Tag Archives: Peabody city council

Give ’em bread and circuses; happy 161st birthday, Peabody!

1 May

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

If you must truly distract from what’s going on, give them bread and circuses. It’s the old Roman way, and there’s no doubt that Peabody’s ruling politicians have learned this lesson from our ancient cousins.

The numbers are still adding up, and as you ponder what will likely be another annual property tax increase come December, courtesy of the Bettencourt Administration and signed off on by his merry men (aka the Peabody City Council), know this:

romans

The Mayor and Peabody’s City Council discuss our next tax increase

We’ve spent several hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars the past year on what is essentially a sham centennial celebration. That’s right, as I learned way back in Mrs. Ogren’s first grade class, Peabody was founded in 1855. That fact makes our past year of expensive parades and other events 61 years late, and . . . quite lame.

So, what exactly have they been using your hard-earned tax money on to celebrate?

Well, in 1916 Peabody went from having a town form of government to having a city form of government. In other words, before 1916 we used to run things like Danvers, but starting in that year we decided to run things like Beverly. It’s a truly “remarkable” reason to spend hoards of taxpayer money, right?

In 1872, it was called Peabody just like it is today, although I’m not sure back then that the “Dirty Biddy” nickname was as much en vogue.

In other words, our berg is NOT 100 years old. It’s a ripe, old 161!  But  . . . who doesn’t love a parade?!

And, when you’re trying to distract people from annual tax increases, mediocre schools and zero progress in making the downtown area a destination rather than a pass through, you give them bread and circuses.

After all, who in their right mind, would want to celebrate Peabody’s 161st birthday?

BTW, the fleecing of the taxpayers here finally ends with the Grand Centennial Ball, a pricey black-tie affair at the North Shore Mall on May 7th  (since they are all acting like Romans, wonder why they didn’t make it a toga party?)

As it says on the centennial ball website, “All good things must come to an end, and so to [sic] our Centennial celebration.”

So, eat drink and be merry Peabody in crowd. Rome is burning, and no one seems to care.

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’re 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. 🙂

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

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.

Best wishes on a fast recovery for Councilor At-Large Anne Manning-Martin

18 Aug

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Councilor Anne Manning-Martin

Councilor At-Large Anne Manning-Martin

Over the years, we’ve been friends and foes, agreed on some issues, disagreed on many others. But one thing I will always say or write is that Anne Manning-Martin always votes in the best interests of those residents she serves as a councilor at-large.

So, with that, I just wanted to wish Anne a speedy recovery from major back surgery, and hope that she’s back doing the business of the people of Peabody soon as possible.

After all, let’s face it, there are only two current Peabody City Councilors who are always on the side of the people they represent: Ward 6 Councilor Barry Sinewitz, and Anne.

By the way, the back surgery Manning-Martin underwent, was no minor matter.

“I really wasn’t supposed to walk again. It was kind of a Hail Mary operation,” Manning-Martin told the Salem News this week. “I just consider myself lucky and blessed.”

And Peabody residents will be lucky to have her back in there fighting for them again real soon.

Update: Here’s the reason why we don’t need an ordinance against street-side basketball hoops

24 May

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Although I appreciate David Gravel being a responsive At-Large Councilor, and bringing the issue of  “dangerous” basketball hoops, hockey nets, and other sports equipment to the Peabody City Council, it might be time for him and the other 10 members of our burg’s legislative body to focus on more important issues.

City Councilor David Gravel should have read the city code first

City Councilor David Gravel should have read the city code first

After all, we don’t need a new ordinance of any kind to address the issue, which put Peabody’s name up in lights this week following a report on Boston news station Fox25.  It’s already covered.

Courtesy of one of this space’s frequent visitors, I bring you what already exists in the City Code, Section 27-3:

Sec. 27-3. Removal of obstructions in streets and sidewalks.

Any fixture, structure or property as referred to in section 27-1 which has been erected, placed or left illegally in any street, highway or sidewalk may be moved by or under the direction of an officer and at the owner’s expense.

