Tag Archives: Peabody city council

School Committee, Wards 1, 4 on city council races to watch in fall’s Peabody election

8 Aug

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

The deadline for pulling nomination papers for Peabody’s city election came and went at 5 p.m. on Friday, and it appears that the most-competitive races this fall will be for School Committee and in Wards 1 and 4 for the City Council.

election-2015Here’s a quick August analysis of how the field shapes up in the ward races, for councilor at-large, and on the school committee. Incumbent Mayor Ted Bettencourt was the only candidate to pull papers in that race, and for the second straight term, he’ll run unopposed.

City Council ward races

Incumbent councilors in Wards 2, 3, 5 and 6 are each unopposed.

 Ward 1 Councilor

It’s a three-way battle for an open seat between Jon Turco, Anne Quinn and Brian Barrett, which will necessitate a primary on Tuesday, Sept. 29th.

What’s interesting here is the race between Turco and Barrett.

Turco’s very active in the South Peabody community, and was instrumental in helping then city councilor Ted Bettencourt carry Ward 1 when the Mayor first beat Sean Fitzgerald for the chief executive seat in 2011.

Barrett, who was once Peabody’s assistant city solicitor, comes from an old South Peabody family, and his dad was a long-time city councilor.

This one is a battle of new Peabody (e.g., those who “emigrated” from places such as Revere, East Boston, Everett and Chelsea) vs. the “old Peabs,” who think anyone whose family hasn’t been here for 100 years is a “carpetbagger.” What’s interesting about that dynamic is that – these days — there seem to be just as many new arrivals as there are old families.

If Turco can get the newer arrivals out to vote in massive numbers (which is always challenging) he’ll win. If not, the Barrett name will be tough to overcome.

Ms. Quinn could also have an impact here. She’s the only woman on the ballot, and half the voting population is female. Typically, that dynamic has more of an effect on the councilor at-large and school committee races. But in a three person ward primary, it could be a factor.

Ward 4 Councilor

School committee members Ed Charest and Jarrod Hochman compete for the seat being vacated by long-time Ward 4 Councilor Bob Driscoll.

This one is too tough to call at this point, and neither one of these candidates has ever run a one-on-one race. We’ll see what develops between now and Nov. 3rd. But it will likely come down to whomever runs the most-effective campaign.

Councilor At-Large

Incumbents Anne Manning-Martin, David Gravel, Tom Gould, Tom Walsh and Michael Garabedian are all huge favorites to win re-election at this point. The old adage that councilor at-large incumbents just never lose will likely hold true again this time. The last time a councilor at-large incumbent lost was in 1998, when then sitting school committee member Jim Liacos beat Bill Toomey by less than 100 votes.

Challenger Peter Bakula, making his second run for an at-large seat, faces very long odds here.

Russ Donovan, a South Peabody resident and frequent candidate for office, has pulled papers, but as of Friday at 5 p.m., hadn’t brought back the required 50 signatures. Donovan has until Tuesday, the deadline for returning papers, to decide whether he’s in or not.

School Committee

For the first time in a while, Peabody has a wide-open race for a citywide office that is filled with new candidates. That will make this the most-interesting race of this election cycle.

Two of the three seats are open, and Brandi Carpenter is the only incumbent. There are eight candidates overall, with seven bringing back the required number of signatures to be on the ballot.

At this point, here’s this pundits view on how things are shaping up:

Carpenter should be an odds on favorite for re-election, since she is not only an incumbent, but also the only woman on the ballot. Traditionally in Peabody elections, where voters have more than one vote, there’s a huge advantage to being the only female name on a ballot. But it has also been a rough year for the sitting members of the school committee, who have felt the public’s wrath over the FKO afterschool program issue, and the debacle of sticking the taxpayers with a large separation agreement settlement for departed superintendent Joe Mastocola.  Brandi should win back her seat, but it’s definitely not as big of a lock as it would have been in most other years.

As for the rest of the field, here’s how I feel it shapes up:

Based on who I feel are the most qualified candidates, educators Brian Addesa and Joe Amico and attorney and CPA John Olimpio should be considered the odds on favorites to compete for the two open seats.

Throwing in Peabody’s penchant for wanting to always vote for candidates with deep roots in the city, also throw Andrew Arnotis into the previous mix. My feeling on Andrew, who comes from a well-connected South Peabody family, is that he’s a bright young candidate with a great future in Peabody politics. But I also feel that he’s not ready at this point. He’s a college student, and my fear is that he’ll be manipulated too easily by the existing school committee members, who haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory this year.  It’s not a knock at Andrew, who I feel is a good guy. It’s just that I honestly feel it’s not the right job for any 22-year-old.

At this stage, I really don’t see the rest of the school committee field as being all that competitive.

Michel Bonbon has over the years been very active in the Peabody Democratic City Committee. But I see the key members of that committee supporting Arnotis in this election. Travis Wojcik is another young candidate who could have a bright future in Peabody politics, but his lack of name recognition and inexperience will hurt him this time.

The only other candidate to pull papers is Neil Papamechail, who has until Tuesday to bring back his signatures and get on the ballot. Papanechail pulled papers two years ago, and didn’t bring them back. If he gets on the ballot this time, I feel he’ll be the longest shot in the field of eight.

The school committee candidate field will be trimmed to six following the Sept. 29th primary.

