Tag Archives: Peabody

Dancing Peabody’s cares away

8 May
band

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?

Anonymous commenator sums up the situation in Peabody

1 May

Publisher’s note: After reading the article in today’s Salem News in which the Mayor talks about all of his “successes,” I was almost compelled to post this morning. But then the following “anonymous” comment came in. It pretty much sums up how a lot of us are feeling right now. There are indeed dark clouds on the horizon for our fair berg, and people need to know this. So … I am re-posting the anonymous comment I reference above:

From anonymous, 5/1/17:

I read the fluff piece on Salem News regarding the updates to the races in Peabody and I’m very disturbed that no one feels they can beat the Mayor. All he has done is spend our money and when he wants more he just raises taxes.

bettencourt

Everything is definitely NOT beautiful in Peabody these days.

Where is the effort for bringing in new streams of income for the city? The farm!?! Our biggest stream of taxes, aka the mall, is limping and when Macy’s and Sears finally decide to call it quits in Peabody, we are all going to be wrecked. Businesses are leaving faster and faster to towns that border us. Lynnfield and now TJ Maxx to Middleton. This city is going down fast and he is spinning how great he is with spending all our money with ZERO rate of return.

The fact that he tries to own the middle school as a huge achievement that all started with the previous mayor, is laughable. The other laughable items that need to be mentioned are that he has not been able to get a true superintendent for the schools, and he as the Mayor and Chair (of the school committee) have not led the high school out of its Level 3 status that turns the entire city into a level 3. Also, the AP courses to the max do not fix that!

When the Salem News released all the salaries for the city, as always our city employees are doing almost 4 times the household average in Peabody (btw the average went down). How is the Chief of Police not being scrutinized for all the OT/details that are being paid above their base salary?

I respect the police and fire for what they do, but you can’t tell me that someone that made over 75K in OT is effective in their normal shift. Maybe we need more officers to have a better control on spend. At least we know what they will need to budget for instead of asking for another million. The Mayor made some comment it had partially to do with Crystal Lake, and honestly the project just got started and is moving at a snails pace.

The other night the Mayor wanted to reduce the requirements for parking to make them (the spaces) more valuable. He should want to do the opposite to control these larger developments building more of those Avalon style apartments. If they have low parking requirements they will build as high and wide as they can. He is turning Peabody more and more into a Lawrence and Lynn. The school system is going to be overwhelmed in the next few years if you see more and more of these units coming into play. The taxes generated on these buildings does not support the amount of money necessary to educate families with multiple children in these units.

For someone that allegedly has all this power, why has he not been able to persuade business to come to Peabody? Why isn’t he partnering with Simon to help correct the outflow of the retail spaces in the mall. They are just throwing out liquor licenses to get restaurants to come, but there is no real future thinking of what the city needs to survive.

The city is in for a lot of hurt in the near future, if the city doesn’t find someone that is going to be proactive and seek out businesses that want to invest in its future then our current Mayor will just continue to spend to make himself look good and take more of our taxes via property. Has anyone seen the actual bill for all these Centennial celebrations?

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!

 

NED pipeline would imperil Ipswich, put North Shore drinking water supplies at risk

26 Jan

(Bob Croce is Chair of Peabody Citizens United, and a candidate for State Representative in the MA 13th Essex District.)

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

I’ve used this space over the past year to talk about the critically important homeowner rights and safety issues surrounding Kinder Morgan’s proposed Northeast Energy Direct (NED) pipeline. But today, I’d like to bring up a concern that should be front and center, not just in Peabody, Danvers and Middleton, but throughout the North Shore.

Protecting our public drinking water supply.

riverWe should remind ourselves of the tragedy of Flint, Mich., and come to a consensus that locating this pipeline within the Ipswich Watershed District is just too much of a risk for the half million North Shore residents who draw water from this endangered river. Now is the time for our North Shore elected leaders to unite and lobby the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to not approve this new gas pipeline infrastructure for an area so vital to the health and well being of our communities.

