates is more like Joyce?

Follow Bob on Twitter @eyeonpeabody

Poll: With 7 weeks to go, who do you prefer in 6th District Congressional race?

15 Sep

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

With seven weeks until Election Day on Nov. 4th, it’s time to take the pulse of of our audience on the Sixth District race for Congress. As always, keep in mind that this poll is not scientific, and only reflects the opinions of our Eye On Peabody audience.

Please be sure to share this on social media, including Facebook and Twitter, so we can get an even larger sample.

Richard Tisei

Richard Tisei

Seth Moulton

Seth Moulton

 

 

 

 

Follow Bob on Twitter @eyeonpeabody

West Nile mosquitoes in Peabody: Take precautions, but no need to panic

12 Sep

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

A scary Nixle alert hit smart phones this afternoon, informing the public that some mosquitoes in Peabody have tested positive for the West Nile Virus.

no_mosquitoBut don’t panic. Although you should take the alert seriously by taking proper precautions while outdoors between dawn and dusk, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that your chances of getting any symptoms of the disesase are slim.

Most people, according to the CDC will develop no symptoms after being bitten, and less than 1% of infected people develop a serious, sometimes fatal, neurologic illness associated with West Nile.

Even so, it’s wise to make you take the following precautions provided by the PPD and Peabody Department of Health:

  • Please take precautions to avoid mosquito bites, such as wearing insect repellent and protective clothing, especially if outdoors between dusk and dawn.
  • Eliminate standing water around your home and make sure your screens are intact.
  • For more information visit www.peabody-ma.gov or call the Peabody Health Dept at 978-538-5926.

Follow Bob on Twitter @eyeonpeabody

 

Dunne and the Dems need to avoid over-confidence in state rep race against Cole

10 Sep

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

I’ve heard it already a few times today. Less than 24 hours after Beverley Griffin Dunne’s convincing victory over Jim Moutsoulas in the Democratic primary for Peabody State Rep, people are saying that Republican incumbent Leah Cole will be trounced by the Peabody School Committeewoman on Nov. 4th.

And all day … I’ve been telling them they’re taking Cole way too lightly.

Leah Cole ... working toward the fringe?

Leah Cole

Beverley Griffin Dunne

Beverley Griffin Dunne

Make no mistake, if she runs the right campaign, and is able to raise some money, I feel that Dunne will be our next State Rep from the 12th Essex District.  I also feel that Dunne would be a far more effective state rep than Cole, who as a member of the minority party on Beacon Hill,  has no shot to bring Peabody anything more than a scrap of the bacon.

For the simple reason that Democrats overwhelmingly dominate the Massachusetts Great and General Court, Peabody needs a Democrat in that seat.

But while I don’t think Cole, or any Republican for that matter, can help Peabody get what it needs when it comes to local aid, I also think that people are way underestimating the incumbent’s strength as a candidate.

People who underestimate a Republican’s ability to win in Peabody are either misinformed, or still living in 1972.

Peabody is no longer a city dominated by Democrats. That’s not just me talking. That’s science. Although Dems still outnumber Republicans almost 4-to-1 in our fair burg, those without any party affiliation outnumber Democrats almost 2-to-1.

These voters, designated as the “unenrolled,” have the most impact on all of our elections, and are the reason why Republicans Scott Brown (twice), Charlie Baker, and Richard Tisei have carried the vote in Peabody in recent elections.

It’s also one of the reasons why Cole won in the first place. Oh sure, Cole was definitely aided in that special election 18 months ago when Dunne and Dem-turned-independent Dave Gravel split the vote. But mainly conservative, ticked off unenrolled voters put Cole over the top. I know this first hand after my door-to-door campaigning last fall for Ward 5 Councilor. With many unenrolled voters I visited, it was sometimes snarls once they learned that I was a Democrat.

But the great conservative unenrolled vote is not the only challenge faced by Dunne.

Ms. Cole is not just some candidate from South Peabody. She is a young trophy piece for the Massachusetts Republican Party in what is a sea of blue on Beacon Hill. With the exception of Charlie Baker and Richard Tisei, Cole will get more Mass GOP attention when it comes to money and strategy than any other Republican candidate this cycle. She already has a 4-to-1 advantage over Dunne when it comes to cash in her war chest.

She’ll have plenty of dry powder to launch mail campaign salvos at Dunne, painting the Democrat as a dreaded “liberal,” while painting herself as a state rep with a record of fighting to keep your taxes in check. Even though Ms. Cole has no power on Beacon Hill to keep salons from raising your taxes, and even though Dunne is a moderate on many issues, Cole’s anti-tax message will sound good to those reading the brochure.

This will not be a cake walk for Beverly Griffin Dunne. If the Democrats take Cole lightly, their candidate might go down in flames. It’s something that everyone who wants to see that seat turn blue again needs to understand, and believe.

Get ready, because like the Congressional race, this one is also going to be a battle to remember.

Follow Bob on Twitter @eyeonpeabody

Peabody should be proud of its chief elections official for doing the right thing

10 Sep

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

We spend some of our time in this space pointing out when those on our public payroll don’t do the right thing when it comes to the public trust.

So, it’s only fair that we also point out when public officials do the right thing. Today is one of those days.

I’ve always known Peabody City Clerk Tim Spanos to be both professional and honorable, and my positive opinion of the job he does as the city’s chief election official was affirmed last night when my wife Maureen and I went to vote at the Kiley School polling place.

