Tag Archives: Peabody city council

On candidates for council, a campaign litterbug, and a lawsuit worth fighting

1 Oct

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Cleaning out the notepad of the mind today while dodging the raindrops …

With the Peabody city election still 13 months away, we’re already hearing rumors and other scuttlebutt  about who’s in and who’s out. And most of the early activity is around the race for city council.

Ed Charest now Mr. Politician

Ed Charest now Mr. Politician

First off, we hear that the Ward 4 Councilor seat, which will be open with the retirement of Bob Driscoll, is already being coveted by school committee member Ed Charest.  We’re told by someone who knows that Charest — who once declared that he was “just a dad” and not a politician — will not only pull papers, but is lining it up so he has the full support of the out-going Ward 4 Councilor. The Endicott College pastry chef apparently wants to have his cake, and … eat it too. Welcome to the club there, Big Ed. Looks like you’re an honest-to-goodness politician just like the rest of us. . . .

The other hot rumor on the streets of South Peabody is that Ward 1 Councilor Barry Osborne is almost certain to face a strong challenge from long-time Lynnfield Street resident Jon Turco. Turco, who has worked on a number of campaigns – including those of Richard Tisei, Joyce Spilliotis, and Mayor Ted Bettencourt – is well-known and well-liked in Ward 1, presenting Osborne with what would be his toughest challenger yet. . . .

Although dislodging any of the five incumbents would be a tall task, the other rumor we’re hearing is that Light Commissioner Tom Paras might run for an at-large seat . . .

Will Dave McGeney retired from school committee?

Will Dave McGeney retired from school committee?

If Charest runs in Ward 4, and Dunne — as expected — beats Leah Cole for the State Rep seat in four weeks, there could also be unprecedented change on the Peabody School Committee.  That’s because the other hot rumor on the street is that long-time school committeeman David McGeney is leaning toward not running for re-election. Could there actually be three open seats next fall?

Stay tuned for more.

 

Signing off? Not in Demo’s case

If you didn’t know that James “Demo” Moutsoulas got trounced by Beverley Dunne last month in the Democratic State Rep Primary, you might think he’s still in the race. That’s because Demo’s blue lawn signs still litter the landscape from Lynn Street to Lake Street. Who knows? Maybe he’s leaving them there for his next unsuccessful run for city-wide office. …

Westside Restaurant: We hardly knew ya

Following a history of conflict with neighbors over attempts to get a liquor license and other disturbances, the Westside Family Restaurant will in a couple of weeks be no more. The property was recently purchased by Rabbi Nechemia Schusteman and the Peabody Chabad Lubavitcher Jewish Center. Chabad will move in by November, and plans to convert the former restaurant into a kosher kitchen, multipurpose room, and sanctuary. The good news for the neighbors on Samos Circle is that they no longer need to worry about keeping the Westside alcohol free. The somewhat bad news for Peabody taxpayers is that – because Chabad is a tax-free religious organization – about $12K will be coming off the tax roles . . .

Has All Pro cleaned up its act? Find out on Oct. 8

We’ll find out at the next Conservation Commission meeting whether or not a landscaping company located behind the Latitude Sports Club has finally cleaned up its act. If not, who knows? Maybe the politically connected All Pro Landscaping will be given yet another chance.

Months ago, All Pro was issued an enforcement order by the city’s conservation agent to clean up a number of violations. Some of the violations threatened wetlands that drain into Peabody’s water supply. Some of the violations were potential fire safety hazards. But for months, the company, with very close political ties to Ward 5 Councilor Joel Saslaw, has been allowed to ignore the enforcement order. The ConCom has threatened fines, but so far allowed All Pro to slide.

We’ll see what happens this time. Who knows? Maybe All Pro has finally cleaned up its act. If not, we’ll let you know here what happens.

File this under the title of “Lawsuits Worth Fighting”

After the city council did the right thing by sticking together, and voting against allowing a 60-foot cellphone tower in the middle of a residential neighborhood off Lynn Street, the city received notice this week that Verizon Wireless is suing Peabody over the issue. When you consider how adversely the proposed tower would affect quality of life in that neighborhood, this is one lawsuit where every taxpayer should be quoting Dirty Harry. Go ahead and sue us, “Feeling lucky punk? Go ahead, make our day.”

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.

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.

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