SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

January 8, 2013

Mayor calls on councilors to end stalemate over filling seat

BY TOM DALTON
STAFF WRITER

---- — SALEM — Last week’s marathon meltdown by the City Council was one of the themes last night in Mayor Kim Driscoll’s State of the City speech.

At the end of an address that touched on everything from city finances to waterfront development, Driscoll called on the council to end the bitter stalemate that led the 10-member body to vote 300 times over seven hours without choosing an 11th member to replace Joan Lovely, who resigned as councilor-at-large to assume her seat in the state Senate.

“You may be off to a rocky start in this chamber, but let it end now, as the best days of 2013 are surely ahead of us,” Driscoll said to a packed council chamber at City Hall. “I know we can work together, and I’m committed to doing everything in my power to cooperate and get past this, or any impasse.”

The 5-5 deadlock Thursday night between supporters of former Councilor Steve Pinto and those who favored former Councilor Lucy Corchado was seen by some as a battle between anti-Driscoll and pro-Driscoll forces, with the interim council appointment viewed as a crucial swing vote.

Others saw it as a test of those who wanted an independent council and those who wanted to work more cooperatively with the mayor, while still others said it was simply an old-fashioned political fight. Whatever the reality, the 300-ballot deadlock was a dubious record and public embarrassment that had both city councilors and the mayor using the word “compromise” last night.

Driscoll praised councilors for working cooperatively in the past and for sharing her goal of leaving the city better than they found it.

“I know that each of you share that same objective,” Driscoll said, “and I hope together you can bridge whatever differences you may have with me or with one another to keep moving Salem forward.”

In this final year of her second term, Driscoll said she hopes to find a “final resolution” for cleaning up the city-owned transfer station on Swampscott Road.

She said the long-delayed senior center remains a top priority and added that she is pushing the developer “for a start date on this important initiative.”

In her speech, Driscoll pointed to many achievements and landmarks last year, including the city’s improved financial condition, the completion of Bridge Street renovations, the expected start of construction on the MBTA garage and commuter rail station, the sale of the power plant, the opening of the J. Michael Ruane Judicial Center, and the start of construction on a major section of the Salem Wharf.

She also highlighted one of the biggest challenges facing the city, turning around its low-performing public schools.

“Just last week, the state gave the green light to our accelerated district improvement plan, signaling their belief that we are on the right path ...” the mayor said.

Tom Dalton can be reached at tdalton@salemnews.com.