Archive | November, 2013

Tom Grelish: ‘Croce has a right to be miffed’

22 Nov

(Editor’s note: The following “Just Thinking” column, written by Peabody Citizen Publisher Tom Grelish, appeared in this week’s edition of that newspaper, and is re-published here with permission.)

By Tom Grelish, Publisher, Peabody Citizen

VoteJust thinking as usual this week and offering the thought that Bob Croce, who recently lost the Ward 5 city council race to Joel Saslaw, is well within bounds to be more than slightly disgruntled concerning the shenanigans that transpired in the polling place during the election.

Malfeasance in the polling place is never acceptable, and make no mistake about it – what transpired was flat-out malfeasance carried out by a couple of birdbrained poll workers. The height of stupidity, no two ways about it.

For those of you who may have missed it, here’s what took place: the poll workers, while on duty as representatives of the residents of Peabody, saw fit to post massages on Facebook urging residents to scamper to the polls and vote for Saslaw.

You gotta be kidding me. Some folks have said that the incident was tantamount to no big deal, but I vehemently disagree with that assessment. It was a very big deal and borders on voter fraud. We cannot tolerate that type of stuff. End of story.

Candidates for office must remain at least, I believe, 150 feet from a polling place so that voters are not unduly influenced by them. That’s a good rule. Then we have a couple of pinheads violating that rule from inside the polling place?

Only in Peabody could this type of baloney go on. And Croce should be streaming about it – all he asked for was a clean election, and he didn’t get it.

Let’s not be naïve about this. Those Facebook postings did not alter the outcome of the election – Saslaw took home the prize by almost 90 votes, a safe enough margin of error even if a couple of voters did heed the efforts of the harebrained poll workers.

But that doesn’t detract from the seriousness of the situation.

City Clerk Tim Spanos is handling this mess the right way – he’s turned the entire ball of wax over to the office of Secretary of State Bill Galvin, as well as the Ethics Commission, to figure this thing out and what should be done about this quagmire.

The worst thing about the polling place game-playing is that it casts Spanos, Mayor Ted Bettencourt, and Saslaw, in a very bad light. And none of them deserve to have that black light focused on them, because none of them did anything wrong but will get swept into this kerfuffle nevertheless.

I have particular empathy for Spanos, who is a top-shelf city clerk and always does his utmost to run clean elections. Then to have a couple of poll workers stab him in the back like that just isn’t right.

Spanos has no culpability in this fiasco. All he can do is hire the parties he thinks are the right people to man the polls – then, he has to trust them to do the job properly. He can’t be everywhere, all the time, on the day of the election, and was completely blindsided by those poll workers.

Saslaw, too, receives a black eye for this and he hasn’t even taken office yet. The renegade poll workers were, after all, obviously supporters of his. But there is no way that Saslaw should take guff for this – he didn’t tell those pinheads to do what they did. No way, no how.

As for Bettencourt, he doesn’t need this malarkey. He had nothing to do with it but will nonetheless be held somewhat responsible because it was city workers involved in the transgressions. He has bigger fish to fry in his efforts to run the city, and can easily live without this nonsense.

As for Croce, he has apparently retained an attorney to assist him with this election disgrace. I don’t blame him – Bob Croce has to look out for the best interests of Bob Croce. No one is going to do it for him.

That being said, I’m not sure how an attorney will be able to bolster his case, short of demanding a new election, a scenario that is highly unlikely to unfold.

The lawyer will easily prove that malfeasance took place, but that’s not going to change the outcome of the election. It’ll be very interesting to see where the lawyer takes this matter.

If he is successful in getting a new election – which, as stated, if highly unlikely – all bets are off. Croce could win it the second time around.

Wouldn’t that he something?

No matter what the lawyer does, this is for sure – the city of Peabody should reimburse Croce for his legal fees.

It would be the only decent thing to do. After all, Bob Croce did not initiate this brouhaha. A couple of city workers did.

And the rest of us are responsible for making good on the missteps of city workers. It’s lousy, but it is also reality.

So I hope the city council walks the proper path on this and gives Croce his money back. All he ever asked for was an unfettered election, and he did not receive that.

Again, some people are of the mind that all this is no big deal. Let me reiterate – it is a very big deal. No two ways about it.

