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2 open councilor at-large seats: Your chance to run, baby, run!

24 Apr

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Pssst …

Hey kid, over here. Yeah, you. Wanna run for councilor at-large? Now’s your chance.

Just don’t let all the insider political rump swabs know that I told you.

You see, they want a clear path for their boy, who we’ll call “Waldo,” who wants to take his “scary” political “talents” to the council after several years of doing damage on a different elected board.

This just in …

waldoWe have learned that there likely will be two open seats for councilor at-large in this fall’s city elections. One, State Rep Tom Walsh, you already knew about.

But now comes word that long-time Peabody pol Mike Garabedian is telling people he won’t run again.

Now, the “cool kids,” who think they run Peabody, don’t want anyone to know and are keeping this a secret so Waldo breezes to victory. In fact, we’re hearing that they’ve trying to convince Garabedian not to announce his retirement until July, which would then limit the number of new candidates, since nomination papers with signatures are due back in late summer.

Here’s hoping now that we get multiple competitive candidates to run at-large. With two open seats, your odds of winning just went up dramatically. And, isn’t it time to break up Peabody’s good-ole-boy political establishment?  Haven’t these people already done enough damage?

If you run, give me a call and I’ll even find you some sign locations.

Or, encourage as many people as you know to pull papers. Please, I beg you. Keep our little berg from becoming the Kingdom of Moronica.

But remember … you didn’t hear it from. 🙂

Hand-picked candidate looms; Peabody Super search a sham?

14 Apr

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

It’s a theory now being pushed forward that is both believable and typical of certain politicians in our depressed little burg.

cara

Your next Superintendent of Schools!

You think that the Mayor and most members of Peabody’s School Committee are upset over the recent superintendent search ending in disaster when not a single, qualified candidate was put forth?

Well, think again.

I think the fix is in, and so do several political “spies” I’ve heard from in a covert op I’ll simply call “BiddyLeaks.”

Here’s what I’ll say: I don’t think that School Committee members Rossignol, Carpenter, Amico, and maybe others are upset at all that the recent superintendent search ended in disaster.

Why? Well, first off it gives their good buddy Herbie Levine, who we like to call Interim Super for Life (ISFL), the ability to cash in on another year of his giant salary while going through the motions of the job.

But … it also gives them another year to position Herbie’s protégé as his heir apparent.

That’s right, we hear that the Mayor would be thrilled if current Assistant Superintendent Cara Murtagh got the job in a year. In fact, one BiddyLeaks spy tells me the Mayor might even already have a little “unofficial,” wink, wink, nod, nod agreement here with Cara.

Now, I don’t know anything about Ms. Murtagh, and whether or not she has the right stuff to handle the complex nature of our school system and its $72m-plus budget, so I’m not about to impugn her at this time.

But you should know that this is one reason why the most-recent search for a new superintendent was a total sham. And if there are further searches going forward, they too will be sham exercises at taxpayer expense.

Wait it out a year is their mantra. That way, we can get our mediocre ISFL one more year of fat paychecks, and at the end we can say that he used his “scary great” superintendent talents to mentor Ms. Murtagh into the next generation of super supers.

Of course, in the end, it’s all likely to be a bunch of BS as the Mayor moves another super he can manipulate into the chair, and we all go on as before.

Yaaaay! Mediocre (or worse) schools R Us!

La-dee, freekin’ dah!

So, if you’re laying bets on who the next Peabody super will be … put a bunch on the ISFL’s protégé.

Definition of insanity? See Peabody School Committee

13 Apr

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

In a demented version of the TV show “Survivor,” the Gang that Can’t See Straight,” our “illustrious” Peabody School Committee, last night eliminated the only remaining candidate to be Superintendent of the dysfunctional 6,000-student school system.

That’s right, after hiring the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC) to conduct a “nationwide search” for our next super, and after not liking any of the six and then three finalists the MASC brought before them, our elected school solons have finally come to a remarkable realization:

The one remaining candidate – a kindly looking principal of some Lynn elementary school – was not qualified to be CEO of a large, complex, and somewhat failing Peabody school system, and its $72m budget. Well … duh!

einsteinThe school committee members have seen their shadows, and it’ll be another 52 weeks of mediocrity under Interim Superintendent for Life Herbie Levine, who by now must be getting a cramp in his hand from writing out so many campaign contribution checks.

