Archive | July, 2014

Update: All-Pro given yet another chance to clean up its messy situation

24 Jul

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

The saga continues in the case of All-Pro Landscaping, which — courtesy of Peabody’s good ole boy political network — got  treated with kid gloves again last night.

tank

A large chemical storage tank on the All-Pro Landscaping property.

The Conservation Commission says it will give All-Pro Landscaping, which is polluting wetlands with asphalt and other debris, another 45 days to clean up its mess. While All-Pro has been ignoring  calls to clean up its mess, the city has allowed them to continue operating behind Latitude Sports Club.

For those keeping score, the Con Com issued the same exact edict on All-Pro at its June 11th meeting. But move along … there’s nothing to see here.

There was also a further smoke screen laid down last night by some Con Com members, who tried to deflect responsibility from All-Pro by asking  if they should instead fine the actual property owner. All-Pro is just a tenant on the property.

So why is the city dragging it’s feet, and  sitting on it hands here with what seems like a fairly straight forward set of violations?

A lot of people are wondering if it has anything to with the fact that the ALL-Pro owner and his family are as politically connected as it gets in Ward 5, where this situation exists. For months, the ward councilor has been working behind the scenes to ensure that certain city departments take it easy on All-Pro, and last night the same councilor was at the Con Com meeting trying to smooth things over again.

I guess that’s the type of personal constituent service you get for putting up hundreds of his campaign signs, and working behind the scenes to ensure that developers get on board and help elect a guy who will keep the good times rolling up on Route 1.  With this councilor, it seems like the rights of developers come first, and your quality of life isn’t really all that important. But we Ward 5 residents are used to it. After all, that kind of approach has been going on here for more than 25 years.

If you are a developer or a  buddy of the ward councilor, you get what you want. If not, it’s like a scene from Oliver Twist. “Please sir … I want some more.”

Last night, they even brought in another one of the ward councilor’s buds, a Pine Street neighbor, who told  the Con Com that the owner of All-Pro was a wonderful neighbor. Yeah, we hear he rescues cute little stray dogs in between spraying lawns with chemicals.

By now, feel free to say that my rant here is also politically motivated. You may be partly right, and that’s OK to say.

But then there are those pesky little things called the facts:

DelNegro  isn’t involved with Peabody politics, and is just trying to do her job, which is to protect our environmental health and welfare. She says that All-Pro is NOT in compliance with the law, and hasn’t been for several months. She seems frustrated over the situation, and who could blame her at this point? The woman is just trying to do what we pay her to do.

So now, All-Pro gets one more chance.

Who knows? Maybe in 45 days the Con Com will give them another chance, and another 45 days. And when they do, maybe they’ll tell the All-Pro guys this time we REALLY mean it!

I guess there really are two sets of rules in Peabody. One special set for those who are politically connected, and another set for the rest of us.

Sighting a local hero and some curious political creatures at re-scheduled Ward 6 party

21 Jul

 

Sgt. Steve O'Hara, wife Jessica, and their children accept the Ward 6 "Heroes Among Us" award, flanked by Ward 6 Councilor Barry Sinewitz (left) and Mayor Ted Bettencourt

Sgt. Steve O’Hara, wife Jessica, and their children accept the Ward 6 “Heroes Among Us” award, flanked by Ward 6 Councilor Barry Sinewitz (left) and Mayor Ted Bettencourt. (Photo submitted courtesy of Doug Finnegan).

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

The re-scheduled Ward 6 Fourth of July party at Symphony Park this past Saturday featured a huge crowd, the traditional patriotic bike parade, the honoring of a local hero, and much more.

But it was also a day of some interesting sightings of local elected officials, and other political wanaabes.

Please read on, and we’ll get to the political stuff, but first it was wonderful to see a local hero honored for the work he’s done as a police officer.

West Peabody resident, and MBTA Transit Police Sgt. Steve O’Hara was acknowledged for his work in the areas of hostage negotiation/crisis intervention.