Thanks to you, 1 year later, EOP blog is still standing

16 Nov

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

eyeResarch shows that the average lifespan of your average citizen blog is less than three months, and many burnout in the first couple of weeks. That’s why I’m proud to come to you today bragging about the “longevity” of Eye on Peabody.

Today marks our First Anniversary. Exactly one year ago today, I launched with this post.   Twelve months later, and following two city elections and special elections for State Senate, State Rep, and US Senate, we’re still standing while keeping you informed on the issues that matter most for our hometown of Peabody, MA.

We had a little bit of a sabbatical while I ran recently for Ward 5 Councilor, but our visitor statistics have bounced back up the past two weeks as we’ve gotten back into keeping you informed. Since our debut on Nov. 16th, 2012, we’ve had more than 62,000 page views, and more than 15,000 unique visitors. What that means is that more than 15K different people have viewed at least one page of EOP the past 12 months.

Thank you for visiting and reading. Considering that life happens, it’s not always easy to keep content coming your way, but I’ve enjoyed bringing you each and every post, and I’m committed to keeping it going.

So just for fun, here are some other details I’ll share.

What was our busiest day for visits? 

That would be Nov. 29, 2012 when we announced the tragic  passing of State Rep. Joyce Spilliotis. In tribute to our friend Joyce, more than 900 people read our coverage that day, including 600 who read this post, and many who left comments in tribute.

What was my favorite post of the year?

It was one that also made me feel great, and I published it on the night these kids came to my door.

Of course, there are several other posts I’m proud of, but to choose between them would be like asking me which are my favorite children. So, I invite you to visit our archives and let me know which were your favorites.

Here’s to the start of another great year!

Stonewood owner asked to play by rules; Councilors Manning-Martin, Sinewitz shine

14 Nov

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

The Peabody City Council – at least two courageous members – told the owner of the Stonewood Tavern last night that he just had to follow the rules. Sal Palumbo had originally planned to go before the council to “amend” his entertainment license to allow him to play host to bands at a nightclub he built as an addition to his successful restaurant on Lynnfield Street.

Councilor Barry Sinewitz

Councilor Barry Sinewitz

Problem was, he was looking to expand an entertainment license for a nightclub that he erected without city council approval. The city council back in July of 2011 approved a special permit for a 95-seat restaurant, which since opening had been a welcomed addition to the neighborhood.

But suddenly, several months ago, Mr. Palumbo added on a nightclub and began rocking the foundations of South Peabody with 8-piece bands. Last night, after understanding that his attempt to amend his entertainment license was going to fail, Palumbo requested that his petition be withdrawn without prejudice. The council agreed 9-0 to allow him to withdraw his petition, but not before Ward 6 Councilor Barry Sinewitz, and Councilor At-Large Anne Manning-Martin gave him a little rock performance of their own.

Councilor Anne Manning-Martin

Councilor Anne Manning-Martin

“You went wild over there. Wild,” Manning-Martin said while addressing Palumbo, and … she was just only warming up. “You’re a businessman doing business in Peabody, who in the near future needs to be kept on a short leash.”

Manning-Martin went on to say that she would like to ask the licensing board whether Stonewood had also violated it’s liquor license by opening the nightclub. “You should be fined,” she added.

Sinewitz was a little kinder, yet still made sure to let Palumbo know that his end-run around the process and the city council won’t be tolerated.  “What I wonder is whether he’s going to have bands there this Friday and Saturday night,” asked Sinewitz, who later made a motion for an emergency preamble for Mayor Ted Bettencourt to sign,  which requests that the police department visit the Stonewood this weekend to ensure that no live bands will be performing.

While Manning-Martin and Sinewitz handed out what seemed like the perfect response in this situation. other councilors leaned more toward sending Mr. Palumbo for a timeout in chair in his dining room. Ward 1 Councilor Barry Osborne, who really owns some of the responsibility here for not letting Palumbo know that he needed to bring his nightclub plans before the city council, sounded at times like he wanted to give the Stonewood owner a hug while telling him to please be good from now on.

Most of the other council members were totally silent.

Great work by Manning-Martin and Sinewitz.

As Sinewitz put it perfectly: “This isn’t a witch hunt. It’s about following the rules.”