“Welcome back, it’s like you never left,” SC member Tom Rossignoll told Levine during last night’s meeting. Wonder if Tommy added later: “Oh, and by the way, my councilor at-large fundraiser is coming up. Hope you can make it.”

BTW, since becoming ISFL (Interim Super for Life), Herbie and wife have made 13 campaign contributions to the School Committee Chairman. For those keeping count, that’s almost $2K in less than 6 years. But the ISFL gives to other members of the board, too, and is often seen hobnobbing at their campaign events, and assorted reindeer games.

This is what our school committee hath wrought. Showing zero leadership, even by the Chairman, his honor the Mayor, we’ve allowed the MASC – a quasi-public, hackdom – to keep our school system stuck in neutral.

The Mensa candidates at the MASC screwed up the search. They brought us totally unqualified candidates, and now in another stroke of genius, our school committee will task this group with conducting another search – all at taxpayer expense, of course – to probably find us another group of unqualified candidates.

What was it that Einstein defined as insanity?

This school committee is indeed conducting the same madness, and expecting a different result.

For the sake of our kids, for the sake of the taxpayers, isn’t it time that someone stepped up here and led? Isn’t it time that we tell the MASC no thanks, we’ll conduct our own search?

Or … maybe it’s time we FINALLY found some qualified and responsible people to run for mayor and school committee. For those reading this, take note that it is an election year.

And, if you run, maybe you’ll even be graced with a check signed by Herbie, who right now we suspect will be the interim now well past his 90th birthday.

Council puts lights out on commissioners’ raises

7 Apr

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Wanted to write about this after the Peabody City Council’s finance committee voted to reject a raise for the Light Commissioners last night, but instead, I will allow Tom Paris, long-time Light Commissioner and “all-around great guy,” to sum up what happened when Peabody’s most-effective board came before the council to ask for what seemed like a reasonable raise.

The following was posted by Tom today on Facebook. I agree with him 100%.

Light Commissioner Tom Paris writing on Facebook:

Tom_ParasMy reaction: Disappointed but not Surprised.

Will I agree with EVERY decision of the City Council and Mayor – NEVER

Will I support the City Council and the Mayor – ALWAYS
As an elected official and a colleague, they should expect that of me
In turn, as an elected official and a colleague, I should expect that of them.

Disappointed – Yes, Surprised – No

It’s been more than two decades since the elected members of the Peabody Municipal Light Commission have gotten a raise, but for some members of the City Council, two decades is still not long enough. Even though we exist in a political arena where every other paid elected City official has had their salaries increased.
On Thursday night, the City Council’s finance committee considered a request from the light commissioners for a raise to $5,100 per year. The five-member, elected board last saw its pay upped to $4,000 per year in 1996. In considering that request, finance committee member, John Turco (Ward 2), said we should be denied our request because of the results of the last PMLP labor contract. Relevant? In their mindset I guess so. I know that I was not elected to run the City and I do not believe that they were elected to run the Light Plant. When the Finance Committee’s Report was read at Thursday’s City Council Meeting – not one Councilor came forward to call for a vote of the Councilors present.

Thankfully the PMLP Board does not deliberate with retaliation in mind, or telling the City Council how to do their job, or if doing the right thing will hurt us during the upcoming election, or what the Salem News is going to say, but rather we focus on the merits of the issue before us and whether this will help us to continue to provide our customers with the Most Reliable Service at the Lowest Possible Cost. Look at our record – we do a great job for the City and we do a great job for the residents of Peabody. Although not appreciated by the current City Council – we are very much appreciated by those who matter – the residents who own The Peabody Municipal Light Plant – the people we serve and will continue to serve to the best of our ability.

Disappointed – Yes, Surprised – No

Another fumble: SC drops ball on superintendent finalists

24 Mar

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

The Peabody School Committee has selected three finalists as contenders to be our next superintendent, which begs this question:

stooges

Why didn’t the Peabody School Committee pick these guys instead?

What? Where Larry, Moe and Curly not available?

OK, so no intended disrespect to the three fine school administrators who our “brilliant” school committee members chose here following a “Nation Wide Search.” The finalists have excellent public education credentials, and congrats to them on devoting their careers to teaching kids in Somerville, Lynn and Gloucester.