Following some very bad behavior by poll workers at the Kiley when I ran for Ward 5 Councilor in last fall’s city election, Mr. Spanos not only took my complaint seriously, but he also acted to ensure that no candidate would ever have his or her bid for office jeopardized by unprofessional, and potentially illegal activities by supposedly unbiased election officials.

Simply put, he cleaned house at the Kiley. Poll workers who participated in campaigning for my opponent, Joel Saslaw, while on duty as election officials, are no longer working the polls.

Saslaw’s margin of victory was less than 90 votes, and the behavior of these rogue poll workers immediately questioned the validity of the outcome. Spanos also banned the use of cell phones inside polling places across the city, since the bad actor poll workers in question used their phones for their illegal electioneering activities.

This is the first time I’ve written about the episode, choosing instead to file official complaints with the Secretary of State, State Ethics Commission, and Mr. Spanos. I initially thought about legal action against the city, but Tim Spanos’ responsiveness and professionalism during that time gave me the confidence that I could trust him to take care of the situation.

He did, and now any future candidate who decides to run against Mr. Saslaw can expect a level playing field on Election Day.

It’s nice to know that Peabody voters can be secure in the knowledge that we have an honest and professional man as our chief elections official.

Hats off to Tim Spanos.

Follow Bob on Twitter @eyeonpeabody

Looks like Tisei will go after Moulton by trying to portray the Dem as a Tierney ‘clone’

10 Sep

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Now that the shock and awe of last night’s primary  victory by Democrat Seth Moulton has come and gone for Richard Tisei, we’re suddenly getting a glimpse of the Republican’s battle plan for the Nov. 4 final election for Congress in the 6th District.

Seth Moulton

Seth Moulton

Richard Tisei

Richard Tisei

When Moulton, in historic fashion, upset incumbent John Tierney, 49-41%, many North Shore politicos wondered if this also meant an end to Tisei’s hopes in the final.

After all, while polls were showing that Tisei this time was likely to topple the nine-term Congressman in November, a match up with Moulton looked bleak for the Republican.

After all, Tierney offered a treasure trove of “material” for Tisei, a moderate Republican who lost to the incumbent by just one percentage point two years ago.

There were plenty of ways for Tisei to attack Tierney. But how in the world could he possibly go after Moulton, with his five Harvard degrees,  business experience., and noteworthy service record that included several tours in Iraq as a combat-tested Marine captain?

How could they possibly attack someone with no scandals, and no voting record?

We now have an idea.

It appears that Tisei will attack Seth the “Clean Marine” by trying to paint him as … wait for it …  “John Tierney Light.”

“Seth Moulton may have defeated John Tierney in the primary, but if elected to Congress Moulton would be a less effective carbon copy than the inept Tierney,” National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Ian Prior said in a statement released last night. “As Moulton said, he agrees with Tierney ‘on all the issues’ and that is exactly what makes him so wrong for Massachusetts families and small businesses.”

The other part of Tisei’s strategy will be to portray Moulton, a first time candidate, as someone who doesn’t have enough experience to serve in Washington. It’s not con coincidental that Tisei’s immediate message in front of the TV cameras last night surrounded his own political experience.

Understanding that this attack is on its way, Moulton even joked during his victory speech last night about how “I was six years old” when Tisei first won political office. Moulton is 35. So, we expect some more playful barbs about Tisei being an “old man” at 52.

But as for the strategy of trying to paint Moulton as a Tierney clone, the Tisei campaign and the Republicans might want to be careful.

After all, although Moulton continuously played the “progressive” card in an effort to woo the Democratic Party activists during what was a hard-fought, more ideological-based primary, you can expect his message to take more of a mainstream turn en route to the Nov. 3 final election.

There’s no doubt that Moulton is a Democrat, and will stand with his party when it comes to core issues in the party platform. But trying to paint Moulton as being bad for families and small businesses?

Sorry, Mr. Prior, but in the words of Waylon Jennings, that dog just won’t hunt.

One thing, though, is certain: If you’re a political junkie like me, this is definitely going to all make for marvelous theatre over the next eight weeks.

Follow Bob on Twitter @eyeonpeabody

Seth Moulton pulls off a political upset for the ages

9 Sep

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Seth Moulton

Seth Moulton

In what will long be considered one of the biggest upsets in North Shore political history, Marblehead businessman and former Marine Captain Seth Moulton defeated incumbent Congressman John Tierney in Tuesday’s Democratic primary in the 6th Congressional District.

Tierney, a 9-term Congressman, officially conceded the race a little after 9:15 p.m.

Moulton, 35, will face Republican Richard Tisei in November’s final election.

This was Moulton’s first run for office, and in the end, his message of change resonated with Democrats and independents across the 6th District. Moulton was also boosted by a fear among Democrats over recent polling data showing that Tierney would lose to Tisei by as many as 8 percentage points.

Meanwhile, those same polls showed Moulton beating Tisei by as many as 8 points.

Not only was  this a bad night for a fallen Congressman, it also wasn’t a very good night for Tisei, who is now a very big underdog against Moulton.

Tierney is the first incumbent Democratic congressman from Massachusetts to lose a primary since Chester Atkins in 1992.

I’ll have more analysis in the coming days.

Follow Bob on Twitter @eyeonpeabody

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