Dancing Peabody’s cares away

8 May

Was this the band they hired for last night’s Peabody Centennial Ball?

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

They continue to call it the dead zone. Friday or Saturday night. Peabody Square.

While people venturing to dine, or hang out in Salem or Beverly or Danvers fight over parking spaces in those downtowns, the downtown Dirty ‘Biddy looks like an old west ghost town. All that’s missing are some tumble weeds.

Yesterday, on a bright May Sunday afternoon, as Peabody’s political swells patted each other on the backs while celebrating a fake Peabody Centennial (at taxpayer expense) while dancing at a grand ball at the dying North Shore Mall, the downtown was again dead with activity. Meanwhile, the streets of Salem were filled with people and dog walkers. Outdoor cafes were alive with diners, and the cha-ching of tax dollars could be heard up and down Washington Street.

And wasn’t it fitting that, while Mayor Kim Driscoll of Salem took pride in knowing she had provided the type of leadership that is creating an economic boom in Salem, that Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt was toasting the political swells and hacks in the halls of Peabody’s largest, dying commercial taxpayer. “Pssst .. did you notice that the Emperor has no clothes?”

That’s right, folks, the North Shore Mall is teetering on collapse right now. That’s not Bettencourt’s fault, but rather an indication of how retail is struggling across the nation as online shopping kings such as Amazon take a toll on brick and mortar outfits. In the case of the mall, the celebrated Apple Store has left, and so has PF Chang’s Restaurant. Now, rumors abound that Macy’s and Sears will pull out next.

All of this shouldn’t really be Peabody’s concern. Right?

Well, if you are a residential taxpayer it should be of MAJOR concern. If we lost the North Shore Mall as a commercial taxpayer, it would be an epic disaster for our modest berg. Already, with the mall’s big tax payments, this mayor and his minion can’t figure out how to stabilize the residential tax rate.

Failing mall, not Bettencourt’s fault . . . but what’s he gonna do about the potential enormous loss of tax dollars?

Recently, the Mayor appointed a very nice man named Curt Bellavance to the all-important role of Community Development Director. It’s a job that’s pivotal when it comes to helping to boost our commercial tax base, and perhaps, save us residential taxpayers by bringing businesses to the downtown that will attract people the way Salem does.

Now, I’m sure that Mr. Bellavance is a hard worker, who will do his best, but what’s his previous experience as a civic planner? Well, he served as town administrator in the “booming” rural town of Tyngsboro, and before that in a community planning role with the small town of North Andover.  Not exactly the background of someone we now need to charge with the very complex challenge of urban planning in Peabody, with its rotting downtown, and where flooding might not be as big of a concern as the hundreds of years of tannery toxins buried below.

Curt Bellavance is also the husband of the Mayor’s very capable administrative assistant, Mary. Draw your own conclusions there. But, as the saying goes, “After another nationwide search . . .”

Meanwhile, the downtown remains a ghost town. Vacancies at Centennial Park continue to rise. And now … the failing mall.

If we can’t grow the commercial tax base, or if the commercial tax base continues to shrink, where do we get the money to pay for police and fire, and road repairs and schools?

How about right from your pocket?

It’s been 14 straight years of annual residential tax increases in Peabody. In some cases, people are paying as much as 60% more for their homes than they were in the Year 2000. Seniors on fixed incomes are beginning to feel the pain, and it’s a virtual guarantee that another increase is coming in December. So . . . early Merry Christmas.

Yet, Peabody’s ruling elite dances the night away, at our expense, celebrating 100 years of a community that was actually founded 161 years ago, in a building that could be the eventual symbol of our demise.

Well, at least I hope the food was good. Any truth to the rumor that they hired the same band that performed on the Titanic?

21 Responses to “Dancing Peabody’s cares away”

  1. Anonymous May 8, 2017 at 5:31 pm #

    So happy you are back Bob to keep these bastards accountable. BTW, check it out I hear the Mayor putting buddies on the payroll is getting more out of control by the day. Cant wait for the next tax increase. This city sucks

    • Get out May 9, 2017 at 9:53 am #

      if it’s so bad here, move to Salem and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

      • Bob Croce May 9, 2017 at 1:35 pm #

        That’s right … keep your head in the sand and ignore all of Peabody’s problems, or get out! And we wonder why there are so many problems with the city right now? You might just be the “poster boy” for what’s wrong with our community.

