SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

July 19, 2013

Heard Around Town: Round one: Salem City Council v. School Committee

BY TOM DALTON
STAFF WRITER

---- — SALEM — When they handed the Welcome Wagon basket to new — or relatively new — City Councilor Josh Turiel, they must have forgotten to include the brochure, “Emily Post’s Etiquette for Elected Officials.”

Despite a long tradition in this city of elected officials ripping into other elected officials only in private moments, like when sitting on a bar stool at Bertini’s, Turiel had the temerity — or maybe honesty and gumption — to lash out at the School Committee at Monday night’s televised public meeting on the extended-year program at the Saltonstall School.

Now, granted, the Ward 5 councilor is a Saltonstall parent, so maybe he was wearing his dad’s hat rather than his council cap, but he fired away nonetheless.

Here’s some of what he said:

He pointed out that the low test scores at city schools have “happened on the watch of our School Committee.”

He called the demographic imbalance in the schools, in part, “a failure of the school department to do its job, and a failure of the School Committee to lead.”

He called the school board’s continued focus on Saltonstall’s 190-day schedule, rather than larger problems facing the system, a “failure of the highest order.”

Ouch.

Loose change

Mayor Kim Driscoll took a little heat last week for the city’s latest technological advancement — ground sensors that wipe out extra time on smart meters as soon as a car pulls out of a parking space.

Some called it “nickel and diming” the public.

Our crack investigative team found a memo on the floor of the mayor’s office with other money-making ideas that she, to her everlasting credit, rejected.

Sidewalks that tilt up late at night to catch the change that falls from tourists’ pockets.

An ordinance fining psychics every time they make a wrong prediction.

Contract language requiring city workers to buy underwear with the slogan, “Salem...We’re Behind You All The Way.”

Bike rider

There is a really great story unfolding at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salem.

Actually, it’s taking place across America as Garrett Shay, a senior at UMass Amherst, rides his bike from Massachusetts to the Santa Monica Pier in California to raise money for the club. His goal is $25,000.

“My favorite part of this adventure is the people I meet along the way,” Garrett wrote to the club. “Their energy and support is refreshing and motivational, especially after a long day’s ride in the sun.

“It makes you appreciate the smaller things in life, things as simple as a warm shower or laughing about a stupid SNL video. It’s hard to see these people as strangers. Some of them really feel like family; that may seem a little cheesy but that’s how it feels.”

Garrett is from Melrose, but has a strong Salem connection. His dad is a law partner of Ed Moriarty, the husband of Joanne Scott, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club.

To find out more or to make a pledge, go the club’s website at www.bgcgs.org/Garrett.

Useless tidbit

Did you see the story about the North Shore Medical Center doing “low-impact” blasting this summer as part of a construction project?

Apparently they make a little announcement inside the hospital five minutes before every blast. As part of the announcement, or maybe just in the operating rooms, we are told the following command goes out: “Scalpels up!”

Good advice.

Strangler story

The Discovery Channel was at the police station Wednesday to go through their Boston Strangler files.

They also interviewed officers and drove out to the address on Lafayette Street where a Salem woman was murdered in 1963.

The cable channel is working on a documentary that will air in April to mark the 50th anniversary of the fabled case.

Beer Pong II

Let us acknowledge, for starters, that everyone loves the Ward Two Social Club. It’s a group of hard-working folks who run charities and neighborhood events. These are good guys.

But things have gone a little astray in recent months as the cash-strapped club has rented out its subterranean quarters to fun-loving folks who ran beer pong tournaments with cash prizes, according to a police report.

On the surface, this does not seem like a big deal.

Just folks tossing pingpong balls into cups filled not with beer, but water. But as part of the game, contestants had to drink booze and won small cash prizes, police said.

It seems this has been going on for a while, with winners even posting Facebook pictures of themselves proudly holding fistfuls of money.

Whatever was going on, it was enough for police to do surveillance, send in undercover cops and write up a report listing violations, including “permitting gambling on the licensed premises.”

There was a discussion Monday night with the Licensing Board. Ward Two managers admitted their mistakes and said they weren’t aware the activities violated liquor laws and their license. Police said the club has been helpful and cooperative.

Fortunately for the club, the Licensing Board chairman is Robert St. Pierre, the retired police chief and a man long on common sense. He knows they are good folks working hard to turn the club around and warned them about the consequences if something like this happens again.

Sitting out in the audience taking everything in were a few club supporters and Ward 2 City Councilor Mike Sosnowski, the club’s vice president.

Charitable guy

Another milestone passed this week when Conrad Correnti announced that this is his last year running the Christopher Columbus Society’s annual scholarship golf tournament.

Correnti, 79, has been running the charity tourney for nearly a quarter-century. Over that time, the club, the pride of the city’s old Italian neighborhood, has raised $50,000, with all proceeds going to scholarships for high school seniors.

Correnti, a retired letter carrier, was presented with a plaque at Monday’s tourney at Far Corner Golf Club in Boxford.

And, yes, he is attorney Joe Correnti’s dad.

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