SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

February 28, 2013

Heard Around Town: Who loves ya, baby?

By Alan Burke
Staff writer

---- — PEABODY — Some thought School Committee member Beverley Ann Griffin Dunne had the inside track, but in the race to fill the state representative seat of the late Joyce Spiliotis, the endorsement of the Massachusetts Teachers Association goes to City Councilor Dave Gravel.

“This was a big one for me,” he said. “This is a big-sized group. ... I was a little surprised but pleased. I was glad they looked at my background and experience.”

Is there a downsize to union backing? Gravel says no, pointing out that while he welcomes their support, he’s never gotten money from a union and doesn’t expect any this time.

“If people want to campaign for me, that’s fine,” he added. “But I have a lot of people doing that.”

Gravel will be on the ballot for the April 2 special election as unenrolled (he says he will caucus with the Democrats). While a primary was scheduled for the Democrats, Griffin Dunne is the only candidate on that ballot. For the GOP primary, Greg Bunn faces off on March 5 against Leah Cole with the winner to join a three-way contest for the final.

“Endorsements are very nice,” Griffin Dunne responded as she walked the neighborhoods this week. “But votes are important.” She pointed out that there are multiple unions, including the American Federation of Teachers, which represents some Peabody educators, yet to be heard from.

One key endorsement Griffin Dunne does have is from Dick Jarvis, Spiliotis’ husband. Asked recently why he didn’t run himself, Jarvis replied, “Because Beverley did.”

Is everybody happy?

Well, not so much in the Middle Kingdom apparently. A group of Chinese exchange students just completed a visit to Peabody High School. Junior Austin Solimine described the interchange at this week’s School Committee meeting, remembering when a conversation with a Chinese student left him thinking, “We are a lot happier in our school than they are in theirs.”

Peabody students took it as a sign that they’d made their Asian guests feel welcome.

Web surfing is believing

Gravel was taken aback at last week’s meeting of the public safety subcommittee after being told that a pedestrian light on Lowell Street in front of St. Adelaide Church could cost $90,000. As the meeting went on, he quickly checked it out, apparently on an electronic device.

“I didn’t believe you when you were telling us that the cost of a crosswalk light was (the equivalent) of half a house,” he soberly told City Engineer William Paulitz. “But I looked it up.”

And it is.

Democrats go straight

The Peabody Democratic City Committee is legal once again, according to Mike Schulze, thanks to an organizational meeting on Feb. 17. In addition, Schulze himself is once again the committee chairman.

“I said I’d do it for a year or so until we get it set up,” he said, adding that at some point he wants to pass the torch to a new generation.

Gateway to what?

Mayor Ted Bettencourt admits he was a bit taken aback over how to react to Peabody’s new status as a “Gateway City.” The designation comes because Peabody is below the statewide average in income and in the percentage of bachelor degrees.

“Those aren’t good things,” the mayor conceded, shaking his head.

But the designation also opens up the opportunity to tap heretofore unreachable state grants. The money, he agreed, could help the city and raise it out of the Gateway class.

In case you’re thirsty

An all-alcoholic license is available. If you qualify, you can buy it for $50, according to the Licensing Board, and keep it for $2,250 per year. And with luck, you can sell it later to a nationwide chain for a fabulous sum. Really.