SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

February 21, 2014

Benton: Things are looking up in Salem

Nelson Benton
The Salem News

---- — Great week for Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll and members of the city’s legislative delegation, not to mention the company behind plans to redevelop the power plant site on Fort Avenue, Footprint Power. An agreement was reached with the Conservation Law Foundation that should allow Footprint to proceed with plans for a new generating plant that will utilize natural gas rather than coal and oil to produce electricity for the regional power grid.

The opposition was looking increasingly foolish trying to kill a project they had once touted as an excellent alternative to the old plant that has loomed over the city’s waterfront for more than half a century.

On the other hand, given the pace at which the courts and regulatory apparatus move in the Bay State (How soon do you think it will be before the first casino opens its doors?), CLF and its allies may have pulled a fast one on the city. Under the new pact, Footprint must agree to cease operations by 2049.

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Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker stopped by the Atomic Café in downtown Beverly this week to talk local aid with City Council President Paul Guanci and Councilor at large Matt St. Hilaire.

Guanci, a longtime member of the GOP, noted in a release issued by the Baker campaign: “Beverly has seen local aid drop over the past few years, and Charlie’s Community Contract is what towns and cities need to repair streets and provide other essential services. Charlie was a local official himself, so he understands how important assisting cities and towns is to making Massachusetts a better place to live and work.”

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Interesting story this week by the investigative reporting team at ProPublica (www.propublica.com) about the dark-money spending by the billionaire Koch brothers. It’s accompanied by a scary chart that depicts the many tentacles of the well-financed complex of right-wing organizations that’s come to be known as the “Kochtopus.”

According to the report, some $264 million in funds raised by the Koches and fellow conservatives were funneled to a variety of “disregarded entities” and other shadowy organizations in 2011 and 2012.

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There are rumors afloat in the Tanner City that Ward 3 Councilor James Moutsoulas may be a candidate for state representative this fall. Newly returned to the council, this would not be Moutsoulas’ first attempt for a Statehouse seat.

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Peabody’s mayor and council have made clear their distaste for both medical marijuana clinics and billboards. So, would it not be the height of irony if one of the existing billboards were used to advertise the marijuana dispensary planned for Salem?

Out here in the Grand Canyon State, highway billboards are also viewed as a great source of new revenue by hard-pressed cities, but they have their share of detractors. In Glendale, site of next year’s NFL Super Bowl, councilors are hoping the 2.9 percent tax on billboard rentals might help defray some of the security costs that hosting the event will entail.

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Smart (or lucky) move by GOP congressional candidate Richard Tisei bringing former Libertarian candidate Daniel Fishman into his camp.

Tisei lost to incumbent John Tierney by only 4,330 votes in 2012; and it’s fair to say more of the almost 17,000 votes Fishman received would have gone to him rather than the Democratic incumbent. Here in Arizona, where Republicans blame Libertarians for the losses suffered by several of their congressional candidates two years ago, legislators are conspiring to pass a law making it much more difficult for third-party candidates to gain access to the ballot.