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.

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.


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.


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:


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.

Billboards gone wild: Time to push pause, decide how many we’ll allow in Peabody

12 Dec

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

billboardThe end-of-the-year grab for riches is on, and tonight the Peabody City Council will be charged with either approving or denying another one of those unsightly electronic billboards for Route 1.

I say “grab for riches,” since someone who knows tells me that – once everyone takes their little cut — the total annual windfall for each one of these roadside eyesores could be more than $500,000.

These mammoth signs – which are “blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ our mind” – mean big bucks for Route 1 property owners and developers, the sign companies themselves, the city when it comes to permitting fees, and who knows who else will have their palms “greased.”

Instead of worrying about the threat of court challenges, the city council should tonight be voting based only on the impact these gigantic billboards will have on the quality of life of residents, driver safety, and the aesthetics of our community.

The vultures are so aggressive on this one that tonight the city council will hear testimony on two separate special permits for what would essentially be bumping billboards right next door to each other. One hearing is for a billboard at 47 Newbury at a small piece of property being developed in front of the Springhill Suites hotel. The other one is less than a bag of cash throw away at 55 Newbury in front of the Sonic Restaurant. Since state regulations dictate that the two billboards would be too close to each other, the city council can’t legally approve both.

The only responsible thing for the city council to do tonight would be to vote to approve neither until we can finally come up with some rules, and a civic vision on how many giant signs we’ll allow in our berg. Otherwise, Route 1 will end up looking like the Las Vegas strip.

By the way, this isn’t about trying to ban billboards, but it is about having some sort of control on how many we’ll allow and where. Another digital billboard is currently being installed at 71 Newbury St. behind Santarpio’s and the council did approve a digital billboard last week for 200 Jubilee Dr. (behind the Extended Stay Hotel. It’s already getting out of control.

The proposal for the billboard at 47 Newbury is being presented by World Realty Trust, which has partnered with another recently familiar developer. Total Outdoor Corp, currently in court with Peabody over the notorious Lowell Street billboard would construct the sign at 47 Newbury.

The city gets $25K for the permit on each of these signs, but should everything be for sale here without first understanding what the impact will have on our landscape?

It’s time to push pause here for a moment and decide how many of these we’ll allow, and where. Otherwise, we’ll continue on this path of haphazard community development, which over the long run is going to have a major and negative impact on resident quality of life.

Time to finally get serious about the vision for downtown revitalization

10 Dec

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

SquareSo far, we’ve seen baby steps and a piece meal approach to the revitalization of downtown Peabody. But we remain without a master plan for development, and without true visionaries to lead when it comes to getting us to a place where Peabody Square is no longer a ghost town at 8 p.m. on a Saturday night.

The problem we face in moving this forward was again on full display this past week when a developer came before the city council with a plan to jam 10 apartments into an old office building at 98 Main Street. During the debate, there was talk about a lack of parking, which is a major concern overall as we try to bring people back to the square. But there was also talk about what the vision should be for all future downtown development.

Many councilors argued against creating more apartments (these ones with future Section 8 housing potential), and for the need to think in terms of mixed-use development (e.g., residential on the top floors, commercial space on the bottom). Thankfully, the bid for a special permit at 98 Main went down to defeat with a 5-5 vote.

The issue at 98 Main is simply one symptom of a much larger problem.

We have no overall strategic plan/vision for development, but even if we did … we have no one to lead it. Community Development’s push and praise for the developer’s plan at 98 Main certainly shows that no one there has the skills, experience, or juice to lead the mammoth undertaking of bringing economic life back to the downtown.

Although I believe and support Mayor Ted Bettencourt when he tells us that revitalization of downtown continues to be a focal point of his legacy, I also think the Mayor needs to do what many of us have been urging since he was first sworn in almost two years ago:

He needs to enlist more skilled movers and shakers to help us with this. We need an experienced redevelopment “czar” with unprecedented power to get things done, including overseeing a comprehensive, step-by-step vision. But first, we need that plan, which right now is beyond the current competencies of those who lead our Community Development efforts.

It’s time to look at what other communities have done here, and see which models we can adopt.

But we’re not getting there by allowing developers to jam 10 tiny apartments into a space that might be better for retail space, and the types of businesses that make Peabody Square a destination rather than a pass through.

Those who think that bringing more people to live downtown is a key to our future success here are wrong and misguided. We already have thousands of people living within a half-mile radius of Peabody Square, and what has that gotten us? More barber shops, nail salons, and liquor stores.

Meanwhile, Salem is becoming the restaurant capital of the North Shore, and a destination for people looking for a night out or a day of boutique shopping. By now, we should all be a little tired of the claim that Salem can do this and we can’t because Salem has the built in advantages such as the waterfront. Most of the new shops and restaurants in Salem are down along Washington Street, which isn’t on the water.

Salem has been able to revitalize its downtown because, thanks to its civic leaders, it came up with a comprehensive vision designed to encourage the right kind of businesses downtown, and Mayor Kim Driscoll is using her power to ensure that it gets done right.

Mayor Bettencourt has the opportunity to now do the same.

Mr. Mayor, I support you, but it’s time to bring in some more talent when it comes to your Community Development department.  Let’s find out who those redevelopment visionaries are, and let’s hire them to help us with something that would become your major legacy piece as mayor.


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