And let’s face it, I wouldn’t complain if someone made me a finalist for a job which — with all benefits included — paid me more than $200K a year of taxpayer money.

But let’s be real here. The majority of this School Committee continues to be the gang that can’t think straight. I mean, considering the importance of this position, considering what it pays, and considering our dire need to finally retire a free-loading, mediocre “Interim Superintendent for Life,” we couldn’t come up with a more noteworthy Final 3?

None of the three has ever been a superintendent before, and with the challenges we face in our schools, the last thing we can afford to do is take a chance on someone who might become rookie-of-the-year.

“They all had good qualities and good potential, but my reservation is that … I want an experienced superintendent, and none of the people before us have ever been a superintendent of schools, not even in a small district,” said SC member Beverley Dunne, who did the right thing by objecting to advancing the three candidates. “I believe that’s a necessity to deal with all the moving parts of a district of this size. I just don’t feel confident that the people we’re moving forward have the necessary experience.”

And she’s 100% correct when you consider the size of our district, and it’s $70M budget. Also correct is member Jarrod Hochman, who joined Dunne in dissenting. As for most of the others on this elected board?

Well, I’ll start with the dumbest statements made the night the vote was taken to advance these finalists. Members Tom Rossignoll (who’s now seeking to bring his scary great public service talents to the city council as an at-large candidate), and Brandi Carpenter tried to tell us how it’s actually a good thing that the three finalists selected lack experience when it comes to running a large, very complex school district.

“The benefit is you get someone new and hungry for the job. They can grow into the position and hopefully stay for a long period of time,” said Rossignoll, talking as if we we’re hiring a college intern instead of a high-level school department chief executive.

A $190K base salary for having no experience? Excellent gig if you can get it!

The fact here is that this school committee fumbled again. There were just six interview candidates overall, and none of them have ever been a superintendent. Not ever. Not anywhere. This is the group of candidates we got, too, after investing $10,000 of taxpayer money in a search consultant. Maybe we should have gone with Indeed.com instead?

A tale of seeking out big fish rather than basic roast beef

24 Mar

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

There are a million stories in the naked city, and … this is just one of them.

In our tale, the Feds find half a million in cash from two safety deposit boxes, (let’s face it, that’s a lot of chicken kabob salads and roast beef sandwiches), causing them to arrest the owners of a local joint. But that might not be the most-interesting part of this tale.

144209.ME.1223.cadillac1.FO.jpgAfter all, this family’s deep legal troubles around obstruction of justice, and perhaps, a question over whether they paid their fair share to a little outfit called the IRS, is only of passing prurient interest.

In our tale, people start to wonder, as part of a potential sentencing deal cut with the Feds, if the accused will turn rat quicker than the time it takes to make a large Italian with hots and extra salami.

We take you back a few years, to a time when a family opens a second little sit down restaurant on the a posh side of the berg, and then comes before city solons to request that rules be amended so they can obtain a liquor license for their new establishment.

But when nearby neighbors strenuously oppose this liquor license pursuit, their elected representative does what all good elected officials do: He stands by the neighborhood, and fights to keep the restaurant from becoming a boozy cash bonanza.

Interestingly, several other solons, including one we’ll call “Vito,” are decidedly in favor of the restaurant getting a liquor license. Traditionally, it’s SOP for solons to defer to the wishes of an area’s representative on such hyper local neighborhood issues. But not in this case. With few exceptions, the diligent area solon — after saying he will 100% support the wishes of the neighbors — finds himself feeling like Custer at Little Big Horn. There are cries from his colleagues of “have a drink and relax. This family ain’t hurtin’ those whiny neighbors.”

A few months later – surprise, surprise – the local solon unexpectedly finds himself with an opponent (let’s call him Butch) for reelection in that fall’s election. Nothing to see here, of course, except for the fact that the incumbent’s opponent is openly supported by the family seeking the liquor license. One day, while having brewskies following a game at the local Little League diamond,Vito also encourages Butch to run. “There might be some nice little envelopes in it for ya,” Vito suggests.

Who knows. Maybe the moral of our little story is that spreading around thousands of undeclared Franklins, Hamiltons, Lincolns and Washingtons can be a good way to get powerful interests to see things your way. Wink. Wink.