O’Hara, who received praise and a certificate from Ward 6 Councilor Barry Sinewitz and Mayor Ted Bettencourt, was recognized for talking a suicidal man out of jumping  from the top floor of an MBTA parking garage, and his work helping the family of a fellow officer, who was seriously wounded during the hunt for the Boston Marathon bombers.

When Officer Richard Donohue was shot, it was O’Hara who was charged with informing the fallen officer’s wife, Kim. Kim later, in an emotional Facebook post, talked about how O’Hara’s wonderful approach to informing her, brought great comfort to the family.

Honoring O’Hara was part of an annual tradition of honoring a local hero at this ward party. It’s an awesome moment at what is always a terrific, well-organized event hosted by the Ward 6 Councilor.

But as I wrote off the top, it wasn’t only about bike parades and ceremonies for heroes.

***

As local politicos know, Ward 6 these days has one of the largest voter turnouts in the entire city, and showing up at Symphony on July 4th (or in this case, July 19th), is a must.

Here were some of my observations and sightings …

  • The biggest battle for the hearts and minds of Ward 6 voters will come in the race for State Rep in the 13th Essex District, and it wasn’t surprising to see both Democratic incumbent Ted Speliotis and his challenger, Republican Tom Lyons, in attendance. Both men thoroughly worked the crowd. Speliotis, who didn’t make an appearance at this ward party last year, seems to suddenly be shifting into campaign mode. Lyons may have held a slight home park advantage on Saturday, since he lives in the ward.
  • Good to see Congressman John Tierney in attendance. I say “see,” since he wasn’t doing a lot of mingling, and it was definitely noticeable when he didn’t say hello to party host Sinewitz. Wonder if that has something to do with the Ward 6 Councilor endorsing Tierney’s opponent in September’s Democratic primary, war hero and Marblehead businessman Seth Moulton? Moulton, who had planned to be at the party on July 4th, couldn’t attend the makeup date because of a family wedding.
  • Even though it’s not an election year for city councilors, it was nice to see Councilor At-Large Tom Walsh come to the party.
  • State Rep candidate Beverley Dunne shows off her basketball skills

    State Rep candidate Beverley Dunne shows off her basketball skills

    It was also nice to see candidate for State Rep Beverley Dunne show up, especially when you consider she’s running in the 12th Essex District, which doesn’t include Ward 6. The long-time school committee member clearly thinks community first, but it’s a good thing that she’s running for state rep and not hoping for a career in the WNBA. Her performance in the women’s free throw shooting contest was, well … let’s just say that at least she didn’t do any worse than fellow school committee member Brandi Carpenter. They both tried their hardest, even if they didn’t win the prize.

  • Showing off some nice basketball skills in the free throw contest was a Bettencourt. No, not the Mayor himself, who once starred for the Holy Cross basketball team. Peabody’s First Lady, Andrea Bettencourt, used a smooth follow through to take second place in the women’s free throw shootout.
  •  Finally, for those who care, I did have a “reunion” with an old political foe. Ward 5 Councilor Joel Saslaw chased me down across the basketball court to say hello, and give me an indication that he’s a big fan of this blog. “Bobby, Bobby, just wanted to say hello, even though you keep taking pot shots at me (in The Eye),” said Mr. Saslaw.

…  Oh, did I also mention that Curious Creatures brought some snakes to show the kids?

 

Peabody needs ‘signs’ of economic development in the form of a master plan

15 Jul

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

This might surprise followers of this space, but I actually think that the digital billboard approved by the Peabody City Council last week on city-owned land off Route 128 near Fishery Products International is good for the taxpayers.

Square

We continue to wonder when we’ll have an overall strategic plan for re-developing Peabody’s downtown

The company erecting the 60-foot sign will pay Peabody an initial $500,000, an initial permitting fee of $25,000, and $250,000 a year. It’s significant revenue for the city, and from what I can see, it’s not a huge threat to quality of life in surrounding neighborhoods.