Here are the facts on the pipeline and the river from the stewards of the river, the Ipswich Watershed Association:

The proposed Lynnfield and Peabody lateral sections of the NED pipeline will be constructed within the Ipswich River Watershed, and it will:

  • Traverse the watershed for more than 11 miles, cross the river and dozens of named and unnamed tributaries
  • Traverse more than two miles of wetlands, alter dozens of vernal pools
  • Be built directly on the riverbank for more than two miles
  • Be built in the immediate proximity of seven public permanently-protected water supply intakes and traverse hundreds of acres of permanently protected conservation areas, including several parcels protected by Article 97 of the Massachusetts State Constitution.
  • Temporarily clear 131.5 acres of land during construction and permanently alter 65.8 acres in the required pipeline easement. The pipeline will significantly disrupt the underground hydrology of the watershed, which is critical to its function as well as the hundreds of public and private water supply intakes in the immediate vicinity of its route.

Once constructed, Kinder Morgan will continuously use herbicides to keep the pipeline right-of-way clear of vegetation, and there are no studies showing what negative effects that could have on the source of our drinking water. Then there’s the danger of leaking pipes allowing toxic methane to seep into our water.

If anyone thinks the dangers here only affect “a couple of streets” in Peabody, think again. The proposed NED pipeline should be a regional concern.

 

 

RIP Tom O’Leary: Peabody loses its Champion of the Underdog

23 Oct

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

When I heard the sad news, I instantly flashed back to the first time I ever met a good guy named Tom O’Leary, and suddenly I felt better. In fact, thinking about that first meeting, made me LOL.

Tom O'Leary

Tom O’Leary

It was somewhere, sometime back in 1997 when this lanky, friendly gent, who immediately reminded me of my Boston Irish grandfather (the line back then was that he had the “map of Ireland” on his face), approached me, and stuck out his hand.

After some brief introductions, the jokes began flying, including the one that made me chuckle again the other day after I heard that this fine man, this “Champion of the Underdog,” had passed away at the age of 78.

“The thing about me,” Tom began back then, in a voice that was both gruff and loveable all at the same time. “I used to be nervous and jerky. But now … I’m not nervous anymore.”

In the years that followed, and as we developed a friendship, I’d hear the same line over and over again as Tom endeared himself to others. And each time, the corny joke, his joke, made me laugh just as hard as I did the first time that I heard it.

He was a genius at using self-deprecation to endear himself to those he came across in a lifetime of helping all those he came across.

At this point, I should also mention that one of my great regrets in life was losing touch over the years with Tom, and his wonderful bride Marsha. My separation from this very good man isn’t his fault whatsoever, and is rooted in personal reasons on my end only. Long story, short, it’s one of those “life is too short lessons.” You’re going to regret it when they’re gone, and I definitely regret that I didn’t keep in touch with Tom O’Leary the past 14 years.

In Yiddish, the word is “mensch,” which means a person of integrity and honor. And Tom O’Leary was most definitely an Irish mensch.

He ran unsuccessfully for Ward 5 Councilor a couple of times, and we the people missed out on being served by a guy, who I believe would have been an outstanding advocate for the neighborhoods when it came to quality of life. The mess that is Route 1 when it comes to excessive and intrusive development would have never happened under Tom O’Leary’s watch as Ward 5 Councilor. That would have been a given.

But the loss of people all over Ward 5 was the gain of those who live in mobile home parks from Peabody to Cape Cod. Fighting for the rights of families and seniors seeking to hold onto their homes became Tom’s lifetime crusade, earning him the moniker of “Champion of the Underdog.”

He never got elected to public office, yet he was always there for the little guy, whether that meant being a rock on resident rights when it came to serving on Peabody’s Rent Control Board, or simply inviting people into his home for some good advice and the “best cup of coffee in Peabody.”