Street obstructions are also addressed in Massachusetts State Law as well. Before the TV cameras show up again, me thinks that city councilors should always check first to see what’s on the books before causing a knee-jerk tsunami.

From what I’m hearing, Dave these past few days has needlessly had his head slammed over this by pro-street-ball zealots, and fresh-air kid movements from Lake to Lynnfield Streets.  Maybe if he had read the city code, he could have had an officer take care of the situation in his neighborhood without Maria Stephanos making him look like the old guy who sits on his porch and screams “You kids betta get outta my yard!”

Overall, I still believe this is NOT a big issue on Peabody’s streets. We need to let the kids play, and then – using already existing city code – address these issues case-by-case using common sense.

If any object, whether it be grandpa’s favorite lawn chair, or the kids’ basketball hoops, should pose a risk to public safety, the cops should simply have it removed under Section 27-3. Most hoops and hockey nets are not causing any problems at all. It’s like saying, just because some city councilor might not be bright, then ALL city councilors  must be dumb too. We all know that would be untrue. And unfair! Dave is definitely an intelligent man, and a gentleman of course, too.

Simple. To the point. Easy peezey!

Instead of discouraging all of Peabody’s kids to go out and play, how about we use this common sense approach instead?

There you go, Dave, just saved you and the other councilors some time to focus on more important issues.

What’s going on with this site behind Latitude Sports Club on Route 1?

23 May

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

We’ll bring you more details as they develop, but for now I just wanted to give you a heads up on another quality of life, and potential public safety issue that’s brewing on Route 1.

landscape

Latitude Sports Club is to the upper right. The triangular paved area to the left is the property in question. Pine Street runs across the bottom of the image.

The developer who owns the land on which the Latitude Sports Club was developed, has leased a parcel behind the club to a landscaping company.

We hear that the landscaping company has a conditional permit from the city to operate, but that there are some serious questions about what affect this operation will have on the extensive wetlands adjacent to the site.  There are also additional public safety concerns around the fact that there is no fire hydrant on site, yet there is potential for flammable chemicals, such a fertilizer. Mulch, as we’ve seen, is also flammable. The site runs parallel to Pine Street, where there are several homes.

It also sounds like city officials, including the current ward councilor for this area, are trying to keep this quiet until a proper permit can be worked out. For example, no elected official has asked the building department to slap a cease and desist order on this company until the concerns can  be addressed. They continue to operate, which sounds like business as usual on Route 1 when it comes to developers.

We’ve also learned that people who work for departments whose job it is to protect residents and our environment, have voiced their concerns to city officials, and have been told to stand down for now.

More to come, but if anyone in our audience knows more, please send me a confidential message.

 

 

Let the kids play: Basketball hoop, hockey net ban would be ‘wicked stupid’

22 May

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

When we were young, not that long ago, the streets of Peabody this time of year were filled with kids playing street hockey, games of “twenty-one” on a basketball hoop hanging from a telephone pole, or killer games of “cell block” and “hide-and-go-seek.”

hoopParents actually encouraged kids to go outside, and “blow the stink off ya,” and you were happy to oblige once winter shuffled off its mortal coil, and the air on these late spring nights filled with the scent of lilacs and fresh-cut grass. The thrill of that grass, which you would roll around in while wrestling with friends, before setting up a killer three-on-three game under that street lights until being called home for some homework.

Other than the sound of early evening lawnmowers, today the streets are pretty much quiet. Void of laughter. Void of kids debating whether their line drive off the shed was fair or foul.

Despite our still very safe Peabody neighborhoods, kids, for the most part, stay indoors now.

What’s changed?

Well, certainly high-tech fun is winning out over the low-tech fun of our youth. Video games have replaced games of HORSE, and water balloon fights in the backyard.

But that’s not the only reason.

You can also blame it on the adults.

First we condition our kids to believe that it’s not worth playing if you don’t have a coach or a fancy uniform, or well-polished basketball court. We don’t let them experience the joy anymore of sacrificing the skin on their knees to invent new moves to the hoop on the Peabody’s well-worn asphalt streets.

