, Salem, MA

December 13, 2013

Our view: Cheers, jeers for recent newsmakers

The Salem News

---- — CHEERS to the news that the city of Salem’s bond rating continues to improve.

Earlier this week, Standard and Poor’s raised the long-term and underlying ratings of Salem’s general obligation bonds from A+ to AA, the second-highest rating the agency gives out.

The better credit rating means the city will be able to get better interest rates on its borrowing, saving money down the road on debt service payments and easing the burden on taxpayers.

The rating upgrade is a sign those outside the city are taking Salem’s progress seriously.

In announcing the upgrade, Standard and Poors cited several projects, including the proposed Footprint power plant and the second phase of construction on Salem Wharf, which is said “should cater to the local economy.” The agency also made note of the fact that the city closed fiscal 2013 with healthy reserves and a general fund balance of $12.7 million, up about $2.1 million from 2012.

The city’s recent financial performance has been positive, the report said, despite “budgeting challenges.”

“We believe this has been the result of stronger financial management practices and conservative budgeting,” the agency said in its report.

JEERS to the arrival of a new invasive species in Essex County. State environmental officials announced earlier this month that the Emerald Ash Borer beetle has been found in North Andover.

It’s just the second time the beetle has been found in Massachusetts, and the first time in the eastern half of the state. The tiny green beetles, which are native to Asia, feed on ash trees, killing them within three to five years. They have felled millions of trees and caused billions of dollars in economic damage since first being spotted in the Detroit area in 2002.

“A good percentage of our northern forests are made up of ash,” North Andover Conservation Administrator Jennifer Hughes told our sister paper, The Eagle-Tribune. “Those trees, once infested, have a short lifespan.”

Environmental officials hope to keep the insect in check by clamping down on the movement of certain wood products from areas where the beetle is found, working with landowners to ensure infested trees are disposed of properly, and continuing the state’s ban on bringing firewood into state parks and forests.

CHEERS to the Fit Girls Run Club of Marblehead, who were a sight to see at Saturday’s North Shore YMCA’s Reindeer Run 5K in Beverly.

The club, a program of the Seaside Run Club, helps build confidence and self-esteem for fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade girls by helping them train for a 3.1-mile road race.

The girls meet twice a week after school for non-competitive runs to help build their endurance. At the end of the six-week program, they take part in a local road race. This year’s race was the Reindeer Run, and the sea of young athletes streaming along the course made what has become a December tradition for local runners even more special.

JEERS to those even considering allowing phone calls on airplanes.

The Federal Communications Commission started debate on the issue yesterday, and there will be several meetings before a final decision is made on whether to overturn the agency’s 22-year-old ban, which new FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has called “outdated and restrictive.”

Wheeler is right when he notes there is no technical or safety reason to restrict calls on planes. But we agree with him as well when he says that just because you can have phones on planes doesn’t mean you should.

“I understand the consternation caused by the thought of your onboard seatmate disturbing the flight making phone calls,” Wheeler said. “I do not want the person in the seat next to me yapping at 35,000 feet any more than anyone else.”

We agree. It’s likely the decision will be left up to individual airlines, which is how it should be. Here’s hoping they make the right call.

CHEERS, finally, to the Bishop Fenwick Crusaders football team, which finished a perfect 13-0 season with a decisive 28-0 Super Bowl win over Northbridge at Gillette Stadium Saturday night.

The title was the third for Fenwick, with previous Super Bowl wins in 1999 and 2000.