Tag Archives: Mayor Bettencourt

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finding ways to increase our commercial tax base by bringing more attractive businesses to our ghost downtown, or our outdated Centennial Industrial Park.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.

Peabody to partner with Salem State on master plan update

3 Feb

(The following is a press release from Mayor Ted Bettencourt’s office submitted to The Eye.)

sscMayor Edward A. Bettencourt, Jr. announced that the City of Peabody has partnered with Salem State University’s Center for Economic Development and Sustainability to help update criticalcomponents of the city’s Master Plan.

“In designing a blueprint for Peabody’s future, we are determined to tap into some of the best local resources available to us,” Mayor Bettencourt said.  “Salem State’s Center for Economic Development and Sustainability has established a sterling reputation for its work with a number of North Shore communities.  We are very excited to have them on board as key contributors to the Master Plan project.”

Established in 2009 to serve as a think tank for area businesses and municipalities, Salem State’s Center for Economic Development and Sustainability (CEDS) serves as a central repository for research and project data on the economic, environmental and social sustainability of the North Shore region. CEDS offers a variety of services to promote economic development while advancing the educational mission of Salem State, and providing educational opportunities for its students.

“CEDS is pleased to be partnering with the city of Peabody in providing data and technical expertise as the city develops a long-term Master Plan and community vision project,” said Salem State University President Patricia Maguire Meservey.  “I am confident that the resources of the university, along with the experience and expertise of the principals working on this project, will ensure the development of a solid plan to support the goals of the city.”

In the first update of Peabody’s Master Plan in over a decade,Mayor Bettencourt has sought a more cost effective approach thanin year’s past; and one with a decidedly local flavor. Per the Mayor’s request, the City Council appropriated $30,000 to contract with CEDS while previous Master Plan consultants – based mainly in Boston, cost taxpayers upwards of $100,000.

Meanwhile, Peabody is among Salem State’s largest feeder cities with some 495 undergraduate students, 78 graduate students and over 3,000 alumni who call Peabody home.  Some of those students may play a supporting role in the CEDS / Peabody project collecting data, conducting interviews and engaging in hands on classroom learning.

“Establishing a formal relationship with Salem State University is an idea whose time has come,” said Mayor Bettencourt.  “The city and the university share strong ties which stretch back throughgenerations of students, faculty and staff.  Our work together will serve to strengthen that bond for many years to come.”

Time to save Crystal Lake: Action needed now

1 Feb


LakeBy Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

It’s an issue that has been understandably on Mayor Ted Bettencourt’s back burner since he took office just over a year ago. There were, after all, larger, more urgent priorities to address in Year 1.

But I’m writing now to express my strong feeling that the revitalization of Crystal Lake should make it onto the Mayor’s second-year agenda.

It’s time to save this vitally important watershed, and potentially outstanding recreational area for the residents of Peabody. I live less than a quarter mile from the lake, and I’m troubled by its continuous decline each time I ride past. The current blanket of ice can’t hide what’s underneath, and once spring turns to summer, the lake will once again be a blanket of green goo that covers a shallow muddy-covered pond. Crystal Lake is dying, but it could be a gem. There are tremendous opportunities to create environmentally breathtaking resource.

I know that there is a Peabody City Council sub-committee in place to look at revitalizing the lake, but it hasn’t met since Mayor Bettencourt took office.

I know too that there’s a lot to pay for and limited tax revenue. But why can’t we put together a committee of residents, business leaders, and elected officials to start brainstorming on how we can create a public-private partnership designed to Save Crystal Lake?

Mr. Mayor, I’m in and ready to be one of those residents to work on this. I’m sure there will be plenty of other volunteers too. We just need to bring to the front burner once again.

Update: Mayor wants billboard removed

1 Feb

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Moving quickly to protect the quality of life of those Ward 5 residents affected by the monstrosity of a billboard on Lowell Street near Route 1,  Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt has issued a cease and desist order through the building inspector’s office.