And now comes even more lunacy when it comes to the adult killjoys.

In a move that would further discourage kids from playing outside, the Peabody City Council is considering creating an ordinance that would ban street-side basketball hoops and street hockey games.

Why?

Well, Councilor At-Large David Gravel brought the issue to the council after one of his grouchy neighbors on Tara Road began constantly complaining about a MAJOR “crime” in her neighborhood. That’s right, balls were inadvertently bouncing into this woman’s yard

To his credit, Gravel responded to a resident’s concern, but maybe what he should have done instead was tell her to calm down, and be a better neighbor. Of  course, since this story broke, we’ve heard from other Nitwit NIMBYs, who are now citing child “safety concerns” over curbside baskets and street hockey nets. Good Lord! Why don’t we all just give up already, and have our kids live in plastic bubbles?

Gravel has done his job and responded to a resident. Now the city council should do the right thing, and not even bring a formal motion on this to the floor. It is, after all, in the words of Peabody’s kids, “wicked stupid.”

Let the kids play.

Here’s how Boston TV news station Fox25 covered the story:

 

Council set to sign off on a billboard for Bourbon Street?

4 Apr

 

blank-billboardBy Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

If you live on Bourbon Street, and found the giant billboard around the corner and next to the Subway on Lowell Street offensive, get ready to be even more annoyed closer to your front door.

CBS Outdoor will go before the Peabody City Council on April 29th to seek a special permit to erect a giant, electronic billboard at 8 Bourbon Street. The billboard madness continues.

If you live in that neighborhood, call your ward councilor, Joel Saslaw, and tell him to stop voting to approve these eyesores. Mr. Saslaw, after all, has already approved THREE of these new signs in the ward since taking office in January.

Billboards gone wild: Time to push pause, decide how many we’ll allow in Peabody

12 Dec

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

billboardThe end-of-the-year grab for riches is on, and tonight the Peabody City Council will be charged with either approving or denying another one of those unsightly electronic billboards for Route 1.

I say “grab for riches,” since someone who knows tells me that – once everyone takes their little cut — the total annual windfall for each one of these roadside eyesores could be more than $500,000.

These mammoth signs – which are “blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ our mind” – mean big bucks for Route 1 property owners and developers, the sign companies themselves, the city when it comes to permitting fees, and who knows who else will have their palms “greased.”

Instead of worrying about the threat of court challenges, the city council should tonight be voting based only on the impact these gigantic billboards will have on the quality of life of residents, driver safety, and the aesthetics of our community.

The vultures are so aggressive on this one that tonight the city council will hear testimony on two separate special permits for what would essentially be bumping billboards right next door to each other. One hearing is for a billboard at 47 Newbury at a small piece of property being developed in front of the Springhill Suites hotel. The other one is less than a bag of cash throw away at 55 Newbury in front of the Sonic Restaurant. Since state regulations dictate that the two billboards would be too close to each other, the city council can’t legally approve both.

The only responsible thing for the city council to do tonight would be to vote to approve neither until we can finally come up with some rules, and a civic vision on how many giant signs we’ll allow in our berg. Otherwise, Route 1 will end up looking like the Las Vegas strip.

By the way, this isn’t about trying to ban billboards, but it is about having some sort of control on how many we’ll allow and where. Another digital billboard is currently being installed at 71 Newbury St. behind Santarpio’s and the council did approve a digital billboard last week for 200 Jubilee Dr. (behind the Extended Stay Hotel. It’s already getting out of control.

The proposal for the billboard at 47 Newbury is being presented by World Realty Trust, which has partnered with another recently familiar developer. Total Outdoor Corp, currently in court with Peabody over the notorious Lowell Street billboard would construct the sign at 47 Newbury.

The city gets $25K for the permit on each of these signs, but should everything be for sale here without first understanding what the impact will have on our landscape?

It’s time to push pause here for a moment and decide how many of these we’ll allow, and where. Otherwise, we’ll continue on this path of haphazard community development, which over the long run is going to have a major and negative impact on resident quality of life.