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October 10, 2013

Donovan: Neighborhood activist concerned about taxes, budget

PEABODY — He’s never held public office, but neighborhood activist Russ Donovan, 64, is a familiar figure at City Hall, where he styles himself as a kind of watchdog over Peabody government.

His willingness to attend events like a September forum in Lynn on flooding, with U.S. Rep. John Tierney, make him, he believes, unique.

“I think I’m probably the best candidate with my overall experience,” he said. “I’ve spent hours at City Hall committee meetings.”

Previously, he ran unsuccessfully for the council and mayor.

In the 1970s, he helped stop construction of a chemical plant near his home, he said. “That’s probably what got me going.”

It soon put him on a “blue-ribbon committee” to help create Centennial Park. In the years since, Donovan aid he’s been quick to confront city officials when he feels money is being wasted.

“I’m always concerned about the budget process,” he says, asserting that the average city salary far exceeds what Peabody residents earn.

“It’s tough to have to work in the private sector, and look at the public sector,” said the General Electric retiree.

As one of his goals, Donovan wants a personal exemption limiting taxes on home owners. In the past, he’s advocated a bigger tax bite on businesses.

He has doubts about the continuation of the Community Preservation Commission, which collects a small but significant percentage off the tax base.

“I would support having the City Council put it up for reconsideration.”

By contrast, he advocates spending on flood mitigation, warning that rising sea levels threaten more ruinous downtown floods.

Finally, Donovan avoided a traditional plea for votes, saying, “We have a lot of politicians running for office in the city of Peabody. I’m not one of them.” He described his campaign as “low-key.”

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