Archive | June, 2014

Peabody tax and water bills on rise as city tries to pay for new voke school boondoggle

19 Jun

Mayor calls for $5.4M budget increase; $3M assessed to pay for new voke school

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

If you supported those wasteful, big-spending elected officials – especially State Rep Ted Speliotis — who pushed for Peabody to join in the taxpayer screw job called the new North Shore Technical school, then please, bend over right now and scream out “thank you, sir! May I have another?!”

Call this horror show The MEGA VOKE that ate the Peabody Taxpayers!

Artists rendering of MEGA VOKE!

Artist rendering of MEGA VOKE!

Because of this opulent and overly ostentatious new voke school in Danvers – which will only serve around 150 of Peabody’s roughly 6,000 students – not only are your property taxes going up in 2015, but get ready for an increase in water and sewer rates too.

 

Mayor Ted Bettencourt submitted his FY2015 city budget to the City Council, and it’s calling for a $5.4 million increase, of which roughly $3 million will go to offset our share of next year’s piece of the North Shore Voke pork pie.

The mayor, in a letter to the city council obtained by The Eye, says that roughly means an average tax increase of $189 per homeowner, and a likely, yet to be determined increase in Peabody’s traditionally reasonable water and sewer rates. For those keeping score, that’s 13 straight years of property tax increases in Peabody.

And … this is just Year 1 of this Disaster in Danvers. This state of the art, $133 million school in Speliotis’ hometown, is the “gift” that will keep on giving for Peabody taxpayers now and forever.

Speliotis, who faces an election year challenge from Peabody Republican Tom Lyons, not only got this Taj Mahal of a school for his hometown of Danvers, but I’m sure he made big labor happy with the building’s bloated construction costs, which are already over budget.

Then there’s the hacks-at-the-trough process they’re using in hiring administrators. The new school’s superintendent, a guy named Daniel O’Connell, will make $197,000/year. That’s about $50K more a year than what we thought was a big contract for Peabody Schools Super Joe Mastrocola. Looks now  like Joe was a huge bargain when you consider that he manages a system with roughly 5,550 more students than will attend O’Connell’s school.

And, it gets ever worse. Not only will Peabody need to pony up millions more to send a handful of students to this new school, but because we’re transferring students from our system to this regional voke system, Peabody is set to lose $504K additional when it comes to state aid.

Next time you complain about the conditions in Peabody’s public schools, think about this: It’s only going to get worse while we as a city figure out a way to pay for a school that will service less than 3% of Peabody’s total student population. And we haven’t even talked about the costs associated with our own much-needed new Higgins Middle School, where huge construction bills are in the mail.

At this point, I should add a disclaimer for those screaming that I’m anti-vocational education. This space supports vocational education as much as the next blog, but we’re just not seeing the practicality or fairness of bilking the taxpayers in this particular situation.

Here are the facts, ladies and gentlemen: An estimated 200 Peabody kids, who we could have given a valuable vocational education had we only – for a lot less cost – re-vamped our on Peabody Vocational High School – are now going to watch helplessly as 150 of their classmates hit the lottery and are allowed to attend this educational palace on the hill in Danvers.

So, please bend over today, and thank Ted Speliotis, and those Peabody City Councilors who voted for this disastrous “gift” that will keep on giving for us the taxpayers.

D-Day 70 years later: Thoughts for those who made the greatest sacrifice for our freedom

6 Jun

DDAY

“Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force. You are about to embark upon the great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you.”

— General Dwight D. Eisenhower

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

It’s something I tell my kids to consider each time they’re stuck in traffic, behind a very elderly gentleman, who might be driving annoyingly slow. Before you feel the urge to wave your arms and lay on your horn, consider that the gentleman causing you some minor inconvenience might deserve a lot of the credit for everything you hold so dear.

VETSeventy years ago today, he might have been an 18-year-old kid, seasick and terrified as he waited for the gate to drop on his landing craft. He might just be a member of the Greatest Generation, young men who charged onto a Normandy Beach, and fought for freedom’s foothold while watching their buddies die all around them.

He may have not only courageously fought to save the free world, but then come back home to help build the United States of America into the greatest republic on Earth.

Today is the 70th Anniversary of D-Day, arguably the most-important date in the history of the Free World. It was the beginning of the end for tyranny in Europe, and today should be a moment of reflection on the immense sacrifices that took place on blood-stained beaches called Omaha and Utah.

I heard somewhere that 20,000 World War II veterans are now dying each day as the years cause the inevitable.  But it’s not too late to still thank them for your freedom.

