, Salem, MA

February 13, 2014

It's only money

By Alan Burke
Staff Writer

---- — PEABODY — Mayor Ted Bettencourt figures he’s got enough at $105,000 per year, notwithstanding that he isn’t at the top of the city payroll. Nor is he second from the top. Rather, he comes in at 91 on the list for 2013 with $99,966 (a pay raise took effect late in the year).

Nevertheless, the mayor has informed the City Council he doesn’t want another raise.

“I would respectfully request that no salary increase be authorized for fiscal year 2015,” he said.

His salary increase last year came as the council saw their yearly pay rise, as well, to $9,450. The school board got a boost, too. This was the first increase in 12 years.

Former Mayor Mike Bonfanti steadfastly refused to take a pay increase, and councilors felt obliged to follow his lead.

Can’t let go

Will the votes be there to force the Board of Registrars to move polling places out of the schools? The tone of Tuesday’s joint meeting with the School Committee reflected a reduced urgency.

Beverley Griffin Dunne wants to retain voting in the schools as a civic good. Jarrod Hochman listened to proposals for moving the polling places over time and decided, “If it’s going to happen, for me I’d want all or nothing.”

Dave McGeney, acknowledging the difficulty in finding alternate sites, told registrars, “I’m not going to tell you to get out of my school.”

A motion to require that was withdrawn.

Remaining committed, Brandi Carpenter believes better arrangements for the schools and voters could come out of a change. Safety and fewer disruptions are key motivations.

For political types who like the idea of a big tent, School Committeeman Ed Charest is promoting just that as a solution to the registrars’ difficulty in finding places outside of schools where people can vote. He pointed out that tents can be large, they can be heated, and they can be installed with hard floors.

The registrars had no comment, though City Clerk Tim Spanos invoked the installation of a new football field, suggesting, “Maybe we can put a tent on the turf.”

McGeney noted low turnout elections, while speculating on the day that “Tim can deliver a ballot to whoever wants to vote.”

There seemed general agreement that voting at Higgins Middle School must be stopped due to construction of the new school.

It ain’t the meat, it’s the motion

City Councilor Anne Manning-Martin was none too happy over a motion requiring colleagues to reconsider a vote endorsing Bettencourt’s plan to lease city land for billboards. The mayor believes the plan could mean a windfall for the city.

Strongly opposed, Manning-Martin was undaunted when the mayor’s plan passed 9 to 1 in January. Hoping the councilors would get an earful from furious constituents, she called for a vote of reconsideration at the Feb. 6 meeting. No debate was allowed.

As it happened, the motion to have the vote was made by Councilor Barry Osborne.

“I would like to have made my own motion,” said Manning-Martin as she left. “But Councilor Osborne pulled a fast one and made it for me. ... He shot me down from making my own motion.” Combined with the fact that no debate was allowed, the move seemed designed to virtually negate her opposition, she said. “It’s like it never happened.”

An apologetic Osborne expressed puzzlement over her anger. “I certainly didn’t do it on purpose,” he said.

He noted that he had paused when he realized Manning-Martin seemed offended. His turn for “motions, orders and resolutions” had come while Manning-Martin’s had passed, with the motion for reconsideration as yet unmade.

The vote, meanwhile, was essentially unchanged, with nine supporting the mayor, Manning-Martin in opposition and a tanned Dave Gravel voting “present,” as he’d missed the initial vote to vacation in the Caribbean.