But with me, that’s where the love ends for Mayor Ted Bettencourt’s strategy of looking for much-needed revenue by playing a continuous game of billboard roulette.

We get it, Ted. We all realize that the city needs the money, and that we can’t continue to raise taxes on resident payers, something that has happened for the past 13 straight years.

But dude, where’s the plan for sustainable revenue?

This strategy of blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ our mind, is not a plan at all.  In most cases, it’s a blight on our landscape, and simply quick-hit, unsustainable revenue. Not only that, but I think I might have heard somewhere that there is so-called “moratorium” against more billboards?

The stark reality of our economic situation in Peabody is that, these days, there seems to be no plan, no strategy for creating real, long-lasting, sustainable revenue. Oh sure, we have some “piecemeal” little victories here and there, a promise of a hotel in downtown, a few new restaurants, and an urban redevelopment consultancy is helping us analyze why Peabody Square is a ghost town on a Saturday night.

But there’s no strategic master plan, so  it’s either blight the roadsides with billboards, or keep shifting more of the burden on us … young families struggling to pay their mortgages, and seniors fearful that higher property taxes are going to eventually force them to sell their life-long homes.

Worse than not having a plan for increasing city revenues, is that there’s no one currently in the employ of the city with the skills and knowledge to even help us come up with that strategy.

I think the Mayor is an intelligent guy, but right now he needs to do what all smart, successful chief executives do, and surround himself with advisers who understand, inside and out, the keys to successful economic and community development. Clearly, based on the poor results, and based on us not having an overall strategic plan, those competencies don’t exist within the current Community Development Department.

Instead of adding new unnecessary positions, and assistants to the assistant here and there while paying off some old political debts, the Mayor needs to put together a plan to hire a person or persons who have helped other communities remarkably expand their commercial tax bases while improving quality of life.

He needs to look around, maybe even steal some of the best and the brightest talent from communities such as Salem and Newburyport, Melrose, and even Beverly.

How did these communities turn their blighted downtowns into full-speed-ahead economic engines, while making themselves destination communities for those who enjoy dining out and shopping? That’s something we need to find, and we need to model. Now, not later.

In these places, more responsible, quality business has resulted in more commercial tax revenue into these cities’ coffers. And, unlike billboard revenue, it’s sustainable, and of benefit to quality of life.

So, while we’re counting the big bucks from this latest billboard, let’s stop this game of billboard roulette, and realize, once and for all, that our community’s vibrancy and survival requires that we enlist the best and the brightest, and FINALLY, come up with a strategic plan that will make Peabody a destination rather than a pass through.

The by-product of that will be less of a tax burden on residents, and an overall boost to everyone’s quality of life.

Update: 4th of July party in Ward 6 postponed due to bad weather forecast

3 Jul

The Eye Update Desk

flagWe’ve been informed that, due to what looks like bad weather tomorrow on July 4th, the Ward 6 Party at Symphony Park has been postponed until July 19th from 9 a.m. to noon.

We haven’t yet heard about what will happen in other wards, but if you have some info, please post in the comments section, since I’ve been getting numerous inquiries about all of the other parties.

As for Ward 5, the balloon rides have definitely been canceled.

Happy Fourth of July! Stay dry.

Lovely and Cole don’t make us pay for their commute … Meanwhile, Speliotis is ‘King of the Per Diem’

1 Jul

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

We spend significant time in this space exposing elected officials when they don’t act in the best interests of “we the people.” So, it’s only fair that we also make mention when they do the right thing.

Leah Cole ... working toward the fringe?

Leah Cole: “We’re supposed to work for the taxpayers, and most people don’t get paid to drive to work.”

Those mentions come today as we tip our caps to State Senator Joan Lovely (D-Salem), and State Rep. Leah Cole (R-Peabody).  After all, it came to light last week that neither Mrs. Lovely nor Ms. Cole are bilking the taxpayers for one of the most-outrageous benefits received by most of the solons on Beacon Hill.