  2. Fritz May 8, 2017 at 7:06 pm #

    People need to wake up. Everyone says this mayor is such a great guy and the fact is that this is how he is getting away with mis managing the city. No one cares but they need to

    • anonymous May 9, 2017 at 6:59 pm #

      Fritz, I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been watching meetings on t.v. The Mayor is up there at the mic all the time? He is pushing his agenda as Mr. Nice Guy and none of the coucilors ask him any questions. The only councilor who seems to ask any questions is councilor ann manning martin. and the Mayor gets very indignant when she asks questions, he either doesn’t know the answers or doesn’t like her at all. I don’t like either option.

  3. Anonymous May 8, 2017 at 8:10 pm #

    Bob you are giving to Ted too much leeway…to say he has no control is not true! This guy has a city that is a Mayor strong city. You say Marty Walsh had nothing to do with GE coming to Boston? Ted should be partnering with these businesses and understand what is and isn’t making the city attractive to them. He should have a pulse on how to diversify the city’s portfolio of businesses and help bring these companies to our city. Yes is a nice guy that has no experience or influence outside the 100 year old City of Peabody. If Ted had any smarts the Ball would have been downtown catered by the local businesses. So many wrong decisions but bc he is a nice guy everyone that runs against him would be seen as the bad guy even though they may actually be better qualified to run this city…

  4. Get out May 9, 2017 at 2:32 pm #

    First off, you spout about the dying Mall. maybe I am nuts, I just don’t see it? Apple, ok they moved. And yes, Lynnfield Marketplace is doing well, no denying that. Is it really that big a deal Apple moved though?? Sears? Really?! That is your point of contention here?
    That SEARS MIGHT move/close. If it does, trust me….That is a COMPANY wide issue. They are a thing of the past, hence the reason Sears, after Sears, after Sears are closing. Has nothing to do with Peabody or Mayor Bettencourt. P.F. Chang? You are holding your hat on that over -priced place closing too?? Wow. Pretty sad. Funny, any of the times I have been up that way, Cheese Cake Factory is standing room only. Same with Legal and the same with Not Your Average Joe’s and Burton’s. How come they are not closing? Why nothing mentioned about that? They too busy to support your dying mall argument? Far be it from me to question your political savvy, we know how politically savvy you are, would never question that. I am just a “hack” who knows nothing about the City workings. What I do know is the so called “dead/dying” Mall you refer to seems to be doing ok. Macy’s goes there will be anchor anchor store dying to get there. Downtown? Yup, you are 100% right. it’s been a dead zone. But, thanks to this Mayor it’s on it’s way to being a thriving area. Like I said, if people love Salem that much, just keep on driving up Main St.

    • Bob Croce May 9, 2017 at 3:28 pm #

      Your comment tells me that you’re not comprehending my point. I never said that the tough economic times at the mall are the Mayor’s fault. In fact, the post isn’t even really about the fact that malls, because of the Amazon factor, are in deep financial straights all across the country.

      My point here is that there are concerns that the mall is in financial distress, and since it’s our largest taxpayer, that should cause us to wake up and think about what happens should Simon Malls close, or even choose to instead expand its Liberty Tree location into one large regional mall.

      That then ties into an even larger point:

      Peabody’s commercial tax base not only isn’t growing … it’s shrinking. And there are very few positive signs downtown: Right now we have one main developer, who is buying up much of the property in the square. And, if he had his way, he would develop most of his assets into more lucrative (for him) apartments rather than shops and restaurants, which attract people into the downtown. More housing downtown would only make our problems worse.

      I’m not sure which indicators you see that the downtown area is on its way to “being a thriving area.” Yes, there are a few more restaurants since Bettencourt first took office almost six years ago, but Peabody Square is just as dead now as it was in 2012.

      There have been some big mistakes and a lack of action here since he said he was going to make Centennial Park and the downtown revitalization efforts a main focus. For example, name just ONE person he’s hired who has any experience in revitalizing a downtown area? For example, show me and the rest of the public, an overall business plan/strategy for revitalizing downtown.

      So far, there is no plan, and we’ve wasted a lot of taxpayer money on studies and cosultants. There is no vision here. So, if you want to say that people should either shut up about that or move to Salem, that’s your right.