“As we speak, the building inspector is issuing a cease-and-desist order,” Mayor Ted Bettencourt told the Salem News said yesterday. “I want the pole taken down, and I want the pole put behind the building where it’s supposed to be.”

The request to place the giant poll and billboard near the new Subway sub shop was originally rejected by Peabody’s City Council. The vote was 6-5 in favor, but the special permit needed at least 8 votes for passage. The billboard company then got a court order, with a judge allowing for the billboard, citing that there were other such structures in the same vicinity.

The problem, though, according to the Mayor, is that the 90-foot poll for the billboard has not been erected in the right place. The city says it should have been erected well behind the sub shop and out of site to people driving along Lowell Street. Instead, it’s set up next to the shop, where it overwhelms its surroundings.

We’ll see what happens now, but hats off to the Mayor for moving quickly on this, and continuing to understand that there is no issue more important than resident quality of life.

Mayor asks governor if he can appoint an interim State Rep

18 Jan

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

It may be an unwinnable situation and a little too late, but it’s good to see that Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt is petitioning Governor Deval Patrick for the right to appoint an interim replacement for deceased State Representative Joyce Spilliotis.

The Mayor wants to ensure that, until a new rep is seated following the April 2nd special election, Peabody has its fair share of representation on Beacon Hill. The problem is that there is no precedent or law giving a mayor such powers to appoint, and it might end up taking an executive order from Patrick to allow this.

Bettencourt appointing an interim rep presents another potential sticky situation: Although Mayor of Peabody, he doesn’t even live in the open seat’s 12th Essex House District. A Ward 6 resident, Bettencourt is represented on Beacon Hill by Ted Spelliotis.

The Mayor says he would only appoint as the interim someone who is not running in the special election. So far, Democrats Beverley Dunne and James Moutsoulas, unenrolled candidate David Gravel, and Republicans Greg Bunn and Leah Cole have pulled nomination papers to run for the right to complete the final 19 months of Spilliotis’ term. The deadline for returning their petitions with at least 150 qualified signatures is Tuesday, Jan. 22. The 12thEssex seat represents Peabody Wards 1-4, and precincts 1 and 3 in Ward 5.

Let me know what you think in the comments section, and be sure to take our poll.

Mayor Bettencourt announces plans to seek re-election

16 Jan

(The following statement came from Mayor Ted Bettencourt, who this week announced that he will seek re-election in November. If others would like us to post a candidate statement, either for the state rep special election or the fall city election, please send it to us here, and we will run it in the Eye unedited.)

By Edward A. Bettencourt, Mayor of Peabody

Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt

Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt

When I first ran for Mayor I had a long list of things I felt needed to be done in order for Peabody to reach its potential. While I believe we have accomplished a great deal so far during my first term, much work lies ahead.  I respectfully ask the voters for another term to keep our momentum going.

Overseeing the construction of a new Higgins Middle School will be chief among my second term priorities.  Last spring, we  sought and received community support – including unanimous votes from both the City Council and School Committee – to build a new school rather than renovate the current facility.  Then in July, the Massachusetts School Building Authority’s Board of Directors voted unanimously to accept our  new school preference.

A new Higgins is vital to Peabody’s future because our middle school program represents such a critical phase of academic preparation. I am committed to seeing the project through the design phase this year and then working to build a school which will best serve the educational needs of generations of Peabody students.

The ongoing Main Street revitalization project was also an important  first term accomplishment,  but that represents only the beginning of downtown transformation, and that the next phase will be a key focus of my second term.  The project,  slated to be completed this spring,  is funded by a combination of state and local grant money.  It aims to ease Main Street traffic,  improve parking and pedestrian safety, and transform the entire corridor into a more attractive place for residents and businesses alike.

We will have made Main Street a more desirable location but the next step is to decide what we want our downtown to be. We cannot just try and copy our neighbors because Peabody is unique.  We need our own vision, our own character and our own way forward.

