, Salem, MA

February 28, 2014

Tomorrow is good day to be a Democrat


---- — SALEM — Not since Marilyn Monroe sang “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” at Jack Kennedy’s 45th birthday party, have this many Democrats looked forward to an event with so much pulse-throbbing anticipation.

Saturday’s Democratic city caucus promises to be a humdinger.

Although John Keenan is not showing up in a see-through dress covered in rhinestones — at least, we hope not — he did turn a few heads this week when he announced he will not seek re-election next year.

The floodgates have opened, and some of those — or maybe all — who are eyeing Keenan’s seat are expected to show up at the annual caucus to select delegates to the state convention, a rite of passage for Salem Democrats.

That crowd of potentially powerful politicos could include police Chief Paul Tucker, the only announced candidate; former Mayor Stanley Usovicz; former City Councilor Matt Veno; and Keenan’s chief of staff, Grace Harrington, the daughter of you-know-who.

All have expressed anywhere from mild to serious interest in the job.

We called other rumored candidates and were greeted by either laughter (Claudia Chuber, David Eppley and Kevin Harvey) or a rational explanation by a sane human being about how her children are a lot more important than politics right now (Republican Laura Swanson).

The caucus, by the way, starts at 10 a.m. at Salem High.

No news

It has been six months since Hugh Kerr died and still no word on the cause of death.

Kerr, 61, a prominent local businessman, was pronounced dead at Salem Hospital on Aug. 27 after being found unresponsive in his cell at the Salem police station. He had been arrested in a domestic incident at his Chestnut Street home.

In cases of an unattended death, especially one at a police station, an autopsy is performed by the state medical examiner’s office. That autopsy has not been done.

There is a long backup at the medical examiner’s office, which is not unusual, according to a spokeswoman for District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett.

Hail, Chip

How about that Chip Tuttle?

The Suffolk Downs chief operating officer was a point man in the campaign to get Revere voters to approve Mohegan Sun’s proposed $1.3 billion resort casino on track property, which they did on Tuesday.

About 63 percent of voters supported the plan, which was a higher percentage than an earlier vote in November, despite organized opposition. Now, of course, they must get the green light from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, which isn’t expected to issue casino licenses until late May or June.

If you want to congratulate Chip, he’ll be at the Salem Academy Charter School’s 10th anniversary gala March 14 at Hawthorne Hotel. He and his wife, Leslie, are on the steering committee for the event.

Singing protest

Members of the environmental advocacy group Better Future Project burst into song last week at the Energy Facilities Siting Board’s meeting in Boston approving Footprint Power’s plan to build a natural-gas power plant in Salem.

This is the same group, if you recall, that organized the big protest march here a few weekends ago against the plant.

To the accompaniment of a ukulele, or some such instrument, they sang: “We don’t want no fossil fuels, we don’t need no gas; Build only the best for Salem, and ban the worst in Mass.”

Just as this was taking place, someone in the room texted state Rep. John Keenan the news about the vote and the singing protest. He texted back a suggestion that Footprint principals Peter Furniss and Scott Silverstein stand up and start singing “God Bless America.”

Better Future Project and others, by the way, are already talking about “civil disobedience” to try to block the plant.

Stay tuned, as they say.

Friends of Roger

Got an interesting email this week from The Friends of Salem Chapel, an organization in East Budleigh, Devon, England.

If you’ve never heard of East Budleigh, you should have. It’s the birthplace of Roger Conant, this city’s founder. The town has a chapel built in 1719 that — brace yourself — is haunted. It is also has a history of smuggling and other exploits.

“We thought it was about time, after all these years, we made contact with Salem, Massachusetts, to share our mutual links in history,” the group wrote.

To contact them, email Kim Holmes at

Happy Birthday

If you drop by Steve’s Quality Market on Sunday, wish “happy birthday” to Steve Ingemi.

Not Steve Ingemi the meat cutter.

We’re talking about his uncle, the Steve Ingemi who turns 91 on Sunday and has been working at the market in the old Italian neighborhood almost every day of his life.

He may have missed a few days during World War II, but he double-timed at the market while working as a police officer in Salem and has been a fixture there longer than the current building has been standing.

He comes to work every day because he loves the place.

“He thinks this is heaven,” said Steve the meat cutter.

Tom Dalton can be reached at