Let’s also say that it usually never fails that those facing very serious Federal charges, and the potential for long jail sentences, often have their attorney seek leniency by telling law enforcement things to help them hook even bigger fish.

Sleep well on that last point, local politicos. And, of course, maybe former local politicos.

Until then, though …

I’ll finish this tale after I have a chicken kabob dinner, with feta and onions, and well-done steak fries.

Raises that should get a rise out of we the Peabody taxpayers

4 Nov

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Quick! Raise your hand if you have ever in your career received a 25% pay raise that wasn’t tied to a promotion? And … after just one year on the job!

government-spending1Well, the good times are rolling for a couple of Peabody city employees, department heads who only recently ascended to their positions.

Calling it an issue of parity, Mayor Bettencourt actually got the City Council to approve hefty raises for the new building inspector and the director of Parks, Recreation and Forestry. Each will see their annual pay go from about $84K to $100K.

No slight intended to those folks personally  (after all, who among us would turn down an extra $16K in his/her paycheck?)  But in these days when we the people are about to absorb a 17th straight year of seeing our property taxes increase, these raises are gross, grosser, grossest.

In just a few weeks, the Mayor will come before the City Council and ask for yet another property tax increase. He’ll say how it’s just going up a little on average. The cost of five pizzas a month? And don’t forget, we still have one of the lowest tax rates on the North Shore!

Woo hoo! I guess it doesn’t matter that — over the past 10 years — these so-called little increases have collectively raised the average Peabody property tax bill by more than 50%. And, there’s no end in sight to these increases as we continue to stumble and bumble when it comes to finding ways to increase our commercial tax base by bringing more attractive businesses to our ghost downtown, or our outdated Centennial Industrial Park.

Senior citizens are seeing their incomes go down while their taxes continue to increase, causing them to fear that they won’t be able to afford the homes they worked so hard for all of their lives. Young families, who scraped and saved to buy that starter home in Peabody, continue to feel squeezed by these annual increases too.

Look, I get it when taxes are raised because the city is struggling to pay for a much-needed new middle school, and that we can’t get out of a horrible decision to join and pay for the new mega voke in Middleton. I get it when the rising cost of healthcare, tied to collective bargaining agreements, makes it necessary to ask the taxpayers for more dough.

But raises like these are salt in our taxpaying open wounds!

It’s just another example, in a long list of them these days, of how our city’s government continues to not live within its means while passing the extra tax burden on to us.

I mean, it isn’t just these two recent inappropriate raises. Salary increases have been proposed at a fast and furious rate lately at City Hall. Do we really need multiple part-time city solicitors at individual salaries of more than $100K each? Many seemingly unnecessary positions have also been added to the payroll the past seven years at a time where we should be freezing government spending, and participating in some austerity.

Until we figure out how to raise more commercial tax revenues while not putting additional burdens on the resident taxpayers, there should be a hiring and raise increase freeze when it comes to any position in the city that doesn’t involve public safety (e.g., police and fire). Sorry, but when you are a public employee, living off taxpayer money, this is the bargain you just need to accept.

The one lone vote against the increase was Ward 5 Councilor Joel Saslaw. Councilors Barry Sinewitz and Anne Manning-Martin couldn’t attend the meeting, but my hunch — based on their past actions in standing by the taxpayers — is that they would have objected too.

By the way? Because the council last year approved AUTOMATIC pay raises annually for all city employees not covered by a collective bargaining agreement, these two department heads will get another 2% increase come next July.

Think about that as you struggle each day in your private sector job where — when the business isn’t doing well — you get no raise at all.

Vote no on Question 2: Save Our Public Schools

4 Aug

 

By Bob Croce, Candidate for State Rep, 13th Essex District

 
For me, there is no gray area. Plain and simple, lifting the cap on charter schools in Massachusetts is bad for our traditional public schools.

It’s bad for all of our local public school systems, and bad for an overwhelming majority of the children of the Commonwealth.

In November, voters across the state will get an opportunity to weigh in on Ballot Question 2, which would allow major expansion of charter schools in the state, schoolswhile draining billions of dollars from our traditional public schools.

I urge you to vote no.