Poll: How do you feel about taking voting out of the schools

14 Nov

Some members of the Peabody School Committee, citing student safety and disruption of the educational process, would like ban the city from using schools as polling locations on Election Day.

How do you feel about the issue?

Please join us tonight for live ‘You Make The Call’ show

13 Nov

SAMPlease join my partner Dick Jarvis and me tonight as we discuss the Peabody issues of the day on a new, live “You Make The Call Show,” 8-9 p.m., on PAT Channel 99.

This is our first new show since the election, and on our list of topics tonight will be the latest with the expansion and entertainment license of the Stonewood Tavern in South Peabody, the issue of using public schools for voting, and much more.

It’s always open lines on YMTC, so we’ll entertain and comment on whatever is on your mind.

Please tune in and give us a call. You can also follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/calldickandbob

– Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Update: Stonewood owner asks that hearing on entertainment license be recessed

12 Nov

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Questions abound as EOP learns that Stonewood Tavern owner Sal Palumbo will ask that a hearing on amending his entertainment license be recessed on Thursday night when the issue  is due to come before Peabody’s City Council.

For various reasons, applicants sometimes decide  last-minute not to have their issue heard. Sometimes that reason is that they learn ahead of time that they won’t have the votes necessary to gain enough support for their issue.

In this case, the city council must still vote whether to recess the hearing and table the issue for now. Stonewood was attempting to expand its entertainment license to allow full scale bands in a recently added on nightclub area. Back in July 2011, when attorney David Ankeles, on behalf of Palumbo, brought the plans for the restaurant to the city council to get approval for a special permit to operate, the only real talk of “entertainment” was an occasional small jazz band within the confines of a 95-seat restaurant.

Since opening, Stonewood had been a positive addition to this South Peabody neighborhood as Palumbo’s property helped revitalize a previously abandoned lot on Lynnfield Street. But over the past several months, and following a large expansion, the Stonewood has been featuring full-scale bands in its new nightclub, which has drawn major concerns from neighbors who were led to believe that it would only be an upscale bistro.

According to a source, more than 20 neighbors had planned to be in attendance at the hearing on Thursday to offer opposition to a nightclub that is already operating without approval of the city council’s special permit process.

The question now is what becomes of the nightclub that’s already open? One possibility is that the building inspector’s office might be forced to issue a cease and desist order, essentially shutting down the nightclub portion of Stonewood until it can properly come before the city council.

Stay tuned. We’ll have more details here as they  occur.

In a related story, two sources tell EOP that Palumbo is also looking into purchasing the nearby parcel at 143 Lynnfield Street from developer Bob Denisco. Part of Denisco’s plans for the site, which once housed an old tannery, were to rent to the Yellow Jackets Gymnastics organization. We have no details at this time as to what Palumbo’s plans would be for that property.

Stonewalling on Stonewood? Come on, guys, do it right

11 Nov

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher 

stonewood

Opening day at Stonewood Tavern

Her fears alleviated by attorney David Ankeles, the neighbor, Mrs. Trainor, seemed satisfied afterward that the nice little restaurant going in across the street from her home would actually be a good thing for the neighborhood.

Following the presentation before the Peabody City Council back in July of 2011, she felt that maybe there was nothing to fear. This wouldn’t be a situation where “they get a permit and then all of a sudden they change all of the rules on you,” she was quoted in the notes at that special permit hearing.

No, not at all, attorney Ankeles and petitioner Sal Palumbo would insist. This was going to be a nice, little bistro, with 95 seats for diners, and room for another 15 to stand and wait for the next available tables on really busy nights. As for entertainment, maybe a cool little three-piece jazz band to provide a little background music while you dined on citrus marinated shrimp or panko encrusted chicken.

There was definitely nothing over-bearing or sinister in the plans for what would become the Stonewood Tavern on Lynnfield Street. It was redevelopment of a dingy property. It was the type of development Peabody needs and wants very much as we try to get more commercial tax dollars, and stabilize tax rates on residents.

Well, we wonder how Mrs. Trainor and her South Peabody neighbors feel now.  That nice little, quiet bistro is now morphing into a noisy — and potentially disruptive — nightclub and hangout.