To that end,  I’ve called for the creation of a new Master Plan for the city with a keen focus on downtown Peabody.  Peabody’s last Master Plan was completed more than a decade ago, and no longer reflects the realities of today’s landscape.  In crafting a new blueprint for Peabody’s future,  we plan to cast a wide net and tap into the expertise available those from private industry, academia, state and local government, and everyday Peabody citizens.

We need to engage in careful planning and take a deliberative approach to executing a sound strategy. There is a lot at stake in terms of Peabody’s future and I am committed to doing the hard work necessary to get it right.

Mayor moves quickly to defend quality of life for residents in Peabody’s Ward 5

10 Jan

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

We talk all of the time in this blog about Peabody becoming more “business friendly,” and while we still need to approach it that way in an effort to find the money we need for infrastructure and schools, there’s one credo we still need to embrace:

Quality of life for our residents should always trump our goal to be “business friendly.”

We want more business in Peabody.  It’ll mean more tax revenue,  and allow us to eventually put less of the burden on residential payers.  But we also want businesses that will hold up their end and respect the needs and the rights of the residents.

So why am I on this soap box today?

Well, it appears that Mayor Ted Bettencourt is embracing the credo. Without hesitation yesterday,  and after hearing numerous complaints from neighbors in an around Winona Street, the Mayor placed an immediate cease and desist order on Marchese Properties on a project  it is developing on Route 1 South.

Why? Well, if you’ve been by there lately, especially during a big rain storm, you’ve observed rivers of mud flowing from the project, and into the backyards of neighbors, destroying pools and other property, and making life miserable for people who take pride in their properties and pay their taxes on time.

But don’t just take my word for it.  Watch this video from one of that neighborhood’s residents to see what grief this has caused homeowners. Watch this video, and then put yourself in the shoes of this homeowner.

There are a lot of reasons for the problem, but as a resident myself of Ward 5, I can tell you that the previous administration didn’t do enough to alleviate the problems here for theses affected neighbors.

Developer Richard Marchese has agreed to stop the work for now, which includes a commercial building and a small housing development. He’ll come before the Planning Board on Feb. 7 to determine if he is in violation of his permit.

Bettencourt ordered the cease and desist during an emergency meeting of the Planning Board. After meeting with residents, and having the building inspector go to the area to confirm what he was seeing in photos and videos, the mayor shut it down.

This mayor definitely gets it. The rights of the residents needs to always come first.

Mayor’s address was on point, effective, and … brief

8 Jan

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher


Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt makes his mid-year state of the city address last night while newly elected City Council President Tom Gould looks on.

It was straight forward, on point, effective, and most of all … brief.

A few minutes before the annual city inaugural ceremony began last night in the Wiggin Auditorium at Peabody City Hall, I whispered to Mayor Ted Bettencourt, in good-natured fashion, “Please, no two-hour speeches tonight.”

His response? “Don’t worry, I’ll get everyone out of here in time for kickoff,” said the Mayor while smiling, and referring to the other big event of the night, the college football national championship game between Alabama and Notre Dame.

And, yes, we did indeed make it in time for kickoff over at the AOH.

In this case, “brevity” was perfect.  During his “state of the city” address,  Mayor Ted talked about his mid-term accomplishments, which included reaching a compromise with the city’s unions on healthcare to save taxpayers millions, approval of plans and financing on a much-needed new middle school, and the steps he’s taken toward business development in an effort to get more revenue by expanding the commercial tax base. He left us with positive messages like this, and then brought his address to a close in less than 20 minutes:

“I expect the upcoming years in Peabody to be a time of evolution, a time of revitalization, a time of challenge and a time to better position Peabody for long-term prosperity,” Bettencourt said.

Mission accomplished …  for now. More to come in the Mayor Ted Bettencourt story.

There are more details from what the Mayor said in a nice wrap up by John Castelluccio in the Peabody Patch.