      But the rest of us are frustrated that residential taxes continue to rise, and will make it difficult for us to someday remain in our homes as seniors on fixed incomes.

      People need to get past that Ted is a nice guy who they like, and realize that he’s been highly unsuccessful when it comes to driving Peabody’s economy, and stabilizing the tax rate. And he’s been a big spender when it comes to expanding the city payroll with new positions for cronies and the family members of political allies.

      What’s the old saying about nice guys finishing last?

    • Anonymous May 9, 2017 at 8:38 pm #

      The Mayor is spending money and continues to made very bad investments and hires over inflated salaried employees that don’t have an impact in a positive way. What’s going on is that he is riding on a lot of the previous administration did. Good and bad…He has not come out with an original idea that has a strong strategic plan that has thresholds to help the city achieve success. I mean jeez he can’t even get a ft long term superintendent…As the chair of the sc he allows his temporary superintendent to run the show and pull the strings…This city is in a world of hurt…but hey the town is much safer bc we got a 5 mph speed decrease that will have no impact except that we need to make and pay for new signs….if I honestly get one more of his nonsense phone calls after 8 pm I am going to loose it!

  5. anonymous May 10, 2017 at 6:40 am #

    The mayor is blatently abusing the robocalls for his own personal popularity. Those calls I thought were meant for emergencies, not for some news of a portable outdoor bar being set-up in the downtown. Its so self servings its pathetic. Please stop the calls from the mayor and the moron chief of staff. In the paper it said other restaurants and bars where having trouble with patrons coming in drunk carrying their own alcohol. What the heck is going on!? Whose liable when some idiot who gets loaded at the outdoor bar sponsored by the city kills somebody. Let the city promote outdoor drinking as the revelers drive away in their cars drunk. Please stop the insanity……

  6. anomn May 10, 2017 at 8:14 am #

    It’s going to get worse after the next election. He’s trying to stack the city council with his buddies that will do whatever he wants. Take a look at the ward 6 race and the “at large ” race. The powers that be (or wannabe) support Ted’s pals and will help them get elected. The grand ball was paid for by taxpayers? I thought they had to buy tickets and it was paid for at least partially by donations, but then again, I’ve been out of the loop lately…

    • Anonymous May 10, 2017 at 12:34 pm #

      There were donations and yes there were tickets you could buy but how are you sure all paid for this event? Also, its all the celebrations they have been doing for the past year. The amount of OT for the Police dept that everyone has to pay for etc. I really believe they need to release the total amount and what the city contributed to it. If any public funds were used then it should need to be approved by the CC. I agree with you on the Ward 6 based on who I heard was running. I am more excited about ward 5 though because Saslaw as two people running against him. It will be interesting if the Mayor stays neutral during that race. His tone at the recent meeting was unprofessional with the business owner that was trying to transfer ownership over to someone else. He thought it was a power move and to show he is a fighter for Peabody but it left a bad taste

      • #ILoveThisCity May 10, 2017 at 7:53 pm #

        Page 45 of FY17 budget has a line item for Centennial Celebrations. In FY16, $29k was spent, the Mayor approved $25K for FY17. Someone would have to request a YTD accounting for that line item in order to see what’s been spent. Bear in mind that this does not include OT for any city department. I’m disappointed in the (so far) lack of viable candidates in ward 6. I have no problem w Saslaw.

  7. Your Name Here May 10, 2017 at 2:08 pm #

    Where are all the candidates for Wards 1, 2, 3, and 5? Uncontested races lead to lazy politicians. Although i do like what Mr. Turco is doing for Ward 1, I feel that no race should be uncontested.

  8. westschool1 May 11, 2017 at 7:47 am #

    One of the Mayor’s downfalls is that he has bad people around him.
    His Chief of Staff is average. His fire and police leadership are marginal, a School Committee that wants his job ( dunne?), and undermines him, a city solicitor that yields power like a south boston politician, and most importantly Levine is bringing him down big time ( that’s when Levine is working, when is someone going to check and see that he is never in the office and golfs every Friday!!!!).

    Add that to a City Council that turns their head on everything ( Gould? yeah, more free ice cream) and you have a city that is going down the tubes!!!!!

    Can’t full blame the mayor when you have this cast of fools!!!!