To the still surviving  “Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force,” thank you for what you did to give my family and I the opportunity to live without fear, to live  free, and be able to follow our dreams. And to those who made the ultimate sacrifice, you’ll always be in our prayers.

Godspeed to a guy who defined everything a local weekly newspaper should be; Tom Grelish, dead at 63

2 Jun

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

He was the perfect old-school local newspaper publisher, equally comfortable with posting Little League scores as he was with taking on powerful politicians. He believed in a mix of community news, pictures of Brownie troops and senior citizens at a dance. But also wouldn’t hesitate to take on any politician, who deserved a swift boot in the butt in the pages of the Peabody Citizen, a weekly newspaper that became ingrained in Peabody’s cultural fabric.

Tom Grelish: Legendary Peabody newspaper man

Tom Grelish: Legendary Peabody newspaper man

When Tom Grelish, editor, publisher, friend, devoted father and husband — and the last of the great local “characters” — passed away unexpectedly Saturday night, an era ended for our burg and for local newspapering. He was only 63.

I’m not sure what the future holds for the Peabody Citizen, a weekly through which Tom Grelish defined the phase “local newspaper,” but with his passing things will never be the same when it comes all the Peabody news that’s fit to print.

If Tom could speak to us now, he’d probably say, in his legendary self-deprecating style:  “Big deal. The village just lost its idiot.” He once proudly showed me a key chain he had with something similar written as a slogan.

It was something that showed off his sense of humor, but make no mistake, Tom Grelish was a serious, and well-respected journalist.

Peabody has lost a journalistic watchdog. I’m sure there are plenty of places still left to post bake sale announcements, local sports scores, and other community news. But there will never be another Tom Grelish to tell it like it is while holding many a political scoundrel accountable.

In doing so, Tom never discriminated. You could be a close friend and an elected official, but if you did something really dumb as an elected official, he let you know about it in his weekly and much-read “Just Thinking” column. Before opening The Citizen in 1993, Tom had been a legendary local sports writer for the old Peabody Times.

But, perhaps, this local guy with ink in his veins, earned legendary status in the 1990s when he used his small, but mighty weekly paper to take on one of the most-powerful politicians in Peabody’s history.

Just when Mayor Peter Torigian had managed to control all of the local media spin, and totally influence every editorial written about Peabody in the Salem News, along came Tom Grelish. At first, Tom was just telling the truth about Powerful Pete, and his very controlling ways, even dubbing him the “Emperor.” And when Torigian got his revenge by not allowing The Citizen to benefit from a lucrative legal notice ad business, it become Grelish vs. the City of Peabody.

When local businesses and residents come before the City Council for special permits and variances, they are required – at their own expense – to publish a legal notice in any local newspaper of their choosing. But during Torigian’s rein, the city wouldn’t offer residents and businesses the option of posting their ads in The Citizen. What it meant too was that residents would be forced – at a higher cost – to publish their legals in the Salem News, a paper that always painted the Torigian Administration in a very positive light.

While Tom Grelish was hailing Torigian as the Emperor, Salem News editorial page editor Nelson Benton was throwing roses at the mayor’s feet.

Tom Grelish fought this legal ad injustice in court, and not only won the right to run the ads, but also took the city for thousands of dollars in damages.

“It was a very big moment not only for The Citizen, but for small newspapers everywhere. We got national attention for that one,” Tom told me last fall. “As a newspaper guy it was a pretty proud moment for me. The citizens of Peabody also got a much less-expensive choice for their legal ads.”

And local, small-town newspaper publishers everywhere could thank him for being a champion of the little guy.

It was an all  glorious,  all-American journalistic run that ended much too soon. This space definitely owes its “chutzpah” to Tom Grelish, who will continue to inspire us to hold elected officials accountable to the people who put them in office.

My sincere condolences to Patti, John, and Jackie, and the entire extended Grelish family.  

I’m positive that Tom’s up in heaven right now getting ready to pen his latest “Grelish’s Goulash” sports column, or a “Just Thinking” column where he’ll poke the “Emperor” once more.

— 30 –

… my friend

 

If you would like to attend Tom’s services, here is the information:

 (Relatives and friends are kindly invited to gather on Thursday at 9 AM from the Conway, Cahill-Brodeur Funeral Home, 82 Lynn St., Peabody, followed by a Funeral Mass at 10 AM in St. John the Baptist Church, Peabody.  A visitation will be held on Wednesday from 4 – 8 P.M. in the funeral home.  Burial will be in Cedar Grove Cemetery, Peabody. His family suggests those who wish make a donation in his name to a Peabody Youth Sports group, or Peabody High School Athletic Department. )