Other observations around the Wiggin last night

Councilor At-Large Tom Gould’s middle name is Lloyd? Who knew? Maybe not many until his fellow councilor’s voiced their vote for “Thomas Lloyd Gould” when it came time to select the new Peabody City Council President. As is customary, Gould, became the unanimous pick for president, and then also gave an effective, yet brief address … Councilor At-Large Mike Garabedian drew seat No. 1, meaning, as some wise guy quipped, he’ll be under the gun and really have to pay attention! …

There was a whole lot of politicking going on, which became a clear indicator that the race is on to fill Peabody’s vacant stat rep seat.  Announced candidates Beverley Dunne (school committee member) and Dave Gravel (Councilor At-Large) were there as part of their duties as elected officials, but clearly each was doing whatever they needed to “work the room” of mainly Peabody insiders, many of whom could be influential this spring. Announced state rep candidate and former Ward 3 Councilor Jim Moutsoulas was also there schmoozing. … Other elected officials there last night included newly elected Governor’s Councilor Eileen Duff, and newly elected State Senator Joan Lovely.

Outstanding job last night by the Peabody High chorale and concert band.  The very talented kids in the chorus sang a stirring rendition of the National Anthem … Hats off to the Mayor last night for acknowledging the contributions of former State Rep Joyce Spilliotis-Jarvis, who passed away late last year. Bettencourt also recognized her husband, and my friend, Dick Jarvis, who watched the ceremony from the balcony.

City inaugural tonight; Dunne, Gravel pull papers for state rep

7 Jan

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Just a few updates and random notes today …

We’ll have coverage tomorrow of Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt’s mid-term state of the city speech after we attend tonight’s annual inaugural ceremony, 7 p.m., in Wiggin Auditorium at City Hall. If you can’t attend live, the ceremonies will be broadcast on PAT Channel 9.

Councilor At-Large Tom Gould tonight will be also be elected City Council President. The tradition is that the councilor with the least years of service, who has not yet been council president, wins unanimous approval when the entire council votes for who will hold this position in 2013.

The evening will also include Bettencourt’s first mid-term address.

Dunne and Gravel pull papers for state rep

In other news, School Committee member Beverley Griffin Dunne and Councilor At-Large Dave Gravel have pulled nomination papers to run in the special election to replace Joyce Spilliotis for Peabody’s 12th District House seat. Each must get 150 certified signatures by Jan. 22 at 5 p.m.

To like Dunne’s campaign page on Facebook, click here.

To like Gravel’s campaign page on Facebook, click here.

Dunne will run as a Democrat and might face a primary on March 5, while Gravel, once he gets his certified signatures, will be on the ballot as an independent for the final election on April 2. Gravel has also announced that his official campaign kickoff fundraiser will take place  on Jan. 25th, 7-10 p.m. at the Peabody, Division 11 AOH.

Peabody joins state program to help bring dilapidated homes up to code, and ensure safety

3 Jan

By Eye on Peabody
Responding to safety concerns about abandoned and dilapidated homes in some Peabody neighborhoods, Mayor Ted Bettencourt this week announced that the city would participate in the Abandoned Housing Initiative, sponsored by the Mass. Attorney General’s office.

The idea of the program is to help bring these neglected properties up to code. The Attorney General’s Abandoned Housing Initiative assigns blighted properties to court-appointed third party receivers. Those receivers assume full responsibility for bringing the property into compliance with state and city building code regulations.

Here are some of the details from a press release issued through the mayor’s office:

To join the program, the mayor directed the city’s Code Enforcement division to create an inventory of problem properties within the city.  Problem properties include those which have fallen into disrepair and for which there has been no response from the owner of record when the city sought repairs.  The city submitted a total of 12 properties to the AGO for possible inclusion in the program.

After conducting a title search on each property, the Attorney General’s office typically provides notice to all parties who may have an interest in title as to the conditions of their property and allows them to make the necessary repairs to avoid a receivership action.  If the parties in interest are unable/unwilling to make the necessary repairs at the property, the AG will petition the appropriate court to enforce the state sanitary code and for appointment of a receiver.