Not because I am against the basic concept of specialized education, but because the system for charter school funding right now is broken. Any expansion would only further take away funding from traditional public schools across the Commonwealth, and place further financial hardship on public schools in Danvers, Peabody and Middleton. Our school systems will be hurt while major charter school companies—backed by Wall Street investors—reap the benefits.

Save Our Public Schools, a grassroots coalition of parents, educators and community groups opposes the ballot question, and I hope you will too.

The following points, made by Save Our Public Schools, are the heart of why I feel raising the cap would have a negative impact on public schools in Danvers, Peabody and Middleton:

Lost funding
This year alone, charters will divert more than $400 million from public schools. That’s money districts desperately need so they can offer more science, technology, arts and music classes, as well as preschool services and smaller class sizes. The money should be kept in the public schools for the benefit of all students.

No local accountability
Charter schools are not accountable to their local communities. The state often approves them over the united opposition of the communities where they will be located. That’s wrong. Local communities should have the final say on what kinds of schools they want.

For more information, please visit Save Our Public Schools at http://www.saveourschoolsmarch.org.

 

If elected, Bob Croce will pay for his own gas to work

5 Jul

(Bob Croce is the publisher of Eye On Peabody, and a candidate for State Representative in the 13th Essex District. Please vote for him in the Democratic primary election on Thursday, Sept. 8th)

By Bob Croce

Political candidates make a lot of promises while trying to get elected. But here’s one that you can write down, clip and save, share with all of your friends in West Peabody, Danvers and Middleton:

If elected State Representative, I WILL NOT have the taxpayers pay for my gas so I can drive into work each day at the State House.

As for my opponent? If he’s re-elected, he will continue to put in for a controversial gas reimbursement, and quite frankly, thinks it’s not that big of a deal.

Not only will he continue to make you and I pay for his gas each day so he can go to work, but in an article in today’s Salem News, Representative Ted Speliotis called the perk “minuscule.”

He said this, mind you, as Peabody was learning that it had lost $300,000 in state aid due to a Beacon Hill budget cut, money that was earmarked for full-day kindergarten, which means more will be coming out of property taxes to pay for that shortfall.

Meanwhile, it cost us $327,338 total last year for all of the legislators who put in for what Rep Speliotis calls a “minuscule” reimbursement benefit.

“Travel has been paid for lawmakers since the first days of the State Legislature. It’s been around for hundreds of years,” the Rep told the Salem News while trying to justify why he collected $3,384 from taxpayers last year while commuting the 20 miles from Danvers each day.

By the way, State Legislators put in for this reimbursement on the “honor system.” They don’t need to show receipts, or even prove that they actually came into the State House on the days they claim.

Speliotis’ reimbursement was the highest among all North Shore State Legislators. Some in the North Shore delegation, including Senator Joan Lovely, refuse to accept the perk.

If I win, count me in with that group, which refuses to force taxpayers to pay so elected officials can drive to work. Plain and simple, it’s abuse of power.

If you have to pay for your gas to work, so should I!

 

Make a final pitch for your Peabody State Rep Special Election candidate

30 Jan

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

voteAfter just over three months of wintertime campaigning the five party-affiliated candidates in the special election for State Representative in the 12th Essex District, will leave it up to the voters in Tuesday’s two primary run offs.

Call it the Battle of Groundhog Day!

Today, as a public service I’ve put this post here for you to comment on the race. Who will you vote for and why? And, if you want, please feel free to make a final pitch for your chosen candidate. All I ask is that you keep the conversation focused on candidate qualifications and key issues, and not lob any personal attacks.

Please go out and vote!

But first, here are the vitals:

  • 12th Essex District primaries, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016
  • Polls are open 7 a.m.-8 p.m.
  • You are eligible to vote in this election if you live in Peabody, Wards 1-4 and Ward 5-Precincts 1 and 3
  • If you are enrolled as a Democrat or Republican, you must choose your party’s ballot
  • If you are unenrolled in a party, you may choose either ballot
  • The winners on Tuesday will go onto the March 1st final election ballot, along with unenrolled candidate Chris Gallagher

Tuesday’s contestants!

DEMOCRATS

Moutsoulos

James Moutsoulas

walsh

Tom Walsh

welton

Craig Welton

REPUBLICANS

corriveau

Jaclyn Corriveau

Peach

Stephanie Peach