By Alan Burke
---- — PEABODY — Last week’s farewell speech by Sen. Fred Berry included salutes from several of his colleagues. But the meeting at the state Senate ended with a tribute for another Peabody favorite.
“The Senate now adjourns,” announced Senate President Therese Murray, “in memory of Rep. Joyce Spiliotis.”
Murray went on to review the career of Spiliotis, who died on Nov. 29 at age 65 following an illness. She cited her 10 years at the Statehouse, as well as her tenure at the City Council and as a library trustee. “She was renowned for her commitment to constituent services,” said Murray, adding that she “championed causes aimed at the less fortunate.”
The Senate responded with strong applause.
City Council President Jim Liacos offered a similar acknowledgement when the board met Tuesday to set the tax rate, the first gathering since her death. “We want to keep in our thoughts Joyce Spiliotis,” he said of his former colleague.
Voice of the people
He might be hard to understand at times, but Berry’s voice is unique.
During his farewell session, East Boston Sen. Anthony Petruccelli began to tell a story involving his friend Berry’s dealings with former Senate President Robert Travaglini. Changing his inflection to reflect the tones of Travaglini, Petruccelli declared, “I’m going to do an impression.”
“And I’m going to do me,” Berry promptly volunteered.
(Petruccelli’s story: Asked by Travaglini to “put out some fires,” Majority Leader Berry investigated and came back to complain, “You didn’t tell me you were the arsonist.”)
Berry’s farewell speech in the beautifully appointed state Senate, with busts of Lincoln, Lafayette, Washington and the like looking down, also included some uninvited guests — mice. In fairness, they made their appearance during a portion of the session dedicated to outgoing Sen. Susan Fargo, D-Lincoln.
A mouse, and later what appeared to be another mouse, darted this way and that before disappearing under the desks of the legislators, startling some dismayed onlookers.
“Some of our little critters have joined us,” Murray announced. Then, she suggested that their presence stemmed from the fact that the people who make the rules don’t always obey the rules.
“It could be the stuff you keep in your desks that’s not supposed to be there,” she chided colleagues.
You can say that again
He was the only resident to appear when the tax rate was set at a City Council meeting on Tuesday. Former mayoral candidate Russ Donovan was expected. He comes every year, Mayor Ted Bettencourt observed earlier in the day.
Donovan did not disappoint, speaking out about the impact of the average $95 tax increase on people who might have spent the money instead eating at a Peabody restaurant.
“Homeowners have been paying more and more over the last 10 years,” he said.
On the other hand, he offered rare praise for city officials, including Finance Director Patty Schaffer, who gave a review of the budget for the coming year.
“I appreciate it,” he told her. “I know I speak a lot about negative things.”
That remark literally had some councilors turning away, laughing silently.
When he came to the City Council to plead for a limousine license on Lowell Street, Charles Diorio was paying attention. First, he sat through a lengthy hearing on the tax rate, which included much discussion of the need to keep rates low in order to attract businesses. Councilors competed in their eagerness to sound sympathetic to business.
“I want to continue to promote our reputation as a business-friendly community,” Bettencourt said.
Diorio made his pitch, concluding that he is confident of success, “where this is a pro-business town.” Councilors got a good laugh and then swiftly approved the license, 10-0.
“You don’t get any more business-friendly than that,” Liacos said.