Neither Lovely, nor Cole take per diem (up to $18/day) for just commuting into the State House. According to state treasurer records, taxpayers gave lawmakers more than $300,000 in per diems last year. Think about that as you’re paying out of your own pocket to fill up your tank three times a week just to get to work.

So, thank you Senator Lovely and Rep. Cole …

But now, let’s consider the case of the “King of Per Diems.” The people of West Peabody are represented by a man who shamelessly took your money at a rate of $18 per day just to commute to work. Ted Speliotis, who never saw a tax increase he didn’t like, collected $3,510 of your money last year to make 195 trips into Boston. By the way, the solons get this reimbursement without needing to provide receipts. It’s all on the honor system. Of all of the North Shore lawmakers, Speliotis took the second largest overall per diem, but he was less than $80 out of first place!

With per diem, we essentially pay Mr. Speliotis, who faces a stiff challenge this fall from West Peabody resident Tom Lyons, more than $70K per year for what’s essentially a part-time job.

And just as an important aside here … this guy voted for the gas tax. Why wouldn’t he? We’re the ones filling his tank for free.

“We’re supposed to be working for the taxpayers, and most people don’t get paid to drive to work,” Ms. Cole told the Salem News last week. “But I only live about 20 minutes away, so it’s not a big deal.”

By the way, if you see Ted Speliotis in traffic on the way into work someday, make sure you don’t have any cash in your hands if you decide to wave. He might grab it.

 

A guide to Peabody’s July 4th ward celebrations

1 Jul

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Fourth of July ward parties. They’re not exactly on the same scale as Boston’s Esplanade celebration, or fireworks on the National Mall in Washington. But Peabody’s unique celebration of our nation’s independence is as local, and as all American as it gets.

flagsEach of the city’s six wards will again play host to parties that continue to be idealic throwbacks to a simpler time in our nation, and they’ve been going on now for more than 50 years. I even participated in the Ward 6 bike contest as a 6-year-old, while my kids later enjoyed the party in Ward 5.

They are all unique, and well worth some of your time on Friday morning,

Here’s a quick look at the schedule for Peabody’s ward parties on the Fourth of July:

Ward 1: Takes place at Raddin Road Park at approximately 9:20 a.m., and will include music, games, face-painting, foot races, and a pie-eating contest. Lunch will include free hotdogs, chips and drinks.

Ward 2: At the Welch School. Registration for a parade of decorated bikes, scooters, wagons and carriages starts at 9:15 a.m. There will also be foot races, a performance by the band Sea Bees, raffles, and a pizza lunch.

Ward 3: Will take place at Connolly Park. There will be a horribles parade, races and egg toss, hot dogs, cotton candy, popcorn and drinks.

Ward 4: At Emerson Park. There will be a horribles parade of costumes, and a doll carriage, bike and wagon parade, and a pie-eating contest. There will also be a 1.2-mile road race. Lunch includes hamburgers and hot dogs. Activities get underway around 9 a.m.

Ward 5: Takes place at Lt. Ross Park (Cy Tenney). The bike and doll carriage parade kicks iff at 10 a.m. at the Rosewood Nursing Home. There will be a DJ, games, races, hot dogs and pizza to follow at the park. There is no truth to the rumor that there will also be a balloon ride tour of the new billboards on Route 1, and the meter reader relay race has been canceled. 🙂

Ward 6: At Symphony Park. Ward 6 Councilor Barry Sinewitz is your host for West Peabody’s most-popular ward party. Registration for the traditional doll carriage, bicycle and tricycle parade begins at 8:30 a.m. Entries should be decorated with a patriotic theme. The parade starts at  9 a.m. Other activities include face-painting, moon bounce, basketball free throw shooting, and an appearance by Curios Creatures. Pizza is on the menu for lunch, which will be served at 11:!5 a.m. If you can help out, Councilor Sinewitz is also still looking for volunteers. Give him a call at 978-535-2283.