For me personally, that meant him pouring his heart and soul into two of my campaigns for office. I didn’t win, but my family and I have always been grateful for what he did for me.

In recent years, I understand that Tom’s health kept him from being able to do what he loved, which was being a pain in the neck to the powers that be when it came to defending resident quality of life. But after seeing him briefly at the Kiley School polls during the election two years ago, I also saw that he never lost his gregarious, make-you-feel-good personality. When I saw him that day, which turned out to be the last day I ever saw this very good man, he made me smile again with his giant trademark of a laugh. I gave he and Marsha a brief hug, and then walked away feeling I had lost out by not having them in my life for more than a decade.

It makes me feel sad today that this was the last time I saw him. It makes me sad that I didn’t stay in touch all of these years. It is indeed a life is too short type of lesson.

But surely, the little guy in Peabody is way better off for having had Tom O’Leary on his side.

Rest in peace, my friend. You were a good man of very high integrity, and more importantly, you were indeed the Champion of the Underdog.

(If you would like to pay your respects, here are the details for Tom’s services.)

Run Tom, run: Peabody needs Walsh on Beacon Hill

29 Sep

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

If you know him, call him. If you see him on the street, encourage him.

Tom Walsh for State Rep

Tom Walsh for State Rep

Peabody needs Councilor At-Large Tom Walsh to run in the soon-to-be-announced special election for State Rep in the 12th Essex District.

Since the passing of Joyce Spiliotis three years ago, Peabody has struggled when it comes to getting the assistance and resources it needs from the State Legislature. But Tom Walsh would not be a back-bencher. He would not quit in mid-term. He would give Peabody what it needs in the Great and General Court:

A mature adult, who would command respect from the leadership on Beacon Hill, and use his experience and intelligence as an elected official to help Peabody get the local aid it needs, and constituents get the help and services they desire.

No offense to announced Republican candidate Jaclyn Corriveau, who I feel is smart and has a bright political future in Peabody, but Walsh has way more experience and would be way more effective at this stage on Beacon Hill.

No thanks to announced Republican candidate Stephanie Peach, the former aide to Rep Leah Cole. Cole is causing Peabody to go without representation in the House for the next six months, and is costing taxpayers the price of yet another special election. Cole quits at mid-term and her aide Peach takes over? Fool us once, shame on you, fool us twice . . .

And no way to perennial State Rep candidate Jim Moutsoulas. Hey Demo, how about concentrating on doing the job of Ward 3 Councilor a few more years, and then calling it career.

Tom Walsh, Peabody’s former State Rep, who then did an outstanding job as a school committee member, and now Councilor At-Large is what Peabody needs.

He has the experience, and he’s a responsible adult.  He gets it. Like the late-great Spiliotis, he knows what is required to give Peabody the representation it needs now more than ever.

So … call him, encourage him. Tell Tom Walsh that we need him on Beacon Hill.

Potential catastrophe averted in Presidential Heights fire

27 Aug

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

 

More details will emerge here, but The Eye has learned that the fire at 13 Madison Ave in West Peabody last night was no ordinary garage fire. Turns out that the owner of the property was likely storing a large amount of chemicals in the structure as part of a swimming pool service company.

FF

The fire caused a strong odor, and a series of small, but frightening explosions before the Peabody Fire Department arrived.

 

Were it not for an outstanding job by the PFD, this could have spread to nearby homes, resulted in major property loss, and perhaps injuries to residents living in this Presidential Heights neighborhood.

 

“You could see the black smoke and the smell was really bad,” a neighborhood resident told us this morning. “There were a few explosions as well. It was very frightening.”

 

According to city records, the property is owned by Joseph Carpenito, who also owns Pools Unlimited. On its website, the company lists 13 Madison Ave as its office.

Below is a Google Earth image that shows the location. Note the close proximity of other homes. The large garage that burned is to the back right of the property.

madison

Phil Lavoie: Peabody loses one of its truly good guys

12 May

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

In the 1970s, when you first became a teen-aged dude, your first form of rebellion, your first effort at independence usually involved what was on top of your head.

