Tag Archives: Peabody city council

Best wishes on a fast recovery for Councilor At-Large Anne Manning-Martin

18 Aug

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Councilor Anne Manning-Martin

Councilor At-Large Anne Manning-Martin

Over the years, we’ve been friends and foes, agreed on some issues, disagreed on many others. But one thing I will always say or write is that Anne Manning-Martin always votes in the best interests of those residents she serves as a councilor at-large.

So, with that, I just wanted to wish Anne a speedy recovery from major back surgery, and hope that she’s back doing the business of the people of Peabody soon as possible.

After all, let’s face it, there are only two current Peabody City Councilors who are always on the side of the people they represent: Ward 6 Councilor Barry Sinewitz, and Anne.

By the way, the back surgery Manning-Martin underwent, was no minor matter.

“I really wasn’t supposed to walk again. It was kind of a Hail Mary operation,” Manning-Martin told the Salem News this week. “I just consider myself lucky and blessed.”

And Peabody residents will be lucky to have her back in there fighting for them again real soon.

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.

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.

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:

 

Update: City set to use ‘technicality’ to allow Saslaw to be eligible for job

21 May

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Just wanted to update an earlier post here, and tell you that the city is prepared to rule that Ward 5 Councilor Joel Saslaw can hold the position of meter reader for the light plant, provided he only takes only one salary from the city.

plmpMassachusetts General Law clearly states that a sitting elected official cannot collect an additional salary from the municipality in which he/she serves. So sources tell me that the city will get around this  through a technicality.   Mr. Saslaw can keep his city council seat while not collecting the less than $10K a year salary that goes with being a councilor. This would allow Peabody to hire him to the $50,000 a year ,with full benefits and pension, position of electric meter reader.

The State Ethics Commission would have final say here, and there’s still a question on whether Saslaw should be given the job over several other candidates who have applied.

The Eye reported earlier that Saslaw has called more than one elected Light Commissioner to lobby for the position, raising possible conflict of interest questions. Currently before the city council is a motion on whether the Light Commissioners will be granted a raise that would make them pension-eligible.

More to come as it develops, but let me know if you think this is an end-run, and whether you feel it’s still improper for an elected official to be hired to an additional city job when there are other qualified citizens who have applied ahead of him.

 

 

Question of the day: Should a sitting city councilor be allowed to hold another fulltime city job?

16 May

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

For now, since we don’t really know how this all will play out, I’ll reserve judgment and simply inform you of something we’re learning here at The Eye.

Ward 5 Councilor Joel Saslaw has applied with the Peabody Municipal Light Plant to become a meter reader, a fulltime position with the city that carries with it a $50,000 salary, plus benefits. Mr. Saslaw has put his name on the list, and begun placing calls to to PMLP Light Commissioners to lobby for his candidacy.

There are also other candidates ahead of Saslaw on the list for this position, which involves walking house to house and scanning customers’ electric meters to determine their monthly usage and electric bills.

If Saslaw got this position, he could someday be eligible for two city pensions. But again, we’ll also reserve judgment at this stage, since maybe he would resign his city council seat should he get the meter reader job.

More to come on this as it develops, but here’s a question for you to weigh in on in the comments section below.

If the City Solicitor rules that it’s legal for Mr. Saslaw to hold both a city councilor position and a fulltime meter reader position, do you feel that  it’s ethical? Alos, please take our poll.

Council set to sign off on a billboard for Bourbon Street?

4 Apr

 

blank-billboardBy Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

If you live on Bourbon Street, and found the giant billboard around the corner and next to the Subway on Lowell Street offensive, get ready to be even more annoyed closer to your front door.

CBS Outdoor will go before the Peabody City Council on April 29th to seek a special permit to erect a giant, electronic billboard at 8 Bourbon Street. The billboard madness continues.

If you live in that neighborhood, call your ward councilor, Joel Saslaw, and tell him to stop voting to approve these eyesores. Mr. Saslaw, after all, has already approved THREE of these new signs in the ward since taking office in January.

Your taxes are going up again: Merry Christmas, Peabody homeowners

13 Dec

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

taxesThe line is becoming cliché. Each year for the past 12 years, Peabody homeowners have seen it there in print the morning after each annual tax classification hearing before the Peabody City Council:

“Our residents still pay among the lowest annual tax bills in Essex County.”

Quick … someone cue Mary Poppins, since my message today to Mayor Ted Bettencourt and the city councilors is this: The sugar’s starting to become a little bitter when it comes to helping the tax medicine go down.

Last night, the city council agreed to yet another increase on homeowners. This one was pretty similar to the last one, and they tell us the average residential tax bill will increase by “just” $94. But let’s be honest: Most of us will end up paying more.

What that means is, since 2001 annual tax bills have risen by more than 30%.

What’s most-disturbing about the latest residential tax increase is that it’s hard to justify why we need any increase at all right now. We hear how we need to pay for a lot of expensive things, including a much-needed new middle school, and the disastrous decision to help fund a Taj Mahal-like new regional vocational school in Danvers. But don’t be fooled by that: As a city, we have $13 million in free cash right now, some of which will be earmarked to help offset the cost of those projects. This latest increase will not be used to fund major projects.

This latest tax increase is coming your way because, to borrow the words of Ronald Reagan, “we don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.”

And it’s only going to get worse once we start chipping in at least $3 million annually so fewer than 160 of the more than 6,000 Peabody students can attend the new, ostentatious regional vocational school.

Starting next year, we’ll be not only funding a city budget and a Peabody school budget, but also a regional vocational budget, which will continue to increase each year. Clearly, it would have been a lot less expensive (and more Peabody kids would have benefited) had we revamped and funded our own voke program. We also would have retained control, rather than participating in what is quickly becoming an out-of-control hack-of-rama. That large sucking sound you hear is coming from Danvers, and it’s called MEGAVOKE! Can’t blame Bettencourt for this one, though, since he did vote against joining the voke district when he was a city councilor.

But I digress …

City spending increased $5.4M in 2013, but none of that increase was spent on major projects, such as the middle school or flood mitigation. A lot of it went to salaries, and new city jobs. In these times of financial insecurity, shouldn’t we be thinking austerity instead?

Clearly, there are things we need to pay for, and clearly this mayor inherited a lot of things within the city’s infrastructure that need to be fixed. But at this point, we also don’t see a plan for finding more revenue without putting an onerous burden on the backs of Peabody’s middle class taxpayers.

Where’s the plan to expand our commercial tax base?

Anyhow, here are all of the gory details in today’s Peabody Patch. The bottom-line is this: Your taxes are increasing again. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

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