Ankeles and Palumbo will be back before the city council on Thursday to “amend” their entertainment license. They want to be able to have full-size bands in their new nightclub on that location. Rock? Reggae? Hip hop? A Three Dog Night Tribute band? In fact, these types of acts have already been playing there for months following a large expansion to the building. Maybe a couple of mediocre reviews about the food on Yelp made them look for an alternate revenue stream?

Clearly, they’re already not living up to the terms of what was originally agreed to in their special permit, which means the city council should do the right thing here by the neighborhood. Tell Mr. Palumbo that his nightclub needs to close its doors for now, and tell Mr. Ankeles to bring his client back for a proper special permit hearing, where the neighbors can weigh in, and where the rights of the residents can be protected.

Who knows? Maybe the neighbors like eating firecracker chicken pasta while listening to some Danny Hutton lookalike sing “Joy to the World.” But come on guys, do it right. Either it passes muster with the neighbors, or you go back to serving spicy sausage mussels without a side of hip hop or rock ‘n roll.

Grateful for family, friends, and supporters met along the way

7 Nov

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

SUNRISEIt’s tough losing an election. The months of hard work puts major stress on not only the candidate, but his family and friends too. When things don’t work out on election night, there is shock, followed by disappointment, and then some frustration.

But if you did it right, and still lost, if you truly ran a campaign where you put the focus on helping people and sticking up for neighbors and neighborhoods, election night’s disappointment fades as quickly as that next day’s sunset.

Today, I have reached that point. The sun came up this morning, just as it always does, and with it came satisfaction for this former candidate. Despite battling money and power, we lost the election for Ward 5 Councilor by just 89 votes. Despite having what seemed like the entire Ward 5 political and business establishment against me because I promised to always be on the side of taxpaying residents, our underdog campaign almost pushed it across the goal line in sudden death overtime.

We fell short, but we’re not disappointed anymore. Why? Because we had the right message and we put a scare into those whom are more interested in making a buck than they are with protecting the quality of life of residents. We scared them so much that they filled my opponent’s campaign war chest with thousands of dollars, and helped with a massive get out the vote effort on election night.  Their GOTV effort was just better than our GOTV effort, and they made sure since they wanted no part of this independent-minded Ward 5 Councilor candidate.

But I know as well as anyone that this will always be the nature of politics, and at the end of the day, people get to choose who they want based on what they hear and who they like. That’s America at its finest, and I believe in the system. We lost. That’s just the way it is.

Mr. Saslaw and his team were just able to convince a few more people than we could. He now says he’s with the residents, and I wish him well in his pursuit. I expect, though, that it’s going to be hard to say no to developers who just covered you in cash, and carried you across the finish line.

As for me, I’m just not sure where the political winds will blow me. It’s too soon to do anything other than thank those family members and friends whom I love, and tell them how much I appreciate everything they did for me. There are too many names to name here, so I anticipate writer’s cramp from so many thank you notes in the coming weeks.

I’ll also never forget the people who supported me because they liked my message when I came to their doors during the long campaign. Today, just as I was starting to feel down again, an elderly woman from my neighborhood — who I didn’t even know before meeting her on Election Day — called to tell me it was a “pleasure voting for you.” And then, she told me a story that inspired me to start thinking about my next step.

It was a story about her son, who was diagnosed with dyslexia back in the 1950s, only at first they didn’t know what it was, and because of it he began failing in school. Persistence and a mother’s love and determination forced this son to not give up.

He somehow made it through the Peabody Schools, and kept working hard enough to make it into college. Despite several setbacks along the way, the son — pushed by his wonderful mom — not only graduated from college, but went on to grad school and then got his PhD in education. He just recently retired from his job as Superintendent of Schools for a South Shore community.

His mom, meanwhile, despite being 87-years-old, legally blind and needing a walker, made it to the polls at the Kiley School on Tuesday after our campaign was able to give her a ride.  When I thanked her for going above and beyond to support me like that, all she said to me was:

“You’re a good guy. You deserved it. I didn’t give up on my son, and I wasn’t going to give up on you.”

You know, maybe I did go down to defeat because I said I would always take the side of residents like this great lady who is my neighbor. But … I think I can live with that, and even start sleeping through the night again.

Here’s to another beautiful sunrise.