Once hitting 13, it would be no more getting haircuts with your old man, who liked to take you to his old-school barber and say “make him look decent.” That statement usually meant you were going to walk around for the next month looking like a character from “Leave It To Beaver.”

Phil Lavoie ... passing of a great guy

Phil Lavoie. The passing of a great Peabody guy

But something changed for me when I hit 13. Something new and totally different opened on Lake Street next to Muntsy’s Subs. No more haircuts with the old man. I was going to “Headquarters For Men,” at the time a new wave of men’s hair stylists, who would allow you to leave their shops looking less like Jerry Mathers, and more like Derek Sanderson.

Phil Lavoie didn’t flinch when you told him you wanted your hair to still cover your ears, and didn’t argue later on when you wanted to experiment with a mullet.  With this approach, this new school barber built a loyal customer base. Keep the ears covered when I was 13. Shave it up close to the scalp and over the ears by the time I reached 40.

“Headquarters,” which moved from the Muntsy’s Plaza to a location further down Lake next to 7 Eleven, and then back to the plaza recently, has for more than 30 years been a West Peabody institution. Its proprietor was the ultimate Peabody guy, who not only knew how to please his younger customers with everything from mullets in the ‘80s to Mohawks in the ‘90s, but also was an old-school barber when it came to conversation with adult customers. Great with the jokes, or the gossip of the day, or social commentary, Phil not only gave great haircuts, but he made it a pleasure to visit him and his sidekick Annie once a month.

This past Friday, Phil Lavoie passed away at age 65.

I was in his shop for a haircut in early April, and never had an inkling that he was even ill.

His wife Linda, and their two children have lost a terrific husband and dad, and Peabody has lost one of its most-popular and much-liked citizens.

Rest in peace, my friend, and thanks for the memories.

If you knew Phil and would like to attend his services, here are the details.

Grateful for family, friends, and supporters met along the way

7 Nov

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

SUNRISEIt’s tough losing an election. The months of hard work puts major stress on not only the candidate, but his family and friends too. When things don’t work out on election night, there is shock, followed by disappointment, and then some frustration.

But if you did it right, and still lost, if you truly ran a campaign where you put the focus on helping people and sticking up for neighbors and neighborhoods, election night’s disappointment fades as quickly as that next day’s sunset.

Today, I have reached that point. The sun came up this morning, just as it always does, and with it came satisfaction for this former candidate. Despite battling money and power, we lost the election for Ward 5 Councilor by just 89 votes. Despite having what seemed like the entire Ward 5 political and business establishment against me because I promised to always be on the side of taxpaying residents, our underdog campaign almost pushed it across the goal line in sudden death overtime.

We fell short, but we’re not disappointed anymore. Why? Because we had the right message and we put a scare into those whom are more interested in making a buck than they are with protecting the quality of life of residents. We scared them so much that they filled my opponent’s campaign war chest with thousands of dollars, and helped with a massive get out the vote effort on election night.  Their GOTV effort was just better than our GOTV effort, and they made sure since they wanted no part of this independent-minded Ward 5 Councilor candidate.

But I know as well as anyone that this will always be the nature of politics, and at the end of the day, people get to choose who they want based on what they hear and who they like. That’s America at its finest, and I believe in the system. We lost. That’s just the way it is.

Mr. Saslaw and his team were just able to convince a few more people than we could. He now says he’s with the residents, and I wish him well in his pursuit. I expect, though, that it’s going to be hard to say no to developers who just covered you in cash, and carried you across the finish line.

As for me, I’m just not sure where the political winds will blow me. It’s too soon to do anything other than thank those family members and friends whom I love, and tell them how much I appreciate everything they did for me. There are too many names to name here, so I anticipate writer’s cramp from so many thank you notes in the coming weeks.