    • Anonymous May 11, 2017 at 2:30 pm #

      Really? you cant blame him? This is a city that basically the Mayor can be a dictator…City council has very little power and he chairs the school committee. If he is not able to see that the people who surround him aren’t qualified and are using him then shame on him. I don’t think Dunne knows what she wants honestly. If Levine is out of the office on Fridays its because the guy has way to much personal time off that the city gives him. The police chief/police dept needs a good audit with how they are spending on OT. Those salaries are out of control. I support police but it is not a profit position. If these people want to make that kind of money then go into sales. You should not be close to 200K as a Sargent in the local police dept. Its 3x the household income avg…HOUSEHOLD!

      • LOL! May 12, 2017 at 9:54 am #

        You are a dope! Anyone who complains how much a Cop or FF makesa in the climate we are in right now, plan and simple needs their head examined. 200K for a Cop and the stuff they deal with day in/our is fine by me. Same goes for a FF. Blah, Blah on the details. Big deal. Ya they make $ on it, so what? Most of the detail $ is from private $ that is paid for by the companies doing the work or the Mall or the whoever is needing a detail. I just don’t get it? And I am sure your the same person who when he needs a cop and they take 3 minutes instead of 2 to get to a call, says they suck. Right?

      • Anonymous May 12, 2017 at 12:13 pm #

        Lol so someone that is pulling in 70 hours a week with OT and details can functional with high performance and have a controlled demeanor? I would be curious if the private details are part of that information in the paper. If there is that much money available publically to spend then why not hire more officers? It is more a matter of public safety than it is the high pay. I have a high respect for first responders but I also want to have a feeling the money is being managed properly. Anyone that will just accept there is not enough money for these positions is not understanding the real issue. I would love to know the number of hours theses officers are actually working and if there are caps on the number of hours allowed to work…

  9. Anonymous May 15, 2017 at 10:55 am #


    Any plans on posting on the beginning of the financial crises that is starting to play out with the city of Peabody? The article in the Salem News regarding the budget shortfall due to a multitude of factors, contract agreements with the union, the blank check to the regional vocational school and the fact that families are not moving to the city of Peabody despite the fact that our leader has said quite the opposite. The best part of the article is that Cara needs help so lets higher another administrator because the 300K in salary and benefits the city pays in total to the temp superintendent and here does not appear to be enough…? The city of Peabody with or without children should be concerned either way because the tax money that is getting invested in this budget is crazy since the value coming out is less than what it was a year ago. Maybe they will add an AP course to make up the difference.

    The city is moving closer to the cliff and if this year we do not see a lot of new people coming out to run then you can kiss this city goodbye…

  10. Can't Afford to live here Anymore. May 15, 2017 at 12:58 pm #

    Has anyone read the Salem News today? The city school budget is UP $4 million dollars!! This after the city proposed and brought in out of district students to keep city teachers gainfully employed and to keep from closing a school. I remember the days when Bonfanti wanted to close the McCarthy. Now, Stick it to the Peabody Taxpayer and Peabody school kids. Remember what Ted been preaching: “Raises for EVERYONE. It is only fair. We can afford it. We are the lowest taxed in the area.”
    Afterall, this is Taxachusetts run by city and state teachers, police, firefighters and other public employees unions.

  11. Anonymous May 22, 2017 at 5:48 am #

    To those of you who posted on 5/11@5/12, If you looked into the way the police and fire depts. members earned their extra detail money you’d find the following…. All details are paid by the contractor companies through the city who bills the contractor . The assigned extra details workers can not hide money and do pay their taxes ,etc, on the money they earned on these extra details worked. The police dept. does not allow any police to work at bars in the city as they did in the distant past. As for assignments to extra details it is most usually based on 8 hours on a day off or for less than [usually] 4 hours on a work day . How many of you have worked under the table to hide your income , they can’t? Now you can’t say the police and firemen aren’t honest in money they earn from details why wont you look into things before trying to make trouble for them in earning a living? You did make a choice in making your living and many of you have second jobs, part and full time, so don’t knock these men and women who earn extra money by working extra details. It does seem to appear that you’re jealous of them making a living to support their families when you had the same opportunities in selecting your job and vocation as they have. Remember that extra detail jobs are not paid for by the city but is paid for by being a within cost in the awarded contract from and to the city to its contractors .

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