SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

May 17, 2013

Benton: Uncomfortable weeks for Obama

Nelson Benton
The Salem News

---- — President Obama and members of his inner circle must be counting down the hours until Memorial Day when Americans start thinking more about their summer vacations and less about what’s happening in Washington.

In the space of two weeks the administration has aroused the ire of the press corps, conservatives, Congress and the foreign service with its handling of events ranging as far afield as Benghazi, Libya to the IRS office in Cincinnati, Ohio. Whether these actions derived from simple arrogance or gross incompetence, they have given the Republican right a new lease on life and sucked the air out of promising Obama-sponsored initiatives, including immigration reform and gun control.

Given Democratic gains last year, Obama was no doubt hoping for similar results in 2016 and finishing out the last two years of his two terms in office with a flurry of progressive legislation. The chances of that happening has been seriously diminished by recent events.

Obama has traditionally chosen more hospitable climes like Hawaii or Martha’s Vineyard for his own summer vacation. But this year he is likely to find the 110-degree-plus heat of a Phoenix summer more comfortable than the kind he’s been experiencing in the nation’s capital.

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Having decided this will be his last term, Gov. Deval Patrick may find it easier than most to talk about new taxes. He won’t get anything close to what he wants; but as two of the North Shore’s most respected mayors, Kim Driscoll of Salem and Bill Scanlon of Beverly, made clear this week, money must be found to fix the state’s deteriorating roads and public transportation system.

Fixing bridges, improving our roadways and expanding public transportation can’t be done for nothing, after all. And adding a few more cents to the cigarette tax — a favorite target of legislators — won’t do it.

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It’s likely many share Driscoll’s dismay over the decision by Gordon College to discontinue management of Salem’s Pioneer Village.

The venerable historic site, built in 1930 to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the city’s founding, has necessarily been a labor of love for various individuals and organizations in recent decades. Its location in Forest River Park places it several miles off the beaten path for the majority of tourists drawn to Salem’s historic downtown and rich maritime history.

But the replica colonial village has survived random acts of vandalism and periods of inattention, and it would be a genuine shame to see its thatch-roofed buildings shuttered permanently.

One potential solution long advocated by this writer and a few others: Build a pier and contract with a launch service to ferry visitors from the Salem Maritime National Historic Site to Pioneer Village, at least during the peak tourism season.

The National Park Service has long operated boats along the canals of its historic site in Lowell. Allowing people to get out into the harbor and view Salem as it was seen by returning sailors centuries ago, with stops at Pioneer Village as well as the Blaney Street landing and perhaps the Salem Willows pier, would greatly enhance the visitor experience.

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Peabody School Committeeman David McGeney is right to question the cost-effectiveness of performing a redistricting study. Given the history of that body, a couple of parents complaining about having to send their children to a different school is all it would take to scuttle even the most logical plan.

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Datebook: Salem Ward 2 City Councilor Mike Sosnowski will kick off his re-election campaign with an event Sunday (May 19) from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Ward 2 Social Club.