I’ll also never forget the people who supported me because they liked my message when I came to their doors during the long campaign. Today, just as I was starting to feel down again, an elderly woman from my neighborhood — who I didn’t even know before meeting her on Election Day — called to tell me it was a “pleasure voting for you.” And then, she told me a story that inspired me to start thinking about my next step.

It was a story about her son, who was diagnosed with dyslexia back in the 1950s, only at first they didn’t know what it was, and because of it he began failing in school. Persistence and a mother’s love and determination forced this son to not give up.

He somehow made it through the Peabody Schools, and kept working hard enough to make it into college. Despite several setbacks along the way, the son — pushed by his wonderful mom — not only graduated from college, but went on to grad school and then got his PhD in education. He just recently retired from his job as Superintendent of Schools for a South Shore community.

His mom, meanwhile, despite being 87-years-old, legally blind and needing a walker, made it to the polls at the Kiley School on Tuesday after our campaign was able to give her a ride.  When I thanked her for going above and beyond to support me like that, all she said to me was:

“You’re a good guy. You deserved it. I didn’t give up on my son, and I wasn’t going to give up on you.”

You know, maybe I did go down to defeat because I said I would always take the side of residents like this great lady who is my neighbor. But … I think I can live with that, and even start sleeping through the night again.

Here’s to another beautiful sunrise.

Re-development in Peabody should always be connected to responsibility

25 Sep

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

It was a good meeting last night at the West Branch Library. A night during which residents were presented research by a consultant on how we can revitalize Peabody’s downtown, and then asked their opinions on what should go in currently developable properties.

But there was also a moment near the end the meeting that summed up a major challenge we face as we go through the process of not only revitalizing parts of our community, but also reinvigorating our economic engine.

When the presentation was over, and all of the brainstorming done, Community Development Office official Blair Haney made a comment that spoke to something that’s unseen by many, but gotten us into past messes when it comes to development. Essentially, what Mr. Haney told the audience was that — in order to move forward — we need the full cooperation of the Peabody City Council and the residents when it comes to granting developers special permits.

Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I don’t think Mr. Haney was talking about granting special permits to build everything and anything developers want. After all, haven’t we recently seen the ugly side of blind cooperation when it comes to many developers in Peabody?

But it should cause us to pause, think, and ensure that we don’t get fooled again. This is indeed a cautionary tale.

Wasn’t it unchallenged “cooperation” that got us that ugly condo complex on Walnut Street, and isn’t it unchallenged “cooperation” that is causing the residents of the Winona Street neighborhood near Route 1 major headaches? I could go on and on about developers maximizing profits by building cheap, ugly projects,  grossly violating the terms special permits, and not caring about residents’ property rights.

But let’s spare you of  those gory details, and say that I don’t think there are many residents who don’t agree that we need an economic rebirth in Peabody. After all, we have a lot to pay for these days, and bringing more responsible development to the city will help us pay for capital improvements. At the same time, it would stabilize the residential tax rate. More businesses mean a lot more commercial tax revenue, which in turn means that residents aren’t taxed to death. As a result, we’d find a sane way to pay for a much-need new middle school, and flood mitigation, and all of the other improvements necessary for our civic infrastructure.

Economic development would be a great thing for Peabody, but until we get smart about it and get the right kind of development, a request for our full cooperation with developers sends chills up the spines of residents, who have had their quality of life trampled on far too often.

As a city councilor, I would most-definitely be pro-business and pro-economic development. But the rights of residents still need to come first, and those developers with a track record of violating their special permits can’t be given more chances to mess this all up again. It can no longer be a case of everything goes in Peabody, not in our downtown, and not out on Route 1.

What we need is responsible and well-planned out community re-development, and for Peabody to partner only with reputable developers to get this all done. If it’s  not the right thing to do for a neighborhood, city councilors should never fear  saying “no.”

That’s what those residents who attended that excellent meeting last night want, and that’s what they and our city deserves.